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UN urges investment in clean, sustainable tourism, as numbers bounce back

The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released encouraging news on Monday, with its latest World Tourism Barometer, which shows that international tourism arrivals almost tripled in the first seven months of 2022 (compared to the same period in 2021).

Cautious optimism

The agency’s Panel of Tourism Experts expressed cautious confidence for the rest of year, and into 2023, despite the uncertain economic environment: increasing interest rates, rising energy and food prices, and the growing prospects of a global recession, continue to pose major threats to the sector.

In a message released to mark the Day, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, hailed tourism’s ability to drive sustainable development, and called for more investment in clean and sustainable tourism, the creation of decent jobs, and for measures to ensure that profits benefit host countries and local communities.

Dekha Dewandana arrange words with flowers at Esa di Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

Putu Sayoga for ILO
Dekha Dewandana arrange words with flowers at Esa di Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

Go green to survive

“Governments, businesses and consumers must align their tourism practices with the Sustainable Development Goals and a 1.5 degree future”, said Mr. Guterres, referring to international agreements aimed at keeping global warming in check. “The very survival of this industry, and many tourist destinations, such as Small Island Developing States, depends on it.”

“The restart of tourism everywhere brings hope,” declared Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General, in his address at the opening of the official celebrations organized for the Day, in the Indonesian resort city of Bali.

Mr. Pololikashvili described tourism, which employs around 10 per cent of the global workforce, as the “ultimate cross-cutting and people-to-people sector, which touches on almost everything we do.”

Report card

To mark the day, UNWTO launched its first World Tourism Day Report, the first in an annual series of updates and analysis of the Organization’s work guiding the sector forward.

The report contains updates on the agency’s activities in key areas including gender equality, sustainability and climate action, tourism governance and investments and innovation.

Representatives of the G20 group of the world’s leading economies, including tourism ministers, will meet in Bali in November. Ahead of the event, UNWTO has produced a set of guidelines for ministers, to enable them to support resilient and sustainable tourist businesses, which take into account human capital, innovation, youth and women empowerment, and climate action.

Ensure zero-tolerance for sexual exploitation: UN rights expert

An independent UN rights expert released a statement ahead of the Day, to call for Governments to ensure that the tourism industry is free from child forced labour, sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. 

Mama Fatima Singhateh, UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, warned that the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and socioeconomic setbacks have caused enormous strains on child protection systems.

This, she said, has made children more vulnerable to sale, trafficking and sexual exploitation in the context of travel and tourism, especially in countries that have traditionally relied on the income generated from travel and tourism.

Tourism and the climate crisis

  • In response to concerns surrounding the impact of the tourism sector on the climate crisis, UNWTO launched the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism at the 2021 UN Climate Conference (COP26), which was held in the Scottish City.
  • Signatories commit to supporting global commitments to halve harmful emissions by 2030, and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050, implement climate action plans, and report on their progress on an annual basis.
  • To date more than 530 organizations have signed the Declaration, including major international companies, and tourism boards from a wide variety of countries.

400 million new green and digital sector jobs, will pave way to ‘rebalance societies’

According to António Guterres, the Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions aims to rebalance societies by putting decent jobs and social protection at the centre of sustainable development.

“The path of inaction leads to economic collapse and climate catastrophe, widening inequalities and escalating social unrest”, which could leave “billions trapped in vicious circles of poverty and destitution”, he warned a High-Level meeting during the 77th General Assembly in New York.

Female construction workers help to build the foundation for a wind farm in Thailand.

Female construction workers help to build the foundation for a wind farm in Thailand.

Countries taking the lead

Mr. Guterres commended the actions of countries such as Togo, which deployed innovative digital solutions to expand social protection to hard-to-reach populations, and South Africa, which recently launched a Just Energy Transition partnership.

“It is imperative that we provide the support needed – at speed and at scale – to keep the momentum and ambition of these and similar initiatives alive”, he underscored.

He said the present economic system is unfair, boosting inequalities and pushing more people into poverty, and that’s why it requires a deep structural reform.

“We are working hard to achieve that – but change won’t happen overnight. In the interim, the Global Accelerator is a critical tool to help provide immediate support to people in need and advance action towards transformative change for all”, he said.

The initiative aims to create 400 million new decent jobs—especially in the green, care and digital economies— and extend social protection to the over four billion people currently without coverage.

It is also meant to be a tool to help the world manage the massive transformations in areas such as digital, climate, or demographic change, that will fundamentally change societies in the coming decades.

A woman installs a solar panel on a roof in Bhutan.

A woman installs a solar panel on a roof in Bhutan.

Youth at the centre

Meanwhile, The UN’s Special Envoy for Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, reminded world leaders that young people must be at the centre of all strategies and actions regarding jobs and social protection.

The total number of unemployed youths worldwide is estimated to reach 73 million in 2022, 6 million above pre pandemic levels in 2019, young women are the hardest hit”, she underscored, adding that young people also experience systemic legal and financial barriers to benefitting from social protection policies and programmes.

“To truly shift this paradigm, we should work with all people including young people as agents of change and not only beneficiaries, and at every level of the just transitions this initiative seeks to enable”, Ms. Wickramanayake said.

Domestic labourers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers.

Domestic labourers comprise a significant part of the global workforce in informal employment and are among the most vulnerable groups of workers.

Addressing the bottlenecks

Echoing the words of the Secretary-General, the International Labour Organization’s chief, Guy Ryder, warned that the world is on “red alert”, in the event that effective responses to the overlapping climate and cost of living crises are not found.

“We will see massive suffering, more instability, and potentially more conflict.  But it doesn’t have to be this way”, he explained.

Mr. Ryder underscored that it is crucial to address the current bottlenecks to expand and safeguard the 3,000 social protection and labour market stimulus measures put in place by governments at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all know what those bottlenecks are: the lack of financing that is scalable, sustainable, socially inclusive and it supports just transitions; the persistent challenges of informality; the limited fiscal space; and the lack of institutional capacity in many countries”, he added.

Young female workers pack beans on a farm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

© ILO/Sven Torfinn
Young female workers pack beans on a farm in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Better lives for billions

The ILO Director General emphasized that the Global Accelerator is a UN proposition to “collectively address these bottlenecks”, and to change the life of billions for the better.

“The four billion women, men and children who have no social protection; the two billion workers in the informal economy; and the millions of men and women who risk losing their jobs and incomes”, on a level “not seen for a generation”, he noted.

Mr. Ryder highlighted that the Global Accelerator was not a distraction from the crisis of climate, fuel, food and finance, but instead a “crucial component” of the necessary global response to address them.

Barbados Prime Minister Mottley calls for overhaul of unfair, outdated global finance system

During her speech, Ms. Mottley spoke extensively about the need to reform the ageing global financial architecture to better reflect today’s realities, for instance making it easier for climate-stricken countries to access capital.

Indeed, the Bretton Woods Agreement that gave rise to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “no longer serve the purpose in the 21st century that they served in the 20th century,” she said.

She called for a global compact establishing that financing for development cannot be short term, but instead should be at least a 30-year loan.

“The world recognized this when allowed Britain to participate in the refinance of its World War I bonds which were only paid eight years ago, 100 years after World War I started,” she said by an example.

She also argued that Germany was allowed to cap its debt payments at the equivalent of 5 per cent of its exports, under the premise that the “cataclysm” experience of a war would not allow them to finance reconstruction while repaying debts incurred during the war.

“We are no different, we have incurred debts for COVID-19, for climate, and now to fight this difficult moment of the inflation and [supply crisis]. Why [must the] developing world find money in 7 to 10 years when others had the benefit of longer terms to repay their [loans]?”, she asked the General Assembly.

Loss and damage

Ms. Mottley also referred to the issue of loss and damage and praised Denmark for becoming the first central Government in a developed country to propose a fund devoted to this purpose, which in practical terms would directly help nations at the frontline of climate crisis.

“Any attempt to deny that the climate crisis has man-made origins is an attempt to delude ourselves and to admit that we want to be accomplices in the continuing death and loss of damage that ensues to the people who are the victims of it”, she said.

The Prime Minister asked countries to take responsibility because otherwise, the world is not going to see any change.

“The commitments of loss and damage are absolutely critical if we are to make serious progress in saving our world… the trust that is needed to propel us to fight the great causes of our time will not be won by breaching promises,” she said.

She also highlighted that while small States like Barbados have made net zero commitments, the current state of global affairs, including Atlantic hurricanes, the war in Ukraine, and the absence of financing, does not allow them to stop accessing their natural gas resources right now.

UN Reform and fairness

The Barbados leader also referred to the United States President’s words earlier this week and supported a reform of the Security Council.

“We call an echo for that, but we go further. We believe that a Security Council that retains the power of veto in the hands of a few, will still lead us to war as we have seen this year, and therefore the reform cannot simply be in its composition but also [must include] the removal of that veto,” she said.

Ms. Mottley also called for the reform of the G20 and G7 groups, arguing that Barbados “cannot accept” these “informal committees of governance” when they have no African-descent representation and exclude 1.5 billion people in the world.

“How could it be expected to reflect fairness and transparency in its decision making?”, she underscored.

She argued that to be able to move from “possibilities” to “realities” it is essential to embrace a transparency framework that would allow the people who are losing faith in institutions that fairness does mean something.

“Fairness and togetherness are needed to bring about peace, love and prosperity in this world. And this is not romanticism these are hard realities that simply require decisions,” she explained.

Speak the truth

Finally, the Prime Minister said that world leaders must have mature conversations and speak to their people instead of relying on headlines and soundbites, to avoid a disconnect between the government and the governed.

“With those commitments, we can make a difference in this world and let us do so recognizing that a world that reflects an imperialistic order, hypocrisy and lack of transparency will not achieve that mission, but one that gives us freedom transparency and levelled playing field will allow for a difference,” she concluded.

Sahel security crisis ‘poses a global threat’, Guterres warns

“If nothing is done, the effects of terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime will be felt far beyond the region and the African continent”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, in his remarks issued by his Spokesperson’s Office.

A coordinated international breakthrough is urgently needed. We must rethink our collective approach and show creativity, going beyond existing efforts.”

The insecurity is making a “catastrophic humanitarian situation even worse”, he said, leaving some beleaguered national governments, without any access to their own citizens.

‘Deadly grip’ tightening

Meanwhile, “non-State armed groups are tightening their deadly grip over the region and are even seeking to extend their presence into the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.”

The indiscriminate use of violence by terrorist and other groups means that thousands of innocent civilians are left to suffer, while millions of others are forced from their homes, Mr. Guterres told the meeting of national leaders, during the High Level Week summit.

Women and children in particular are bearing the brunt of insecurity, violence and growing inequality”, he said, with human rights violations, sometimes committed by security forces mandated to protect civilians, “of great concern”.

Refugee women prepare food in a displacement site in Ouallam, in the Tillaberi region of Niger.

© UNOCHA/Michele Cattani
Refugee women prepare food in a displacement site in Ouallam, in the Tillaberi region of Niger.

Climate factor

And the crises are being compounded by climate change, said the UN chief, with soil erosion and the drying-up of water sources, “thereby contributing to acute food insecurity and exacerbating tensions between farmers and herders.”

“Against a global backdrop of turmoil on energy, food and financial markets, the region is threatened by a systemic debt crisis that is likely to have repercussions throughout the continent.”

The conventional international finance remedies are not helping, the UN chief said bluntly, with more and more countries forced to channel precious reserves into servicing debt payments, leaving them unable to pursue an inclusive recovery, or boost resilience.

“It is absolutely necessary to change the rules of the game of the financial reports of the world. These rules of the game are today completely against the interests of developing countries, and in particular the interests of African countries”, said Mr. Guterres, “with debt problems, with liquidity problems, with inflation problems, with instability, necessarily posed by this profound injustice in international financial and economic relations.”

Democracy, constitutional order

The UN chief called for a “renewal of our collective efforts to promote democratic governance and restore constitutional order” across the whole Sahel, which stretches from Senegal in the west to northern Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, a belt beneath the Sahara of up to 1,000 kilometres.

The rule of law and full respect for human rights are indispensable for ensuring security and sustainable development, Mr. Guterres said.

Addressing national leaders and senior politicians from the region, he said the UN “stands ready to work alongside you, with urgency and solidarity, for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Sahel.”

Renewable energy jobs rise by 700,000 in a year, to nearly 13 million

Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022, identifies domestic market size as a major factor influencing job growth in renewables, along with labour and other costs.

Solar growing fastest

Solar energy was found to be the fastest-growing sector. In 2021 it provided 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the current global workforce in renewable energy.

With rising concerns about climate change, COVID-19 recovery and supply chain disruption, countries are turning inwards to boost job creation at home, focusing on local supply chains.

The report describes how strong domestic markets are key to anchoring a drive toward clean energy industrialization. Developing renewable technology export capabilities is also dependent on this, it adds.

‘Just transition for all’

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said that “beyond the numbers, there is a growing focus on the quality of jobs and the conditions of work in renewable energies, to ensure decent and productive employment.

“The increasing share of female employment suggests that dedicated policies and training can significantly enhance the participation of women in renewable energy occupations, inclusion and ultimately, achieve a just transition for all.”

Mr. Ryder encouraged governments, organized labour and business groups “to remain firmly committed to a sustainable energy transition, which is indispensable for the future of work.

Resilient and reliable

IRENA’s Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said that in the face of numerous challenges, “renewable energy jobs remain resilient, and have been proven to be a reliable job creation engine. My advice to governments around the world is to pursue industrial policies that encourage the expansion of decent renewables jobs at home.

“Spurring a domestic value chain will not only create business opportunities and new jobs for people and local communities. It also bolsters supply chain reliability and contributes to more energy security overall.”

More electric vehicles on the road will mean less pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

IMF/Crispin Rodwell
More electric vehicles on the road will mean less pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Joining the renewable revolution

The report shows that an increasing number of countries are creating jobs in the renewables sector – almost two-thirds of them in Asia.

China alone accounts for 42 per cent of the global total, according to the report, followed by the EU and Brazil with 10 per cent each, and the US and India with seven per cent each.

Regional trends

Southeast Asian countries are becoming major solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing hubs and biofuel producers, while China is the pre-eminent manufacturer and installer of solar PV panels and is creating a growing number of jobs in offshore wind.

India added more than 10 Gigawatts of solar PV, generating many installation jobs, but remains heavily dependent on imported panels, the report notes.

Europe now accounts for about 40 per cent of the world’s wind manufacturing output and is the most important exporter of wind power equipment; it is trying to reconstitute its solar PV manufacturing industry.

Africa’s role is still limited, but the report points out that there are growing job opportunities in decentralized renewables, while in the Americas, Mexico is the leading supplier of wind turbine blades.

Brazil remains the leading employer in biofuels but is also adding many jobs in wind and solar PV installations. The US is beginning to build a domestic industrial base for the budding offshore wind sector.

UN spotlights transformational potential of family farming for world food supply

The UNDFF runs through the end of 2028, and the Forum is being convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, pointed out in his video address to the Global Forum’s opening that the world is moving backwards in its efforts to eliminate hunger and malnutrition.

Growing hunger

He said the number of people facing hunger increased in 2021, and it risks rising further especially among the most vulnerable, of which almost 80 percent live in rural areas and are small-scale, family farmers.

Family farmers around the world are also subject to the new challenges to food systems everywhere, created by the climate crisis, as well as conflict. The war in Ukraine has added further pressure, to already fragile agrifood systems, UN agencies said.

Mr. QU said the forum provides a way, firstly, to discuss “the unique role of family farmers in transforming our agrifood systems; two, take stock of achievements and challenges in the implementation of the UN Decade; and three, strengthen collaboration to ensure global food security, enhance livelihoods and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.

80 percent

Family farmers need to be at the centre of efforts to transform agrifood systems if we are to make real progress towards ending hunger,” Mr. Qu said.

He added that “family farming is the main form of agriculture in both developed and developing countries and is responsible for producing 80 percent of the world’s food,” in terms of value.

Family struggle

He noted that often, these family farmers struggle to feed their own families.

Since its launch three years ago, the UN Decade of Family Farming has been promoting integrated policies and investments to support family farmers, and FAO has been assisting national implementation of international tools and guidelines to strengthen family farming, Mr. Qu told the virtual forum.

He also noted that FAO hosts the Family Farming Knowledge Platform to facilitate the exchange of experience, innovation and specialised knowledge.

In addition, the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 includes a priority area of work aimed at better supporting small-scale food producers and delivering concrete results.

Push for the future

The main objectives of the Global Forum are to provide a general overview of policy trends and the relevance of family farming to the global push towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals; highlight the main outcomes of the first three years of implementation; and re-orient the UNDFF agenda through the practical lessons learned so far.

Participants include representatives from national governments, governmental agencies, UN agencies, family farmers and their organizations, civil society organizations, as well as NGOs; the private sector, the media and academia.

Farmers in the north of Haiti work on measures which will prevent the erosion of their farmland.

© WFP Haiti/Theresa Piorr
Farmers in the north of Haiti work on measures which will prevent the erosion of their farmland.

Closing gender pay gaps is more important than ever 

While individual characteristics such as education, working time, occupational segregation, skills, or experience explain part of the gender pay gap, ILO says that a large part is due to discrimination based on one’s gender or sex.

Further building on the UN’s commitment against all forms of discrimination, including that against women and girls, Equal Pay Day represents longstanding efforts towards achieving the same wage for work of equal value.

Women hardest hit

Meanwhile, women have been among the worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including in terms of income security, representation in sectors hardest hit, and gendered division of family responsibilities.

This, in turn, has led negatively impacted their employment and threatened to reverse decades of progress made towards gender equality.

As countries emerge from the pandemic, taking action to address gender equality setbacks is not only relevant and timely but also critical for an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient recovery.

Closing the gap

Governments, employers, and workers organizations recognize that closing gender pay gaps is more important than ever. 

Over the past few years, increasingly more governments are proposing transparency measures and information sharing to address gender wage gaps.

According to recent research, depending on how they are put into place, pay transparency measures can effectively identify compensation differences and reduce broader gender inequalities in the labour market.

“These are still early days for pay transparency,” said Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO Conditions of Work and Equality Department, noting that countries are pursuing different approaches to advance it.

She pointed out that “there is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution”.

“While more time is needed to assess the effectiveness of the different measures and practices, it is encouraging that Governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations seek to devise innovative solutions, such as pay transparency, to tackle a stubborn problem”.

Surprising facts

  • Women are concentrated in lower-paid, lower-skill work.
  • For every dollar men earn, women earn 77 cents.
  • Women are under-represented in decision-making roles.
  • Women carry out at least 2.5 times more unpaid work than men.
  • At the current rate, it will take 257 years to close the global gender pay gap.

Human rights: Inflation threatens everyone’s right to development

Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday, Nada Al- Nashif cited International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that advanced economies should brace themselves for average inflation rates of 6.6 per cent in 2022, well below the 9.5 per cent rate expected to hit poorer nations.

Ms. Al-Nashif added that although the world’s richest countries had seen employment rates return or exceed pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021, “most” middle-income countries hadn’t yet managed to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

Nada Al Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, addresses the 51st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

UN Photo/Pierre Albouy
Nada Al Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, addresses the 51st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

COVID legacy and Ukraine suffering

The coronavirus had “exposed and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities” and set back sustainable growth “by several years in many parts of the world”, the acting UN rights chief told the Council, during its biennial discussion on the right to development.

Unsustainable sovereign debt burdens had also “weighed down” many developing nations because they had negative repercussions for providing social protection, Ms. Al-Nashif continued, adding that many countries now faced unprecedented fiscal challenges, “including social unrest”, because their hands had been tied by expensive loan repayments.

To make matters worse, the acting rights chief reiterated that the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February had led to “major human suffering” inside the country, and beyond its borders.

The war had also triggered new disruption to global supply chains, contributing to “skyrocketing fuel and food prices” that had affected women and girls disproportionately, Ms. Al-Nashif explained.

Food insecurity is affecting millions of people in Burkina Faso (file photo).

© UNICEF/Vincent Treameau
Food insecurity is affecting millions of people in Burkina Faso (file photo).

Extreme poverty increase

Referring to data from The World Bank, an additional 75 to 95 million people are expected to live in extreme poverty this year, compared to pre-pandemic projections, she continued.

She noted that of the 760 million people living in extreme poverty, “there will be 16 million more women and girls than men and boys” Most – 83.7 per cent – were living in only two regions: Sub-Saharan Africa (62.8 per cent) and Central and South Asia (20.9 per cent).

“The confluence of crises has created spin-off effects on food and nutrition, health and education, the environment, peace and security, further undermining progress towards the realisation of the 2030 Agenda and jeopardizing sustainable recovery from the pandemic,” Ms. Al-Nashif maintained.

Climate change ‘recovery’ fund

In a related warning, a top independent human rights expert called on Thursday for the creation of a global “recovery” fund to help States hit hard by extreme weather events caused by climate change.

Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, issued his appeal at the end of his official visit to Bangladesh.

The Southeast Asian nation “should not have to carry the burden of climate change alone”, he insisted, adding that “for too long, major emitting countries have denied their responsibility for the suffering they are causing”.

Heavy rains have washed away towns, villages and infrastructure in Bangladesh.

Heavy rains have washed away towns, villages and infrastructure in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh vulnerability

The rights expert – who was appointed by the Human Rights Council in an independent capacity in March this year – said that repeated flash-flooding this year in Sylhet, northeast Bangladesh, had exposed women in particular to the most dangerous impacts of climate change.

Because of the emergency, they had been forced to walk “long distances to fetch fresh water, which put them at risk of sexual harassment” and kept them from childcare and farming, the Special Rapporteur said.

He added that the rising waters had killed livestock, ruined crops and stored seeds, and that it would take the community at least two years to fully recover.

Human development falling behind in ninety per cent of countries: UN report

The 2021/22 Human Development Report (HDR) – which is entitled “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World” – paints a picture of a global society lurching from crisis to crisis, and which risks heading towards increasing deprivation and injustice.

Heading the list of events causing major global disruption are the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which have come on top of sweeping social and economic shifts, dangerous planetary changes, and massive increases in polarization.

Human Development Report 2021/2022 - Almost all countries saw reversals in human development in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UN News
Human Development Report 2021/2022 – Almost all countries saw reversals in human development in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1)    First back-to-back decline in three decades

For the first time in the 32 years that the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has been calculating it, the Human Development Index, which measures a nation’s health, education, and standard of living, has declined globally for two years in a row.

This signals a deepening crisis for many regions, and Latin America, the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia have been hit particularly hard.

Human development has fallen back to its 2016 levels, reversing much of the progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals which make up the 2030 Agenda, the UN’s blueprint for a fairer future for people and the planet.

“The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises”, said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises that, while it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidizing fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make”.

Mr. Steiner went on to call for a renewed sense of global solidarity to tackle “interconnected, common challenges”, but acknowledged that the international community is currently “paralyzed in making these changes”.

The study points to insecurity and polarization of views hampering efforts to bring about the solidarity that is needed to tackle the big global challenges, with data suggesting that those who are most insecure are more likely to hold extremist views. This phenomenon was observed even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time

© UNICEF/Sandeep Biswas
Vaccines against COVID-19 were developed in record time

2)    COVID-19 is ‘a window into a new reality’

Now into its third year, the pandemic is described in the report as “a window into a new reality”, rather than a detour from business as usual. 

The development of effective vaccines is hailed as a monumental achievement, credited with saving around 20 million lives, and a demonstration of the huge power of innovation married to political will. 

At the same time, the rollout of the vaccines laid bare the huge inequities of the global economy. Access has been paltry in many low-income countries, and women and girls have suffered the most, shouldering more household and caregiving responsibilities, and facing increased violence.

The floods in Pakistan are an example of the climate shocks seen around the world

WFP/Kapil Dev
The floods in Pakistan are an example of the climate shocks seen around the world

3)    We’re living through a new ‘uncertainty complex’

The successive waves of new COVID-19 variants, and warnings that future pandemics are increasingly likely, have helped to compound a generalized atmosphere of uncertainty that was growing in response to the dizzying pace of technological change, its effect on the workplace, and steadily growing fears surrounding the climate crisis.

The study’s authors warn that the global upheaval of the pandemic is nothing compared to what the world would experience if a collapse in biodiversity were to occur, and societies found themselves having to solve the challenge of growing food at scale, without insect pollinators. “For the first time in human history”, the report declares, “anthropogenic [man-made] existential threats loom larger than those from natural hazards”.

Three layers of today’s “uncertainty complex” are identified: dangerous planetary change, the transition to new ways of organizing industrial societies, and the intensification of political and social polarization.

“It is not just that typhoons are getting bigger and deadlier through human impact on the environment” says the report. “It is also as if, through our social choices, their destructive paths are being directed at the most vulnerable among us”.

Artificial Intelligence has many positive applications.

Artificial Intelligence has many positive applications.

4)    There is opportunity in uncertainty

Whilst change is inevitable, the ways in which we react are not. Although there are many well-founded fears surrounding the growing use of Artificial Intelligence, there are many demonstrable upsides to the technology, which is, amongst other things, helping to model the impacts of climate change, improve individualized learning, and help in the development of medicines.

One upshot to the post-COVID world is the creation of novel mRNA vaccine technology, which promises a breakthrough in the way that other diseases are treated.

The pandemic has also normalized paid sick leave, voluntary social distancing and self-isolation, all important for our response to future pandemics.

Solar lamps are a clean, cost-effective way to bring lighting to those with no access to electricity

IOM/Jorge Galindo
Solar lamps are a clean, cost-effective way to bring lighting to those with no access to electricity

5)    We can chart a new course

The last three years could serve to show what we are capable of, when we move beyond conventional ways of doing things, and lead us to transform our institutions so that they are better suited to today’s world.

According to Mr. Steiner, the analysis contained within the report can help to chart a new course out of the current global uncertainty.

“We have a narrow window to re-boot our systems and secure a future built on decisive climate action and new opportunities for all,” said the development chief.

This new direction involves implementing policies that focus on investment, from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics; insurance, including social protection, to prepare our societies for the ups and downs of an uncertain world; and innovation that helps countries to better respond to whatever challenges come next.

“To navigate uncertainty, we need to double down on human development and look beyond improving people’s wealth or health,” says UNDP’s Pedro Conceição, the report’s lead author. “These remain important. But we also need to protect the planet and provide people with the tools they need to feel more secure, regain a sense of control over their lives and have hope for the future.”

First Person: Sharing indigenous knowledge with tourists

Indigenous entrepreneur Celestina Ábalos runs a tourism business in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Quebrada de Humahuaca in Jujuy province, northern Argentina, sharing her community’s culture and knowledge of medicinal herbs.

“I am a child of Pachamama, Mother Earth. Earth is everything to us. It is life. We cannot conceive of ourselves without her. My community dates back 14,000 years. On behalf of 60 families, I led a 20-year fight for the right to land, education and freedom.

We used to live under a rental system where we had a landlord who delineated the spaces for us to occupy and to live in, both for sowing crops and raising cattle.  It was a life very much governed by what the master said, by the space you had to occupy, and by what I saw my parents having to pay at the end of each year.  These were very powerful moments for a teenager.  

Through the process of reclaiming our territory I began to think more about how to make my history and the history of my people known. I have always seen, and I continue to see in the media, the stigma that is placed on us indigenous peoples.   I wanted to show and make the other side of the story known.  That motivated me but I was thinking: “How do I do it, how do I show this?”

Indigenous Argentinian tourism entrepreneur Celestina Ábalos with her children.

Ivar Velasquez
Indigenous Argentinian tourism entrepreneur Celestina Ábalos with her children.

‘We are the guardians of our culture’

In 2003, our mountain valley, the Quebrada de Humahuaca, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. This marked a milestone in the history of our people. I saw that many people were talking about our mountains, our culture, our food.  And I said to myself: “but this is us: we know how to do it, we are the guardians of our culture”.

Culture, for us, is part of our daily life, it is the knowledge and skills that have been transmitted from generation to generation. We learn it from the moment we are born. It’s in our medicinal herbs and in our food, in our crops.
So I thought, “Why not dare to do what I know, what I have learned?” That is how my tourism business, a tea house called the Casa de Celestina, was born.

Indigenous Argentinian tourism entrepreneur Celestina Ábalos with a tourist.

Ivar Velasquez
Indigenous Argentinian tourism entrepreneur Celestina Ábalos with a tourist.

Sharing ancestral knowledge

When tourists come to the Casa de Celestina, I welcome them, I introduce them to the use of medicinal herbs, such as mate, which we drink in the morning and in the afternoon to energize ourselves. I talk about which herb we take when we are sick, when to harvest it, how to dry it, how to preserve them. 

I talk about our diet. We have our different corns here and we make our own flour, so we have flour for soup, flour for tamales, flour to make cookies, flour to make our juices, our drinks, flour to make our pastries

All that knowledge is there because it has been transmitted from generation to generation. Our mothers, our grandmothers, for me, are the real treasure troves of biodiversity. Our grandparents are those living libraries in our communities. Without them and without that knowledge, I could not be speaking today. 

I have learned, by observing, watching, sharing. You have to be contributing to the land, putting wood on the fire, lighting an oven and making your offering. You have to be there at sunset, when the goats are already back in the corral and the grandparents are sitting down.

The tourists prepare a dish with me. It can be a culli corn flour pudding, with nuts, with chocolate chips. Or they can also prepare a delicious meal, quinoa croquettes stuffed with goats cheese, with sautéed potatoes, rosemary and herbs. Or we can also prepare a llama casserole.

Then we visit my town and our church, which dates back to 1789. We visit the path of herbs, where they also learn about other medicinal herbs such as Muna-Muna, which is for bruises, for muscle pains. 

They get to know our stories, our ceremonies, like the dispatch of souls or the story of how we reclaimed our territory. I share what my day is like and what I do. And then we go down and we drink tea together and eat the pudding they have prepared. 

I renew their energies with the herbs that we have also brought from the path. They leave feeling renewed, they leave with a different view of us. They experience a living culture, the essence of culture.

That is what I like about tourism, about those who come to visit us. You see how this relationship of culture goes beyond sharing an experience. It is about looking at each other in a different way, to look at each other as human beings.

Indigenous Argentinian tourism entrepreneur Celestina-Ábalos.

Ivar Velasquez
Indigenous Argentinian tourism entrepreneur Celestina-Ábalos.

‘I am achieving my dream’

The pandemic hit my business very hard.  The reservations I had were cancelled. The little savings I had went to feeding my family.  I felt so impotent.  The government said that there were subsidies for entrepreneurs, but I did not qualify and had to continue to pay taxes.  Many small business entrepreneurs have had a very difficult time.  It was very hard.

I was invited to take part in a virtual Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) course, run by the International Labour Organization (ILO), that was going to take place between October and November 2021. I was very interested in improving my entrepreneurship and developing a business plan because it was one of the reasons why I could not access loans and subsidies. So, I said yes right away.  

The ILO course provided me with tools to scale up my business. I am still using them today. They included how to make a business plan, estimate costs, prepare a budget and inventory and manage social media. Some of the people on the course had already started their own businesses, others were about to start. It was a chance to share and exchange our experiences. What I liked the most were the course manuals. They are very, very useful, very good.

My business is steadily improving. I am achieving my dream.  

I still remember a speech that I gave a long time ago to Argentina’s then President Néstor Kirchner. I told him: “We, the indigenous peoples, want an opportunity, the opportunity for development, the opportunity to improve our quality of life.”

It is important for my community to see that it is possible, that we women can carry out our businesses with the tools we have. We do not have to wait until we have everything, but we can start with what we have now.”

Argentina’s indigenous communities

  • indigenous households (15%) in the country.
  • Argentina ratified the ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (No.169) in 2000.  
  • The Convention outlines the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples and the responsibilities of governments to protect these rights. 
  • These include indigenous and tribal peoples’   right to land and natural resources and to define their own priorities for development.
  • A study by the ILO’s Country Office for Argentina identified tourism as one of the industries with the best chances of recovery during the post-pandemic period, with the greatest capacity to provide decent work.
  • Celestina took part in the ILO Start and Improve your Business (SIYB) training as part of the ILO project: “Towards environmentally sustainable and inclusive post-pandemic tourism in Argentina”. 
  • The project was funded by the ILO’s Regular Budget Supplementary Account.

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