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Rising inflation, falling wages threaten increased poverty and unrest: ILO

Global monthly wages fell in real terms to -0.9 per cent in the first half of the year, the study found, marking the first instance of negative growth this century. 

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As a result, the purchasing power of middle-class families has been reduced, while low-income households have been hit particularly hard.  

Tens of millions affected 

“The multiple global crises we are facing have led to a decline in real wages. It has placed tens of millions of workers in a dire situation as they face increasing uncertainties,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, the ILO Director-General, warning of the potential consequences. 

“Income inequality and poverty will rise if the purchasing power of the lowest paid is not maintained,” he said.  “In addition, a much-needed post-pandemic recovery could be put at risk. This could fuel further social unrest across the world and undermine the goal of achieving prosperity and peace for all.” 

Converging crises 

The Global Wage Report 2022-2023 reveals how the severe inflationary crisis, combined with a slowdown in economic growth – driven in part by the war in Ukraine and the global energy crisis – have affected pay packets worldwide, including in the G20 leading industrial nations. 

It is estimated that in the first half of the year, real wages declined to -2.2 per cent in advanced G20 countries and grew by 0.8 per cent in emerging G20 countries. This is 2.6 per cent less than in 2019, the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Impact of inflation 

Inflation rose proportionately faster in high-income countries, according to the report, which also includes regional and country data. 

For example, in Canada and the United States, average real wage growth dropped to zero in 2021, and then fell to -3.2 per cent in the first half of this year.   

During the same period, Latin America and the Caribbean saw real wage growth decline to -1.4 per cent, and then to -1.7 per cent.  

Meanwhile, real wage growth increased to 3.5 per cent last year in Asia and the Pacific in 2021 but slowed to 1.3 per cent during the first six months of this year.  

However, when China is excluded, growth increased by 0.3 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively. 

Support working families 

Rising inflation has had greater impact on poorer families, as most of their disposable income is spent on essential goods and services which generally experience greater price increases compared to non-essential items. 

In many countries, inflation is also eroding the real value of minimum wages, the report further noted. 

The ILO has underscored the urgent need for well-designed policy measures to help wage workers and their families maintain their purchasing power and living standards

They are critical to prevent the deepening of existing levels of poverty, inequality and social unrest. 

“We must place particular attention on workers at the middle and lower end of the pay scale,” said Rosalia Vazquez-Alvarez, one of the report’s authors. 

“Fighting against the deterioration of real wages can help maintain economic growth, which in turn can help to recover the employment levels observed before the pandemic. This can be an effective way to lessen the probability or depth of recessions in all countries and regions.”  

Social dialogue and solutions 

One effective tool could be adequate adjustment of minimum wage rates, said the ILO, given that 90 per cent of its 187 Member States have minimum wage policies in place. 

Collective bargaining and “strong tripartite social dialogue” – that is, between government, employers and workers representatives – also can help to achieve adequate wage adjustments during a crisis. 

Other recommendations include measures that target specific groups, such as providing vouchers to low-income households so they can purchase essential goods, or cutting Value Added Tax (VAT) on these items which will reduce the burden inflation places on households while also helping to bring down inflation generally. 

📢 Just launched!

New @ilo report finds that the current crisis is reducing the purchasing power of households in many countries.

What’s needed to prevent the deepening of existing levels of poverty & inequality?

👉 https://t.co/URUtxpHNsh https://t.co/YlZ2obUXTt

Numbers forced to flee passes 100 million; many displaced for decades: UNDP

For the first time ever, the number of people forced to flee their homes surpassed 100 million this year. Most, 59.1 million, are displaced within their own countries, often for years or even decades. 

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These internally displaced persons (IDPs) struggle to cover their basic needs, find decent work, or have a stable source of income, among other challenges. 

UNDP described their plight as an “invisible crisis” because it rarely makes the news. 

End marginalization of IDPs 

As climate change could force more than 216 million to move elsewhere within their homelands by mid-century, the report advocates for longer-term development solutions to reverse internal displacement. 

“More efforts are needed to end the marginalization of IDPs who must be able to exercise their full rights as citizens including through access to vital services such as healthcare, education, social protection and job opportunities,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.  

“In tandem with critical humanitarian assistance, this stronger development-focused approach will be vital to set the conditions for pathways to lasting peace, stability and recovery.” 

Governments must act 

The report – Turning the tide on internal displacement: A development approach to solutions – calls for placing this “invisible crisis” on the international agenda.

It cites sample data from a survey of some 2,653 IDPs, and people from host communities, in eight countries: Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Somalia and Vanuatu.  

A third of the IDPs said they had become jobless, while nearly 70 per cent do not have enough money to meet their household needs. One third also reported that their health had worsened since fleeing their homeland. 

The data was collected by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) between January 2021 and January 2022.

The report underscored that overcoming internal displacement depends on governments implementing key development solutions, including ensuring equal access to rights and basic services, promoting socio-economic integration, restoring security and building social cohesion.  

UNDP also highlighted the need for better data and research. 

The agency underlined its commitment to bridging this gap through a Solutions to Internal Displacement Index, that will monitor progress and help governments shift from humanitarian to development responses. 

Only long-term development actions can reverse the record levels of #InternalDisplacement resulting arising from conflict, violence, climate change and disasters.

@UNDP presents development solutions needed to turn the tide for #IDPs in new report. 👉

https://t.co/qZWEjb91Aw https://t.co/MXp89pImBo

Ports, shipping need to go green to resist future global crises: UNCTAD

“Ships carry over 80 per cent of the goods traded globally, with the percentage even higher for most developing countries; hence the urgent need to boost resilience to shocks that disrupt supply chains, fuel inflation and affect the poorest the most,” the UN agency said in a new report on maritime transport.

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Between 2020 and 2021, UNCTAD also noted that carbon emissions from the world’s maritime fleet increased by almost five per cent. At the same time, data indicated that the average age of the ships in service has increased, to almost 22 years.

Straitened times

Replacing these ageing vessels is key to ensuring the maritime industry’s transition to a low-carbon future, said UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan, who also called for “predictable global rules” to support the industry, ports and shipowners.

“In terms of green and climate regulation we must move from the many and messy rules we have now, to one system that is good for all,” she told journalists in Geneva. “This is critical given the highly uncertain environment, with conflict risks…and unknown price of carbon in the future.”

Inflationary setting

UNCTAD warned that “surging borrowing costs” will likely hamper the replacement of old ships, while also calling for increased support for developing countries in making the switch to low or zero-carbon fuels.

“Ports, shipping fleets and hinterland connections need to be better prepared for future global crises, climate change and the transition to low-carbon energy,” UNCTAD said.

Investing in shipping logistics would prevent the kind of inflationary pressures that continue to hold back the industry, the UN agency continued.

In 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, a shortage of containers combined with surging demand for consumer goods and e-commerce “pushed container spot freight rates to five times their pre-pandemic levels”, UNCTAD said.

A ship passes through a section of the Panama Canal, one of the busiest trading routes in the world.
UN News/Jing Zhang

A ship passes through a section of the Panama Canal, one of the busiest trading routes in the world.

Price spike

Prices for containers reached record highs in early 2022 which translated into sharply higher consumer prices, the UNCTAD report continued. Although these rates have dropped since the middle of this year, “they remain high for oil and natural gas tanker cargo due to the ongoing energy crisis” linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport 2022, freight costs for dry goods such as grain have also increased this year because of the war in Ukraine, COVID-19 and supply chain disruptions. The result is likely to be a 1.2 per cent increase in consumer food prices, which will hit low and middle-income countries worst.

“If there is one thing we have learned from the crisis of the last two years it is that ports and shipping greatly matter for a well-functioning global economy,” said Shamika Sirimanne, Director of UNCTAD’s technology and logistics division. “Higher freight rates have led to surging consumer prices, especially for the most vulnerable. Interrupted supply chains led to lay-offs and food insecurity.”

@UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport 2022 calls for greater sustainability & resilience in maritime supply chains.

It urges to invest in infrastructure, digitalization & decarbonization, protect competition & increase support to developing countries.

➡️https://t.co/n3G0MRm93T https://t.co/visMjkE1HL

At Fez forum, UN chief calls for global ‘alliance of peace’ recognizing inclusion and richness of diversity

Mr. Guterres was speaking at the opening of the 9th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (AOC) which is taking place in Fez, Morocco. 

“The forces of division and hate are finding fertile ground in a landscape marred by injustice and conflicts,” said Mr. Guterres calling for the creation of an alliance of peace through recognizing “diversity as richness” and investing in inclusion; and making sure that “all of us – regardless of race, descent, origin, background, gender, religion, or other status – can live lives of dignity and opportunity.”  

“The Holy Quran teaches us that God created nations and tribes ‘so that we might know one another’,” said UN Secretary-General urging at this time of peril, to be inspired by the essence of these meanings and “stand together as one human family – rich in diversity, equal in dignity and rights, united in solidarity.” 

‘Clash of interests and ignorance’ 

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Miguel Angel Moratinos, the UNAOC High Representative, recalled the thesis of prestigious American political scientist Samuel Huntington, in his famous lecture on the “clash of civilizations,” but gave his views on the idea. 

Mr. Moratinos asserted that “international conflicts cannot be the sole consequence of religion, culture or civilizations. It must be stated bluntly: there is no clash of civilizations. There is a clash of interests and a clash of ignorance.” 

For the High representative, the world is not facing a clash of civilizations, because the world of the 21st century is global and interconnected. Hence, “we are one humanity facing multiple global challenges.” 

“The recent crises affecting the international community have shown us that there are no borders that can stop viruses and wars, whether they occur in Europe or in any other corner of the world,” Mr. Moratinos stated, noting further that, “a regional war, the war in Ukraine has affected the peace and stability of the entire international order.” 

“In the face of defending tolerance, let us defend mutual respect. In the face of defending coexistence, let us defend living together: “convivencia” [coexistence]. 

Indeed, he said: “In the face of defending minorities, let us defend the equal rights of all citizens; In the face of exclusion and separatism, let us defend inclusion and fraternity; In the face of only a dialogue of civilizations, let us engage ourselves in an Alliance of Civilizations, in a collective commitment.” 

‘Politics speaks to citizens, religion speaks to their souls’ 

The Forum takes place against the backdrop of an extremely complex global context marked by myriad challenges, ranging from the surge in violent extremism, terrorism, xenophobia, hate speech to racism, discrimination, and radicalism, among others.  

Over 1,000 representatives from nearly 100 countries participated in the event, including Advisor to the King of Morocco, André Azoulay, who delivered a powerful message of solidarity on behalf of th4e King, focusing on the importance of finding pathways to peace, unity and solidarity, and how Fez and wider Morocco embodied these values. 

“Morocco is built around a model of openness, harmony and synergy that has seen the convergence of Arab-Islamic, Amazigh and Saharan-Hassanian confluents, and that has, at the same time, been enriched by African, Andalusian, Hebrew and Mediterranean tributaries,” he said. 

In his remarks to the Forum, Mr. he explained that Morocco was committed from the beginning has been committed to this avant-garde and has remained there with constancy through: Firstly, promoting openness as a pillar of the culture of peace; secondly, living religion as a vehicle of peace; thirdly, working for development – in the broadest sense of the term – as an ingredient for peace. 

“Politics speaks to citizens, religion speaks to their souls, dialogue speaks to their civilizations”, stressed Mr. Azoulay, adding that there is really no point in carrying out major projects “if we do not manage to go beyond this first link in the chain of ‘living-together’, in the name of a single humanity, which puts back human beings at the center of its concerns.” 

Ariel Pino, 12 years old, from Spain, recipient of PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival award.
UN Photo/May Yaacoub

‘Adventure in Other Seas’ willing Plural+ film 

On the margins of the Forum, the PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival, a joint initiative between UNAOC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with a network of over 50 partner organizations worldwide that support the creative efforts of young people and distribute their videos worldwide, took place today. 

This festival aims at encouraging and empowering youth to explore the pressing social issues of migration, diversity, social inclusion, and the prevention of xenophobia and to share their creative vision with the world. 

“We are in our 14th year of collaboration with our friend and partner UNAOC for the PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival,” said Antonio Vitorino, Director General of IOM.   

“We share their commitment to promote the benefits of safe migration, to better the inclusion of migrants, and particularly young migrants, and to improve the misleading narratives that generate negative perceptions of migrants, and which are, concerningly, too often popularized in contemporary media,” he added, congratulating the young participants who received today. 

After receiving his award for his short film Adventure in Other Seas, Twelve-years old Ariel Pino, from Spain, spoke on behalf of his colleagues Diego, Paula and Danie, thanking the jury for their recognition. 

Their film is about a fish who decided to migrate from its community to another, and the hardship it faced along the way but also the bad treatment from the fishes in the new community. 

Ariel pointed out that they learnt many things while making their film: 

“First is to put ourselves in the place of the people who are crossing the sea; and second is to contribute to the new community that we migrate to. And most importantly we learn that we shall be good to our family.” 

Recognized PLURAL+ videos are chosen on the basis of their potential to have an impact on issues of migration, diversity, social inclusion, and the prevention of xenophobia, as well as on their artistic, innovative, and creative content.  

This year, PLURAL+ has received 246 video entries from 53 countries, of which 21 have been selected recognized. 

Fez Declaration 

During its work today, the 9th Global Forum adopted the Fez Declaration, which stressed, among others, the importance of the central role of education, women as mediators and peace-makers, combating discrimination and intolerance based on religion or belief anchored in human rights, sport as a vector for peace and inclusiveness, balancing migration narratives through programming, the role of religious leaders in promoting peace, coexistence and social harmony, reinvigorating multilateralism through culture of peace and on countering; and addressing online hate speech. 

The Declaration also commended the international initiatives, including those by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designed to promote the safeguarding of cultural heritage in time of peace and in the event of armed conflicts, and encouraged the members of the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations to condemn the unlawful destruction of cultural heritage and religious sites. 

It underlined also the positive impact that migration can have on countries of origin, transit and destination, including through promoting cultural pluralism.

In Fez 🇲🇦, Mr. @MiguelMoratinos opens the 9th UNAOC Global Forum hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco.

“In the face of defending tolerance, let us defend mutual respect. In the face of defending coexistence, let us defend living together: #convivencia,” he said. #FezForum https://t.co/BNIwIIeul1

Honour traffic victims by making roads safer: Guterres

Every year, 1.3 million people die in road accidents and 50 million more are injured, he said, making this the leading cause of death for children and young people

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The UN chief’s remarks came in his message to mark the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, observed annually on 20 November. 

“One of the best ways to remember and honour the victims is by doing our part to make roads safer around the world”, he said. 

Development in danger 

The Secretary-General also pointed out how road traffic crashes are linked to development. 

Nine out of 10 victims are in middle- and low-income countries. 

“Saving more lives requires ensuring more funding for safe and sustainable mobility, whole-of-society action plans and a strong prevention approach,” said Mr. Guterres. 

“The United Nations Road Safety Conventions and Fund help countries strengthen national systems and infrastructure. I urge Member States and donors to support these efforts and prevent further tragedies.”

Saving young lives 

Meanwhile, a UN-backed global campaign aims to prevent more boys and girls from dying in traffic accidents. 

One person dies on the road every 24 seconds across the world, while 500 children die on roads globally every 24 hours, according to the UN Road Safety Fund (UNRSF), announcing the second edition of the #moments2live4 campaign.

It was launched on Sunday, which also marked World Children’s Day in addition to the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. 

Poorer nations affected 

UNRSF is a global partnership striving to help halve road deaths and injuries in low- and middle-income countries, where a staggering 93 per cent of fatal crashes occur each year. 

The Fund has worked towards the adoption of region-wide safer vehicle regulations in West Africa, as well as initiatives on the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, among other activities. 

The #moments2live4 campaign seeks to raise awareness about the global road safety crisis, which is hitting children over five the hardest, and to support the Fund’s $40 million replenishment target. 

Awareness and empowerment 

Nneka Henry, the UNRSF Head, emphasized that awareness is the first step towards addressing the global road safety challenge. 

“Billions of everyday road users, thousands of corporations and over 100 governments currently sit on the side lines of inaction, largely unaware of the far-reaching dangers for our most vulnerable road users – our children. This campaign is intended to empower everyone with knowledge about how to help keep children safe on the roads,” she said.  

The #moments2live4 global campaign will feature supporters, ranging from race car drivers, entertainers, world-class athletes, and leaders from UN agencies.  

It will run for 10 weeks and conclude on the International Day of Education, on 24 January.  

1.3 million people die in road accidents every year, and 50 million more are injured. This is the leading cause of death for children & young people.

We must make roads safer and save lives around the world. https://t.co/E4SHmlqhzM

Peru’s food crisis grows amid soaring prices and poverty: FAO

Some 16.6 million people – more than half the population — now find themselves without regular access to enough safe and nutritious food.

It’s a shocking reversal for Peru, an upper middle-income country according to the World Bank, that can grow all the food it needs.

According to a 2021 FAO study, 51 per cent of the population is living in moderate food insecurity. “20 per cent of that group is in acute food insecurity”, explains Fernando Castro Verastegui, Project coordinator at FAO Peru. “That means people have reduced the quality of their diet or are eating less than they need.”

Poor alternatives

Poverty is to blame, says the agency. The poverty rate this year is 25 per cent, meaning one in four Peruvians doesn’t have enough money to cover their basic food basket.

Most people end up simply alleviating their hunger, but not eating adequate food with all the necessary nutrients, such as proteins. In parts of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest – known locally as the “Selva” region – up to 70 per cent of the population is anaemic. 

The skyline of Chorrillos, one of Lima’s township in Peru.
© Roberto Villanueva

The skyline of Chorrillos, one of Lima’s township in Peru.

Recipe for resilience

In the poor and dusty suburb of Chorrillos, one of Lima’s shanty towns overlooking the Pacific Ocean, women are busy behind the stove.

Among them, Jenny Rojas Chumbe, a community activist, president of the soup kitchen “Ayuda Social” (or “social support”).

When COVID-19 hit the country, sending millions home with no income, Jenny saw up close the urgent needs in her community and started collecting food to organize soup kitchens.

These “ollas comunes” – as they are known locally – receive donations from food banks as well as other organizations and individuals. From 220 daily meals at the peak of the pandemic, she is still serving about 100 a day today, even though many have gone back to work.

“The number of meals we were giving had dropped to 50 a day, because the neighbours were doing better in terms of purchasing power. But lately, it’s been rising, because the crisis is affecting a lot of people. If you take the vegetables, they are far too expensive. A kilogramme of potatoes costs more than three Soles ($0.80), a litre of cooking oil, more than 12 Soles ($3.15),” Jenny explains.

Jenny Rojas Chumbe, President of the Soup Kitchen “Ayuda Social” (Social aid) in Chorrillos township, Lima, Peru.
© Roberto Villanueva

Jenny Rojas Chumbe, President of the Soup Kitchen “Ayuda Social” (Social aid) in Chorrillos township, Lima, Peru.

Price spike

Soaring potato prices have a real impact – and a powerful symbolic one in Peru:  it is on the shores of Lake Titicaca, that potatoes were first cultivated.

As for meat, chicken is the main source of protein in Peru, but only for those who can afford it. As a matter of fact, Jenny only cooks chicken for her neighbours, “once, or twice a week, because it would be out of our budget”.

Peru’s annual inflation rate for 2022 remains above eight per cent in the past months, its highest level in 24 years. Staples like wheat, rice, and cooking oil have more than doubled in price.

The soup kitchens were the people’s response to the food problem that had been going on since before COVID, explains Fernando Castro Verastegui. “We had rates of, for example, malnutrition and anaemia that had stagnated. The economic, political, and environmental problems that we were already having were telling us that the food situation was at risk. When COVID came, this exploded.”

A Food Bank agent collects food at a wholesale market in Lima (mercado de mayoristas), Peru.
© Roberto Villanueva

A Food Bank agent collects food at a wholesale market in Lima (mercado de mayoristas), Peru.

Coronavirus effect

Peru was indeed hit badly by COVID-19. It suffered the world’s highest mortality rate during the pandemic, as more than 0.65 percent of the population succumbed to the virus. In parallel, lockdowns increased unemployment.

Weight of inflation

Added to the post-COVID downturn, inflation, driven by the war in Ukraine, weighs heavily on prospects for recovery. Peru is also experiencing the increase in prices, says Castro, as a result of a series of phenomena that are taking place at a global level, especially the increase in fuel prices and supplies, also as a result of the conflicts in Ukraine.

In addition to the price hikes of food and energy, FAO points out that government mismanagement, poor dietary habits, and an over-reliance on imported food staples and fertilizers are additional causes of Peru’s food crisis.

Imported chemical fertilizers cost up to four times what they did a year ago, forcing farmers to reduce their use. The fear is that this will likely impact food production in the coming months and aggravate existing vulnerabilities in Peru.

An agriculture worker sprays a farm field in Canta, province of Lima, Peru.
© Roberto Villanueva

An agriculture worker sprays a farm field in Canta, province of Lima, Peru.

UN’s game plan for sanitation for all

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“SDG 6.2 is about ending open defecation and providing access to safe sanitation and hygiene, and it is the furthest off-track of all the SDGs, and furthest in terms of underfunding,” said Ann Thomas, Team Leader, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH Programme Division, UNICEF, at a UN Headquarters press conference on Thursday.

‘Sanitation crisis’

In a 2020 estimate, 3.6 billion people lacked safely managed sanitation services. The rate of sanitation coverage increase would need to quadruple to achieve universal access to safely managed services by 2030, Ms. Thomas said, describing the situation as “a sanitation crisis”, especially for women and children.

Through the Game Plan to Reach Safety Managed Sanitation 2022-2030, UNICEF will support 1 billion people gain access to safely managed sanitation, through direct and indirect support, in collaboration with partners.

Also speaking at the press conference, Johannes Cullmann, Vice Chair of UN-Water, the world body’s inter-agency coordination mechanism for water issues, described poor sanitation as “not a technological problem but a ‘political will’ problem”, stressing that technologies exist, and governments must invest in sanitation.

Taboo discussion

The whole discussion on sanitation has been a “taboo” and “invisible”, both speakers pointed out, emphasizing the need to make it more prominent with politicians to ensure everyone has access to proper sanitation.

These topics will be discussed at the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater in Paris from 7 to 8 December, and at the UN 2023 Water Conference from 22 to 24 March.

A giant inflatable toilet sits on the front lawn of the UN Headquarters in commemoration of World Toilet Day.
UN Photo/Mark Garten

A giant inflatable toilet sits on the front lawn of the UN Headquarters in commemoration of World Toilet Day.

Big message

On 18 November, a head-turning giant inflatable toilet will be displayed on the main lawn of the UN Headquarters during the day. The inflatable toilet was last seen in 2019.

On the same day, UNICEF will convene an event, titled Accelerating Sanitation Towards 2030 with speakers to discuss key sanitation and water issues in light of the upcoming UN 2023 Water Conference.

By 2030, 1.9 billion people will still lack facilities to wash their hands at home if global progress stays at the current rate.

@WHO @UNICEF’s State of the world’s hand hygiene is a global call to action to make hand hygiene a priority. https://t.co/8c0njaWYf7
#WorldToiletDay https://t.co/LzM1VQKnPh

COP27: Protecting biodiversity is protecting the Paris Agreement

“The two need to be looked at as being on the same wavelength, and not one higher than the other,” Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the international legal instrument to protect biodiversity ratified by 196 nations, told UN News.

‘Biodiversity Day’ at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh comes just two weeks ahead of a high-level gathering of CBD States Parties in Montreal, aimed at reversing biodiversity loss.

Soundcloud

Four of the key architects of the Paris Agreement, including former UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres, have officially asked world leaders to deliver an ‘ambitious and transformative’ global biodiversity agreement in the upcoming COP15 on biodiversity.

“The climate and nature agendas are entwined…Only by taking urgent action to halt and reverse the loss of nature this decade, while continuing to step up efforts to rapidly decarbonize our economies, can we hope to achieve the promise of the Paris Agreement,” they said in a statement.

Parrots
Unsplash/Alan Godfrey

Parrots

The connection, explained

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) explains that the loss of biodiversity is already significantly affecting regional and global changes in climate.

While natural ecosystems play an important role in regulating climate and can help to sequester and store carbon, the loss of forests, the draining of wetlands and other environmental degradation has contributed significantly to climate change.

According to the agency, efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation and restore ecosystems, for example, could contribute to lowering annual greenhouse gas emissions.

“If we invest in nature and natures infrastructure, forests, coral reefs, mangroves, coastal forests, well, it protects us from high storms. It provides habitat for species, but it also stores carbon. So, it has both a mitigation and an adaptation dimension,” Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, told UN News.

Coral reefs get a new defender at COP27

At the same time, biodiversity is affected by extreme weather events and temperatures, especially in developing countries, due to limited resources to protect them. This is worrying, since 15 of the 17 countries with the largest biodiversity are in the global South.

The effects of climate change on biodiversity are already visible, especially with many animal species already forced to change migration patterns, plants struggling to adapt to changes in temperature, and of course seriously vulnerable polar bears – the ‘poster animals’ of global warming – starving at the North Pole due to the lack of sea ice in a warming world.

The polar bear's natural habitat is disappearing as ice caps melt due to climate change.
Deutscher Wetterdienst/Karolin Eichler

In the ocean, biologists are witnessing another tragedy as coral reefs, which provide food and shelter for over 7,000 other species, are dying because of the warming and acidification of the ocean.

UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, Ellie Goulding launched a new initiative at COP27 aimed to protect these colonial animals.

Last week, she led an expedition in the Red Sea, off the coast of Sharm el-Sheikh.

“There’s this sheer visual beauty. When you pass through with your mask and witness this brilliant cornucopia of marine life, you feel as if all life is swimming in front of your eyes. And it reminded me that coral covers just a tiny percentage of the sea floor, but it supports a quarter of all known marine species,” she told a panel on Wednesday.

Ms. Goulding reminded participants that even at 1.5C degrees of warming, 70 to 90 pe cent of all reefs will be lost; this number jumps to a worrying 99 per cent if our planet warms by 2.0 degrees C.

“This is one of the most climate tolerant reefs in the world, and it just happens to be right here at your feet in Sharm el-Sheikh. And this is no ordinary reef. It’s one of nature’s great survivors and it could be the key to regenerating other reefs in the future,” she explained.

The singer-songwriter said it was “insulting” that less than 0.01 per cent of climate finance is devoted to protecting coral reefs.

“I ask the global community of leaders to acknowledge that coral reefs are one of our greatest collective assets and to get seriously, seriously ambitious and competitive about funding, restoration and protection,” she said.

Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (RCA) is a natural protected area of 402,335.96 hectares managed by 10 harakbuts, yines and machiguengas communities in Madre de Dios, in the Peruvian Amazon.
UNDP Peru

Amarakaeri Communal Reserve (RCA) is a natural protected area of 402,335.96 hectares managed by 10 harakbuts, yines and machiguengas communities in Madre de Dios, in the Peruvian Amazon.

Forests, the Amazon and promises

Important pledges aimed at protecting forests were made last year at COP26 in Glasgow.

“Some of them are beginning to roll off the belt onto reality. But there’s a reason why Egypt framed this as the ‘implementation COP’; because those pledges and promises have to see real action,” stated UNEP chief Andersen.

Last week, the European Union also announced a new cooperation framework on reversing deforestation in Guyana, Mongolia, the Republic of Congo, Uganda and Zambia.

On Wednesday, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, President-Elect of Brazil, drew a huge crowd at the pavilions and a meeting room in the afternoon as he stressed that his country would put up a very strong fight against illegal deforestation in the Amazon. He also announced that Brazil aims to host COP30 in 2025.

Mr. Lula da Silva also announced the creation of an indigenous ministry in his new administration.

“He will place a major emphasis on the Amazon and on tropical forests. And that is, of course, a massive gain for climate, for biodiversity and for the people of the Amazon,” Ms. Andersen said, reacting to the Brazilian leader’s announcements.

The Egyptian COP27 Presidency also announced today a series of initiatives related to protecting biodiversity.

Indigenous activists protest at COP27.
© UNFCCC/Kiara Worth

Indigenous activists protest at COP27.

‘We need action now’

Indigenous activists, who have made a strong showing since the start of COP27, were especially vocal today, as they are the guardians of our planet’s biodiversity.

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“My community was hit by two cyclones in just one year and our [entire] city was completely destroyed. We don’t want to live like this anymore. We need a safe space; we need a safe planet,” Adriana da Silva Maffioletti, a young activist from Brazil told UN News.

She added that she hoped world leaders would listen to the indigenous leadership instead of exploiting them.

“Indigenous people have the most sustainable way to live. So, we must learn from them and not put them aside in this fight. We protect over 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity,” she explained.

Ms. Da Silva Maffioletti underscored that her people – their voices, experience and ideas – should be the number one priority in the fight against climate change.

“This is not something for tomorrow. This is not something for 10 years [from now]. This is something for us to do right now. The climate crisis is affecting and killing people right now. So, we must act now,” she declared.

“We are not going to give up on this fight. Extractive companies, and even some wind energy projects that wear ae not being consulted [on] are affecting Mother Earth, our sources, our medicine,” Yenilin Aurielen Lubo Bonivento, from the Guayu community in Colombia, also told UN News.

She comes from the Guajira department in the north of the South American nation, an area among the most affected by climate change.

She is also a biologist and is currently teaching young girls in her community about science.

“We need to raise our voices, and [draw on the] science, combined with our ancestral knowledge. This is the key to fighting climate change.”

The COP27 venue, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
UN News/ Conor Lennon

The COP27 venue, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

Updates on negotiations

Regarding negotiations, the Egyptian COP27 Presidency reported on Wednesday that unfortunately, many delegations are “holding back” a number of negotiation rooms.

“We would have hoped under the current circumstances to see more willingness to cooperate and accommodate than we are seeing in the reports that we receive from the various negotiating tracks. I [will] reserve the verdict: perhaps some countries and delegations will show more openness and accommodation as the last minute comes,” Ambassador Wael Aboulgmagd, Special Representative for the COP27 President, told journalists.

He added that, when negotiators were adopting the agenda, which includes for the first time a ‘loss and damage’ item, they only had “a breakthrough” at the last hour.

UN News spoke with Ruanna Hayes, negotiator from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), who confirmed that the discussions are not especially hopeful at the moment.

“There’s real concern about how things are progressing across the board. Of course, loss and damage is a key issue, the key outcome that the Alliance is looking for from this COP, and things are still not coming together,” she said.

Special Representative Aboulgmagd sent a message to negotiators, reminding them that although every delegation must consider its national interests, the situation [of climate change] is dire, as the science reports show.

“I hope delegations in the negotiation rooms take this to heart and realize that they need to show progress, not in words but in action and implementation,” he said.

Want to know more? Check out our special events page, where you can find all our coverage of the COP27 climate summit, including stories and videos, explainers, podcasts and our daily newsletter.

Only two days of negotiations are left at the UN Climate Conference #COP27

Young Latin-American activists are taking a stand to ask for #ClimateJustice and for the final document to address #LossAndDamage.

@Brunorodok, activist from Argentina explains. https://t.co/y8JU937oTU

‘Bridges across digital divides’ needed to boost development, Guterres tells G20 

“This calls for more connectivity; and less digital fragmentation. More bridges across digital divides; and fewer barriers. Greater autonomy for ordinary people; less abuse and disinformation”, Secretary-General António Guterres underscored during a session devoted to the theme of Digital Transformation. 

Threat of destruction 

From the suppression of free speech to malicious interference across borders, and the online targeting of women, he spelled out that “without guidance and guardrails”, digital technology has “a huge potential for harm”. 

To counter this, he proposed that during the UN Summit of the Future, in September 2024, governments should endorse a Global Digital Compact for an “open, free, inclusive and secure digital future for all” – with input from technology companies, civil society, academia and others. 

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Designed to deliver 

Firmly anchored in human rights as “the only coherent approach for a technology that affects every aspect of our lives”, the UN chief elaborated on the three areas outlined in the Digital Compact. 

First, he explained that universal connectivity means reaching the three billion people who still have no access to the internet, the majority of whom live in the Global South.  

We must close the digital divide by promoting digital literacy and giving access to the digital world to women and girls, migrants, rural and indigenous people.”  

‘Not a free pass’ 

Secondly, Mr. Guterres reminded that a human-centred digital space begins with the protection of free speech, freedom of expression and the right to online autonomy and privacy. 

“But free speech is not a free pass”, he argued, saying that the Digital Compact must consider the responsibility of Governments, tech companies and social media platforms to “prevent online bullying and deadly disinformation that undermines democracy, human rights and science”. 

The top UN official also called for a global code of conduct that promotes public information integrity to enable people to “make choices based on fact, not fiction”. 

Achieving the Global Goals 

Finally, he observed that data has “immense and unexplored potential” to boost sustainable development. 

However, while we have only half the data needed to understand progress and measure impact regarding the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), people’s personal data is being used without their knowledge and consent, “sometimes for political control, sometimes for commercial profit”, Mr. Guterres maintained. 

He said the Digital Compact should focus on ways in which governments, working with technology companies and others, could foster the “safe and responsible use of data”. 

“The support of G20 countries can help ensure the digital age is safe, inclusive, and transformational”, Mr. Guterres added. 

It is clear that without guidance and guardrails, digital technology has huge potential for harm.

At G20 Summit, I urged leaders to support my proposal for a Global Digital Compact – firmly anchored in human rights – for an open, free, secure & inclusive internet.

Act together now, to prevent ‘raging food catastrophe’ next year: Guterres

The world is on its way to “a raging food catastrophe”, Secretary-General António Guterres warned leaders gathered in Bali, alerting them that “people in five separate places are facing famine”.

“Simultaneously, we are witnessing a crunch in the global fertilizer market”, he continued, highlighting once again the Black Sea Grain Initiative to export vital food supplies from Ukraine, and fertilizers from Russia.

Food and energy session

Speaking at the special session on the food and energy crisis, Mr. Guterres credited the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and others, for cooperating successfully with the UN to remove many of the obstacles preventing the free flow of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets.

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He informed the participants that the first shipment of Russian fertilizers – donated by Uralkem and managed by the World Food Programme (WFP) – will be loaded up in the Netherlands on Tuesday.  

“Food and fertilizers are not subject to sanctions, but suffer indirect impacts”, explained the UN chief. We are working nonstop to resolve all remaining issues, chiefly around payments, and to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative”.

“I count on all of your to support these efforts”.

Step up financing

Many governments in the Global South, battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, unequal resources for recovery, and the climate crisis, lack the fiscal space to help their people deal with rising food and fertilizer prices accelerated by the war, the top UN official said.

He reminded that his call for a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Stimulus aimed to provide those countries with adequate liquidity by reallocating supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets called Special Drawing Rights; concessional financing to Middle Income Countries in distress; and effective mechanisms of debt relief and restructuring.

“Transformational investments in agriculture, particularly in Africa, are essential to prevent future crises”, he asserted. “But they need the resources, to be implemented”.

Environmental woes

The climate crisis is another factor pushing people into hunger, according to the UN chief.

“Changing weather patterns, droughts and storms are disrupting crop cycles and fisheries”, he told the G20, pointing out that “80 per cent of global emissions are sitting around this table”.

Mr. Guterres argued that a Climate Solidarity Pact between developed countries and large emerging economies is the only way to defeat climate change.

Developed countries must take the lead in reducing emissions”, he instructed.

“They must also mobilize, together with international financial institutions and technology companies, to provide financial and technical support so that large emerging economies can accelerate their transition to renewables”.

Just energy transition partnerships are an important first step to this end.

In a low-income settlement on the outskirts of Colombo, some parents in Sri Lanka frequently skip meals as means of grappling with the rising cost of food and living.
© WFP/Josh Estey

In a low-income settlement on the outskirts of Colombo, some parents in Sri Lanka frequently skip meals as means of grappling with the rising cost of food and living.

Prevent ‘energy scramble’

As many developing countries cannot afford soaring energy prices, the top UN official warned against “an energy scramble” in which developing countries “come off worst” – as they did in the competition for COVID-19 vaccines.

Moreover, doubling down on fossil fuels is no solution.  

“If, in the last two decades, the world had massively invested in renewable energy, rather than its addiction to fossil fuels, we would not be facing the present crisis”, he said.

Working as one for the good of all

In closing, the Secretary-General advocated for “unity, solidarity and multilateral solutions” to address the food and energy crises, and to “eliminate the trust deficit” that is undermining global action across the board.   

“Multilateral solutions can only be built on fairness and justice”, he said.

“I urge G20 countries to consider these fundamentals in your decisions”.

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We are on the way to a raging food catastrophe, and the world appears to be indifferent.

People in five separate places are facing famine.

At G20 Summit I warned that without coordinated action, this year’s crisis of affordability may become next year’s global food shortage.

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