Arab Human Development Report 2022: Expanding Opportunities

Arab Human Development Report 2022: Expanding Opportunities

Arab Human Development Report 2022: Expanding Opportunities for an Inclusive and Resilient Recovery in the Post-Covid Era

Post-Covid Recovery, an opportunity to boost development in the region. Responsive governance, more diversified economies, inclusive societies, and a green transformation critical to achieving sustainable, inclusive development and prevent future shocks and disasters

29 June 2022

 

 

The report contends that a sound recovery from the impact of the pandemic in the region will require a concerted effort to protect the vulnerable, empower citizens, strengthen human rights, ensure the rule of law, and make systems more effective and responsive.

UNDP PAPP

 

 

New York – As they pursue pathways to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, Arab States should strengthen capacities and build effective and trustworthy institutional structures that can support a new social contract and enable societies to cope with future shocks and disasters—according to the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) 2022 that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched today.

“Many countries in the Arab States region are still struggling to contend with the devastating socio-economic effects of COVID-19, now compounded by an unprecedented global food, energy and finance crisis that is being precipitated by the tragic war in Ukraine,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “This new report analyses how countries across the region can get hard-won human development gains back on track through concerted efforts in four key areas. That includes building diversified and competitive economies; shaping accountable and responsive governments founded upon the protection of human rights; nurturing inclusive and cohesive societies; and driving forward a green recovery with sustainable human development at its core.”

Produced by UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS), the AHDR 2022 is entitled “Expanding Opportunities for an Inclusive and Resilient Recovery in the Post-Covid Era.” It is the seventh in the AHDR series, marking 20 years of keen analysis of development challenges and opportunities across the Arab States region since the launch of the seminal AHDR in 2002.

The report reviews impacts of the pandemic on human development across the region, as well as actions taken by Arab States to contain the outbreak and mitigate its most adverse impacts on people and the economy.  The AHDR 2022 argues that getting human development back on track in the post-pandemic era will require greater efforts to make governance systems more accountable and re­sponsive, economies more diversified and competi­tive, and societies more cohesive and inclusive—in order to ensure a resilient recovery for all.

“The Arab States region has been experiencing various vulnerabilities and is notable for a diverse range of development contexts– but the rapid onset of the global pandemic challenged all to varying degrees, presenting new challenges, and exacerbating vulnerabilities. But as the report tells us, vulnerabilities are not our destiny” said Khalida Bouzar, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of RBAS. “Full of potential and brimming with innovative efforts, the region adopted many positive response measures that could be expanded and scaled-up beyond the Covid response. Knowledge and solutions to tackle the region’s challenges exist. Many are known and have been tested and shown to work. Our collective endeavour now is to create the conditions to allow these efforts to blossom and reach fruition.”

The AHDR 2022 contends that human ca­pabilities and human freedoms are enhanced by ac­countable and responsive governments, diversified and resilient economies, and cohesive and inclusive societies. Hence, the report’s focus on examining impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and measures adopted to contain its implications across the spheres of governance, economy, society, and the environment—considering underlying long-standing development challenges that the region has struggled with prior to the pandemic.

Trust in government is critical to Covid response

The report observes that the efficacy of responses to the pandemic across the diverse development contexts in the region was related to levels of institutional capacity and coordination between government agencies.

For example, Gulf Cooperation Council governments succeed­ed in bringing the pandemic outbreak under control, displaying an average recovery rate that was significantly higher than the global aver­age. Middle-income countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia were relatively successful in handling the first wave of the outbreak but loosened their control afterward. Countries in crises had limited capacity to mitigate impacts of Covid-19 outbreaks because of the destruction of their health in­frastructure, displacement or migration of health-care workers, breakdown of social relations and accumulating economic challenges.

During Covid, limited trust in government institutions was reflected in pushback against Covid-19 containment measures and high rates of vaccine hesitancy, a trend observed across different regions globally.

The report also notes that some governments expanded their executive pow­ers through emergency regulations to respond to Covid-19 and protect communities from its impacts. This was sometimes done, given the rapidly evolving context, with limited oversight mechanisms in place. Some put in place new meas­ures that affect civic freedoms, including regulations that expanded digital surveillance of citizens in certain instances. Others applied greater controls of free expression and the media, including social media, under the guise of fighting misinformation. The report cites that the percentage of citizens who believe that freedom of speech is guaranteed to a great or medium extent has declined by 20 percentage points since 2016, from 63 percent to 43 percent in the region.

Rising debt levels may last for a while

The report underscores that the region’s economy contracted by around 4.5 percent in 2020, with fragile and conflict-affected countries experiencing the larg­est average drop—around 15 percent. Despite positive signs at the end of 2021, the report notes that an ac­celerated recovery in 2022 is unlikely, given emerging challenges facing the region. With an average expected growth rate of 5.5 percent for the whole re­gion, driven mainly by the performance of oil-exporting countries, economic growth may continue to be challenging.

During the first year of the pandemic, existing large fiscal deficits widened further across the region, with falling revenues, due to dwindling oil demand, and rising financing needs for containing the pandemic and its economic impacts on households and businesses. In 2020, the average overall deficit widened by 7 percentage points, to 9.2 percent of GDP, while in 2021 the region’s average fiscal deficit narrowed to 2.3 percent and is expected to turn into a surplus of 4.1 percent of GDP in 2022.

Large fiscal deficits have increased government debt, worsening an already vulnerable debt position. In 2020, the region’s overall average government debt peaked at 60 percent of GDP, up around 13 percentage points from 2019. Over the medium term, government debt as a percentage of GDP is projected to rise sub­stantially and remain above 2019 levels for the ma­jority of countries in the region. Net flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) to the re­gion fell by 6 percent in 2020.

In 2021, unemploy­ment rose to 12.6 in the Arab States region, more than double the world average of 6.2 percent. Female labour force participation rates were among the lowest in the world, at 20.3 percent in the Arab States region in 2019. Women’s unemployment rate remained at 24 percent the Arab States region, still three to four times the world average.

In 2021, the region had the world’s highest youth unemployment rate (15-24 years old), at 28.6 percent, rising steeply from 25.3 percent in 2019. The unemployment rate among young women was also the highest in the world, and over twice the figure among young men, reaching 49.1 in 2021 from 44.7 percent in 2019 (compared to 23.8 percent among young men in 2021 and 20.8 percent in 2019).

It is important to note that many of these challenges mirror global trends in the currently volatile context, with a slump in global growth forecast for 2022 and growth across many regions decelerating even further than in the Arab States region.

Widening inequalities

The pandemic has led to widening existing inequalities and exacerbated exclusion, particularly from access to healthcare and education. The report points out that prior to the pandemic, inadequate public financ­ing had placed the burden of healthcare on patients. Out-of-pocket spending averaged 28 percent of household spending in the region, compared with 18 percent worldwide—but with significant var­iations from a low of 6.6 percent in Oman to a high of 81 percent in Yemen.

This reflects the severity of the impact of the pandemic, given this increasing burden was witnessed despite the Arab States region being one of the only regions in the developing world to increase health spending as a share of GDP in the decade prior to the pandemic.

Large percentages of the region’s sizeable refugee and internally dis­placed populations experienced greater difficulty getting medical care during the pandemic outbreak. Host governments in the Arab States re­gion did not include refugees in their national Covid-19 plans, with the notable exception of Jordan.

Following the pandemic outbreak, school closures and the transition to distance education led to the exclusion of significant segments of society. For example, only 55 percent of surveyed children who were enrolled in education in Algeria, Egypt, Jor­dan, Morocco, Qatar, Syria, and Tunisia prior to the pandemic were able to access some form of remote learning after schools were physically closed. Access to distance learning has been higher among students in private schools than public schools. Major inequali­ties in internet access between and within Arab States meant that school closures had a disproportionate negative impact on more vulnerable households, rural and marginalized communities, including refu­gee and IDP children and children with disabilities—increasing the risk of child labour and early marriage among girls.

The report highlights that prior to the pandemic, the inadequacy of care policies, social care service provision, and gendered social norms have contributed to women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid care work in the region, with women devoting 5.1–6.2 times more time than men to unpaid care work in West Asia and North Africa, which is much higher than the world average of 3.2 times. Consistent with global trends, the pandemic has led to a rise in unpaid care responsibili­ties in households across the region, with most of the burden falling on women. The report also records the alarming trend of rising rates of domestic violence targeting women associated with pandemic-induced mobility restrictions, finan­cial stress, and disruptions in access to support services.

Many of these challenges are also witnessed across multiple regions. Governments in the Arab States could take advantage of the current multiple crises to ensure that the recovery promotes sustainable and equitable development.

Opportunity for a green transition

The report estimates that the pandemic resulted in a 5 percent increase in water demand in 2020 for intensified hygiene practices, adding pressures on already scare water supplies across the region, where 18 of the 22 Arab States face serious levels of water scarcity and the average person receives just one-eighth of the global average renewable water per person. The report calls for prioritizing improved water governance and enhanced waste management as key components for post-Covid recovery to be sustainable and resilient.

The AHDR 2022 views with optimism, a growing momentum in the region to diversify beyond the fossil fuel economy and accelerate the transition to renewable energy and energy-efficient solutions. The renewable energy sector has been the only segment of the Arab energy market to experience notable growth, due to its cost-effectiveness and strategic value for carbon-constrained economies. The report singles out solar energy as a strategic asset for diversifying energy consumption, enhancing energy security and building the knowledge-based, high-tech, youth employment–generating economy of the future.

Mainstreaming green solutions into recovery strategies of Arab States is an important opportunity, which can help the region slow negative ecological change and build resilience against future shocks. The report suggests that Global summits can be instrumental in studying the challenges of climate change and envi­ronmental degradation and advancing tangible solu­tions, as with the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conferences of the Parties (COP) that will be hosted by Egypt in 2022 (COP27) and the United Arab Emirates in 2023 (COP28).

Glimmers of hope

The Report records notable examples of positive responses to the Covid-19 pandemic across the Arab States region. It points to instances where rapid gov­ernment action mitigated some of the worst devel­opment impacts. This included adopting stimulus and support packages to support domestic economic activity; providing direct relief to enterprises, particularly small and medium ones; and financing measures to protect workers through paid leave, unemployment benefits and cash transfers, especially targeting informal workers.

The report also notes successes with effective governance solutions in response to the pandemic, such as the adoption of swift coordination measures to ensure multi-sectoral responses involving nationwide whole-of-government responses in high-income Arab countries. Similarly, other countries adopted arrangements to allow for inclusive participation of local government, civil society, private sector, and communities in national response plans, expanding authorities of local government to take measures to ensure continuity of essential services and to identify and reach out to vulnerable groups.

The report also traces how social solidarity movements and civil society organiza­tions quickly mobilized in response to the pandemic’s challenges, filling gaps in awareness raising, expanding community outreach efforts to help cushion the adverse impacts of the pandemic on the most marginalized and vulnerable groups, and unleashing the power of frontline volunteers to complement strained health and social services systems.

Many governments in the region effectively resorted to digitalization of services in response to Covid, using innovative technologies in such areas as the fast delivery of cash transfers for social protection; telemedicine; safeguarding the continuity of essential public administration services; securing educational continuity through online learning alternative solutions; facilitating remote and tele-working; and ensuring inclusive outreach for vaccination.

A human-development-centred recovery

Covid-19 started as a public health emergency that quickly deteriorated into an economic, social, and human emergency that required whole-of-society responses with strong coordination between responsible govern­ment agencies and meaningful collaboration with private firms, civil society organizations and international organizations.

The report contends that a sound recovery from the impact of the pandemic in the region will require a concerted effort to protect the vulnerable, empower citizens, strengthen human rights, ensure the rule of law, and make systems more effective and responsive. Countries of the region need new social contracts that pave the way to peace, justice, and stability, leaving no one behind, building more resilient, inclusive, accounta­ble and trusted institutions, and expanding human capabilities and freedoms.

The AHDR 2022 underscored that post-Covid recovery presents an opportunity for countries to evaluate and strengthen capabilities and make structural changes to prevent and cope with emerging shocks, including a looming global food crisis, and diminishing international resources for development financing, both related to the current war on Ukraine, as well as future shocks and disasters.

The report’s recommendations for an integrated and human-development-centred approach to recovery include:

  • Investment in enhancing accountability and responsiveness of governance systems and structures, through inclusive and participatory processes to rebuild citizens’ trust in government, strengthen freedoms, human rights and the rule of the law, and leave no one behind. These processes should engage local governments, the private sector, civil society, and citizens, as well as expand the role of local govern­ments in responding to citizen’s needs, delivering services, and combating poverty and inequality.
  • Fostering economic diversification and resilience, by focusing investments on high-productivity goods and services, expanding exports through greater integration with global value chains, and tackling persistent unemploy­ment and labour mar­kets challenges through promoting job creation in the private sector, with decent working conditions, especially for women. This also entails improving the investment climate, strengthening public financial management through enhanced tax man­agement, and boosting social spending to protect the poor and vulnerable.
  • Enhancing social cohesion and inclusion, through inclusive and equitable access to quality social, health and education services; pursuing social cohesion and consensus-building initiatives; enabling greater civic participation and negotiation in the workplace; promoting gender-responsive laws and investing in care policies and services; and ensuring inclusion of marginalized and vulnerable groups in all aspects of the recovery, especially women, migrants, refugees and people with disabilities.
  • Ensuring that recovery pathways are green, through accelerating and scaling-up clean energy transition initiatives; expanding green transportation and infrastructure in­vestments; closing gaps in water and waste services; incorporating circular economy solutions into local development; and advancing ecological restoration and safeguards for biological systems. The report underlines that, if prop­erly planned, green recovery measures can help diversify economies and contribute to growth, generating new and sustainable forms of revenue, creating green job opportunities, and enhancing resilience for commu­nities and the ecosystems on which they depend for people’s lives and livelihoods.

For inquires please contact: Noeman AlSayyad | Communication Advisor | UNDP-RBAS | noeman.alsayyad@undp.org | +962(79)5672901

Read the original UNDP article.


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Iraq food protests echo early stages of the Arab Spring

Iraq food protests echo early stages of the Arab Spring

Iraq’s discontent has like for most countries of the MENA, been there for all to see. In effect, many of these depend on Russia and Ukraine, the two warring parties for their wheat supplies. How to fix that or how to begin fixing it is not exactly a downhill walk in the park. Here is Bamo Nouri‘s explanation.

Iraq food protests against spiralling prices echo early stages of the Arab Spring

Iraq has been seeing protesters take to the streets as food prices spiral upwards because of the Ukraine war. Around 500 people protested in Iraq’s southern city of Nasiriyah a few days ago as flour suddenly rose in price by nearly a third. With food-related protests subsequently taking place in Albania and Sri Lanka, the ripple effects of the war are spreading.

Iraq’s markets were largely unaffected by the surging inflation in months gone by. But Iraqi officials have confirmed that the Russian invasion has massively increased the cost of the region’s food and is also causing shortages. Flour prices are up from IQD35,000 (£18.29) for a 50kg sack to IQD45,000 (£23.52), rice by 10%, and cooking oil has doubled in price. Iraqi consumers have been stocking up fast because of fears of further shortages and price rises, and Iraqi traders have capitalised on the situation to increase their profits.

Iraq food protests echo early stages of the Arab Spring
Unrest over food prices is growing. EPA

The Iraqi government has already put measures in place to tackle shortages, distributing food to those in most need, as well as rationing food during the upcoming month of Ramadan. Rapid government measures also include a monthly allowance of around US$70 (£53) for pensioners with incomes of less than one million Iraqi dinars (£522) per month to help them afford food, as well as for civil servants earning less than half a million Iraqi dinars.

Additionally, a temporary suspension of customs charges on consumer goods, construction materials and international food products has been introduced for a period of two months to help keep prices down. In Iraq’s Kurdish region, the Kurdistan regional government has introduced emergency measures including store closures in Erbil, the region’s capital, to stop rogue traders overcharging.

Turkey and Iran restrict exports

Imports from Russia and Ukraine, two of the world’s largest exporters of energy and agricultural products, have been massively reduced. The situation has also been exacerbated by neighbouring Iran and Turkey, which according to Iraqi sources have restricted food exports to Iraq to prioritise their own national stocks.

Despite Iraq being part of what is known as the fertile crescent, a region famed for its high-yielding farmland and access to water, a series of interventions in the last three decades have depleted the area’s water supply and crops. These range from Saddam Hussein formally drying out Iraq’s marshes, to water flow restrictions from Turkey and Iran causing severe drought. These events had already put pressure on Iraq’s agriculture sector and reduced internal production of food.

Iraqis have been holding demonstrations regularly since the US occupation of 2003, mostly against government corruption, the lack of basic services, mass unemployment and in recent years the interference of Iran. Iraq’s latest prime minister, Mustafa Kadhimi, an independent, was elected after protests in October 2019 as Iraqis rejected the old parties. https://www.youtube.com/embed/O2_PUPyzvqY?wmode=transparent&start=0 Food protests in Iraq.

Distrust in the political system continues. In Iraq’s latest October 2021 Iraqi parliamentary elections, the lowest-ever voter turnout in post-2003 Iraq was recorded at 41% – creating a legitimacy crisis for Iraq’s yet-to-be-announced next government.

A legacy of the US occupation of Iraq is an elitist political system. Iraq’s political leaders compete to portion out the country’s income, giving favours to friends and family.

The key issue is that there is no clear progressive national government strategy, which in turn severely impedes development and weakens the Iraqi state, especially in the face of challenges such as global food price rises. However, what makes this particular protest noteworthy is that it comes at a time when all governments may be expected to do more to support their populations as prices spiral worldwide.

Protests start to spread

Given that two of the key drivers of the Arab Spring were the high cost of food and other goods, and restricted access to water, the latest protests may have worldwide significance. Iraqis may be the first in a global movement of protests over price rises as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues.

Albania became the first country to follow in Iraq’s footsteps with protests, then Sri Lanka, amid warnings from the World Bank that Ukraine war-related inflation could drive other protests and riots.

While some other governments have already intervened with subsidies, there is also an argument that energy providers should act more responsibly in such times of crises. For example, Exxon, Chevron, BP and Shell recorded their highest profits in seven years in 2021, which they attributed to surging oil prices as post-pandemic demand increased but suppliers struggled to keep up.

The cost of food has provoked outrage throughout history. The 2007 and 2008 food crises triggered riots in Haiti, Bangladesh and Mozambique. Even in the French revolution, when Parisians stormed the Bastille on July 14 1789, they were not just looking for arms, they were looking for grain to make bread.

Highlighting these important lessons from history to drive more responsible government and corporate power may be pivotal in preventing political unrest and instability. There is little doubt that both governments and corporations need to do more to make sure that food is affordable for their citizens, or face the consequences.

Bamo Nouri, Research fellow, City, University of London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

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What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work

This article republished from The Conversation is by Shelley Inglis, University of Dayton, Ohio, USA. It looks at the forthcoming international gathering of Glasgow on Climate Change and on the potential confrontations from a practical point of view and elaborates in its own way on What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work.

The image above is about U.N. climate summits that bring together representatives of almost every country. UNFCCC

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work and what’s expected from the Glasgow summit

Over two weeks in November, world leaders and national negotiators will meet in Scotland to discuss what to do about climate change. It’s a complex process that can be hard to make sense of from the outside, but it’s how international law and institutions help solve problems that no single country can fix on its own.

I worked for the United Nations for several years as a law and policy adviser and have been involved in international negotiations. Here’s what’s happening behind closed doors and why people are concerned that COP26 might not meet its goals.

What is COP26?

In 1992, countries agreed to an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which set ground rules and expectations for global cooperation on combating climate change. It was the first time the majority of nations formally recognized the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming that drives climate change.

That treaty has since been updated, including in 2015 when nations signed the Paris climate agreement. That agreement set the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), and preferably to 1.5 C (2.7 F), to avoid catastrophic climate change.

COP26 stands for the 26th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. The “parties” are the 196 countries that ratified the treaty plus the European Union. The United Kingdom, partnering with Italy, is hosting COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 12, 2021, after a one-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why are world leaders so focused on climate change?

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, released in August 2021, warns in its strongest terms yet that human activities have unequivocally warmed the planet, and that climate change is now widespread, rapid and intensifying.

The IPCC’s scientists explain how climate change has been fueling extreme weather events and flooding, severe heat waves and droughts, loss and extinction of species, and the melting of ice sheets and rising of sea levels. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called the report a “code red for humanity.”

Enough greenhouse gas emissions are already in the atmosphere, and they stay there long enough, that even under the most ambitious scenario of countries quickly reducing their emissions, the world will experience rising temperatures through at least mid-century.

However, there remains a narrow window of opportunity. If countries can cut global emissions to “net zero” by 2050, that could bring warming back to under 1.5 C in the second half of the 21st century. How to get closer to that course is what leaders and negotiators are discussing.

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work
Guterres standing at a podium with #TimeForAction on the screen behind him
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called the latest climate science findings a ‘code red for humanity.’ UNFCCC

What happens at COP26?

During the first days of the conference, around 120 heads of state, like U.S. President Joe Biden, and their representatives will gather to demonstrate their political commitment to slowing climate change.

Once the heads of state depart, country delegations, often led by ministers of environment, engage in days of negotiations, events and exchanges to adopt their positions, make new pledges and join new initiatives. These interactions are based on months of prior discussions, policy papers and proposals prepared by groups of states, U.N. staff and other experts.

Nongovernmental organizations and business leaders also attend the conference, and COP26 has a public side with sessions focused on topics such as the impact of climate change on small island states, forests or agriculture, as well as exhibitions and other events.

The meeting ends with an outcome text that all countries agree to. Guterres publicly expressed disappointment with the COP25 outcome, and there are signs of trouble heading into COP26.

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work
Greta Thunberg raises an eyebrow during a session at COP25
Celebrities like youth climate activist Greta Thunberg add public pressure on world leaders. UNFCCC

What is COP26 expected to accomplish?

Countries are required under the Paris Agreement to update their national climate action plans every five years, including at COP26. This year, they’re expected to have ambitious targets through 2030. These are known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

The Paris Agreement requires countries to report their NDCs, but it allows them leeway in determining how they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The initial set of emission reduction targets in 2015 was far too weak to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

One key goal of COP26 is to ratchet up these targets to reach net zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

Another aim of COP26 is to increase climate finance to help poorer countries transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change. This is an important issue of justice for many developing countries whose people bear the largest burden from climate change but have contributed least to it. Wealthy countries promised in 2009 to contribute $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations, a goal that has not been reached. The U.S., U.K. and EU, among the largest historic greenhouse emitters, are increasing their financial commitments, and banks, businesses, insurers and private investors are being asked to do more.

Other objectives include phasing out coal use and generating solutions that preserve, restore or regenerate natural carbon sinks, such as forests.

Another challenge that has derailed past COPs is agreeing on implementing a carbon trading system outlined in the Paris Agreement.

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work
A man stands in a street market smoking, with cooling towers for a power plant behind him.
Chinese street vendors sell vegetables outside a state-owned coal-fired power plant in 2017. Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Are countries on track to meet the international climate goals?

The U.N. warned in September 2021 that countries’ revised targets were too weak and would leave the world on pace to warm 2.7 C (4.9 F) by the end of the century. However, governments are also facing another challenge this fall that could affect how they respond: Energy supply shortages have left Europe and China with price spikes for natural gas, coal and oil.

China – the world’s largest emitter – has not yet submitted its NDC. Major fossil fuel producers such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia seem unwilling to strengthen their commitments. India – a critical player as the second-largest consumer, producer and importer of coal globally – has also not yet committed.

Other developing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa and Mexico are important. So is Brazil, which, under Javier Bolsonaro’s watch, has increased deforestation of the Amazon – the world’s largest rainforest and crucial for biodiversity and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

What happens if COP26 doesn’t meet its goals?

Many insiders believe that COP26 won’t reach its goal of having strong enough commitments from countries to cut global greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030. That means the world won’t be on a smooth course for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and the goal of keeping warming under 1.5 C.

But organizers maintain that keeping warming under 1.5 C is still possible. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been leading the U.S. negotiations, remains hopeful that enough countries will create momentum for others to strengthen their reduction targets by 2025.

What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work
Line chart showing pledges and current policies far from a trajectory that could meet the 1.5C goal.
The world is not on track to meet the Paris goal. Climate Action Tracker

The cost of failure is astronomical. Studies have shown that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius can mean the submersion of small island states, the death of coral reefs, extreme heatwaves, flooding and wildfires, and pervasive crop failure.

That translates into many premature deaths, more mass migration, major economic losses, large swaths of unlivable land and violent conflict over resources and food – what the U.N. secretary-general has called “a hellish future.”

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Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, University of Dayton Human Rights Center, University of Dayton

Read the original article.

The Conversation

Two Thousand Dinars: A Lamentable Legacy

Two Thousand Dinars: A Lamentable Legacy

Two Thousand Dinars: A Lamentable Legacy By Nejoud Al-Yagout is a story that is fairly common to all countries of the GCC.

The picture above is for illustration and is of the Parliament of Kuwait.

First, we heard that residents above the age of 60 would not be allowed to renew their residencies if they did not hold a college degree. Then, after outrage on social media (by locals, to be sure, since any outrage by a resident would lead to arrest or deportation), there was talk that the rule may not be implemented; instead, we heard that those who came up with the decree would, at least, reconsider the age bracket, perhaps hiking it up to residents over 70 years of age (which in and of itself is lamentable).

Then, it was back again to 60 a few months ago, but with a proposal to fine residents annually (that is when talk of KD 2,000 arose). This latter proposal brewed for a while until it was announced only recently – in the midst of a pandemic, in the throes of increased unemployment and suicides and drug-taking and crimes, and in the whirlwind of murders and corruption – that the Public Authority of Manpower would “allow” residents above the age of 60 who do not hold university degrees to renew their residency provided they pay an annual fee of KD 2,000; as though by making it look like a favor, a permission granted, so to speak, the harsh brutality of the cost of remaining in Kuwait would seem less pronounced, brushed under the rug.

Though already considered official by all of us who read about it in the news, it appears that the “decision” needs a couple more weeks, perhaps, to be considered bureaucratically official, unless a person with strings will use his position of power to take a stand against it. The likelihood of such a selfless act transpiring is well, let’s just say, unlikely. Highly unlikely.

Although many residents above 60 who have graduated from college may have breathed a collective, perhaps even audible, sigh of relief, many others will be in tears, for they have parents and siblings aged 60 and above who live with or near them and who do not hold college degrees, and they themselves, holders of college degrees, will not be able to afford such a fee to keep the family together. And what about us locals? We cannot ignore the two-thousand-dinar elephant in the room.

Many of us who work in the public or private sector, with or without university degrees, or even with Master’s degrees and PhDs, would not ourselves be able (or willing) to pay such a lofty fee. Two. Thousand. Dinars. Imagine. And if we think this will not affect us, we are wrong. “They” are us! They, who we consider expatriates and foreigners and residents are us. We are them. We are one in this society. All of us. Each one of us, a thread of the same fabric, interwoven. What hurts us hurts them and vice versa. Let this register for all of us. Again and again and again.

There are residents in their sixties who were born here and have lived here their entire lives; residents who do not want to go “home” because their “home” is here, in Kuwait, where they belong, with us. Kuwait is the land in which they want to be buried, in which their parents were buried. After all their years of service to our country, we are now showing them the door under the pretext of making rules we know people cannot implement, all so that residents can leave of their own accord.

But they will not leave of their own accord. Ever. They will leave because neither they nor their university-degree-holding families were able to pay such an outrageous sum; they will leave because they are tired of living in a country that does not want them here. So many have left already; others are waiting for the right moment to leave. Others are waiting anxiously to see whether things will get better (or get worse).

We cannot stay silent. We cannot. And the last thing residents need is sympathy; if we are to feel sorry for anyone, we should feel sorry for ourselves for who we have become. Instead of patronizing them with our sympathy, residents should be applauded for their resilience, their bravery, and their contribution. They should be rewarded; they should be given more benefits as time elapses, not less.

We have a lot to learn from them. Even while many are treated as second-class members of the community, they stay, they work, and they support their families. This rhetoric of residents profiting from us is immature and arrogant; we must remember they are doing us a favor, a huge one, by being here as well. We are in this together; and in a healthy community, that is how things work; we give and we take; we take and we give.

Some residents may still find a way to stay here, in their home. But with this new “fine,” there is no way they can save money or help their families. And how can we sleep at night knowing we are creating obstacles for residents to send money back home? How can we sleep at night knowing that there is no money to pay for a parent’s kidney transplant or a relative’s tumor removal or a child’s education because the money is being paid to an oil-rich country instead? What principles are we building our foundation on?

These are certainly not our principles. And as long as we hold on to these pseudo-principles, we will continue to create laws which protect us and ostracize others, laws which are far, far away from the values of our heritage, founded on hospitality and inclusivity. Aren’t we tired of this us vs them attitude? Do we really want a Kuwait for Kuwaitis? Is this our legacy? Can’t we remember who we are?

It’s done. All we can do now is lament and ensure we resurrect a new Kuwait based on the ideals of our welcoming forefathers who never flinched at demographics. All we can do now is remember that what goes around comes around. This is a law. It is not a doomsday prophecy, but a warning, an invitation to recalibrate, a chance, an opportunity, to restore the karmic balance.

This is our chance to wake up and ask ourselves: Is this our legacy? And we should ask ourselves this question every night. That way, we can rectify the situation before karma knocks on our door. Loudly and fiercely. Two thousand dinars. Let’s remember that number. For it may come back to haunt those of us who stayed silent, those of us who spoke out for justice only when it came to our rights and, often, at the expense of others.

local@kuwaittimes.com

 

Calls on World Citizens to Help Shape a Prosperous Post-Covid Era

Calls on World Citizens to Help Shape a Prosperous Post-Covid Era

Calls on World Citizens to Help Shape a Prosperous Post-Covid Era
Image for ‘Let’s Lessen The Gap’ Calls On World Citizens To Help Shape A Prosperous Post-Covid Era For Vulnerable Communities

‘Let’s Lessen The Gap’ Calls On World Citizens To Help Shape A Prosperous Post-Covid Era For Vulnerable Communities

The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian charity dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, has made an impassioned call to citizens around the world to generously support its 2021 Zakat and general donations drive during Ramadan.

These fundraising activities under the“Let’s Lessen the Gap” campaign are part of a comprehensive long-term programme that TBHF has launched. In partnership with four leading UN agencies, namely, UNHCR, UNDP, WHO and UNICEF, the foundation is addressing humanitarian development challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic amongst vulnerable populations in the MENA region.  

Furthering TBHF’s ongoing response efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 worldwide, the programme will set the blueprint for TBHF’s COVID-response strategies in the long term. Evidence and research-based findings from the programme will enable TBHF and partnering UN agencies to identify the most pressing needs of the region, and subsequently aid the designing of sustainable and long-term interventions. The programme will also encompass advocacy campaigns aimed at bridging the gaps in vital sectors of Protection, Livelihoods, Healthcare and Education, which have been heavily impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Announcing the launch of “Let’s Lessen the Gap”, TBHF revealed the programme would address both the critical health and non-healthcare needs of marginalized populations to allow for a return to normalcy in the MENA region. As COVID-19 continues to shape the lives of individuals and societies around the world, TBHF is appealing to people worldwide to act on their humanitarian instincts and support in lessening, and eventually closing the gap between vulnerable communities and their access to the tools and resources they need to become enablers for building a prosperous MENA region of tomorrow.

To know more about how you can get involved and make your contribution, visit www.lessenthegap.org. Contributions can also be made via SMS by sending the word ‘sadaqa’ to the Etisalat numbers: 7857 to donate AED 10; 7859 to donate AED 50, 7788 to donate AED 100, or 7708 to donate AED 500. For Du: 9965 to donate AED 10; 9967 to donate AED 50, 9968 to donate AED 100.

Zakat contributions can also be deposited directly into Zakat Fund account no: 0011-430430-020 at the Sharjah Islamic Bank (International Bank Account Number ‘IBAN’: AE040410000011430430020).

COVID-19 hastens diverse humanitarian challenges in MENA

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified many decades-long developments and humanitarian challenges in the MENA region such as high youth unemployment, inequitable development pathways, resource scarcity, gender discrimination, restricted access to services, and the devastating effects of ongoing conflict in some countries.

According to reports by UNESCWA, unemployment surged in the region with rates reaching up to 26.6% for youth compared to 13.6% globally. An estimated 25 million Arab youth are not in formal education, employment or training.

Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened the learning crisis, disrupting education at an unparalleled rate across the region. A 2020 UNICEF report states that approximately 40% of students, accounting for 37 million children and young people across the region, were not reached by digital and broadcast remote learning.

The pandemic has also posed severe challenges in fragile and conflict-affected nations in MENA, overwhelming weak and overcrowded existing healthcare systems. A UNICEF study titled ‘The Potential Impact of Health Care Disruption on Child Mortality in MENA Due to COVID-19’ draws up a scenario highlighting a particularly bleak reality for children aged 0 – 5. It predicts that a protracted reduction in the supply and demand of primary health care services for children could potentially increase their mortality by nearly 40 percent, compared with a baseline scenario without the COVID-19 virus.

Additionally, refugees and displaced populations in the MENA region and across the world have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Exclusion, discrimination, and inadequate access to health services have heightened protection risks and tested international standards of refugee protection.

UN partners in four sector-specific areas

The “Let’s Lessen the Gap” campaign and post-COVID programme will see TBHF collaborating with multiple UN agencies working on the ground in MENA to implement long-term strategies and initiatives in the fields of Protection, Livelihoods, Healthcare, and Education to assist those who are least likely to have access to these essential services.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. UNHCR will partner with TBHF to empower, protect, and improve the lives of refugees and internally displaced people affected by COVID-19 in the MENA region.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which works in 170 countries and territories to bridge gaps in inequalities and exclusion, will join hands with TBHF to support youth livelihoods, develop capacity and skills, and accelerate structural transformations to advance the sustainable development agenda in the targeted nations. 

To build a better, healthier future in a post-COVID world, TBHF will partner with the World Health Organization (WHO) along with other global organizations coordinating vaccine efforts to roll out vaccination programmes that give highest priority to vulnerable populations.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which works in some of the world’s toughest places to build a better world for the most disadvantaged children, is TBHF’s partner in improving access to learning and education opportunities for children of marginalized communities across the region.

Fundraising for “Let’s Lessen the Gap” commences in April 2021

Appealing to the public, high net worth donors, and the private sector to honour the spirit of giving embodied in the obligation of Zakat, Mariam Al Hammadi, Director of The Big Heart Foundation, said: “At TBHF, we believe in our collective ability to support the most vulnerable communities in the region through these difficult times and beyond by steering efforts towards inclusive programmes that address the economic and social consequences of the crisis.”

Al Hammadi added that although 2020 was an extremely challenging year, it also demonstrated collective resilience as schools, offices, and essential services continued to operate without fail. “Unfortunately, this only represents the reality of the world some of us live in. In many communities and countries that The Big Heart Foundation supports, solutions are still being sought to aid the response and recovery process. It is this gap that we aim to address and bridge through your support this Ramadan, and in the coming months.”

Fundraising activities of the programme have commenced with TBHF’s Zakat 2021 campaign. To know more and make your contributions, visit lessenthegap.org.    

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