An AllAfrica post about a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Addis Ababa) Press Release could not choose a better time for its posting. In effect, the breakthrough for Sustainable Development Goals in Africa is as vital now as it has ever been. Green and Climate Resilient Development seem not to suffice for this universal mission.
UN: New green industrial age can be the breakthrough for Sustainable Development Goals
NEW YORK, 5 April 2023 – Amid growing food and energy crises, an uncertain global economic outlook, and the escalating impacts of climate change, the UN today said that a sustainable industrial transformation is needed to close the widening development gap between countries, meet climate targets and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Without the means to invest in sustainable development and transform their energy and food systems, developing countries are falling even further behind,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in the foreword to the report. “A two-track world of haves and have-nots holds clear and obvious dangers for every country. We urgently need to rebuild global cooperation and find the solutions to our current crises in multilateral action.”
According to the report some of the necessary changes are already taking place. The energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine has spurred investment in global energy transition, which skyrocketed in 2022 to a record $1.1 trillion. Energy transition investments surpassed fossil fuel system investments for the first time in 2022, but these are almost all in China and developed countries.
The 2023 Financing for Sustainable Development Report finds that most developing countries do not have the resources for investment, unlike their developed counterparts. Climate change, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, and debt payments up to two times higher than in 2019 have combined to put massive fiscal pressures on most developing countries. This limits their ability to invest in sustainable transformation.
In developed countries in 2020 and 2021, for example, post-pandemic recovery spending was $12,200 per capita. This was 30 times higher than for developing countries ($410), and 610 times higher than for least developed countries ($20).
“Without delivering a reformed international financial system while scaling up investments in the SDGs, we will not deliver on our shared commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. “The good news is that we know what to do and how to do it. From launching critical transformations in energy, food and education to ushering in a new green industrial and digital age—we all must quicken the pace and leave no one behind.”
The 2023 Financing for Sustainable Development Report notes that industrialization has historically been a vehicle of progress, leading to economic growth, job creation, technological advancement, and poverty reduction. The report calls for a new generation of sustainable industrial policies, underpinned by integrated national planning, to scale up investments and lay the foundation for the needed transformations. Many opportunities for inclusive growth exist in agroindustry, green energy, and manufacturing.
The recent rapid uptake in technology points to the possibilities for an equally rapid transition to sustainable industrialization and growth. Between 2021 and 2022, 338 million more people used the Internet regularly, an increase of approximately 38,600 additional people every hour. Furthermore, in regions with high-quality connected services, 44 per cent of all the companies are exporters, in contrast to only 19 per cent of firms where Internet services are weaker.
However, manufacturing capacity remains uneven. In least developed countries in Africa, manufacturing value added, instead of doubling as per the SDG target 9.2, fell from around 10 per cent of GDP in 2000 to 9 per cent in 2021. It will take targeted policies to build the domestic productive capabilities to achieve low-carbon transitions, create decent jobs, and boost economic growth, while ensuring gender equality.
To deliver the necessary resources for this transformation, the 2023 Financing for Sustainable Development Report calls for a combination of strengthening tax systems, enabling and catalyzing private investment, and scaling up of international public investment and development cooperation. Changes to the international financial architecture are also needed to raise sufficient resources.
The report notes that the international system is currently undergoing the biggest rethink across international finance, monetary, trade, and tax systems since the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944. As international institutions work to adapt to the rapidly evolving needs of countries, the report warns that if reforms are piecemeal, incomplete, or fail to take the SDGs into account, sustainable development will be unachievable.
A reformed, effective international financial architecture to deliver for sustainable transformation must include revised frameworks for:
International tax norms, including rules for taxing digitalized and globalized business that meet the needs of developing countries;
Policy and regulatory frameworks to better link private sector profitability with sustainability;
Evolving the scale and mission of the development bank system;
A loss and damage fund on climate change, which needs to be operationalized quickly;
Debt relief and major improvement to the international debt resolution architecture – given that 60 per cent of low-income countries are in or at risk of debt distress;
Multilateral trade rules to revise the approach to and resolve current tensions on green subsidies.
“We have the solutions to avoid a lasting sustainable development divide, and prevent a lost decade for development,” said UN Under Secretary-General Li Junhua, head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which led the production of the inter-agency report. “We must find the political will to overcome the rising political tensions, splintering of inter-country alliances, and worrying trends towards nationalism and seize the moment now to urgently invest in our common future.”
A visiting official says that hosting success sets new standards for future mega sporting events. The Qatar World Cup is the first edition of the significant soccer tournament ever held during December, and in the Middle East.
Qatar invested significantly in the mega-event, including revamping its national infrastructure. The sought-after ‘soft power’ implications start slowly but surely to show as the games unfold.
On the other hand, sustainable development requires, per the UN an integrated approach that takes into consideration environmental concerns along with economic development but, above all sustainability in the future. Will all those built-up infrastructures be of some use?
Qatar’s hosting success sets new standards for future mega sporting events: Bosnian Deputy PM
DOHA: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina HE Dr Bisera Turkovic said that Qatar did an amazing work to welcome the world during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and succeeded in establishing an incredible and excellent infrastructure, indicating that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has set new standards for future sporting mega-events.
In her remarks to Qatar News Agency, Her Excellency pointed out that Qatar’s hosting of such a global event will inspire generations of young people to come to embrace each other and create a more tolerant world.
Her Excellency said: “The whole world was watching the Al Bayt stadium for the opening ceremony. I am happy that I was present as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the Western Balkans and a European country. The opening was a great global event for the first time to be held in an Arab country. Qatar has emerged into a modern, prosperous state, whose citizens enjoy opportunities and security, thanks to the wise leadership of HH the Amir, following the footsteps of HH the Father Amir.”
HE stressed the need to develop the culture of tolerance and respect, as highlighted during the World Cup opening ceremony, saying: “This is the first World Cup taking place in an Arab country and in a Middle Eastern country. It is a great chance for people to get to know a different culture and to learn about one great religion in the world.”
“The more we know the better chance we have for progress and stability in the world. Qatar offers open hand to all who want to come and witness what the Qatari nation achieved in such a short period of time offering unity of basic values and appreciation for difference with full respect of their own culture and religion,” Her Excellency added.
HE Dr. Bisera Turkovic indicated that previous World Cup hosting countries were not subjected to smear campaigns as Qatar was, saying: “Other countries did not receive such scrutiny when hosting global sporting events, even though those countries had many more things that could be criticized.”
Her Excellency explained that Qatar once again stresses that there is more that can unite people rather than divide them, and as sports are a healthy part of societies, it should remain clear from political influence, struggle to dominate, and imposition of bad habits such as alcohol and drugs.
The Bosnian official expressed her happiness that a Bosnian folklore group was present to take part in the world cup festivities at Katara Cultural Village for this truly global event.
HE Deputy Prime Minister pointed out that there are strong fields of cooperation between Bosnia and the State of Qatar, including political, economic, and cultural cooperation that is based on friendship and fraternity. This has been maintained through the exchange of visits between officials of the two countries at the highest levels and documented by the signing of many agreements and bilateral cooperation protocols. Her Excellency expressed her hope to see economic cooperation expansion during the coming period in all sectors.
Her Excellency added that the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been working hard to attract public and private investment from Qatar through having more connectivity between the two countries, enabling direct flights with Qatar Airways, and increasing rights and security for Qataris in ownership of the real estate in Bosnia.
COP27 is the 27th Conference of the Parties (countries) that signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The convention was established at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and has been ratified by 198 countries. They agreed to stabilise the production of greenhouse gases in order to prevent dangerous climate change.
Since then, the Conference of the Parties has been hosted in a different country each year. These conferences broadly provide a platform for the negotiation of international climate change treaties.
The very first treaty acknowledged that the responsibility for action was different for developed and developing countries, because developed countries were responsible for most greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite some gains, commitment to these treaties has not translated into the action necessary to shift the course of global climate change. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report states that global average temperatures have already reached 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels and that warming of over 1.5°C is all but inevitable unless drastic action is taken.
Everyone is affected by climate change, but some people and regions are more vulnerable than others. Regions that will experience the most adverse impacts of climate change are West, Central and East Africa, South Asia, Central and South America, Small Island Developing States and the Arctic. Populations living in informal settlements will have the worst of it.
Vulnerability to climate change impacts is driven by socioeconomic, political and environmental factors. African countries have already experienced loss and damage due to climate change. For example, food production, economic output and biodiversity have all declined and more people are at risk of dying due to climate change in African countries.
The COP27 is therefore important because that is where decisions are made about how to respond to climate change.
Climate change treaties
Three international treaties have been adopted on international climate change cooperation. They led to the development of different bodies which all convene under the banner of the COP. COP is where they meet, negotiate and evaluate progress, even though COP technically only refers to the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The first treaty was the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The second was the Kyoto Protocol, established in 1997. Countries made commitments to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. The Kyoto Protocol was based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. It acknowledged that because of their higher levels of economic development, developed countries could and should take greater responsibility to reduce emissions.
The third and most recent treaty is the 2015 Paris Agreement. It covers climate change mitigation, adaptation and financing and aims to limit the rise in temperatures to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels. All signatories need to develop a non-binding plan for climate change mitigation, including reducing emissions. They also have to report on progress.
A key weakness of the Paris Agreement is that it is non-binding. Also, the commitments are self-determined. A recent study found that even if all countries did meet their commitments, it would not be enough to limit warming to below 2°C.
It is important to understand and engage in these processes as the impacts of climate change are increasing globally. The increase in the global average temperature is one of several climate impacts. Others include increased likelihood of droughts or floods, and increased intensity of storms and wildfires.
The frequency of climate events will increase as temperatures rise. There is an urgent need for action to prevent global warming from rising above 2°C. Temperatures over 2°C will result in irreversible climate impacts such as sea level rise, and affect far more people than an increase of 1.5°C.
Responses to climate change
There are three policy areas which have emerged to respond to climate change.
The first is mitigation – the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to stabilise the climate. Examples of mitigation include replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, or developing electrified public transport to replace private vehicles powered by combustion engines.
The second is adaptation – interventions which would support climate resilience and reduce vulnerability. Examples include improved water management and conservation to reduce risk of drought, initiatives to improve food security and support for biodiversity.
The last policy area deals with loss and damage. Loss and damage refers to “the economic and non-economic damages associated with slow onset events and extreme weather events caused by global warming and the tools and institutions that identify and mitigate such risks.” Interventions to address loss and damage can include risk management support and finance which is often framed as climate reparations.
Mitigation and adaptation are well understood and established within climate policy. And they have finance mechanisms within international treaties, even though existing commitments to these mechanisms have not materialised in practice, particularly when it comes to adaptation. Loss and damage, however, has received far less attention in international treaties and negotiations.
Highlighting loss and damage
The Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage was established in 2013 to provide a framework to address loss and damage. It aims to improve understanding of risk management approaches, increase coordination and dialogue among stakeholders and enhance action and support.
The issue of loss and damage was incorporated into the Paris Agreement, but without any specific commitments around it. During negotiations at COP25, the Santiago Network was set up to avert, minimise and address loss and damage for developing countries but it focuses mostly on technical assistance rather than finance. At COP26 (in 2021) there was an agreement to fund the Santiago Network, but the institutional framework is not yet finalised.
Loss and damage was raised as an important issue to be addressed during COP26. There were some promising moves, such as the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, pledging £2 million towards a loss and damage finance facility. But many rich nations did not support this.
The negotiations led to the proposal to establish the Glasgow Finance Facility for loss and damage. But the wording of the decision was changed at the last minute to the Glasgow Dialogues, which committed to discussing arrangements for funding activities to avert, minimise and address loss and damage. This change has delayed any real financial support for loss and damage in the short term.
The Washington Post published an Analysis by Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal on how in the MENA, people are worrying about food.
In the Middle East and North Africa, people are worrying about food
Five things to know from Arab Barometer’s latest survey
What do people across the Middle East and North Africa think about food security, gender equality, democracy, climate change and China? Arab Barometer, the largest and longest-standing public opinion survey covering the MENA region, provides insights.
The new seventh wave includes more than 26,000 face-to-face interviews covering 12 MENA countries. The survey, conducted October 2021 to July, is the largest public opinion survey in the region since the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some takeaways.
Food insecurity has hit alarming levels
In half of the countries surveyed, a majority of citizens reported that they have often or sometimes run out of food within the previous 12 months. And most citizens in three-quarters of the countries surveyed say they worried that they would run out of money before they could afford more food, over the same period.
The bulk of these surveys were carried out before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which means the results don’t capture the full extent of the subsequent jump in food costs and shortages of food across much of the region. The growing sense of food insecurity is of particular concern beyond the clear human cost. Salma al-Shami explains in a new report how the lack of food is linked to a lower commitment to democracy, a higher desire to emigrate and diminished concerns about addressing climate change and other critical issues facing the region.
Citizens want democracy — but realize it’s not perfect
In previous Arab Barometer survey waves, the vast majority of respondents affirm that democracy remains the best system of governance. This seventh wave is no exception — but there have been dramatic changes in the perception of democracy overall. In the past few years, MENA publics have become far more likely to say that the economy runs poorly under democracy, that democracy leads to instability and that democracy is indecisive.
These outcomes could reflect the broader global retrenchment of democracy. Or perhaps these shifts are the result of MENA citizens reflecting on the recent challenges experienced by countries in the region such as Tunisia, Lebanon and Iraq — three countries where governments have changed as a result of elections in the past decade. Regardless, the results make clear that citizens value democracy, though many have updated their views of how democracy works.
MENA countries are far from achieving gender equality
Arab Barometer surveys asked respondents whether men and women should play equal roles in public and private life. In most of the surveyed countries, majorities responded that men are better political leaders and that men should have the final say over decisions in the family. However, new analysis by MaryClare Roche demonstrates how these views are changing across much of the region.
In the case of Tunisia, over the past four years, Arab Barometer surveys show a 16-point decline in the perception that men are better at politics. And in Lebanon, surveys note a 16-point drop in the perception that men should have the final say within the household, compared with the 2018 survey. This recent survey wave found smaller but meaningful declines on these perceptions in a number of countries, suggesting that the region is moving toward a greater acceptance of women’s equality.
China remains more popular than the United States, but that might change
Arab citizens are more positive toward China than toward the United States, but views of America have improved, while views of China are rapidly changing. In Jordan and the Palestinian territories, citizens are now 20 points less likely to want closer economic ties with China than in 2018-2019. In Sudan, Morocco, Libya and Lebanon, Arab Barometer found a decline of at least five points on this same question. And none of the countries surveyed showed a meaningful increase in citizen support for closer economic links with China over this period.
China’s relative decline probably comes down to a closer familiarity with Beijing’s foreign policies. Arab Barometer also looked at perceptions of Chinese economic investment in local infrastructure. Although MENA publics largely see Chinese investment as the most affordable option for infrastructure projects, they also perceive these projects as low-quality investments that pay lower salaries to the local workforce than companies from other countries would probably pay.
Ultimately, most publics appear more likely to prefer investment from a U.S. or European company vs. a Chinese company. As China continues to pursue economic engagement in the region, these findings suggest that views of China might not improve as a result of this strategy.
Citizens worry about climate change but rank other concerns higher
The global COP27 meeting in Egypt will take place in November. New questions developed for this wave reveal that many MENA citizens think climate change is a critical issue and they want their governments to do more to address the problem. When asked about their primary environmental concerns, the primary issue is water — water scarcity, pollution of drinking water and pollution of their country’s waterways.
Citizens are also likely to assign equal blame the government and their fellow citizens for the lack of progress on environmental issues. Majorities in all the countries surveyed say that both parties are responsible for existing environmental challenges.
The survey also finds that levels of recycling or reusing basic items varies widely across the region. However, questions that asked why respondents recycle reveal that few cite the environment. Instead, the primary personal motivations behind recycling are cost savings and convenience. In short, concerns about the environment take a back seat when compared with other issues, but MENA publics are aware of environmental challenges and want action.
Michael Robbins is director and co-principal investigator at Arab Barometer.
Amaney Jamal is dean of the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and co-principal investigator of Arab Barometer.
Arab Barometer data and data analysis tools are freely available online thanks to our funders, including the Middle East Partnership Initiative, USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Carnegie Corp. of New York and the BBC Arabic.
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Economies Grow by 5.5% But Benefits are Uneven
The World Bank Group
The economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are expected to grow by 5.5% this year —the fastest rate since 2016—followed by a slowing of growth to 3.5% in 2023. Yet this growth is uneven across the region, as countries still struggling to overcome the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, face jolting new shocks from higher oil and food prices brought on by the war in Ukraine, rising global interest rates, and slowdowns in the United States, China, and the Euro area.The World Bank’s latest economic update, titled “A New State of Mind: Greater Transparency and Accountability in the Middle East and North Africa,” finds that the region’s oil exporting countries are benefitting from high hydrocarbon prices, but oil importing nations confront different circumstances. Oil importers face heightened stress and risk from higher import bills, especially for food and energy, and tightening fiscal space as they spend more on price subsidies to cushion the pain of price rises on their populations.
“All countries in the MENA region will have to make adjustments to deal with significantly higher prices for food and other imports, especially if they lead to an increase in government borrowing or currency devaluations,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the MENA region. “What countries need now is smart governance to weather the storm and begin to rebuild after multiple shocks on top of the pandemic.”
Published twice-yearly, the report says that responsive governance will help countries confront these challenges more effectively now and cement the foundations for long term growth. Each MENA Economic Update has an area of special focus, and this report looks at how reforms leading to more transparency and accountability in public institutions can promote a sustainable economic recovery. Countries are in dire need of establishing systems that allow state bureaucracies to measure results, align responsibilities, experiment, and learn from these results.
“Moving towards greater data transparency and accountability is a game changer for the region; it can help countries identify what is working and needs improvement and to act on it,” said Roberta Gatti, World Bank Chief Economist for the MENA region. “It will help them manage risk and shape progress towards a more sustainable and inclusive future. Not only are the potential benefits large, but the reforms needed to put institutions on a learning path are within reach.“
The Bank’s analysis forecasts diverging paths of growth in the region. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are on track to grow by 6.9% in 2022, buoyed by high hydrocarbon earnings, slowing to 3.7% in 2023 as hydrocarbon prices subside. Developing oil exporters are forecast to experience trends like those of the GCC but at lower levels—with 2022 growth expected to increase to 4.1%, led by Iraq, before falling back to 2.7% in 2023. Developing oil importing countries are expected to grow by 4.5% in 2022 and 4.3% in 2023. However, the slowdown of growth in Europe poses a particular risk, as this group of countries relies more on trade with the Euro area—especially the North African oil importers closest to Europe: Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt.
Across the region, policymakers have introduced measures—especially price controls and subsidies—to make the domestic price of certain goods, such as food and energy, lower than the global price. The report finds that this has had the effect of keeping inflation in MENA lower than in other regions. In Egypt, for example, average year-on-year inflation during the period of March to July 2022 was 14.3%, but it would have been 4.1 percentage points higher at 18.4%, had authorities not intervened.
Some governments have made cash payments to poorer households—a more efficient way of helping the poor deal with rising prices than general market subsidies that lower prices for everyone, including the rich. For Egypt, to lower average inflation by the equivalent of 4.1 percentage points using a subsidy on food and energy prices that benefits the entire population costs 13.2 times more than allowing prices to increase and supporting just the poorest 10 percent of households with a cash transfer.
Governments will incur additional expenses as they increase subsidies and cash transfers to mitigate the damage to the living standards of their populations from higher food and energy prices. For the GCC and developing oil-exporting countries, this is not of much concern now. Windfall increases in state revenues from the rise in hydrocarbon prices have greatly increased their fiscal space and will result in fiscal surpluses for most oil exporters in 2022—even after the additional spending on inflation mitigation programs.
Developing oil importers, however, do not have such a windfall and will have to cut other expenditures, find new revenues, or increase deficits and debt to fund the inflation mitigation programs and any other additional spending. Moreover, as global interest rates rise, the debt service burden for oil importers will increase, as they must pay a higher rate of interest both on any new debt they incur and existing debt they refinance, weighing on countries’ debt sustainability over time—especially for countries with already high debt levels, such as Jordan, Tunisia, and Egypt.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The World Bank Group.
Originally posted on HUMAN WRONGS WATCH: Human Wrongs Watch (UN News)* — Disinformation, hate speech and deadly attacks against journalists are threatening freedom of the press worldwide, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday [2 May 2023], calling for greater solidarity with the people who bring us the news. UN Photo/Mark Garten | File photo…
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