On June 30th, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) published a report, titled ‘The New Gold Rush: Bioprospecting,” which elucidates the benefits of bioprospecting for sustainable economic development for underdeveloped countries. Bioprospecting is the exploration of biodiversity for animal and plant substances for medicinal, biochemical, or other commercial purposes. One cause of the socio-economic disparity between rich and poor countries stems from colonial practices of environmental exploitation; larger countries pilfered the resources of smaller countries or current or former colonies to support the metropole’s industrialization and growth.
As underdeveloped countries aim to promote economic growth and political stability, the UNDP report encourages the sustainable extraction of plant and animal substances for pharmaceutical and biochemical purposes, specifically discussing bioprospecting’s potential in Cambodia due to its wealth of biodiversity. As the report articulates, as Cambodia transitions from a “subsistence agriculture-based economy to an agro-industrial economy, its biological resources are increasingly under threat.” Bioprospecting would thus harness traditional environmental knowledge alongside modern science and technology to promote sustainable development; in this way, the UNDP report attempts to revitalize the goals of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Policy and scientific recommendations on how to deal with the loss of biodiversity due to climate change gained traction with the IUCN’s (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Commission on Environmental Law in the 1980s. Their efforts fed into the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in November 1988, which advocated for a multilateral institution to establish norms and protection over biodiversity– ultimately leading to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD sought to reconcile the need to conserve biodiversity, but also recognize its utilization towards economic and societal development for underdeveloped nations. The CBD begot a Treaty that established three goals: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from its resources. 196 parties have ratified the treaty, including China, the U.K, Canada, and the E.U, but not the U.S due to its failure to pass the Senate. Its failure derived from three fears of U.S policy makers: that U.S biotech corporations would be required to share their intellectual property in genetic research with other countries; that the U.S would become financially responsible for other country’s conservation; and that the CBD would impose more environmental regulations on the U.S. Even after the Biden Administrations’ efforts to reimpose environmental policy slashed by Trump, similar concerns are thwarting their efforts to ratify the CBD.
These guidelines thus recognize the right of a country to benefit from the extraction of its resources and attempted to prevent biopiracy – a centuries old practice through which indigenous environmental knowledge was exploited and turned to profit. While not a new practice, biopiracy surged throughout the 20th century as modern biotech fields crystallized, often developing by drawing on indigenous knowledge of plants and animals and then patenting them. Furthermore, the Treaty stipulates that potential bioprospectors would need permission from the country’s government,and would require them to state the country of origin of the resource in the patent. The country’s government may also impose access fees or royalty payments for bioprospectors and obtain the research results. Supplementary protocols sprouted from the initial CBD Treaty, including the 2010 Nagoya Protocol, which helped promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, and the 2000 Cartagena Protocol, which ensures the safe handling of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from biotechnology. Such guidelines attempt to reaffirm small countries’ sovereignty over their land and resources, promote sustainable utilization of plant and animal substances, and avoid the recurrence of environmental exploitation that has, among other factors, impeded development in the past.
The inhabitants of the mountainous upland regions of Cambodia have a rich knowledge base of natural resources and conservation. Their cultural norms and worldviews, as well as their livelihoods depend upon a symbiotic relationship with their environment. Climate change currently threatens more than 300 medicinal plants that are native to Cambodia and face extinction. One such plant is Tepongru (Cinnamomum cambodianum), a species of cinnamon that grows in the Cambodian mountains. The healers and herbalists of Khmer traditional medicine– or Kru Khemer, harvest the bark of Tepongru to cure indigestion, tuberculosis, and the regulation of menstruation. The bark also has high concentrations of cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, which biotechnology companies synthesize to use in both perfumes and essential oils, but also as an anesthetic. Furthermore, Kru Khemer engage in a variety of traditional medical practices including bone setting, herbalism, and divination; in this way, Kru Khemer maintain a vital societal role given their deep knowledge not just in medicinal plants and animals, but also in their knowledge of spiritual rituals that mediate the supernatural and the plant.
The CBD Treaty has been interpreted as an important step in sustainable development, a goal for which the U.N established its own ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ protocol under its department of Economic and Social Affairs. Furthermore, the report describes how the UNDP has attempted to support the goals of the CBD in actionable policy: “since 2011 the UNDP, with funding from the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund (NPIF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been supporting governments, local communities, and the private sector to develop national ABS frameworks, build capacities, and harness the potential of genetic resources”— and specifically, the UNDP is working with Cambodian officials to implement the new project “Developing a Comprehensive Framework for Practical Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Cambodia”. And so, despite lacking crucial support from the United States, responsible bioprospecting, and the revitalization of the CBD, presents an opportunity in combating climate change while encouraging sustainable development and international economic equality; the most effective practices for successful environmental protection derive from supranational pursuits, but they still require national cooperation.
The Mideast won’t see stability or prosperity without an independent Palestinian state, as per the latest outburst of the King of Jordan, whereas and better still, in our personal and would be impartial view, a confederation of the three implicated states: i.e. Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
This could bring the most synergy in all domains of life for everyone in the region as well as in the world.
The world’s leading elites and all concerned immediate and full attention should be focused on the current climate change and how to somehow alleviate it.
King: Mideast won’t see stability or prosperity without independent Palestinian state
Jeddah, July 16 (Petra) — His Majesty King Abdullah on Saturday, stressed that there can be no security, stability, nor prosperity in the region without a solution guaranteeing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.
In remarks at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit, attended by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II, King Abdullah said economic cooperation must include the Palestinian National Authority to ensure the success of regional partnerships.
“We must examine opportunities for cooperation and collective action, in pursuit of regional integration in food security, energy, transport, and water,” His Majesty added, noting that Jordan is keen on transforming these opportunities into real partnerships in the region.
Following is the English translation of the King’s remarks at the Jeddah Security and Development Summit, which brought together members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States, Egypt, and Iraq, as well as Jordan:
“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Prayers and peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad.
Your Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, Mr President, Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.
It is my pleasure to start by thanking my brother Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the gracious invitation, the warm welcome, and the hosting of this well-organised Summit.
Mr President, Thank you for your participation in this Summit. Your presence today is a testament to the United States’ dedication to the stability of our region and our close and historic partnership. It underlines your leading role and efforts to bolster regional security and support peace and prosperity.
Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, We meet today as our region and the world face multiple challenges, from the economic repercussions of the COVID pandemic, and the ramifications of the Ukrainian crisis on energy and food, to the continuous conflicts that our region suffers from.
Therefore, we must examine opportunities for cooperation and collective action, in pursuit of regional integration in food security, energy, transport, and water.
We in Jordan are keen on transforming these opportunities into real partnerships in the region, by capitalising on our historical and deep-rooted ties with Gulf Cooperation Council countries, and our brothers in Egypt and Iraq, in service of the interests of our peoples. We embark on these efforts out of our belief that the only way forward is through collective action.
For we in Jordan continue to host over one million Syrian refugees, providing them with various humanitarian, health, and education services, while also countering the renewed security threats on our borders, by thwarting attempts to smuggle drugs and weapons, which now pose a major threat to the entire region.
We shoulder these responsibilities on behalf of the international community, which must carry on with its role in countering the impact of the refugee crisis on refugees and host communities.
Your Majesties, Highnesses, Excellencies, To ensure the success of the regional partnerships that we seek, economic cooperation must include our brothers in the Palestinian National Authority.
And here, we must reaffirm the importance of reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, on the basis of the two-state solution; for there can be no security, stability, nor prosperity in the region without a solution guaranteeing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side-by-side with Israel in peace and security.
In conclusion, I again thank my brother Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their great efforts to enhance this cooperation and coordination, in service of our region and our world.
And I thank President Biden, once again, for his ongoing efforts to work towards peace, security, and prosperity in our region and our world. Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.”
“We must eliminate all CO2 emissions from the built environment by 2040 to meet the 1.5-degrees Celsius climate targets. This commitment is a significant challenge; it helps to look at the emissions sources broken down within this; 27% are due to operations, 10% for materials and construction and 10% for ‘other’ in the construction industry,” said Sophia Kee, WSP Middle East’s recently appointed Head of Future Ready – Property & Buildings. Kee made the remarks exclusively to Middle East Construction News (MECN) in response to a question about why greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions continue to rise despite concerted global efforts to cap them.
She elaborates, “If we look at operations first, as this segment is responsible for the majority of CO2 emissions within the built environment, these emissions are typically a direct consequence of energy consumed to cool, ventilate, power and light our spaces. These building service processes can be optimised very early in the design process to capitalise on passive design strategies, in collaboration with architecture and building services to undertake studies such as shoebox modelling of multiple option iterations to establish an optimised green building that has low solar gains, is naturally ventilated, daylit, and with services optimally designed.”
“This optimised passive and active design workflow is challenging to implement whilst balancing aesthetic requirements, project deadlines and budgets, and challenging environmental conditions such as high ambient temperatures, humidity, dust, solar gains with low diurnal temperature fluctuations resulting in reliance on energy for building operations in the Middle East,” she points out.
Kee also notes that despite global efforts to transition towards low-carbon energy, there are a lack of government regulations to restrict emissions. She adds, “Many economists agree that the global adoption of carbon taxes is required to enforce industry change.”
Pressed for her reaction to the WMO report, Kee remarks, “The World Meteorological Organisation’s latest update highlights the urgency of required catalysts of change within the built environment; this data doesn’t lie, we have 93% certainty within the next five years of hitting new temperature highs and we are getting closer to reaching the climate tipping point, which the world agreed to avoid as part of the Paris Agreement in 2015.”
“This data illustrates two major factors within the built environment that we need to prepare for and consider holistically in order to mitigate climate change resulting from GHG emissions. Firstly, we need to increase our capabilities within the industry and raise awareness with our clients to drive the assessment of carbon footprint within the decision-making process at multiple gateways of a project. This affects the project timeline including additional iterations during conceptual studies and massing, planning, façade and building system development, material procurement, and selecting construction methods. It is essential that this is an integrated part of the design process and includes all key stakeholders from start to finish to fully understand the climatic impacts of our decisions.”
She urges, “Secondly, we rapidly need to begin shifting from ‘business as usual’ and creating a sense of urgency within the industry to plan and design developments that consider the projected environmental, social, technological and mobility scenarios and trends in the future. We are gradually shifting towards providing buildings and developments that are flexible in space usage change, de-constructable, and accommodate modular technology upgrades. This is no simple feat in the region. However, we foresee this beginning to evolve by influencing the client-led decision-making process to account for energy, environmental, and social impacts.”
Kee believes that the WMO data shines a light on two very pressing future factors, and says the silver lining to this tale of two stories is that it’s not too late.
She concludes, “In the Middle East, we’re seeing pockets of meaningful climate action taking place as ambitious climate pledges and sustainability-centric projects are unveiled, particularly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. At WSP Middle East, we’re witnessing a renewed sense of possibility for ingraining greener principles and frameworks into the fabric of these Future Ready developments. For instance, we’re proud to be helping The Red Sea Development Company realise its vision for regenerative tourism on many fronts. Similarly, NEOM’s unprecedented scope for embedding sustainability virtues is world leading, as is the King Salman Park Foundation’s mandate for creating the world’s largest green urban park in the heart of Riyadh.”
An IPS‘s OPINION by Stefan Shweinfest demonstrates how sadly the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, are threatening Peace & Security in the world of today.
The IMF had recently sounded some alarm over growing debt sustainability problems in many low-income countries well before the coronavirus pandemic. The MENA countries don’t escape this potential trauma in the making as more than two years afterwards, the debt situation deteriorated significantly. A big debt crisis is brewing in the Global South because according to still the IMF, 60% of low-income countries are now at high risk of debt distress. Together with a growing number of middle-income countries are suffering from high debt service burdens. Could all this be the root cause of the following?
Intersecting Crises are Impeding the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Threatening Peace & Security
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 8 2022 (IPS) – This week marks the mid-way point to the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and with it the release of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022.
While we would like to trumpet success stories and report that we are on track in eradicating poverty and hunger and improving health and education in this report, the reality is, we cannot.
Instead, the data show that cascading and intersecting global crises are creating spin-off impacts on food and nutrition, health, education, the environment, and peace and security, presenting existential threats to the planet, and have already undone some of the initial accomplishments towards the SDGs.
In fact, the results of the report reflect a deepening and impending climate catastrophe; a war that is sparking one of the largest refugee crises of modern time; shows the impacts of the pandemic through increased child labour, child marriage, and violence against women; as well as food supply disruptions that threaten global food security; and a health pandemic that has interrupted the education of millions of students.
The report sounds an alarm that people and the planet are in serious challenges, rather than reading as the successful story of progress that we would have hoped for when launching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.
The COVID-19 pandemic has halted or reversed years of development progress. As of end of 2021, nearly 15 million people worldwide had died directly or indirectly due to COVID-19. More than four years of progress in alleviating extreme poverty have been wiped out, and 150 million more people facing hunger in 2021 than in 2019.
An estimated 147 million children missed more than half of their in-person instruction over the past two years. The pandemic severely disrupted essential health services. Immunization coverage dropped for the first time in a decade and deaths from tuberculosis and malaria increased.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Threatening Peace & Security
As grim as the scenario sounds, we shall set a course for achieving the implementation of the 2030 Agenda through recovery and response: enact new ways of thinking and open up new possibilities.
During COVID-19, responses sped up the adoption of digital technologies and innovative approaches. There are some examples of positive trends coming out of the report: There has been a surge in the number of internet users due to the pandemic, increasing by 782 million people to reach 4.9 billion people in 2021, up from 4.1 billion in 2019.
Global manufacturing production grew by 7.2 per cent in 2021, surpassing its pre-pandemic level. Higher-technology manufacturing industries fared better than lower-tech industries during the pandemic, and therefore recovered faster.
In addition, before the pandemic, progress was being made in many important SDGs, such as reducing poverty, improving maternal and child health, increasing access to electricity, improving access to water and sanitation, and advancing gender equality.
War in Ukraine
The war in Ukraine is creating one of the largest refugee crises we have seen in modern time, which pushed the already record-high global refugee number even higher. As of May 2022, over 100 million people worldwide have been forcibly displaced from their homes.
The crisis has caused food, fuel and fertilizer prices to skyrocket, further disrupted supply chains and global trade, roiled financial markets, and threatened global food security and aid flows.
Projected global economic growth for 2022 was cut by 0.9 percentage point, due to the war in Ukraine and potential new waves of the pandemic.
The world’s most vulnerable countries and population groups are disproportionately impacted by the multiple and interlinked crises. Developing countries are battling record inflation, rising interest rates and looming debt burdens.
With competing priorities and limited fiscal space, many are finding it harder than ever to recover economically. In least developed countries, economic growth remains sluggish and the unemployment rate is worsening.
Women have suffered a greater share of job losses combined with increased care work at home. Exiting evidence suggests that violence against women has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Anxiety and depression among adolescents and young people have increased significantly.
Low-carbon, resilient and inclusive development pathways will reduce carbon emissions, conserve natural resources, transform our food systems, create better jobs and advance the transition to a greener, more inclusive and just economy.
The world is on the verge of a climate catastrophe where billions of people are already feeling the consequences. Energy-related CO2 emissions for 2021 rose by 6 per cent, reaching their highest level ever and completely wiping out pandemic-related declines.
To avoid the worst effects of climate change, as set out in the Paris Agreement, global greenhouse gas emissions will need to peak before 2025 and then decline by 43 per cent by 2030 from 2010 level, falling to net zero by 2050.
Instead, under current voluntary national commitments to climate action, greenhouse gas emissions will rise by nearly 14 per cent by 2030.
A Road Map out of Crises
The road map laid out in establishing the Sustainable Development Goals has always been clear. Just as the impact of crises is compounded when they are linked, so are the solutions.
In taking action to strengthen social protection systems, improve public services and invest in clean energy, we address the root causes of increasing inequality, environmental degradation and climate change.
We have a valuable tool in the release of The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 to understand our current state of affairs. What’s more, in order to understand where we are and where we are headed, significant investment in our data and information infrastructure is required.
Policies, programmes and resources aimed at protecting people during this most challenging time will inevitably fall short without the evidence needed to focus interventions.
Timely, high-quality and disaggregated data can help trigger more targeted responses, anticipate future needs, and hone the design of urgently needed actions. To emerge stronger from the crisis and prepare for unknown challenges ahead, funding statistical development must be a priority for national governments and the international community.
As the SDG Report 2022 underscores the severity and magnitude of the challenges before us, this requires accelerated global-scale action that is committed to and follows the SDG roadmap.
We know the solutions and we have the roadmap to guide us in weathering the storm and coming out stronger and better together.
Stefan Schweinfest is Director of the Statistics Division in the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). Under his leadership, the Division compiles and disseminates global statistical information, develops standards and norms for statistical activities including the integration of geospatial, statistical and other information, and supports countries’ efforts to strengthen their national statistical and geospatial systems.
Standards are a hidden part of the information and communications technology networks and devices that we all use every day. Though rarely perceived by users, they are vital in enabling the interconnection and interoperability of ICT equipment and devices manufactured by hundreds of thousands of different companies around the world.
For example, 95% of internet traffic is on fiber, built on standards from the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations for ICT. ITU has also played a leading role in managing the radio spectrum and developing globally applicable standards for 5G cellular networks.
But while technical standards are clearly indispensable for business and society to work in our industrialized world, it is also becoming clear that technical standards have a key role in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Indeed, the focus of the recent ITU Global Standards Symposium, which brought together more than 700 industry leaders and policymakers, was how standards can help address some of the most pressing needs of the planet, such as eradicating poverty or hunger and mitigating climate change.
To address SDGs 1 and 2 on ending poverty and hunger, an ITU focus group on “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) for Digital Agriculture” is working toward new standards to support global improvements in the precision and sustainability of farming techniques.
Under ITU and the World Health Organization, a focus group on “Artificial Intelligence for Health” aims to establish an “open code” benchmarking platform, highlighting the type of metrics that could help developers and health regulators certify future AI solutions in the same way as is done for medical equipment. Also, standards for medical-grade digital health devices — such as connected blood pressure cuffs, glucose monitors, or weight scales — are helping prevent and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Standards are helping bring broadband to rural communities with lightweight optical cable that can be deployed on the ground’s surface with minimal expense and environmental impact. The installation of ultrahigh-speed optical networks typically comes with a great deal of cost and complexity. Standards can change that equation by providing a solution able to be deployed at low cost with everyday tools.
To address SDG 11 on sustainable cities and communities, more than 150 cities around the world have started evaluating their progress toward smart-city objectives and alignment with the SDGs using so-called key performance indicators based on tech standards. These cities are supported by United for Smart Sustainable Cities, an initiative backed by ITU and 16 other U.N. partners.
International standards, recognized around the world, are essential for making technologies … accessible and useful to everyone, everywhere.
Addressing SDGs related to climate action and green energy, ITU standards for green ICT include sustainable power-feeding solutions for 5G networks, as well as smart energy solutions for telecom sites and data centers that prioritize the intake of power from renewable energy sources. They also cover the use of AI and big data to optimize data center energy efficiency and innovative techniques to reduce energy needs for data center cooling.
Financial inclusion is another key area of action to achieve SDG 1 on ending poverty. Digital channels are bringing life-changing financial services to millions of people for the very first time. Enormous advances have been made within the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative and the associated development of technical standards in support of secure financial applications and services, as well as reliable digital infrastructure and the resulting consumer trust that our money and digital identities are safe.
However, the complexity of global problems requires numerous organizations with different objectives and profiles to work toward common goals. Leading developers of international ICT standards need to work together to address the SDGs, using frameworks such as the World Standards Cooperation, with the support of mechanisms such as the Standards Programme Coordination Group — reviewing activities, identifying standards gaps and opportunities, and ensuring comprehensive standardization solutions to global challenges.
Including a greater variety of voices in standards discussions is crucial. It is particularly important that low- and middle-income countries are heard and that a multistakeholder approach is made a priority to have a successful and inclusive digital transformation.
Uncoordinated and noninclusive standardization can spell lasting harm for countries that already struggle to afford long-term socioeconomic investments. Without global and regional coordination, today’s digital revolution could produce uneven results, making it imperative that all standards bodies work cohesively.
Sustainable digital transformation requires political will. It was notable that last year in Italy for the first time, leaders from the G-20 group of nations used their final communiqué to acknowledge the importance of international consensus-based standards to digital transformation and sustainable development.
This important step could not have been made by one standards body alone.
Cities, governments, and companies face a significant learning curve while adopting new tech as part of low-carbon, sustainable, citizen-centric development strategies to meet the challenge of addressing the SDGs. International standards, recognized around the world, are essential for making technologies in areas like digital health and 5G — combined with bigger and better data use — accessible and useful to everyone, everywhere.
The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex’s editorial views.
About the author
Chaesub Lee is the director of the Telecommunication Standardization Bureau at the International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations for ICT. Lee has contributed to ICT standardization for over 30 years, specializing in areas such as integrated services digital networks, global information infrastructure, internet protocol, next-generation networks, internet protocol television, and cloud computing.
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