2019 – A Devastating Year in Review

The glaciers of the Andes Mountains are threatened by global
warming. Credit: Julieta Sokolowicz/IPS

By Farhana Haque Rahman
ROME, Dec 16 2019 (IPS)

By any measure this has been a devastating year: fires across
the Amazon, the Arctic and beyond; floods and drought in Africa;
rising temperatures, carbon emissions and sea levels; accelerating
loss of species, and mass forced migrations of people.

As seen through the eyes of IPS reporters and contributors
around the world, 2019 will be remembered as the year the climate
crisis shook us all, and hopefully also for the fight back
manifested in the spread of mass protests and civic movements
against governments and industries failing to respond.

Calls to combat the
climate emergency
were ringing in the ears of delegations from
nearly 200 countries at the annual UN climate summit that opened in
Madrid on December 2. Yet despite warnings that the planet is
reaching critical tipping points, fears remained that the two weeks
of negotiations would end in that familiar
sense of disappointment and an opportunity missed
.

“Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that
buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet
burned?” declared U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

But the heads of government of the world’s biggest emitters
were notably absent, including Donald Trump of the US, China’s Xi
Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who refused to host the
meeting, also stayed away rather than face a hostile reception.

Protests against the fires
sweeping Brazil’s Amazon
rainforest and the government’s encouragement of deforestation
are spreading around the world, especially in Europe. Youth is the
new face
of activism
as inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and
others.

In one of many scientific surveys ringing alarm bells in 2019, a
landmark report by IPBES, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy
Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, warned that more
than one million animal and plant species are now
threatened with extinction
, many within decades.

The climate crisis and species extinction are twin challenges
with far-reaching consequences. IPS this year covered how drought
in some areas of Africa is leading to re-runs of famine and
migration.

The expanding Sahara desert is
breaking up families and spreading conflict
. The Sahel on the
southern edge of the Sahara is the
region where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on
Earth
. Projects such as the U.N. Convention to Combat
Desertification’s
Land Degradation Neutrality
project aimed at preventing and/or
reversing land degradation are some of the interventions to stop
the growing desert.

Farhana Haque Rahman

Relief workers warned in November that more than 50 million people
across southern, eastern and central Africa were facing hunger
crises because of extreme weather conditions made worse by poverty
and conflict.

While much of the Horn of Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are being
ravaged by drought, small island states, especially in the Pacific,
are sinking beneath rising sea levels or
becoming more vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons.

Irregular migration is on the rise, and has driven thousands to
their deaths on hazardous journeys. The thousands drowned crossing
the Mediterranean has led to projects like Migrants as Messengers
in Guinea launched by the International Organization for Migration
(IOM)
which
recruits returnees to raise awareness
of the dangers.

People smugglers make money out of migrants with scant regard
for their safety while other vulnerable people, especially women
and girls, fall into the hands of
exploitative human traffickers
. As a major source of migrants
heading towards the United States, Central America is an
impoverished region rife with gang violence and human trafficking
– the third largest crime industry in the world.
Human trafficking has deep roots
in Guatemala, Honduras and El
Salvador for decades and, as IPS has reported this year, it
increasingly requires a concerted law enforcement effort by the
region’s governments to dismantle trafficking networks and help
women forced into sexual exploitation.

Over 40 million people are estimated to be enslaved around the
world. Presenting her report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva,
UN expert Urmila Bhoola pointed out that
servitude will likely increase
as the world faces rapid changes
in the workplace, environmental degradation, migration and
demographic shifts.

Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal
targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal /
IPS

Eradicating modern slavery by 2030, one of the UN Sustainable
Development Goals, would require the freeing of 10,000 people a
day, Ms Bhoola reported, citing the NGO Walk Free.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR says more than 70
million people are currently displaced by conflict, the most since
the Second World War. Among them are nearly 26 million who have
fled their countries (over half under the age of 18). But the
response of many countries has been to erect
barriers and walls
.

And the plight of some one million Muslim Rohingya refugees,
driven out of Myanmar into Bangladesh, shows little sign of
resolution.
Paralysis at the U.N. Security Council
, where veto-wielding
China can protect its interests in Myanmar, has triggered
interventions by both the International Criminal Court and the
International Court of Justice which are expected to sit in
judgment over the atrocities.

Bangladesh is already struggling with the impact of severe
cyclones in November and, as recently reported by IPS, long-term
projects are helping its own
climate migrants
achieve food security. Because of government
interventions in agriculture, Bangladesh has already achieved
sufficiency in food. According to the Food Sustainability Index
2018
of the Barilla
Centre for Food and Nutrition
(BCFN) many farmers have
substantially reduced fertiliser use and increased yields.

The SDGs made a solemn promise to eradicate hunger and extreme
poverty by 2030, and that cannot be achieved unless the world’s
smallholder farmers can adapt to climate change.

But since 2016 global numbers of hungry people have been on the
rise again. In September a welcome
$650 million of funding
reached CGIAR, a partnership of funders
and international agricultural research centres and formerly known
as the Consultative Group for International Agricultural
Research.

At the other extreme, April is Reducing Food Waste Month in the
United States, as efforts mount to reduce
food loss and waste
, and deal with growing obesity. For the
U.S. and 66 other countries BCFN has produced a food
sustainability index profile
that dives into all the relevant
sectors, ranging from management of water resources, the impact on
land of animal feed and biofuels, agricultural subsidies and
diversification of agricultural system, to nutritional challenges,
physical activity, diet and healthy life expectancy indicators.

The
Global Commission on Adaptation Report
, launched in October,
says the number of people who may lack sufficient water, at least
one month per year, will soar from 3.6 billion today to more than 5
billion by 2050. Climate change has a
disproportionate impact on women and girls
who bear the brunt
of looking for water.


Nutrition is the best investment
in developing Africa, experts
say, with evident correlation between countries with high levels of
children under five years of age who are stunted or wasted and the
existence of political instability and/or frequent exposure to
natural calamities.
The nutritional situation is worrying in Africa
, Busi
Maziya-Dixon, a Senior Food and Nutrition Scientist at the
International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), told IPS
with research showing all forms of malnutrition, including
stunting, wasting, and obesity, are growing. “We need to educate
our governments to link nutrition to economic development and
prioritize nutrition.”

Overall
investment in Africa
continued to gather pace in 2019, however.
Amid IMF warnings of a “synchronised slowdown” in global
economic growth, 19 sub-Saharan countries are among nearly 40
emerging markets and developing economies forecast to maintain GDP
growth rates above 5 percent this year. Particularly encouraging
for Africa is that its present growth leaders are richer in
innovation than natural resources.

Small steps can bring big results by simply getting together. In
September Manila hosted the first ever
global forum for people with Hansen’s disease
, commonly known
as leprosy. Participants from 23 countries across Africa, Asia,
Latin America and the Caribbean shared common challenges at the
forum organised by The Nippon Foundation
(TNF)
and Sasakawa
Health Foundation (SHF)
. Last week in Bangladesh, the
country’s National Leprosy Programme, in collaboration with the
TNF and SHF brought together hundreds of health workers, medical
professionals and district officers to discuss the issue under the
theme “Zero Leprosy Initiatives”. Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Sheikh Hasina who opened the Congress said, if special attention is
given to its northern region and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, it is
quite possible to declare Bangladesh a leprosy free country before
2030.

All in all however, the
SDGs are in trouble
, with the U.N. Secretary-General warning in
July that a “much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is
needed to unleash the social and economic transformation needed to
achieve our 2030 goals”. A 478-page study by independent experts
drove the message home.

Lastly, as 2019 draws to a close, let’s pay tribute to all
those reporters around the world who have bravely covered these
issues, spreading knowledge and
defending press freedoms
despite obvious dangers and more
insidious campaigns of vilification.

The post 2019
– A Devastating Year in Review
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Farhana Haque Rahman is Senior Vice President
of IPS Inter Press Service; a journalist and communications expert,
she is a former senior official of the United Nations Food and
Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for
Agricultural Development.

The post 2019
– A Devastating Year in Review
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
2019 – A Devastating Year in Review