Foreign Aid in Times of Crisis
The world seems to be dwindling under a series of historic shocks. Beginning with a global pandemic in 2020 and moving to a new war in Europe as well as significant changes in abortion legislation in the U.S., many parts of the world are moving into an energy crisis. With wealthy nations having their hands full with domestic issues and geopolitical antagonism, developing countries are on their own. Here is why foreign aid in times of crisis is a critical issue and what some are doing about it.

Partnership and Security

When globalization is on the decline, poorer countries often end up on their own. That puts the countries in a position where they have to find countries and organizations that are still willing to provide foreign aid in times of crisis to them after wealthier western countries have disregarded their needs. Instead wealthier western countries defaulted on their promises to raise living standards and increase national security. With the world becoming increasingly fragmented with a lack of genuine cooperation, global welfare and security are at a large risk. Further, global issues, such as the climate crisis, that require a joint effort from as many nations as possible, will be even harder to address.

Changing Weather Patterns

Whilst changing weather patterns are a hurdle that every country needs to face and adapt to, it is the low-income countries that carry the brunt of it. Especially, the sub-Saharan regions in Africa that such weather phenomena affect leading those regions to be reliant on long-term investment. A study that the IMF conducted has shown that one draught can decrease an African country’s medium-term economic growth potential by one percentage point. Meanwhile, savings from long-term investments that go towards improving resilience and coping mechanisms have proven to be of great significance. Some of the coping mechanisms include improved seed varieties, durable health systems and refined access to finance and telecommunications.

In Ethiopia alone, farmers’ yield increased by 40% as a result of improved seed varieties that proved resistant to rust, a fungus. Unfortunately, countries that face challenges of adaption most often do not possess the means to do so. The farmers lack funding and institutional capacity, hence why it is down to the international community to prevent changing weather patterns from threatening development and stability in low-income countries.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost 15 million lives and pushed 100 million people into poverty in 2020 alone. The pandemic demanded a unified response across nations, constituting large amounts of foreign aid in times of crisis, to prevent a setback in human development and human rights. Yet, that did not happen. Instead, developed countries injected trillions of dollars into their own recovery, leaving poorer countries to mend themselves. It does not come as any surprise that in May 2022, 72% of people in high-income countries received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, contrary to 17% in low-income countries.

With developing countries entering the pandemic with lower fiscal buffers than they had in 2008-09, in the aftermath they are now faced with unequal recovery, effects of the climate crisis and economic shocks to food, fuel and financial markets. Arguably, the neglect of the global responsibility that wealthy countries cause this. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ stressed to the Economic and Social Council segment on operational activities for development, in New York, in May that “In a world of crisis, rescuing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is more important than ever.”

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

More encouraging is the 2030 Agenda that the United Nations developed which constitutes a reformed development system to provide foreign aid in times of crisis that matches countries’ needs and priorities. No poverty, no hunger, good health, quality education and gender equality are only some examples of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to accelerate progress in low-income countries.

To promote substantial change, funding is necessary. With less than 10 years left, world leaders at the SDG Summit in 2019 promoted “A decade of action and delivery for sustainable development”. This represents the kind of innovative, cooperative model the world needs to rekindle relationships, strengthen organizations and expand financing in times of crisis.

The World Bank Suspends Debt

In an attempt to ease the burden COVID-19 and other shocks have put on low-income countries, the world has introduced the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The initiative suspended $12.9 billion in debt-service payments for 48 participating countries, allowing them to focus their financial capacities on protecting the lives and livelihoods of their citizens.

Looking Ahead

The multitude of crises and complexity of domestic and global issues that the world is facing has led to a demand for stronger leadership and cooperation at all levels. Moreover, the bar is rising higher for the wealthier nations to live up to their responsibility to lower-income nations by providing enough funding to prevent setbacks in human development and promote sustainable progress.

Pauline Lützenkirchen
Photo: Flickr

Recently, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) decided to auction 30 oil and gas drilling blocks in the Congo Basin forest, including areas that venture into the Virunga National Park. This decision comes just eight months after the government signed a $500 million deal to protect the basin, resulting in protests from local inhabitants and international communities. The President claims that the Congo’s oil auction is necessary for alleviating the DRC’s extreme poverty, but activists argue that the environmental impact of drilling far outweighs the benefits.

How Drilling is Harmful

Environmental experts warn that drilling will have severe environmental repercussions. Firstly, the Congo Basin forest includes the Cuvette Centrale Peatlands, the largest tropical peatland in the world that stores the equivalent of 15 years worth of carbon emissions from the United States.  If Congo’s oil auction proceeds, huge amounts of carbon will be released and could become the “tipping point” for the world’s climate.  Furthermore, the Virunga National Park is a UNESCO heritage site that is one of the most biologically diverse areas in Africa, home to the last mountain gorillas on earth.  Experts have actually dubbed the Congo basin as “the worst place in the world to explore for fossil fuels.”

Drivers to Break the Deal

Eight months ago, the DRC signed a 10-year deal to protect its forests in exchange for $500 million in international pledges. However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent boycotts, oil prices have skyrocketed. It follows that those high prices bring even more value to the Congo’s oil blocks. That’s why eight months later, the government breached the deal. And that is why Irene Wabiwa Betoko, overseer of the Congo Basin forest for Greenpeace Africa insists that the DRC is “declaring war against our planet with oil and gas.”

African Critics Decry Western Hypocrisy

Although stopping Congo’s oil auction has clear benefits for the world at large, critics have also picked up on the hypocrisy of the West on this issue. The New York Times comments that many politicians from African countries have called out Western countries for their double standard: “How can Western countries, which built their prosperity on fossil fuels that emit poisonous, planet-warming fumes, demand that Africa forgo their reserves of coal, oil and gas in order to protect everyone else?”

Goal for the DRC Oil Auctions:  Eradicate Poverty

According to the World Bank, the DRC is in the top five most impoverished nations in the world. In 2018, around 73% of the population lived below the poverty line. Didier Budimbu, the hydrocarbons minister of the DRC, claims that breaking the deal was necessary to generate revenue for the people. “The president, Felix Tshisekedi, has a vision and he wants to get his population out of poverty,” Budimbu said. He further claims that although it currently only produces 25,000 barrels a day, the Congo has the potential to produce up to a million barrels of oil daily. Production at that level could generate more than half of the Congo’s GDP.

But Where Does the Money Go?

Despite promises of poverty relief, there is no guarantee that the money resulting from the Congo’s oil auction will go to the people. The majority of the DRC’s income already comes from mining. According to Reuters, the Congo produces large amounts of copper, diamonds, gold and cobalt, yet the nation remains impoverished due to corruption and political ineptitude. That parallel situation raises questions about how much the oil drills will actually do for the economy.

Possible Compromise

Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, the DRC’s representative on climate issues, claims that the drilling could be done diagonally to avoid disturbing the peat. He further claims that all drilling will abide by global commitments to the climate. Mpanu promises to complete thorough reviews to measure the drilling’s impacts on the environment and local communities. Other land could be set aside to offset the land that will be used for drilling, he argues.  Finally, Mpanu suggests that by allowing the mining of minerals such as cobalt and lithium used to develop green energy, the DRC has “paid its climate change dues.”

There are also indications that participation in the oil auction may be waning. Ève Bazaiba, the DRC’s minister of environment, has expressed a willingness to forego the auction if international support provides an alternative source of revenue. The French oil giant TotalEnergies has also expressed that it does not intend to bid in Congo’s auction.

So, as the auction proceeds, there may be ways to simultaneously lessen the negative environmental impact and fight the Congo’s high poverty.  At any rate, the DRC oil auction underlines the complexity of protecting the land and the people living on it.

-Emilie Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Heat wave in Pakistan
Since late April 2022, Pakistan has been suffering from an unprecedented heat wave with temperatures touching 50 C (122 F). Although heat waves in Pakistan have been a common occurrence since 2015, these climatic conditions are touching the country earlier each year and their intensity and duration are increasing due to extreme weather patterns. This meteorological phenomenon severely affects the Pakistani people in several ways, from health issues to food, water and infrastructural crises. With temperatures standing at 6-9 C higher than usual for this time of year, the heat wave in Pakistan is affecting cities and rural areas and has lethal effects on children and the elderly.

Consequences on Health

The heat wave in Pakistan is threatening the health of the Pakistani people, especially the most vulnerable groups. With the unusual increase in temperatures, on May 14, 2022, the country already declared three deaths among children due to the severe heat.

The country observed cases of children collapsing under the sun. The poverty in which many regions and families live in Pakistan forces children to often walk to school amid this unbearable heat. Also, many schools do not have proper climatization to allow the students to attend their classes in a cool environment.

To address the effects of the heat wave on people’s health, an NGO opened a heatstroke clinic in Jacobabad and noted rising cases of heatstroke patients. Heatstroke occurs when the body overheats and cannot cool itself anymore, leading to several symptoms ranging from headaches and nausea to more serious effects such as organ swelling and unconsciousness. Despite this, students continue to go to school with the hope of escaping poverty and moving toward a better quality of life. Besides children, the extreme weather affects laborers who spend their days under the sun, but unfortunately, have no alternative if they want to earn enough money to survive.

Food and Water Crisis

Other consequences of the heat wave in Pakistan are food and water scarcity. With very high temperatures and insufficient water, the crop and food supply are in danger. The heat wave in Pakistan also affects livestock that are essential to the food supply of the country —  many sheep have died from heatstroke in Punjab, a province that stands as the breadbasket of Pakistan.

The water crisis is a critical aspect of the heat wave in Pakistan. As government-installed taps are mostly dried out, people find it very difficult to find drinking water. Unfortunately, mafias are benefiting from this situation by exploiting government water reserves and reselling them to those in impoverished and underserved regions.

The lack of access to sufficient water supplies is thus a primary cause of the health issues people endure and makes the heat wave even more unbearable. Furthermore, with a power shortage that only allows for six hours of daily electricity in the county’s rural areas, citizens struggle to cope with the heat.

Ironically, excess water can also harm many people. Pakistan is “home to more than 7,000 glaciers,” the melting of which can lead to the overflowing of lakes and rivers and cause “torrents of ice, rock and water” to destroy the infrastructure of a city. This already happened once this year, in early May, causing the destruction of a bridge.

Taking Action

Given the urgency of the situation, two NGOs are playing an essential role in helping people to survive the heat wave in Pakistan. Both are mainly located in the Sindh province, one of the areas that the extreme weather situation most affected. The first NGO is the Community Development Foundation, which opened a new health center dedicated to victims of heatstroke.

The Pakistan Red Crescent, in collaboration with the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, launched a 10-day training for officials and civil society representatives to learn how to adequately respond to “heat-related emergencies,” such as heatstroke, unconsciousness and dehydration as well as the transportation of patients suffering from any of these issues. The Pakistan Red Crescent also promised to continue with similar training in the future, especially with the younger generation.

The case of Pakistan shows that despite all the crises and challenges a population living under extreme weather patterns must face, support from organizations can make all the difference. By training people to respond to health emergencies, the Pakistan Red Crescent diminishes the pressure on health care professionals and increases the chances of people surviving heat-related health conditions. Despite these severe conditions, children continue to go to school with the hope of receiving an education that will enable them to rise out of poverty.

– Youssef Yazbek
Photo: Unsplash

Climate Migration in Central Asia
About 1% of the world lives in a climate hot zone, causing a concerning rise of climate migration in Central Asia. According to the World Bank, an increase in natural disasters could force 216 million people to migrate within their own countries by 2050. The increased probability of extreme climate patterns and climate migration leads to a bevy of other problems, including poverty. Severe weather events disproportionally disrupt already impoverished areas. Rural communities typically depend on agriculture and suffer the most devastation when extreme weather ravages their industry, income and assets. These people groups decide to move due to the increase in extreme weather patterns, creating a phenomenon called climate migration.

Natural Disasters in Central Asia

Within Central Asia, the majority of the population lives in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for about 10% to 45% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and roughly 20% to 50% of the labor force. With the government failing to respond to the natural disasters in these areas, many have resorted to migrating for less volatile work. All Central Asian countries are experiencing similar impacts from inclement weather and an increase in natural disasters. Land degradation, water stress and desertification could continue worsening. In turn, this will lead many people in affected areas to migrate and lead to an increase in poverty. Luckily, Uzbekistan may be paving a way to mitigate the factors leading to climate migration and poverty.

Uzbekistan: Taking the Lead

Experts consider Uzbekistan one of the most water-stressed countries due to its position near the Gobi Desert. Droughts and other extreme weather are leading to limited water resources and land degradation. This impacts the agriculture industry significantly, particularly in impoverished communities. As of 2019, 11% of the population in Uzbekistan lived below the national poverty line. Similar to other Central Asian countries, rural citizens are migrating to urban areas to avoid agriculturally-devastating weather disasters and to better themselves economically. As a result, new figures are estimated to reach 200,000 displaced migrants and climate refugees, more than triple the amount in 2018. However, a recent policy dialogue in Uzbekistan seeks to combat severe weather consequences by accelerating the transition to a green economy.

Uzbekistan may be the first Central Asian country to strive for solutions. As such, it could become a leader in the region to fix the climate migration and poverty issues. In August 2021, the Uzbekistan government launched a series called Green Growth and Climate Change that will continue to accelerate the country’s transition to a green economy. The group includes government representatives, policymakers, environmental experts and civil society members seeking to mitigate the area’s vulnerability to weather events. The Uzbekistan government also outlined its goals and priorities in the Climate Change Strategy 2021-2023. A large portion of this strategy is to mitigate and adapt to the increase in severe weather patterns. Additionally, it underlines the importance of assisting those considering climate migration to make good decisions about whether to stay or move to where they would be less vulnerable.

Latest Suggestions from the World Bank

A Lead Environmental Research team from the World Bank evaluated climate migration and its consequences. Specifically, it used a multi-dimensional modeling approach, looking at three potential severe weather and development scenarios. The results showed that “Without the right planning and support, people migrating from rural areas into cities could be facing new and even more dangerous risks.” These new risks include scarce resources, such as food and housing depending on the area.

The study recommends the following actions to assist climate migration in Central Asia:

  • Lessen climate pressure on individuals and livelihoods, leading to a reduction in overall climate migration.
  • Consider the entire cycle of climate migration (before, during and after migration) to prevent risks that may arise.
  • Invest in studies to improve each country’s understanding of its climate migration trends.

Paving the Way

Uzbekistan is definitely on the right course in drawing attention to severe weather patterns impacting poverty and climate migration in Central Asia. Its government is just beginning to dive into solving these serious problems, but the measures it is taking are encouraging.

– Alex Mauthe
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Heat
The summer of 2021 has followed recent trends for heat and has topped the chart as the hottest summer on record, leading to the question of how to fight heat in a cheap, environmentally friendly way. Companies have discussed how to encourage innovation in the fight against heat, one such event being the Cooling Prize.

The Issue

Recently, hot weather across the globe became a hot issue as it impacts many areas. It can cause health issues, decrease food production, cause more extreme weather patterns, spoil food, reduce production and even exacerbate violent crime. Air conditioning can provide life-saving relief for homes and companies. However, fighting against heat with air conditioners can be environmentally harmful as well as expensive.

There are 1.6 billion units of air conditioning as of now, which expectations have determined could grow to 5.6 billion over the next 10 years. These units are as harmful as fuel-powered machines such as cars. They also take energy to run — roughly 4,000 watts for every hour people use them. Since air conditioning uses power, it frequently costs too much for many people to fight against heat. The air conditioning unit cost of $500-$2,000 makes it inaccessible to many living worldwide. The Cooling Prize is focussing on lowering the price across the board.

The Cooling Prize

The Cooling Prize dedicates itself to reducing the global impact of heat and ensuring people’s safety from the heat. In the fight against heat, the use of innovation reduces emissions and makes the world a safer place. The winner receives money to improve their products. The goal is to offer affordable access to cooling technology worldwide, mitigate global warming, avoid extreme electricity demand and have five times less impact overall.

What the Winning Team Receives

The winning team divides the $1 million prize for fighting heat equally. The Cooling Prize distributes its winners and finalists, providing them with a platform to demonstrate their innovations and ideas. The criteria for winners and finalists is that their products produce five times fewer emissions than a standard unit, less than two times the installation cost of a standard unit, no more than 700 watts, zero carbon emissions and no ozone-depleting agents. Disqualification occurs if a team fails to follow these rules. Donors such as the Lemelson Foundation sponsor the event to increase outreach.

How to Help

The Cooling Prize and educating others about the issue help raise awareness. It is essential for one to consider the consequences of their air conditioner. Measures that one can take are to try opening windows or fans before turning on the air conditioner or closing windows while using an air conditioner to save energy and money. However, hopefully, the winners of the Cooling Prize will result in air condition units that are safer for the environment and more affordable for people to install across the globe.

– Audrey Burran
Photo: Flickr


On Sept. 25, artists, world leaders and celebrities came together for Global Citizen Live, a 24-hour concert event to bring the world together to end poverty. Participants showed support for Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World. That plan has five goals: ending the hunger crisis, creating equity for all, ending COVID-19, protecting the earth and resuming learning for everyone.

What is Global Citizen?

Global Citizen is an organization with the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. It plans to do this with the help of 100 million “Global Citizens,” who join the movement. On the Global Citizen platform, engaged citizens can learn about and take action against the systemic causes of extreme poverty. Not only that, but those who participate in the fight against poverty can earn rewards for their efforts including attending music performances and sporting events.

Recovery Plan for the World’s Five Goals

Here are Global Citizen’s plans for achieving each of the Recovery Plan of the World goals:

  • Ending the hunger crisis – In order to end the hunger crisis, Global Citizen suggests funding school meal programs to ensure every child has food. It also urges the support of small farmers that the pandemic negatively impacted. Finally, it proposes to commit to food and nutrition programs.
  • Equity for all – The pandemic has most affected the poor, people of color and women. Global Citizen believes that supporting human rights efforts and creating a people-focused justice system will bolster equity. 
  • Ending COVID-19 – Global Citizen believes that the world will not eradicate COVID-19 until everyone across the world has access to vaccines, testing and treatment. The organization has proposed that wealthy countries donate extra vaccines to poorer countries. In addition, it has advocated for increased funding for ACT-A and COVAX.
  • Protecting the planet – Global Citizen recommends supporting carbon neutrality for people living in communities suffering from extreme poverty.  Moreover, it advocates greater climate financing to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Resuming learning everywhere – Globally, COVID-19 has affected around 1.5 billion children; one-third of those children have been unable to access remote learning. For that reason, Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World urges providing technology resources for access and increasing funding for education.

Global Citizen Live

The 24-hour concert event occurred on six of the seven continents, excluding Antarctica. The cities with live performances and celebrity appearances included Paris, Rio De Janeiro, Sydney, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Lagos and Seoul. More than 60 artists performed including Billie Eilish, Green Day, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jennifer Lopez, Ed Sheeran, the Black Eyed Peas, Alessia Cara and Lizzo. Elton John kicked off the event by performing in front of the Eiffel Tower. Royals Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took to the stage in New York City’s Central Park to say that vaccines against COVID-19 should be treated as a basic human right.

Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), pre-recorded a message announcing that the United State was donating $295 million “to stave off famine and extreme hunger, confront gender-based violence and address the urgent humanitarian needs the COVID-19 pandemic is leaving in its wake.” French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would double its contribution of COVID-19 vaccines to impoverished countries from 60 million to 120 million shots.

Impact

Global Citizen Live is one of the largest-ever worldwide charity events, and yet, the goal was not to raise money. Unlike many similar events, the goal was to get the attention of world leaders and show that people support direct action for the Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World issues. In fact, the concert was completely free. For instance, the 60,000 people in attendance at Central Park had to earn their audience spots by doing things such as contacting their members of Congress, signing petitions and sending tweets.

Global Citizen Live 2021 brought millions of people across the world together with one purpose: grabbing the attention of world leaders. By succeeding with that goal, it raised money and secured pledges for vaccine distribution. Global Citizen Live 2021 successfully launched Global Citizen’s Recovery Plan for the World.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Ban of Leaded Gasoline
Recently, the entire world has banned leaded gasoline. Not only had leaded gasoline caused deaths, but also had raised greenhouse gas emissions. The ban on leaded gasoline is a giant win for society and one can see it as a foundation of other life-threatening fossil fuels, like sulfur in diesel.

Leaded Gasoline in a Nutshell

According to Smithsonian Magazine, Thomas Midgely Jr. created leaded gasoline in the 1920s by adding “tetraethyl lead” to gasoline to reduce the “knocking” sound in cars. People were already aware that tetraethyl lead was poisonous, even before it became a part of gasoline.

Leaded gasoline leads to an abundance of greenhouse gas emissions and is detrimental to the environment. Additionally, both children and adults have seen negative health side effects when exposed to leaded gasoline. Children exposed to lead can experience anemia, cancer, low IQ, learning disability, anemia and nerve damage. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute showed that gasoline exposure in adults has led to cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension and more. Both children and adults have either entered hospitals and/or died due to leaded gasoline.

Countries Ban Leaded Gasoline

In August 2021, Algeria was officially the last country to ban leaded gasoline. There has been a long-lasting humanitarian struggle to ban leaded gasoline throughout different countries. The first country to ban leaded gasoline was Japan in the 1980s. Then, other developed countries had followed, including Austria, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and the United States. During the 2000s until the 2020s, 117 more countries, developed and developing, pushed to ban leaded gasoline.

Bribes, Finance and the Holdouts for Ban on Leaded Gasoline

Some countries, such as Indonesia, were guilty of receiving bribes from leaded gasoline oil industries. However, Indonesia finally banned leaded gasoline.

“By 2016 only Algeria, Yemen, and Iraq were holdouts,” said National Geographic. Yemen is the poorest country in the world, Iraq is under development and Algeria’s citizens are destitute. Leaded gasoline is more inexpensive than unleaded gasoline. Additionally, leaded gasoline companies were reportedly sending bribes to countries to encourage them to continue using leaded gasoline. It is clear to see why some countries took much longer to ban leaded gasoline than other countries.

Ban of Leaded Gasoline Everywhere is a Huge Win

There are an estimated 1.2 million people who die from leaded gasoline each year. The hospital rates are even higher. Now that there is a ban on leaded fuel, “The fuel’s elimination will save $2.45 trillion a year, UNEP estimates, reflecting the economic side of lives and nature saved,” said Geneva SolutionsInger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. Andersen also described the ban as a huge milestone for the environment.

What the Ban means for Other Fossil Fuels

Now that the world has banned leaded gasoline, there have already been results of a cleaner earth, and better health. Yet, there are still hazardous fossil fuels. Companies are putting sulfur in diesel, burning coal and adding other additives to gasoline, all of which can cause greenhouse gas emissions and negative health effects. Additionally, some aviation still uses leaded gasoline.

However, now that results are showing the benefits of banning toxic fuels, the government and other organizations can give a better focus on banning other harmful fuels. Countries, especially developing countries, that are worried about the financial loss, can view the money they have saved from leaded gasoline as reassurance that banning fossil fuels is the right move. The ban on leaded gasoline is a huge win for the planet, but the fight for a better world is not over.

– Sydney Littlejohn
Photo: Flickr

South-South Cooperation
In June 2021, the United Nations High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation (BAPA+40) met for its 20th session to assess the
progress on South-South cooperation and discuss progress regarding the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). South-South cooperation is the technical collaboration between developing countries of the southern hemisphere or Global South to improve economic development, human rights, climate change, health and other indicators of a thriving society. The Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Collaboration Among Developing Countries (BAPA), which emerged in 1978, launched the South-South cooperation initiative and, since then, 40 additional countries have joined the effort. At the June 2021 meeting, the group discussed progress regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global Context and Trends

The period from 2016 to 2020 witnessed a combination of disastrous shocks and notable human progress. Between 1990 and 2016, poverty rates fell by 35%. By 2019, those living in excessive poverty (below $1.90 per day) decreased to 630 million from the 1990 figure of 2 billion. Nevertheless, by 2020, this situation had changed due to the serious effect of the COVID-19 pandemic which, up to April 2021, had resulted in more than 2.8 million deaths in the world, and also a disastrous economic impact. Experts were concerned that crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental challenges and violent conflicts may negate the success in alleviating poverty over the past three decades.

Specifically, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) emphasized the necessity to consider human progress from a wider perspective than economics. This program, in cooperation with the University of Oxford, promoted the idea of “multidimensional poverty” as development practitioners and policymakers began tracing poverty to its origin as apparent in the different living conditions of destitute persons and communities. For example, the 2020 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index which the UNDP published, shows that 803 million multidimensionally poor persons dwell in undernourished households, 1.03 billion persons live in substandard housing and 476 million children are not receiving an education.

Developing nations also encountered multiple, interlinked climatic, financial and microeconomic challenges from 2016 to 2020. For that reason, they attempted to accelerate the attainment of the 2030 SDG goals.  They viewed the  South-South coordination as an important model for this effort.

Developing Countries: Africa

The South-South collaboration 2019 landmark Agreement Establishing the African Continental FreeTrade Area bolstered regional integration in Africa. Africa has an extensive single market of over 1.3 billion persons as well as a $2.2 trillion combined yearly output. The implementation of the Free Trade Area is likely to have a major socioeconomic effect. Some have anticipated that there will be further gains from intra-African trade which has the potential of increasing by 33% during the Free Trade Area transition stage. There has also been an increase in the number of African leaders who have slowly initiated terms of engagement with other nations. The High-Level Committee reports that it will be critical that these leaders avoid inequalities that would reduce the potential benefits that Africa could obtain from South-South collaboration on the continent.

Developing Countries: Asia and the Pacific

Asia’s high level of regional integration makes it an epicenter of economic South-South coordination. While Asian economies represented 80% of all South-South exports, China continued to be the instrument of growth in investment and trade, and 19 economies in the region “reported China as their first or second-largest export market in 2017.” Despite its excellent performance in South-South trade as well as in other exchanges, large infrastructure gaps have hampered Asia. 

The small island developing nations in the Pacific area continued to be susceptible to climate shocks. Consequently, in the Southeast Asia and Pacific region, South-South collaboration is of critical importance for capacity building for economic resilience to natural shocks with Asia being a role model for public-private partnerships. For instance, in 2019, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Amundi announced a  $500 million Asia Climate Bond Portfolio. This initiative’s objective has been to promote climate action on the part of bank members that involves increasing green leadership and climate resilience as well as considering the climate bond market’s underdevelopment. Despite a dramatic reduction in foreign direct investment (FDI)  and trade in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Asia and Pacific area performed better than the remainder of the world because of more regional integration.

Developed Countries

Several developed nations and multilateral organizations remain supportive of South-South collaboration by triangular coordination. This triangular coordination combines the abilities of various development partners in order to introduce new and adaptable solutions to development challenges and to help to attain the 2030 SDG goals. Unfortunately, a 2019 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that despite the increased focus on triangular coordination, no more than 30 nations or international institutions established guiding documents, strategies or cooperation policies. The study indicated a need for an attitude shift of developed nations from thinking of developing nations as “donor recipients” to considering them as partners.

Civil Society, Think Tanks and the Private Sector

In development cooperation, the private sector, think tanks and civil society are significant stakeholders who could be influential in increasing the application of the 2030 SDG Agenda through South-South and triangular coordination. The Alliance of Non-Governmental Organizations, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation and Civil Society Organizations for South-South Cooperation are collaborating to improve the understanding of the value of South-South cooperation in humanitarian development and related areas. 

Moving Forward

The June High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation underlined the progress of the South-South cooperation and triangular coordination with developed countries. The committee reported that these strategies have been effective in reducing multidimensional poverty and associated problems in developing countries. Its report suggests that the introduction of the United Nations system-wide strategy on South-South and triangular cooperation has great potential for enhancing this progress moving forward.

– Aining Liang
Photo: Flickr

Climate change in NigeriaAlthough most greenhouse gas emissions come from the global north, Africa will soon face some of the most severe impacts of the climate crisis. The country of Nigeria is in a uniquely vulnerable position. Home to around 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and 40% of Nigerians live below the national poverty line. Climate change and poverty can act in a vicious cycle. Impoverished people are often unable to adapt to increased temperatures or rising sea levels due to a lack of resources and mobility. When people lose their homes and livelihoods to climate change, they can face even greater poverty, especially when children lose access to education. This is also true for poverty and climate change in Nigeria.

Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea, just north of the equator. Due to its size and geographical location, Nigeria is at risk for a great variety of climate-related challenges. Its northern regions, which border the Sahara, are experiencing increasing rates of desertification. Its low-lying coastal areas, meanwhile, are facing rising sea levels and flooding. Despite these challenges, the Nigerian government has set admirable sustainability goals. Furthermore, local farmers are using innovative techniques to adapt to climate change.

Urban Areas

Nigeria’s capital city, Lagos, is a rapidly growing economic center. It is home to between 15 and 26 million people and one-third of Nigeria’s GDP. Lagos is surrounded by massive slums which house half of the urban population. These slums, some of which are entirely composed of floating shacks and canoes, are at high risk of flooding as sea levels rise. Rising sea levels, another result of climate change in Nigeria, can cause erosion and contaminate freshwater. This damages Nigeria’s fishing industry, which feeds and employs many impoverished people. Inland areas of Lagos are also being inundated with refugees from coastal areas which have already been destroyed by flooding. As slum populations increase, living conditions become even more unhealthy and dangerous.

Agriculture

Many climate refugees in urban Nigeria come from inland, where conditions have made farming impossible for many poor families. Approximately 70% of Nigerians, many of whom live below the poverty line, rely on agriculture as their primary source of income. In 2018, thousands of people left the agricultural regions of northern Nigeria. They were displaced by droughts, food insecurity and “climate-related conflict.” According to a report from World Bank, the results of climate change in Nigeria such as rising temperatures and “erratic rainfall” could lead to a “20 to 30% reduction in crop yields.” Dust storms are also becoming more common and can significantly deplete topsoil layers. This can be crushing as these topsoil layers are crucial for successful farming. In addition to direct loss of income, poor agricultural yields will lead to food shortages. This harms Nigeria’s most vulnerable populations in both urban and rural areas.

What People Can Do

Although the climate crisis is already significantly impacting impoverished Nigerians, there are still possibilities for climate change mitigation and adaptation. A World Bank report called “Toward Climate-Resilient Development in Nigeria” outlines cost-effective strategies focused on increasing renewable energy generation and reducing agricultural and industrial pollution. One possible adaptation to climate change in Nigeria is a practice called “agroforestry.” This is where farmers plant trees around their crops and animal pastures, protecting them from increased temperatures and reducing topsoil depletion. This farm layout mimics a more natural landscape and can provide farmers with additional resources such as firewood. Additionally, it helps sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Agroforestry is gaining traction as an adaptation to climate change in Nigeria, and it could prove very useful in the future.

– Anneke Taylor
Photo: Wikimedia

MapActionHunger in Africa is an ever-present concern. The issue was heightened in 2020 when climate change and unusual rainfall patterns caused locust swarms to infest East Africa. The area had not experienced such an extreme locust plague in many years. Kenya’s last major infestation was about 70 years prior. On the other hand, Somalia and Ethiopia last experienced a severe locust plague roughly 25 years ago. In 2018, two major cyclones increased the locust population in Saudi Arabia by 8,000-fold, and subsequently, strong winds moved the swarms into the Horn of Africa. In December 2020, a rare cyclone in Somalia created locust groups of more than 15 million per square mile, devouring the crops of 19 million herders and farmers in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. MapAction is bringing in geospatial technology to help better respond to such crises.

Climate Change in Africa

In January 2021, the Famine Early Warning System reported that areas in the Horn of Africa were facing food crises due to the locust swarms. A swarm the size of Manhattan can eat the same quantity of food as the whole population of New York and California in just one day. From March 2021 through May 2021, a lack of rainfall in parts of Ethiopia meant that farmers could not prepare their fields for crops or have adequate grass for pasture. The countries most vulnerable to food insecurity are Ethiopia, Sudan and Yemen. Indeed, the persistent lack of rainfall has brought dry conditions to many parts of East Africa.

The disastrous combination of flooding and drought, along with locust infestation, is harshly impacting communities in the region, even more so due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 lockdowns, communication between relief organizations is difficult. Since April 2020, an organization called MapAction has been working in the eastern and southern parts of Africa, “applying geospatial expertise to humanitarian situations” to improve results. The organization looks to improve communication between Oxfam and its local partners.

Geospatial Analysis

MapAction believes that expert geospatial analysis can help spread resources to populations affected by famine, drought and other emergencies. MapAction works to ensure that emergency aid responders and disaster management agencies have access to crucial data. This data will allow responders to make decisions that will improve food security and relieve hunger in Africa. The team creates map templates and trains locals to update maps. This helps inform Oxfam’s partners about threats to food security, such as when locust swarms move into new areas. MapAction also maps where work has been done to prevent efforts from being wasted through duplication.

MapAction’s Impact

Rupert Douglas-Bate originally conceived the idea for MapAction. Bate formulated the concept while “working as an emergency water engineer in Bosnia in 1994.” Bate realized “that there was a gap in mapped analysis to support the effective planning and delivery of humanitarian aid.” MapAction first started off supporting Oxfam and partners in Kenya and Somalia but intends to assist in Zimbabwe and Zambia too. In the near future, MapAction would like to extend its scope to Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Botswana.

Since its inception, MapAction has supported thousands of emergency aid groups in more than 60 humanitarian crises around the world. Furthermore, the organization has helped millions of people who were in danger of starving. The organization has won four Stevie International Business Awards for Company of the Year and an Association for Geographic Information Award for Excellence due to its Ebola assistance in West Africa.

MapAction continues to develop new technologies to improve the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. In the process, it is subsequently reducing the threat of widespread hunger in Africa, preventing millions from falling deeper into poverty.

– Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr