More
    Home Blog

    The top risks from technology that we’ll be facing by the year 2040

    0

    Charles Weir, Research Fellow and Lecturer, Lancaster University and Louise Dennis, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, University of Manchester

     

    Bewilderingly rapid changes are happening in the technology and reach of computer
    systems. There are exciting advances in artificial intelligence, in the masses of tiny interconnected devices we call the “Internet of Things” and in wireless connectivity.

    Unfortunately, these improvements bring potential dangers as well as benefits. To get a safe future we need to anticipate what might happen in computing and address it early. So, what do experts think will happen, and what might we do to prevent major problems?

    To answer that question, our research team from universities in Lancaster and Manchester turned to the science of looking into the future, which is called “forecasting”. No one can predict the future, but we can put together forecasts: descriptions of what may happen based on current trends.

    Indeed, long-term forecasts of trends in technology can prove remarkably accurate. And an excellent way to get forecasts is to combine the ideas of many different experts to find where they agree.

    We consulted 12 expert “futurists” for a new research paper. These are people whose roles involves long-term forecasting on the effects of changes in computer technology by the year 2040.

    Using a technique called a Delphi study, we combined the futurists’ forecasts into a set of risks, along with their recommendations for addressing those risks.

    Software concerns

    The experts foresaw rapid progress in artificial intelligence (AI) and connected systems, leading to a much more computer-driven world than nowadays. Surprisingly, though, they expected little impact from two much hyped innovations: Blockchain, a way to record information that makes it impossible or difficult for the system to be manipulated, they suggested, is mostly irrelevant to today’s problems; and Quantum computing is still at an early stage and may have little impact in the next 15 years.

    The futurists highlighted three major risks associated with developments in computer software, as follows.

    AI Competition leading to trouble

    Our experts suggested that many countries’ stance on AI as an area where they want to gain a competitive, technological edge will encourage software developers to take risks in their use of AI. This, combined with AI’s complexity and potential to surpass human abilities, could lead to disasters.

    For example, imagine that shortcuts in testing lead to an error in the control systems of cars built after 2025, which goes unnoticed amid all the complex programming of AI. It could even be linked to a specific date, causing large numbers of cars to start behaving erratically at the same time, killing many people worldwide.

    Generative AI

    Generative AI may make truth impossible to determine. For years, photos and videos have been very difficult to fake, and so we expect them to be genuine. Generative AI has already radically changed this situation. We expect its ability to produce convincing fake media to improve so it will be extremely difficult to tell whether some image or video is real.

    Supposing someone in a position of trust – a respected leader, or a celebrity – uses social media to show genuine content, but occasionally incorporates convincing fakes. For those following them, there is no way to determine the difference – it will be impossible to know the truth.

    Invisible cyber attacks

    Finally, the sheer complexity of the systems that will be
    built – networks of systems owned by different organisations, all depending on each other – has an unexpected consequence. It will become difficult, if not impossible, to get to the root of what causes things to go wrong.

    Imagine a cyber criminal hacking an app used to control devices such as ovens or fridges, causing the devices all to switch on at once. This creates a spike in electricity demand on the grid, creating major power outages.

    The power company experts will find it challenging to identify even which devices caused the spike, let alone spot that all are controlled by the same app. Cyber sabotage will become invisible, and impossible to distinguish from normal problems.

    Cyber attacks could cause electricity surges on the grid, leading to outages. Photo by Frank Cone

    Software jujitsu

    The point of such forecasts is not to sow alarm, but to allow us to start addressing the problems. Perhaps the simplest suggestion the experts suggested was a kind of software jujitsu: using software to guard and protect against itself. We can make computer programs perform their own safety audits by creating extra code that validates the programs’ output – effectively, code that checks itself.

    Similarly, we can insist that methods already used to ensure safe software operation continue to be applied to new technologies. And that the novelty of these systems is not used as an excuse to overlook good safety practice.

    Strategic solutions

    But the experts agreed that technical answers alone will not be enough. Instead, solutions will be found in the interactions between humans and technology.

    We need to build up the skills to deal with these human technology problems, and new forms of education that cross disciplines. And governments need to establish safety principles for their own AI procurement and legislate for AI safety across the sector, encouraging responsible development and deployment methods.

    These forecasts give us a range of tools to address the possible problems of the future. Let us adopt those tools, to realise the exciting promise of our technological future.The Conversation

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

    Main Photo Photo by Google DeepMind

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Global triggers: why these five big issues could cause significant problems in 2024

    0

     

    Jose Caballero, Senior Economist, IMD World Competitiveness Center, International Institute for Management Development (IMD)

    The tensions between the US and China made the global economy shudder in 2023. The ramifications of the Ukrainian war echoed beyond the country’s border. In Africa, the coup d’état in Niger and Gabon contributed to the global democratic retreat of recent years and the Hamas/Israel conflict has so far resulted in thousands of deaths.

    Such trends of global power tensions, open war, democratic decline and extreme job market fluctuations are likely to continue in 2024. With this in mind, here are five global geopolitical and economic trends to watch out for.

    Power shifts

    As the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) organisation expands to include Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, its growing economic influence could dramatically change the global balance of power.

    From January 2024, Brics will represent about 46.5% of the world’s population, US$30.8 trillion (£23.7 trillion) about a third of global GDP and 45% of global oil production. A related economic consequence is that the Brics’ expanded trade network can reduce their dependence on western markets, particularly through preferential trade agreements and possibly the use of a common currency.

    For countries that have been sanctioned by the west, such as Iran, becoming a Brics member increases their diplomatic options. This may make Brics attractive to other sanctioned countries. The Brics’ expansion can also enable members to strengthen their impact by pursuing their political and economic interests more easily. Challenging the west may not take the form of direct confrontation, but occur by gradually moving away from current institutions such as the IMF.

    Global election cycle

    The list of general elections in 2024 includes countries from all continents and the participation of billions of people. At the core is the US election where former president Donald Trump is likely to be the Republican candidate. If re-elected, he may continue with his policy of “global engagement abstention” as evidenced by his past willingness to disengage from Nato.

    Such a stance may weaken the global economic and political system and contribute to the rise of other countries searching for greater global clout. Another important aspect emerging from the cornucopia of general elections is the potential erosion of democracy. In the US, for instance, there is talk of a possible Trump dictatorship. In Russia, a win by President Vladimir Putin can see him remaining as president until 2030 with the possibility of a further sixth term up to 2036 (or about 32 years in power).

    In other countries, such as El Salvador, some politicians are willing to circumvent their constitutions to be re-elected or to ban efforts to monitor elections, as is happening in Tunisa. Such practices are likely to weaken democratic institutions or constrain their development.

    Heightened tensions in the Middle East

    The Israel/Hamas war will continue to have repercussions beyond the Middle East. The risk of further escalation of the conflict regionally has intensified after an air strike in Beirut. Some nearby states, for example, have strongly condemned Israel’s overall response to Hamas’ attack. Jordan called that response a “war crime” and Egypt a “collective punishment.” The war is likely to compound regional uncertainty and instability.

    Some evidence suggests that increasing political instability will also affect the health of the region’s financial institutions.

    In turn, greater instability could increase refugee flows to the US and Europe. The latter will exacerbate the already tense political debate over immigration policy. The Israel/Gaza war is also likely to discourage investment in the Middle East and disrupt trade routes leading to increasing shipping costs.

    China’s economic pressures

    Recently, China’s economy has been described as a “ticking time bomb” as a result of slow economic growth, high youth unemployment, the property sector crisis, lower Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and weaker exports. Growth prospects are expected to remain “structurally weaker” with low consumer confidence and spending and declining external demand.

    Lower internal Chinese consumption means lower demand for raw material and commodities which, in turn, will affect larger exporters such as Australia and Brazil.

    Multinational corporations are likely to experience some negative impact on their profits as relocation of production and supply chain diversification continues as a result of trade frictions and armed conflicts. This may have a knock-on effect, not only on their suppliers but also on their workforce in terms of salary growth, if not, downsizing and job losses.

    More generally, the increased risks for China’s economy will hit global growth, according to the OECD.

    Ageing populations

    In 2022, Japan, Italy, Finland and Germany were among the countries with the greatest share of populations over 65 years of age and by 2050 it is projected that the list will include Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan. By 2050 the percentage of the world’s over 60 population will increase from 12% to 22%. At the same time, life expectancy is increasing. Such a population trend has implications for social security and other parts of the economy.

    Demands on governments and health providers to deliver greater volumes of care will grow because of potential escalating risks of disease among the elderly. The ratio of workers to pensioners is falling which is also putting pressure on the sustainability of current pensions systems.

    In addition, there is evidence that the ageing of the population affects labour productivity and labour supply. It can, therefore, have an effect on economic growth, trade, savings and investment. All in all, 2024 could be another rocky year.The Conversation

     

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

    Main Photo from Pixabai (CCO) on Pexels 

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    The Contribution of Civil Society in the Climate Justice Movement

    0

     

    Jeevesh Augnoo, Head of the Law Department and Senior Lecturer at Rushmore Business School, Mauritius

     

    Polar bears have been the poster child for climate change and its impact, inviting people to learn more about global warming. Climate change has been subject to more discussions and debates than actions over the past three decades, hence, remaining one of the key global challenges for the next decade. Its effects, showcased by the iconic polar bear picture, are “irreversible” and is one of the greatest threats to human rights of this and future generations. Consequently, “climate justice” rightly emerged as a concept, focused on how climate change does not impact all of us equally, evolving into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart. The term “Climate Justice movement’’ has been originally linked to a report by the the NGO CorpWatch, published in 1999, and provided an overarching concept which drew from various other concepts, including reducing emissions to accountability. Today, more contemporary definitions include a strong notion of human rights and inequalities.

    Climate Justice as a concept

    Climate Justice has been researched and described lengthily and widely over the years. The Center for Climate Justice at the University of California emphasizes on the six pillars of Climate Justice, namely (i) A just transition; (ii) Social, Racial and Environmental justice; (iii) Indigenous Climate Action; (iv) Community Resilience and Adaptation; (v) Natural Climate Solutions and (vi) Climate Education and Engagement. The Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice discusses climate justice as a moral argument focused on people and communities and actions to combat climate change, articulated around the principles of Climate Justice: (i) Respect and Protect Human Rights; (ii) Support the right to development; (iii) Share benefits and burdens equitably; (iv) Ensure that decisions on climate change are participatory, transparent and accountable; (vi) Highlight Gender Equality and Equity; (vii) Harness the transformative power of Education for climate stewardship and (viii) Use Effective partnerships to secure Climate Justice. These are a brief snapshot in terms of what climate justice entails, and it can be inferred that Climate Justice is very human rights centric.

    Climate Justice can be classified into some broad categories, with climate change litigation taking a more central role in climate change discussion as a tool. Some approaches have been categorised under distributive justice, tackling the Just Target and Just Burden questions as well as environmental justice, which looks at inequalities and people of colour, from a broader perspective. Another approach has been under administrative justice, with increasing legislation being passed in major countries around climate change and challenges under Judicial Review. Climate Justice can also be considered from a restorative lens, which is articulated around “acknowledging, building and restoring relationships” and championed by the organisation Earth in Common. There are other aspects of climate justice, such as normative climate justice under the community of practice approach, which can be adopted contextually, from a human-rights focus to economic aspects, constantly evolving as actions require, including its complexities.

    The Climate Justice movement

    The International Institute of Climate Action and Theory provide an extensive insight into the inception of the Climate Justice movement, describing it as a “movement of movements’’ with organisations and individuals acting together through networks to achieve a “scientifically sound and socially just response’’ to climate change and its impact. This is explored further by Tokar (2013), who discusses the build-up of movements in the United States and Europe until the Klimaforum in Copenhagen in 2009. Interest in this movement has led to the creation of organisations around the world focused on bringing something more to the table and supporting existing initiatives. Commentators have also raised concerns about the importance and relevance of such a movement, refusing to recognise it as such and highlighting its negative impact.

    The contribution of civil society

    As explored earlier, efforts for climate justice have been initiated and spearheaded by numerous organisations from civil society all around the world. The role of civil society increased over the years in the climate justice movement, especially following the COP21 Paris Agreement in 2015, considered to be the first environmental document incorporating climate justice extensively as well as human rights.

    The World Bank described Civil Society as “a wide array of organizations: community groups, non-governmental organizations [NGOs], labour unions, indigenous groups, charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, and foundations”. It is also known as the Third Sector, and can sometimes be one of the contributing factors to changes in policy and business approaches.

    Social movements have contributed to reducing global carbon emissions, making “significant contributions to the promotion of environmental sustainability and social justice regarding natural resource use and management”. Dr Reid of the International Institute for Environment and Development highlighted the important contribution of civil society, mainly in poor countries and explained how they can be influential. Further findings in the same sense can be found in the organisation’s 2012 report. Alliances are being made by different actors of civil society, such as faith groups like the Lutheran World Federation. Climate Alliance Germany supports the work of more than 113 member organisations including Friends of the Earth, providing valuable coordination to bring together the experience and expertise of international organisations for sustainable and focused action to tackle challenges they face. The efforts of civil society organisations around the world were also recognised and discussed in a report by Le Monde Diplomatique Brazil, focusing on (missed) outcomes from COP26. Recently, more insight was provided on the role of civil society and their ability to influence climate change policy making in India (an established democracy in the Global South), Indonesia (a new emerging developing economy) and Finland (an established democracy in the Global North with a strong established civil society).  Research describes how civil organisations are appreciated and have used their connections and contact points in government as leverage to influence some decisions.

    There were multiple persistent challenges such as intimidation, difficulties in getting a seat at the table of negotiations and discussions to voice out, obstacles to encourage dialogue and cooperation at COP27. Organisations from civil society have also been relentlessly knocking on the door of courts as a means of bringing impetus to the climate justice movement.

    Mauritius

    Mauritius is listed as one of the countries most at risk from the impact of climate change and its impacts, and measures have been taken to counteract these effects at some level. As a Small Island State (SIS), the effects of climate change can be felt already on the beaches of Mauritius and their access. Action by civil cociety organisations has been growing, with Alumni of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and members of Association Pour Le Developpement Durable (ADD) recently collaborating for a mangrove plantation as a means of combating climate change impact, building on past contribution by other organisations such as Fridays for Future. The UNDP has also been collaborating with local civil society to focus on inclusive and sustainable development. Sustained conversations and collaboration between civil society and authorities have culminated in the passing of legislation such the Climate Change Act 2020 and initiatives such as the Bank of Mauritius Climate Change Centre.

    The contribution of civil society is increasing around the world and evolving in terms of climate justice with more international organisations such as Rotary International getting involved at different levels. This involvement is even more important as civil society assumes the roles of guardian, enabler catalyst & steward. Civil society is leading the way and filling the gap in terms of advocacy, education and action to ensure that decisions and proposals made at higher levels can be translated into impactful concrete solutions for visible and tangible results. It is recommended that civil society organisations seek to become more structured as entities as well as adopters of good governance practices. This will enhance their contribution with public and private sector collaborations as well as allow them to act as accountability partners for initiatives put forward in the context of climate change. This can also assist in increasing adherence to such organisations as well as reliability of their actions, amplifying the momentum already created in the climate justice movement.

    Main photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen  on Pexels.

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Inclusive climate change education in the Mauritian school curriculum: Moving from goals to processes

    0

     

    Jeevesh AugnooHead of the Law Department and Senior Lecturer at Rushmore Business School, Mauritius

    Krishnee A Appadoo, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law and Management, University of Mauritius & PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia

    Bhoomika Jaggeshar, PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

     

    Climate change poses significant long-term challenges to planetary and human wellbeing. It is unfortunate that anthropogenic actions over the decades have exacerbated the situation for vulnerable people and systems, who are facing the severe and irreversible impacts of climate change. The island of Mauritius, which also forms part of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) community, is no different regarding this issue. With varying temperatures and rainfall patterns, frequent and highly intensified cyclones affecting it, the country has established various strategies and mechanisms to help curb the impacts of climate change in order to alleviate the problems being faced by its population. However, very little has been done in order to include climate change education into the educational curriculum whether at nursery, kindergarten, primary, secondary or university levels. This research paper intends to showcase how we can promote climate change education in schools in order to better equip the community (especially our youth) with the relevant knowledge to better understand and address the climate change crisis within the Mauritian context.

     

    Introduction

    Climate Change has been the subject of debates and discussions, with a breakthrough reached for vulnerable states at COP27 in terms of the fund for “loss and damage.” The effects of climate change have been researched, documented and disseminated widely. This research made its way into the corporate culture, gaining some impetus following the open letter of 2015 “urging for concrete climate action” (Allen & Craig, 2016), and becoming a prominent and crucial element considered by companies worldwide in terms of good governance and operation as well as the higher education level, with a range of broad and focused educational qualifications available at various levels. It is therefore essential to promote adequate climate change education in schools, especially in SIDS, such as Mauritius to move from goals to processes. Described as education which “helps people understand and address the impacts of the climate crisis, empowering them with the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes needed to act as agents of change,” it is an essential tool for social transformation and sustainable development (UNESCO, 2023).

    Climate Change Education and its Importance

    Climate change is not just a scientific phenomenon but a socio-scientific problem requiring more than content teaching. Learning to adapt to risk, uncertainty, and rapid change is the focus of climate change education (IPCC, 2014).  Organisations like governments and nongovernmental bodies have traditionally conducted climate change education. However, they might experience issues in transmitting the necessary messages in order to engage with the appropriate audience (Lee et al., 2013). According to Mochizuki and Bryan (2015), one of the most important and effective ways to build capacities for addressing the climate crisis is to integrate climate change education into formal education systems. This is because of the multiplier effects, in which individuals share what they have learned, particularly in relation to adaptation and mitigation, for the benefit of families and communities. As a result, climate change education must emphasise the kinds of learning, critical and creative thinking, and capacity building that will enable young people to engage with the information, comprehend, and take the actions crucial to address climate change.

    Climate change schooling cannot be restricted to conventional designs and formal educational plans but rather needs to draw on new informal and hybrid spaces offering better opportunities for learning and activity (Stevenson et al., 2017). As with any form of education, climate change education in schools has the potential to “influence families and communities as well through the multiplier effect” discussed above. Climate change education is vital in terms of mitigation and adaptation. Climate change education should be comprehensive and multidisciplinary.  That is, it should be interlinked with concepts such as sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, sustainable consumption and production, as well as the circular economy.

    The evolution of climate change has accentuated the need for reviewed climate change education, and its widespread effects even more so. Consequently, what is taught and learnt about climate change has also evolved, with increasing focus on learning about the risk, uncertainty and rapid change. Cordero, Centeno & Todd (2020) discussed the relevance of climate change education for engagement at an individual level. Eilam (2021) identified the lack of widespread climate change education, stressing how it can no longer be ignored in curricula at school level. Global actors in school curricula including Cambridge Education have further explained how climate change education is important, offering free access to books as well as working together with partners to ensure adequate dissemination, as propounded by UNESCO.

    Climate Change Education in Mauritius

    In Mauritius, there are very limited measures being undertaken to implement climate change education. For example, in 2015, a new education kit was unveiled in Mauritius to assist students in learning about climate change adaptation and mitigation measures. The Climate Change Education Kit was launched by the Mauritius Institute of Education (MIE). The latter announced that it would be targeting 258,000 primary and secondary school students, aged six to eighteen years old. According to the MIE, “the kit aims at informing and challenging the students to develop appropriate skills and qualities for adaptation and survival in fast-changing ecological and environmental trends.” The kit’s role is to inform and challenge students to develop appropriate knowledge and skills for adaptation and mitigation in a society with fast changing environmental and ecological tendencies. Keshwar Beeharry-Panray, representative of the NGO ‘Environment Protection and Conservation Organisation (EPCO)’ praised this initiative, highlighting that “this climate change kit is a preparedness programme to help the kids get ready to face the issues of climate change.” Dr Ravhee Bholah, Project Coordinator of the Climate Change Education Kit at the Mauritius Insititute of Education (MIE), explained that the production of the kit was funded by the government of Japan, as part of the Africa Adaptation Programme, to the tune of US$ 3 million.

    In terms of content, the kit contains a wide range of curriculum resource materials, including factsheets, bookmarks, flyers, comic strips, 3D models and teachers’ manuals. This kit was distributed to 320 primary and 176 secondary schools across the island. In terms of content, the kit aims at offering insights to students on learning to adapt to climate change associated risks, uncertainty and rapid change, as well as equip them with understanding regarding adaptation and mitigation strategies especially as Mauritius is a small island. In secondary schools, as per the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), there has been a first step in terms of climate change education, as the latter is distributed across some modules such as Design and Technology, Home Economics, etc. It is encouraging to note that one of the core values of the NCF is sustainability, which means that the curriculum, by extrapolation, embraces the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and hopefully SDG 13 which is climate action.

    At the tertiary (higher education/university) level, there are undergraduate and postgraduate programmes which focus on climate change education. For example, at the University of Mauritius, there is the MSc Sustainable Energy Engineering with Environmental Management, which has a dedicated climate change module. Furthermore, the Faculty of Agriculture, of the same institution, also offers an MSc in Climate Change and Sustainable Development. At the same time, the University of Technology, Mauritius, offers an MSc in Climate Change, Health and Disaster Management. The Université des Mascareignes gives the possibility to students to enrol on its MSc in Sustainable Business Management, which has a few climate change focused modules.

    On top of this, the government of Mauritius, in its bid to empower students to embark upon climate change focused degree, through its Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, is offering Masters scholarships to eligible students who are either Mauritians or citizens of member states of either the African Union of African Commonwealth countries, and these scholarships are tenable for the MScs offered as mentioned above at the University of Technology, Mauritius and the Université des Mascareignes.

    While the above examples demonstrate the commendable measures which have been taken in Mauritius to integrate climate change education into the nursery, kindergarten, primary, secondary and university curricula, it is argued that these remain inadequate. Despite the fact that Mauritius has updated its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to mention that “an awareness raising strategy and communication plan ha[d] been prepared to sensitise various stakeholders (women association, youth leaders, senior citizens, fishers, planters, academia, professionals, students, private sector, civil society and NGOs)” on climate change adaptation and mitigation, it is rather unfortunate that this is not the case as can be demonstrated by the lack of climate change education and awareness in Mauritius, by government-run educational institutions. What is clearly lacking is a holistic approach to climate change education and awareness which should be mainstreamed across relevant subjects and modules at primary, secondary and tertiary education levels in Mauritius.

    Moreover, climate change education should not be included in the curriculum with the mere attempt to tick boxes. Instead, more effort should be put into training educational professionals across all three levels to integrate climate change education so that students are not only taught but also assessed through engaging, fun and mature modes. Additionally, students should be immersed into the realities of climate adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage, by bringing them closer to the communities which are being affected by the climate crisis such as fisherfolk, farmers, and other groups that rely on the climate for their livelihoods.

    Climate Change Education around the world

    While the UN has been calling for climate change education to become mandatory in schools as from the ages 2-5 so as to better equip children to adapt and mitigate global warming in the future, only a handful of countries currently mandate climate change studies in their education system, despite most of them being signatories to this objective in the Paris Agreement. As such, article 7 (5) of the Paris Agreement calls for “Parties acknowledg[ing] that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.” It is believed that integrating climate change-related subjects in school curricula will assist the youth in coping better, both psychologically and practically with the reality of climate change.

    Cambodia has integrated climate change education into its curriculum with a new and enhanced Earth Science curriculum, since the year 2020. High school students are being taught about the factors that contribute to climate change and also about the vulnerability of their country to the effects of climate change. While learning the basics of adaptation and mitigation, the youth are also assigned to work on projects such as climate-smart agriculture and tree-planting. Argentina’s Parliament recently approved a National Law of Comprehensive Environmental Education, also known as the Pino Solanas Law, in 2021, where environmental education is now being taught in all schools at all levels.

    The vulnerability of India vis-a-vis climate change is evidenced by the catastrophic climatic events it faces namely, flash floods, landslides, and intense cyclones. Therefore, the country has already advanced towards introducing climate change education in schools as an adaptation strategy. India has established child cabinets, adolescents and youth platforms like Meena and Raju at school so that girls and boys can forthrightly discuss topics related to climate change and disaster risk reduction. In addition, UNICEF assisted in adapting the Safe Saturday concept, a component of school safety aiming at developing children’s knowledge and skills in order to be better prepared in dealing with disasters and climate change.

    With the intention of strengthening the capacities of 100 master trainers and 10,000 schoolteachers through related training, successful advocacy in the State of Maharashtra resulted in the integration of climate action and environment lesson plans into the first and second-grade curricula of 65,000 primary schools across the state (UNICEF, 2023). However, according to Sarang (2021), the rewritten curriculum in India makes the first tentative connections between disciplines thereby emphasising the complexity of coincidental issues and procedures. However, putting these curriculum changes into action is difficult. Even though subjects are redesigned around environmental issues, they do not address immediate concerns like sustainability and climate change.

    Recommendations and Conclusions

    As has been discussed above, climate change education is vital not only for the youth but for all sections of the population, be it young or old. However, climate change education and awareness-raising is even more important for the youth as they are the stewards of tomorrow and will inherit the Earth as it is progressing now. In line with the principle of inter and intragenerational equity, we owe it to this and the next generation, to leave the planet as pristine and climate safe as possible.

    In Mauritius, as has been demonstrated above, there is a dearth of projects and initiatives which focus on climate change education. For this reason, it is proposed that Mauritius turns to countries like India, Argentina and Cambodia to mainstream climate change education into the educational curricula. Moreover, more funding should be diverted towards climate change education, whether at the nursery, primary, secondary or university levels. Additionally, there should be enhanced training of staff, such as educators and academia in order for them to be able to teach climate change education. Measuring the impact of any curriculum change or initiative in education is quintessential, and thus requires signalling. Finally, climate change education should not only be relegated to the youth, but there should be community projects and programmes aimed at raising awareness for climate change for people of all ages, ethnic groups, genders and more importantly minority groups such as women, the disabled and indigenous groups.

    Main photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Mauritius sea sponge produces chemicals that can kill liver cancer cells – findings are a positive first step

    0

     

    Rima Beesoo, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, Germany

     

    For thousands of years, medicines have been developed from natural sources – mostly from plants. In recent decades, though, drug hunters have been looking at the immense diversity of marine organisms as potential sources of new medicines.

    Marine sponges have garnered particular attention. They are considered champion producers of molecules (known as “natural products”). They produce these because they use toxic compounds to deter predators, communicate with their neighbours, or prevent algae and bacteria from growing on them.

    Marine sponges are a remarkably diverse group of animals, with over 9,000 species. They come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and colours, ranging from small, inconspicuous forms to large and vibrant reef-building varieties. They look like a sedentary blob of porous tissue on the seafloor, which gives them their name.

    As some of the most primitive animals on the planet, they lack complex organs and tissues. Without physical and mechanical features to flee (fins, legs), attack (spines), and protect themselves (shells), they have evolved to survive by producing chemical compounds. Some of these compounds have been found to possess valuable properties against cancer and microbial infections.

    Interest in these properties started in the early 1950s after the discovery of two new natural products from the Caribbean sponge species Tectitethya crypta. The products were later approved for use as drugs against leukemia and HIV.

    Discoveries like this have raised substantial interest in therapeutic applications of sponge-derived chemicals.

    This is where my home country, Mauritius, has huge potential. Mauritius has an array of sponge species, offering the opportunity to discover bioactive agents.

    I obtained my PhD in the field of applied marine biochemistry at the University of Mauritius. As part of my studies I worked with my research supervisors Ranjeet Bhagooli, Theeshan Bahorun, Vidushi Neergheen and late Alexander Kagansky to study the anticancer potential of the sponge Neopetrosia exigua from Mauritius waters.

    We have just published a paper which shows, for the first time, that chemicals produced by N. exigua have the capacity to selectively kill liver cancer cells, with minimal harm to normal cells. Based on our findings about its pharmacological properties, we suggest that the Mauritian sponge N. exigua has potential to be developed into a less toxic therapeutic candidate against liver cancer.

    Our study is the first stage of the biodiscovery process. There are numerous steps which can take around 15 to 20 years from discovery of active compounds to use as medicines in humans.

    Studying how a sponge kills cancer cells

    Before our study, Neopetrosia species were already known to be a rich source of bioactive novel compounds, yet studies showing how they killed cancer cells were limited.

    For our study, the first step was to collect a sample of N. exigua sponge from the Mauritian coral reefs by snorkelling and scuba diving. What could be better for a passionate lover of the sea than to have one of the world’s most pristine marine ecosystems as her working environment?

    Once we had our sample, the sponge was carefully processed in the laboratory to obtain different extracts containing distinct natural products. These extracts were tested at the University of Edinburgh for their toxic effects against a panel of human cancer cell lines. Cell lines are groups of cells derived from living organisms that can keep growing and dividing in the lab. Scientists use them to learn about how cells work, test new medicines, and figure out how diseases function.

    We also assessed the effects of the sponge extracts on non-cancerous cells to see how toxic they were to normal cells. This is particularly interesting since some anticancer treatments induce DNA damage indiscriminately, killing both normal and cancer cells. Cancer patients on those treatments may suffer from adverse side effects including nausea, anaemia, fatigue, hair loss and infections.

    We found that one particular extract had the ability to selectively kill liver cancer cells at very low doses while displaying very low toxicity towards normal cells.

    We also observed how the extract did this: N. exigua constituents activated various proteins that led to the breakdown of the liver cancer cells through a programmed cell death process called apoptosis. This process helps maintain the overall health and balance of an organism by getting rid of unwanted or potentially harmful cells. When apoptosis malfunctions, these harmful cells can continue to grow and divide, potentially forming a tumour.

    Biodiscovery process

    To validate the extract’s potential use, the next step will be to isolate and identify the natural products accountable for its anticancer activity using advanced analytical techniques such as chromatography and mass spectrometry.

    This will set the stage for future evaluations in suitable experimental animal models to probe its efficacy and toxicity. If this step is successful, the tests proceed with humans in clinical trials.

    Scientific data about the pharmacological properties of Mauritian marine organisms could create opportunities to promote marine biodiscovery research and sustainable use of the ocean resources in Mauritius. It will also add another reason to conserve the country’s marine biodiversity.

    The marine sponge Neopetrosia exigua is highly distributed in the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) and Pacific Ocean. However, its population density has significantly declined over the last few years in Mauritius due to a continued rise in ocean temperatures.The Conversation

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

    Main photo by Rafi Amar on Flickr.

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    The relevance of applying an intersectional approach to advocate for women’s empowerment and gender equality in Mauritius

    0

     

    Sheistah Bundhoo-Deenoo, Lecturer in Management at Charles Telfair Education

     

    The article examines the intersectional inequalities from a gender dimension in the Mauritian context. Intersectional inequality gained recognition through the work of black feminist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. Intersecting inequalities is very much prominent in  Mauritius given the colonial and patriarchal history of the country. However, it has not been noted that this aspect was neglected in social activism of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) lobbying for human rights. As such, the article sheds light on the dimensions of intersectional inequalities relevant to the Mauritian context and focuses on the impact it has on the female population.

     

    The Relevance of Intersectionality in Mauritius

    The impacts of intersectional inequalities are multi-fold, severe, and directly challenge core human rights. The term “intersectional inequality” gained recognition through the work of the well-known black feminist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw in 1989 through her work on “Demarginalising the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.”  Despite the relevance and significance of this term amidst the social sciences sector and the social policy discipline, this dimension has not been well conceptualised in the work and lobbying activities of CSOs in Mauritius. Nonetheless, it remains of utmost value to expand this notion and incorporate an intersectional axe in advocacy given that the colonial and patriarchal history of Mauritius is embedded with aspects of sexism and gender, social class as well as ethnic and income inequalities.

    Madhoo and Nath (2013) elaborate on the fact that factors such as limited access to education, housing, and healthcare, alongside the unequal distribution of income and persistent poverty can impede the development of human capabilities and the equitable distribution of benefits from economic growth in Mauritius. They also highlight the ethnic dimension of Mauritius by acknowledging that the country stands out as an example of ethnic cooperation in contrast to certain Sub-Saharan African nations where ethnic divisions have often led to power struggles and resource conflicts. The authors further acknowledge that the segmented Mauritian society, characterised by its ethnic divisions, has proven to be conducive to both economic growth and the enhancement of welfare.

    Regarding the gender dimension, Ramtohul (2012) argues that Mauritian women carry a multitude of diverse and sometimes conflicting identities primarily rooted in factors such as class, religion, caste, and ethnicity which therefore lead to the social division of women into distinct interest groups and identity clusters. Ramtohul (2012) further explores the intersectional identity of Mauritian women by making the link with religion and its impact on feminism. The author puts forward that religion provides an underlying ideology of male authority over women and the endorsement of women roles within the family as caregivers, wives, and mothers. Consequently, these religious contexts offer limited space for organisations to challenge patriarchal authority, transcend intersecting identities, and engage in feminist activism that extends beyond the inclusion of women in education and domestic skills training.

    Intersectionality versus Diversity

    When applying intersectional lenses in advocacy, it is crucial not to confuse “intersectionality” with “diversity”. The Poverty and Inequality Commission puts forward that “intersectionality is not a synonym for diversity”. Indeed, while diversity initiatives primarily focus on increasing representation and inclusion across various dimensions of human differences, such as race, gender, age, and sexual orientation, intersectionality rather posits that social identities and systems of oppression are interconnected and mutually constitutive towards the reinforcement of hierarchical categories. Therefore, diversity initiatives aim to promote fair representation and subsequently create awareness while intersectionality provided a nuanced framework backed up by concepts of power and privilege to understand existing social inequalities.

    Intersecting social differences demonstrate the dynamics of power and complex inequalities. This phenomenon is not solely applicable to CSOs. Ken and Helmuth (2021) analysed 379 articles on intersectional topics having a nominal mention of mutual constitution where the most common elements remained the gender, race and class dimensions. Interestingly, in their analysis, the authors point out that there also seems to be a non-reciprocal understanding of the definition of “race”, “class” and “gender” by several authors. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has taken steps to establish its own interpretation of the concept, thereby facilitating its practical application in the context of monitoring equality and human rights. A measurement framework has even been provided to measure intersectionality in the education sector, health services, workplace, political and civic participation and so on. In accordance with their perspective, intersectionality is employed as an analytical instrument to elucidate the various specific manifestations of harm, abuse, discrimination, and disadvantage encountered by individuals when multiple social identity categories intersect with one another. This tool can be beneficial when designing and implementing human rights and equality advocacy strategies. For instance, the Framework provides six domains (Education, Work, Living Standards, Health, Justice, Personal Security and Participation) which are measured using three core and two supplementary indicators each. This measure allows an organisation to track practical intersectional implications to present the distinct forms of harm, abuse, discrimination, and disadvantage experienced by people when multiple categories of social identities interact with each other.

    Intersectionality and Gender Diversity

    Research has shown that intersectional inequalities have a direct influence on how we understand violence against women, children’s exposure to intimate partner violence, gender-based violence politics, mental health, educational performance and achievement as well as on global gender inequality. The various consequences of intersectional inequalities provide solid ground for adopting intersectional lenses when advocating for the elimination of social issues and uplift human rights. It is essential to have an intersectional foundation discourse which reflects the multiple identities and experiences of people. It has been acknowledged that intersecting inequalities can be cultural, spatial, economic and political. Besides, various indicators have been used to measure economic inequalities  including income or wealth (also termed as vertical inequalities) and social discrimination (also termed as horizontal inequalities). Nonetheless, it has been proved that gender inequalities cut across all the forms of inequality which therefore positions women and girls from poor and socially marginalised groups as the most disadvantaged persons in  society.

    The World Bank Report (2018) reveals that the primary driver of escalating income inequality is derived from household income generated through labor. This phenomenon can be ascribed to two principal intersectional factors: firstly, demographic aspects encompassing the composition, amalgamation, and attributes of households, along with the extent to which individuals marry within their own income group; and secondly, labor market dynamics including participation in the workforce and disparities in individual labor earnings. The  report  also shows that Mauritian females encounter significant disadvantages to access the labor market even though there has been consistent increase in women’s participation in the labor force over the past decade. The gender disparity remains alarmingly high, and this is explained by differences in age, educational level, marital status, household demographic structure. Moreover, women are also paid less (on average of 30% less) than men per hour worked in the private sector.

    Intersectionality, Gender and Mauritius

    Dabee’s thesis (2018) titled “An Intersectional Feminist Perspective” highlights that intersectionality enables an understanding of Collin’s (1990) ‘matrix of domination’ faced by Mauritian women.  This thesis argues that Mauritian women negotiate withing the site of power-struggle within both the private and public spheres given the colonial and patriarchal history of Mauritius.

    Being a pluri-ethnic society with an ethnic majority, the Mauritian intersectional context can thus be studied from a feminist post-colonial theory. From a post-colonial feminist perspective, Tyagi (2014)  puts emphasis on the fact that women “suffers from ‘double colonisation’ as she simultaneously experiences the oppression of colonialism and patriarchy”.  Tyagi (2014) depicts nationalism as being pivotal in fostering the advancement of women’s emancipation movements in the African region and at the same time makes a clear distinction between feminism and nationalism characterising the two concepts as being ‘complex’ and adversarial dynamic due to the inherent discordance between their respective social and political objectives.

    Indeed, looking back at the history of women’s movement and empowerment in Mauritius, it is noted that women’s activism peaked in the 1970’s with a focus on challenging patriarchal systems through efforts directed at amending the Civil Code and the Immigration and Deportation Act. Ramtohul (2012) argues that the progression of the women’s movement in Mauritius unfolded gradually, with women initially congregating within religiously oriented organizations primarily dedicated to education and social welfare initiatives.

    Social stratification in Mauritius is deeply rooted in the history of slavery, indentured laborers and traders who seek to accommodate themselves according to a color-caste-class rules. Till date, the caste system is still embedded in contemporary Mauritian society, for instance, Hindus exhibit divisions based on factors such as the caste system, language, region of origin, and religious affiliation. Similarly, the Creoles perceive divisions among themselves based on aspects of skin color (light and dark) and language preference (French and Creole speakers).

    This intersecting stratification is more profoundly felt by Mauritian women, and it is noted that there is not only a lack of research in this field but also, it has been left out in the advocacy discourse for female empowerment and/or gender equality. It is insufficient to only respond to the call  for applying gender perspective in the public domain andadopting gender mainstreaming or more inclusive policies. Intersectional inequalities should feature across gender-based projects and initiatives aimed at advancing equality in order to address the core issue which has been omitted from the discourse.

    The National Strategy and Action Plan 2020-2024 is a powerful strategic document aimed at addressing inequalities with a ‘new approach to address gender based violence (GBV) in a holistic manner.’. As such, a study on Religious Practices that Impede the Rights of Women and Girls had been planned for 2021 and ‘women with disabilities, the elderly, different forms of gendered-identities and individuals from lower socioeconomic groups’ have been recognised as “context specific risks” as often these groups are considered as homogenous. These factors indicate an understanding of intersectional inequalities (though the concept is not mentioned in the action plan) but there is a gap between policy intent and implementation.

    The topic of women empowerment, gender equality and feminist movements in Mauritius remain subjective to the implementing agency (be it CSOs, private and public sectors and research institutions). For instance, the National Social Inclusion Foundation, which is the main institution receiving and allocating public funds to NGOs, identifies ‘family protection including gender-based violence’ as one of its priority areas. On the other hand, private sectors tend to be more aligned with Sustainable Development 5 Gender Equality as a foundation for gender equality and women empowerment projects.

    It has been noted that the conceptualisation of “womens empowerment” and “gender equality” in Mauritius remain subjective to individuals as well as institutions despite its widespread usage in debates, discourses, or projects. Women do not constitute a homogeneous group, nor are their needs. As a matter of fact, Dabee’s thesis (2018)underpins the extent to which ‘women’s interests’ in the Mauritian context has been ‘framed in response to women lived experiences, socio-economic and political status at particular points in time’. Therefore, it remains a challenge to capture the essence of women empowerment and gender equality in contemporary Mauritius due to the diversity of perspectives and experiences; yet it is of crucial importance to identify a unified advocacy approach to address women intersectional issues.

    Communities and Partnerships

    The way forward to tackle intersectional inequalities in Mauritius can be embedded in the advocacy actions of CSOs. The European Network of National Human Rights Institutions stresses  the power of community. By collaborating and leveraging their respective skills, diverse CSOs can enhance their capacity to bring about meaningful transformation. Partnerships are widely encouraged to ensure a participatory dialogue and to harmonise data available and collected by CSOs. As such, addressing intersectional inequalities automatically become a prime focus when human right defenders collaborate on their initiatives and advocacy strategies.

    The best practice set by Kaleidoscope Trust under the Equality & Justice Alliance (EJA) programme for Mauritius proves that collaborative work can yield insightful results. Under the said programme, the Kolektif Drwa Imin (KDI), which constitute of several non-governmental partners was formed to advocate for change in laws and policies towards a sustainable future that ensures a life free of violence, discrimination for women, children, and LGBT+ persons. As a matter of fact, several frameworks have been provided to guide CSOs to mainstream intersectional inequality in their advocacy actions. For instance, Freedom House working on defending human rights provides a toolkit for “advocacy in restricted spaces” and recommends  developing an advocacy guide as a starting point, followed by assessing ‘alternative entry points’, ‘engage unlikely allies’, ‘use of evidence-based approach’, and ‘creating cultural resistance’ all with an underlying intersectional axe.

    The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) signed by the Mauritian state in 2005 is very relevant when addressing women’s intersectional inequalities. In contrast to other existing instruments addressing women’s human rights, the Maputo Protocol outlines a broad and substantial array of human rights pertaining to women, encompassing the entirety of civil and political domains, economic considerations, social and cultural aspects, and environmental rights. Thus, the representation of the intersectional experiences of women is reflected through the protocol and is further reinforced by the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR) which represents a coalition of 80+ civil society organisations from 33 countries, working towards ensuring the articulation of the protocol. Interestingly one of SOAWR core values include “diversity and inclusivity”, accentuating on the fact that women’s intersectional identities intensify discrimination.

    Conclusion and the way forward

    In a nutshell, based on feminist and post-colonial theories, research and contextual analysis, it can be recommended that applying an intersectional lens in advocacy can yield sustainable results which at the same time addresses core and subsidiary human rights and social issues. In order to pave the way forward, there should be partnerships fostered with multiple stakeholders; collaborative work which includes a plan, strategy, collective goal setting; as well as measurement of impact from an intersectional perspective.

    Main photo by Audrew McMurtrie on Pexels

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Who will build the Great Blue Wall?  

    0

     

    Dennis Hardy, James R. Mancham Peace and Diplomacy Research Institute, University of Seychelles

     

    In June 2023, government ministers of ten African countries met for three days in the capital of the western Indian Ocean state of Comoros. The event concluded with ‘The Moroni Declaration’. It contended that African coastal states are on the frontline of impacts of biodiversity loss, climate change and coastal zone degradation. Ministers called for the establishment of a connected network of regenerative and inclusive coastal seascapes, forming what is known as the Great Blue Wall. And they also looked towards increased public and private investment in sustainable coastal and marine value chains, responsible fisheries, green infrastructure, ecotourism, renewable energies, and blue innovation [IUCN 29 June 2023].

    At the heart of these discussions was the inventive idea of the Great Blue Wall, envisaging a network of interconnected ocean conservation measures along the East African seaboard and between island states in the region. The proposed network crosses maritime boundaries and calls for the cooperation and involvement of constituent nations. Therein lies the paradox. On the one hand, it transcends different jurisdictions, responding in kind to the seamless nature of the ocean itself; one can hardly gainsay such a vision. On the other hand, in crossing boundaries, it relies on the willingness of individual jurisdictions to act in the interests of the larger entity.

    The Great Blue Wall is a multilateral concept and, while the logic behind it is sound enough, the evidence of countries working together for the sake of the planet does not inspire confidence. From the mixed record to date of multilateral organisations confronting regional challenges, to the failure of all nations to combine effectively to counter global climate change, there are good reasons to view the prospects of success in this new venture with, at the very least, a degree of caution.

    Ticking all the boxes 

    The idea of the Great Blue Wall is rightly claimed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is intended to give a boost to ocean conservation across a region that is rich in natural resources, but which is also beset with challenges. Countries within the network include those along the East African coast – Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa – together with the islands of Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (through France), Comoros and Seychelles. An estimated 70 million people in coastal communities could benefit directly from the scheme, which extends over two million hectares of shared ocean space. Through concerted and sustainable policies, there is the potential to restore and conserve the sea in this region, with gains that can include the capture of 100 million tons of carbon dioxide [IUCN 14 October 2021].

    First mooted at the IUCN World Congress in Marseille from 3 to 10 September 2021, the Great Blue Wall initiative was widely welcomed as a positive contribution to ocean conservation and a regenerative blue economy.  James Michel, former President of Seychelles described it as a ”a unique approach for the region, Africa and the world subsequently” [IUCN Story ‘Global launch of the Great Blue Wall 10 November 2021]. From Marseille, the proposal was taken later in that same year to Glasgow, where, on the margins of COP26, it was officially launched as an ocean-based priority.  Flavien Joubert, Seychelles Minister for Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment,  highlighted the practicality of the Great Blue Wall:   “The beauty of the Great Blue Wall initiative is that it is not a far-fetched chimera but an actionable ambition because we already have building blocks in place. It is a matter of accelerating and scaling up these national actions and catalysing investment towards this grand initiative.In addition to the ten member countries and the IUCN, international support came from the African Union (AU), the Unted Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Economic Forum (WEF). In terms of a good press and strong endorsement from member countries and beyond, the Great Blue Wall could hardly have received a better start.

    To demonstrate how progress could be made, very shortly after the COP26,  a conference was held in Tanzania, at which the concept was explained in terms of a network of ‘seascapes’, each contributing in its own way to the value of the whole [Brief for Consultants, IUCN]. An example was offered, in the form of the “Towards a Blue Future in the Tanga-Pemba Seascape”, a project funded by the Irish Government. The idea is to create a vibrant blue economy in the north-east of Tanzania, between the mainland settlement of Tanga and the island of Pemba. Economic benefits could be expected for local communities as well as measures for different aspects of ocean conservation. The Tanga-Pemba scheme illustrates the potential development of the Great Blue Wall. It does not require a grand scheme to be put in place but can be advanced, one project at a time, according to a common plan.

    Twelve months after its launch in Glasgow, on 09 November 2022, an event to mark progress with the Great Blue Wall, was held at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt. Although credit was rightly given to the IUCN for formulating the idea, it soon evolved as an African contribution to worldwide efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change. At the ninth African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development 2023, in February 2023 in Niger, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, emphasised the pivotal position of Africa as the locus for the Great Blue Wall, and the largest potential beneficiary. At a time, he said, when the continent was suffering from crises like instability across the Sahel and the repercussions of a cut in wheat supplies from eastern Europe, a unified approach to the blue economy was essential as a source of relief.

    But where are the building blocks?

    The Great Blue Wall is a multilateral concept. It ticks all the ocean conservation boxes and is wholly comprised of African membership. What is more, it could provide a model for collaboration in other parts of the world too. Or could it? For all its undoubted strengths as an idea, it contains one inherent flaw. It is not clear how it will be implemented. Who will take the lead? What is the level of dedication needed to bring it to fruition? Is it anything more than a wish list? There has been no shortage of words. But that is not enough on its own. Something more tangible is needed to build a wall.

    In principle, the obvious approach is to match like with like. The Great Blue Wall is a multilateral concept so why not complement it with a collaborative approach to delivery? There are many strands to globalisation, and multilateralism has evolved as a response in kind; world problems require more than the uncoordinated actions of individual nations. At the apex of the multilateral pyramid is the United Nations but is it anything more than symbolic? Now beyond the halfway mark, the laudable initiative to promote sustainable development across the world is failing on most if not all counts. One of the problems is that an organisation like the UN can only move as fast as its diverse membership allows. Everyone will sign up to utopian ideals but what if major players like China and India fail to implement key measures? To add to its structural weakness, the UN has also been criticised for its inherent inefficiencies – an organisation that is virtually ungovernable [The Guardian, 7 September 2017].

    Similarly, the situation is replicated in its various agencies. To take just three examples, the World Health Organization (WHO) is too often mired in controversy; the International Seabed Authority (ISA) is not trusted to deliver dispassionate decisions; and the International Maritime Organization (IMA) is generally viewed as being behind the industry in its recommendations. They are all very good at arranging worldwide conferences with large numbers of delegates who eagerly await the announcement of the next major event. None of which necessarily brings about much-needed change on the ground.

    In contrast with the endless talking, the Great Blue Wall needs skilled and dedicated builders. Practical people led by an enthusiastic visionary, who will be trusted to act in the best interests of all the member nations. There are certainly individuals who could fit this bill, perhaps a retired president from within the region or a secondment from an international organisation? Ocean champions like Enric Sala or the philanthropist, Dona Bertarelli, can really make things happen. But one thing is certain – unless there is outstanding leadership and a designated budget, the project will simply drift. The world cannot afford to let another opportunity slip through its fingers. It is time to be pragmatic – to adopt a unilateral approach: choose the right person, end further delay, and get on with building the wall. And, when that is achieved, follow the example with other worthwhile projects. If there’s a will, it really can be done. The time for mere wishing is over.

    Main photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Inequality: troubling trends and why economic growth in Africa is key to reducing global disparities

    0

     

    Imraan Valodia, Pro Vice-Chancellor: Climate, Sustainability and Inequality and Director: Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

     

    Inequality remains on the top of the policy priority list for most countries in the world. Branko Milanovic, a leading scholar on inequality, recently delivered a lecture titled “Recent changes in the global income distribution and their political implications” at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Imraan Valodia asked him to unpack some of the main points of his lecture.

     

    Imraan Valodia: There is a lot of discussion across the world about rising income inequality. What your lecture makes clear is that the evidence is more nuanced. Income inequality between countries has actually been falling since the 2000s, but income inequality within countries is rising. Can you elaborate on this, and outline the main factors driving these patterns of income inequality, both between and within countries?

    Branko Milanovic: Yes, your summary is correct. Global inequality is the sum of inequality between countries, weighted by countries’ population, and inequality within countries. Since the 1990s, countries in Asia with relatively large populations, like China, India and Vietnam, have had high growth rates per capita – much higher than the developed countries. As a result of this, the population-weighted between-country inequality has been falling.

    On the other hand, inequalities within countries have been getting much worse. These are now higher than they were 30 years ago in all major countries: the US, China, Russia, most of continental Europe, even South Africa. Only Latin America, which already was very unequal, has not followed this trend of increase of within-national inequalities.

    Most of the time people don’t distinguish between these different inequalities which, as I said, have moved differently. And that creates confusion.

    Imraan Valodia: You have highlighted the importance of understanding historical trends in income inequality, and how political factors shape inequality outcomes over time. What are these major historical trends, and why is it important to understand them?

    Branko Milanovic: I think that the main historical trends are always reflected in income distributions or inequalities, whether we are talking of inequalities within countries or more broadly, at the global level.

    At the global level, I identify three major eras.

    The time of colonialism and sharp class conflict within countries during most of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. During that time both between-country and within-country inequalities increased. One can view between-country inequality in this case as something that made colonialism possible, or a reflection of colonialism. Both as a cause and effect.

    Then during the second half of the 20th century, global inequality was extremely high and the world was divided into three “worlds”: the First (rich countries), the Second (socialist counties), and the Third (Asia, Africa and Latin America).

    That changed with the rise of China, and Asia more broadly (the third era). Global inequality was reduced, but at the “cost” of rising within-national inequalities. What I mean is that globalisation might have strongly helped the growth of Asian countries, but also contributed to the increase of within-national inequalities. This is our current era. But it too might come to an end.

    Imraan Valodia: Your research shows that, across the world, since the global financial crisis in 2008, the share of global income accruing to the wealthiest has not been rising. This is a change from the period before the financial crisis, as shown in your famous elephant curve, when the share of the top earners did increase sharply. But you make the point that in recent years, in money terms, the wealthiest are still increasing their incomes rapidly. Can you elaborate and explain what the difference between the relative and absolute trends means, and why it’s significant?

    Branko Milanovic: Since the global financial crisis, income of the global top 1% has not returned to the growth rates they enjoyed before the crisis. This can be intuitively best understood through the example of the US, which contributes to almost one-half of the people in the global top 1%. Incomes at the very top of the US pyramid dropped during the crisis, slowly began to recover in the period after 2010, but reached their pre-crisis level only in 2018.

    This means that the average growth rate over these ten years was close to zero. The second highest US percentile recovered to the pre-crisis level a bit earlier, by 2015, but the decennial average growth rate was only 1.5%. This is much below the growth rates of the top before the financial crisis.

    These are relative numbers. In absolute terms, however, these very small percentage increases did translate into large absolute gains simply because the gaps in the initial-period income distribution are huge. If your income is US$1 million, even a 1% increase will mean $10,000, which is somebody else’s total annual income.

    Imraan Valodia: You make the point that with the current slowdown in economic growth in China, the future pattern of global income inequality may be shaped by income trends in Africa. Why is Africa important for the future trajectory of income across the globe, and why are you pessimistic about the potential for Africa to emulate the trends that we have seen in recent years in China and India?

    Branko Milanovic: China is no longer the engine of global inequality reduction that it was in the past simply because it is no longer a poor, but rather an upper-middle income country.

    If global inequality is to continue on its downward trend we need new “Chinas”. One of them is obviously India, which is currently the most populous country in the world. If India continues to grow, we can expect global inequality to continue to fall.

    But the others are populous African countries. This is why African economic growth is central to what happens in this century to both global poverty and global inequality.

    I am pessimistic on whether African countries would be able to replicate China and India, simply based on the past: very few African countries were able to maintain high economic growth rates for a relatively long time (say, at least five or ten years in a row).

    But it is an observation based on the past. We may be wrong in extrapolating it to the future.

    Still the key issue of the importance of African economic growth remains. Without it, global inequality will not be reduced, and might easily increase – which would bring us to the fourth global era (to allude to my answer in the beginning of our conversation).The Conversation

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

    Main photo by Ahmed akacha on Pexels.

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    How well is Mauritius protecting its environment: A comparative perspective across tourist-based countries

    0

     

    Jaime de Melo, Emeritus Professor, University of Geneva

     

    For small island economies like Mauritius, their environment and ecosystem are particularly fragile as trade and tourism, the engines of growth, exert pressure on the environment. This note presents an array of indicators of the health of the environment for Mauritius and 7 ‘comparable’ tourist-oriented small islands. Mauritius’ non-environmental performance over the period 1970-2015 is among the best, a reflection of the ‘Mauritian miracle’. However, for most performance indicators, Mauritius underperforms relative to comparators. This lacklustre performance also shows up when an overall composite indicator of environmental performance is plotted against per capita GDP. Mauritius also has a persistently high carbon-intensive energy mix.

     

    In a span of fifty years, Mauritius is at the door of the high-income status according to the World Bank criterion, even reaching it briefly in 2019. Key to this success was the combination of effective policies and adaptation to changing external events cemented by close collaboration between the government, the private sector, unions, and civil society. In the case of Mauritius, economic appraisals have often touted a “Mauritian miracle” reflected in its high growth rates as reflected by the standard United Nations System of National Accounts that ignores depreciation of natural capital.

    It is widely accepted that the health of the environment and its ecosystems are particularly fragile in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) because of population pressures, biodiversity loss, and climate-change related pressures to which they are more vulnerable. SIDS depend strongly on international trade. If not accompanied by policies that protect their environment, international trade can then result in the depletion of their natural resources. Tellingly, Pierre Poivre, the precursor of environmental economics was the first to warn about the environmental impact of the ongoing deforestation he was observing in Mauritius in the 18th. Century [1].

    Usually, countries take better care of their environment as they become richer, both because citizens put greater weight on environmental quality and because governments have more resources at their disposal. This note contrasts Mauritius’ trajectories of economic and environmental indicators with those of ‘comparable’ tourist-dependent small island economies.  Mauritius’ performance is evaluated by comparing the trajectories of several indicators of environmental performance across 7 island economies comparable to Mauritius: Barbados, Cape Verde, Comoros, Dominican Republic, Haïti, Jamaica, Seychelles, Trinidad & Tobago (see population and population densities for each country in the notes to Figure 1). This note will start with a review of the overall non-environmental performance and then turn to indicators of environmental performance.  The upshot is that Mauritius has done relatively well on the standard indicators of performance like GDP growth and human development, but less well on the environmental front.

    Superior GDP Growth and Human Development

    Figure 1 displays the trajectories of two non-environmental indicators for each country over 1970-2015: the Human Development Index Purged of the income per capita component (HDIP) on the vertical axis against Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (logarithmic scale) on the horizontal axis [2]. A relatively flat trajectory shows greater improvement along the material (GNI per capital) dimension. A relatively steep trajectory shows greater improvement along the social HDIP) dimension. Since the time dimension is the same for all countries (except Comoros and Seychelles), long trajectories indicate a sustained performance.

    Figure 1: Small Islands Trajectories; Human Development Index (HDIP) and GNI

    Source: OWD for the figure. World Bank for population and population density. Below the link to change the sample https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/hihd-without-gdp-vs-gdp-per-capita?time=1970..2005&country=CPV~COM~DOM~HTI~JAM~MUS~SYC~TTO~BRB
    Notes: The purged HDIP index is a geometric weight of its 2 components, health and education. In brackets, population in 1’000 followed by population density per sq km. Data starts in 1980 for Comoros and Seychelles.
    Barbados [281;637]; Cape Verde [593;147]; Comoros [837;439]; Dominican Republic [11,200;231 ]; Haïti [11,585;417]; Jamaica [2800;257]; Mauritius [1,300;637]; Seychelles[107;237];Trinidad & Tobago [1500,298]

    The group exhibits large differences in performance on both social and economic dimensions. In most cases, strong (weak) performance is observed along both dimensions (HDIP and GNI per capita). Jamaica, Haiti and Comoros display weak performance on social and growth indicators whereas Cape Verde, Jamaica, Mauritius and Seychelles display strong performance along both dimensions reflected in the long fairly regular upward-sloping trajectories. Barbados has a strong performance on the social dimension but no growth.

    The irregular trajectories for some countries illustrate the importance of shocks, external and or internal, and accompanying policies. The irregular trajectories also remind us of the limits imposed by country idiosyncrasies on any comparative assessment, especially in a small group.  Together, Figure 1 and Table 1 show that Mauritius has fared relatively well within this group. Both indicators showed steady improvements over the period justifying a ‘superior’ label.

    Table 1: Social (HDIP) and growth (GNI per capita) indicators: Mauritius and comparators

    Source: Author from OWD and WDI. Notes: Period 1970-2015 except A/ Starting date: 1980. Figure 1 displays the trajectories for HDIP and GNIpc Col 1. Country code Col. 2: Population (1’000) Col 3: Population density (2020). Population per sqkm. Col. 4, col. 5: (HDIP) Human Development Index purged of per capita GDP: geometric weight of health and education. Range [0-1] Col.6: Change in HDI over relevant period. A positive value indicates an improvement Col. 7, col. 8: Gross national income per capita in 2011 PPP Col.9: GNI pc. growth rate over period

    Lacklustre environmental Performance

    Turning to the environment, table 2 presents a dashboard of sub-indexes. These are categorized to capture three aspects of environmental challenges facing Mauritius and other island economies: (i) physical vulnerability to climate change; (ii) current health of the environment: (iii) state of preparedness to meet environmental challenges. Each sub-index is an average of components. Part I captures exogenous aspects of environmental performance. Parts II and III capture the impact of environmental policies.  Because these indices are ordinal rather than cardinal, rankings are provided along with index values.

    Table 2: Environmental Dashboard for small islands

    Source: Melo (2023, table 1). Data for 2018. Source: Melo (2023, table 1). Data for 2018. Notes: Odd number columns give index values and even number columns the associated ranking Indices: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (RLI): Health of the ecosystem (HLT)= Air, water quality, heavy metal particulates, water management. Ecosystem vitality (ECO): geometric average of BDH, ECS, FHS, APE, AGR, WWT. (See Wendling et al. 2020) for abbreviations. Scoring. Except for PVCCI, a high score translates into a high rank (‘better performance’). For example, on Ecosystem Services (ECS in col. 11), Seychelles ranks 19th. and Mauritius ranks 43rd. (out of 180 countries). For PVCCI, a high score translates into a low rank (Jamaica is more vulnerable than Barbados). Indicators are multi-dimensional, sub-indices entering geometrically so indicator values vary little across countries. Number of countries: 180-193 for most indices. Casella and Melo (2023) describe the choice of indices taken from Wendling et al. (2020). EPSI. Environmental Performance index for Small Islands (EPISI) displayed in figure 2. It is obtained from the EPI by taking out the climate change component (i.e., CO2 emissions) and rescaling the weights in the ECO component. EPISI= HLT0.5ECO0.5

    Mauritius is the second most vulnerable country to climate change in the group. Because they have lost endemic species, though they still have non-extinct endemic species, Mauritius and Seychelles are at the greatest risk of species extinction (low rank on the RLI). Indeed, Mauritius ranks last on the RLI index. Mauritius has a high rank in the group on the health of the ecosystem (HLT) but has a low rank on ecosystem vitality (ECO) because of low scores on index values for fisheries (FSH), for ecosystem services (ECS), and risk of species extinction (RLI).

    Figure 2 plots the values of an Environmental Performance Index for Small Islands (EPISI) which is a geometric average of the HLT and ECO sub-indices. The EPISI omits Green House Gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that since benefits of abatement accrue beyond the borders of small countries, they are not directly affecting the quality of the environment for tourism (but see figure 3 on progress at reducing GHG emissions.)  As shown in Casella and Melo (2023), Mauritius performs below the fitted curve for the group of comparator tourist islands. Compared with the other tourist-oriented island economies, at per capita income level, Mauritius’ performance is ‘lacklustre’, below Seychelles (‘superior’), Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

    Mauritius is the second most vulnerable country to climate change in the group. Because they have lost endemic species, though they still have non-extinct endemic species, Mauritius and Seychelles are at the greatest risk of species extinction (low rank on the RLI). Indeed, Mauritius ranks last on the RLI index. Mauritius has a high rank in the group on the health of the ecosystem (HLT) but has a low rank on ecosystem vitality (ECO) because of low scores on index values for fisheries (FSH), for ecosystem services (ECS), and risk of species extinction (RLI).

    Figure 2 plots the values of an Environmental Performance Index for Small Islands (EPISI) which is a geometric average of the HLT and ECO sub-indices. The EPISI omits Green House Gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that since benefits of abatement accrue beyond the borders of small countries, they are not directly affecting the quality of the environment for tourism (but see figure 3 on progress at reducing GHG emissions.)  As shown in Casella and Melo (2023), Mauritius performs below the fitted curve for the group of comparator tourist islands. Compared with the other tourist-oriented island economies, at per capita income level, Mauritius’ performance is ‘lacklustre’, below Seychelles (‘superior’), Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

    Source: Melo (2023, figure 1b)
    Notes: A higher score indicates a better overall environmental performance. Fit is over group of 8 island economies

    Decarbonization yet to start

    Decarbonization is the reduction (or removal) of CO2 output into the atmosphere. It is the start on the path towards the declared zero net CO2 emissions objective by all countries. Relative decoupling occurs when CO2 emissions grow less rapidly than GDP. Absolute decoupling occurs when CO2 emissions stagnate or display negative growth.  Relative decoupling is an indicator of progress towards zero net emissions.  Over the period 1995-2015– the period with CO2 emissions data available for a large number of countries—no country in the group of islands has started to decarbonize. Only Cabo Verde and Dominican Republic each had an episode of relative decoupling.

    Over the period 1995-2005, Mauritius had the highest rate of carbonization next to Trinidad and Tobago (TTO) with emissions growing twice as fast as GDP. The situation improved over the next decade, yet CO2 emissions were still growing faster than GDP. Relative decoupling has not started for Mauritius over 1995-2015.

    Figure 3: Decadal growth rates: CO2e emissions vs. GD for tourist-dependent islands

    Source: Source: Melo (3023, table 2).
    Notes: Values represent growth over the decade. Vertical and horizontal dashed lines indicate simple average growth rates for GDP and CO2 emissions, respectively, over the sample. Intersection of the two lines below (above) the 45° line indicates that average emissions are growing slower (i.e., decoupling) or faster (i.e., carbonizing) than average GDP. On average, SIDS are carbonizing over both periods. ISO country codes in Table 1.

    To summarize, Mauritius’ CO2 emissions per capita target in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015 was already off-track in 2010. Per capita emissions have continued to grow every year, reaching 5.3Tco2e per capita in 2018 – 38% above the 2030 target. And Mauritius’ carbon intensity of electricity was 601g CO2e per KW in 2021. This is 24 percent higher than the average for the upper-middle- income group of countries to which Mauritius belongs and it is 71 percent above the average for the high-income group Mauritius is aspiring to rejoin [3].

    Moving forward

    Figure 2 shows that Mauritius performs below average on the protection of its environment for its per capita income (a pattern also observed but not shown here when the comparison is extended to all countries). Mauritius is a carbon-intensity electricity country is also significantly above the average of the World Bank’s Upper-middle income category.

    This lacklustre performance also extends when evaluation is extended to commitments on other components of the environment like biodiversity. During the negotiations at the Aichi Convention on Biological Diversity, Mauritius pledged to protect 17% of terrestrial and inland water as well as 10% of coastal habitat (Target 11) by 2025. As of 2019, according to Mauritius’ National Voluntary Review (VNR) on SDG targets, only 4.725 % terrestrial area and 0.003% of marine and coastal area are protected.

    But progress is on the way. In 2020, as part of its commitments to reach its SDG7 energy target, Mauritius submitted a compact for the next ten years stipulating a list of specific objectives for 2030. The compact is available from the Mauritius Renewable Energy Agency (MARENA). The detailed list includes: 60% renewable in the energy mix; increase efficiency of electricity delivery by 10%; phasing out of coal for power generation by 2030. The document also lists specific accompanying measures (e.g., an increase in battery energy storage, a levy on energy inefficient appliances, labelling, etc…) to help meet these objectives.

    This recent shift to presenting objectives progress in terms of easily quantifiable metrics is commendable. However, the government should produce regular updates. For example, for transition towards a renewable electricity mix, updates should be produced on a biennial basis until 2030. Also, different transition scenarios towards renewable energy should be carried out as done recently by Selosse et al. (2018) for Reunion’s “renewable energy revolution” [4].

    These updates should be disseminated widely to the public (and discussed in parliament). Only through a greater visibility in the public discourse will the environment figure more prominently in the country’s objectives and slippages of the past be avoided.

    [1] Describing Poivre’s instructions in his Règlement Economique of 1769 to prevent deforestation, Brouard (1963), cited in Techera (2019), wrote “‘… hasten to control it [deforestation] with a good policy … examine the existing regulations on this subject, study the exact condition of the forests, exploit and utilise them in the most economical way possible, and only allow people to cut them if they ensure their conservation. This will be the object of a provisional regulation after which … a general forest policy and law will be set for all the forests of the two islands… “text in brackets added.

    [2] To ease the interpretation of figure 1, table 1 details the starting and end values for both indicators.

    [3] Source: Our World in Data. Income group categories from the World Bank

    [4] The bottom-up optimization TIMES model they use to evaluate alternative pathways to achieve a 100 percent transition from coal to renewables by 2030 through a combination of biomass, hydro, wind, and solar would be easily adaptable to Mauritius.

    Bibliography

    Casella, Henri, and Jaime de Melo (2023) “Taking Seriously the Move to Green Growth: Screening Dimensions of Environmental Progress in African SIDS”, Charles Telfair Centre. https://charlestelfaircentre.com/taking-seriously-the-move-to-green-growth-screening-dimensions-of-environmental-progress-in-african-sids/

    MARENA (2021)  SDG7: Energy Compact of Mauritius

    Melo, Jaime de (2023) “Environmentally-friendly trade policies to shape Mauritius’ future” FERDI WP#315, https://ferdi.fr/en/publications/environmentally-friendly-trade-policies-to-shape-mauritius-future.

    Melo, Jaime de and Jean-Marc Solleder (2023) “The Landscape of CO2 emissions across Africa”, The World Economy, 46(11).

    Selosse, S., S. Garabedian, O. Ricci, N. Maïzi (2020) “The Renewable energy revolution of Reunion Island”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol 89, 99-105

    Wendling, Z. A., Emerson, J. W., de Sherbinin, A., Esty, D. C., et al. (2020). 2020 Environmental Performance Index Report and Technical appendix: New Haven, CT: Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy. https://epi.yale.edu/

    Main photo by IPSNews on Flickr.

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).

    Environmental disasters and climate change force people to cross borders, but they’re not recognised as refugees – they should be

    0

     

    Cristiano d’Orsi, Lecturer and Senior Research Fellow at the South African Research Chair in International Law (SARCIL), University of Johannesburg

     

    As our planet warms, we’re experiencing more frequent and severe weather events, rising sea levels, prolonged droughts and altered ecosystems. These environmental shifts directly affect people’s livelihoods by destroying crops and depleting water sources. They make once-inhabitable areas uninhabitable.

    In response to these challenges, many individuals and communities have no choice but to abandon their homes and seek safety elsewhere. The vast majority will remain within their country borders – it’s predicted that by 2050 up to 86 million Africans will migrate within their own countries due to weather shocks. But some will cross borders, triggering the need for international protection.

    The challenge, however, is that people crossing borders due to weather don’t qualify as refugees under key laws and conventions. This displacement could be due to sudden-onset events, such as volcanic eruptions or flooding, which may pose an immediate threat to life. Or it could be due to slow-onset events, such as desertification or rising sea levels, which may eventually make life untenable.

    It’s hard to say exactly how many people this affects because it’s a complex topic. However, we do know that cross-border migration affects tens of thousands of people every year. For instance drought conditions in 2022, exacerbated by political insecurity and instability, forced at least 180,000 refugees from Somalia and South Sudan into parts of Kenya and Ethiopia.

    It’s predicted that the number of people displaced due to weather shifts or disasters will reach as many as 1.2 million people by 2050. This figure will depend on how changes in the climate unfold.

    Without refugee status, those forced to move across borders due to weather events may not receive valuable support. Depending on the individual country, support can include the right to live and work, access to health or education services and the right to move freely.

    I study the legal protection of asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and internally displaced people in Africa. I recommend that international laws and conventions be amended to explicitly include people forced by weather shocks to move across borders. They need full refugee protection.

    Lack of protection

    A variety of laws ensure refugees’ basic human rights are protected. The core of “refugee law” is constituted by the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention – a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who a refugee is – and its 1967 New York Protocol. Refugees in Africa are also protected by the 1969 Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention.

    These laws provide them with a safe haven, access to fair asylum procedures and protection from discrimination. The domestic laws of many African countries incorporate these international principles. This offers legal safeguards and support to refugees, helping them seek safety and rebuild their lives.

    As I mention in a recent study, the challenge with the Refugee Convention is that it rules out people who are “victims of famine or natural disaster” unless they also have a “well‑founded fear of persecution”. For instance, people fleeing Ethiopia between 1983 and 1985 due to drought would be considered refugees because they also feared persecution by the Mengistu Haile Mariam-led military dictatorship (Derg) which was deliberately restricting food supplies in parts of the country.

    The United Nations agency mandated to aid and protect refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), follows the definition provided by the Refugee Convention. As does the Global Compact on Refugees, a UN-driven blueprint for governments, international organisations and other stakeholders.

    This means that people forcibly displaced only by environmental disasters are not entitled to refugee status, although deserving of temporary protection.

    Within Africa, there’s a debate about whether the 1969 Organisation for the African Unity (OAU) Refugee Convention originally included people displaced by natural disasters in its definition of “refugees”. Some practitioners believe it does, though this stance appears limited to human-made disasters.

    When it comes to domestic laws, as of now, there’s no African country that recognises people fleeing natural disasters as a “refugee”.

    There is, however, some movement. People fleeing environmental disasters are increasingly being recognised by international organisations.

    For instance, UNHCR recognises them as a vulnerable category of persons to be protected. It has raised awareness of climate change as a driver of displacement and the need to address protection for people displaced in the context of disasters. UNHCR is also working on addressing legal gaps related to cross-border disaster-displacement.

    But there’s still more to be done.

    What needs to change

    People displaced by adverse weather developments should be given more than temporary protection. This will require changes to international regulations and national laws.

    For instance, a protocol regarding climate-induced displacement should be added to the 1969 OAU convention so that displaced people who cross international borders are legally covered.The Conversation

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

    Main photo by Jeff Ackley on Unsplash.

    Charles Telfair Centre is an independent nonpartisan not for profit organisation and does not take specific positions. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed in our publications are solely those of the author(s).