Disasters cost billions in agricultural losses, poor farmers bear brunt – UN report
“The agriculture sectors – which includes crop and livestock production as well as forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – face many risks, such as climate and market volatility, pests and diseases, extreme weather events, and an ever-increasing number of protracted crises and conflicts,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In collaboration with FAO, Viet Nam launched the report, 2017: The impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security, Thursday at a regional conference in Hanoi.
The report points out that between 2005 and 2015 natural disasters cost the agricultural sectors of developing country economies a staggering $96 billion in damaged or lost crop and livestock production, $48 billion of which occurred in Asia.
Drought, which has battered farmers globally, was one of the leading culprits.
FAO documented that 83 per cent of all drought-caused economic losses were absorbed by agriculture – to the tune of $29 billion.
“This has become the ‘new normal,’ and the impact of climate change will further exacerbate these threats and challenges,” Mr. da Silva warned.
The report also details how multiple other threats are taking a heavy toll on food production, food security, and people’s livelihoods.
“Disaster risk reduction and management must, therefore, become an integral part of modern agriculture,” stressed the FAO chief.
Disasters, natural and otherwise
While floods and storms had the largest impacts in Asia, their agricultural systems were also heavily affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and extreme temperatures.
For both Africa as well as for Latin America and the Caribbean, drought was the costliest disaster, resulting in crop and livestock losses of $10.7 and $13 billion, respectively, between 2005 and 2015.
African farmers notched up more than $6 billion in losses in that period from crop pests and animal diseases.
small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and floods. Their economic losses from disasters jumped from $8.8 billion for the period 2000-2007 to over $14 billion between 2008-2015, the report shows.
The report also includes ‘food chain crises’ sparked by animal diseases, like Rift Valley Fever and also addressed conflict.
A first case study done on the impacts of conflict in Syria found that the overall financial cost of damage and loss in that country’s agriculture sector over the 2011-2016 period was at least $16 billion.
All told, nearly a quarter of all financial losses caused by natural disasters between 2005 and 2015 were borne by the agricultural sector, according to FAO’s study.
Given the increasing scale and intensity of threats to agriculture, it is critical to develop adequate disaster and crisis governance structures, which must be grounded on data and evidence detailing the ways that disasters affect farmers and food producers, the report says.
“Building a more holistic and ambitious disaster-resilience framework for agriculture is crucial to ensuring sustainable development, which is a cornerstone for peace and the basis for adaptation to climate change,” concluded Mr. da Silva.
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Major reports on biodiversity, ecosystem services to be launched at UN-backed meeting in Medellin
“Literally, all Governments around the world should be looking at [the reports] to see what are we saying,” Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) told UN News ahead of the body’s sixth plenary session which will run in Colombia’s second largest city from 18-24 March.
“That will be the basis for informed decisions,” said the IPBES Chair.
Established in 2012, IPBES is the global science-policy platform tasked with providing the best-available evidence to inform better decisions affecting nature — by everyone from Governments and industry to non-governmental organization (NGOs) and the general public — towards strengthening services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
The IPBES assessment reports are intended to provide decision makers with comprehensive, credible, evidence-based policy options to help reverse the unsustainable use of irreplaceable natural resources.
Prepared by more than 550 leading international experts and peer-reviewed by experts from both government and academia, the reports took three years to develop at a cost of more than $6 million. IPBES will present the reports to representatives of its 128 member States for approval at the upcoming plenary.
The reports to be presented comprise four regional assessments of biodiversity in Africa; the Americas; Asia and the Pacific; and Europe and Central Asia; as well as an assessment of land degradation and restoration, both regionally and globally.
Each regional assessment will evaluate the status of biodiversity in its respective region and subregions, identifying progress, drivers of change and threats, as well as the policy-relevant issues affecting them.
In addition, the regional assessments will present lessons learned and progress (or lack thereof) on the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Biodiversity Targets, agreed by States parties to the UN Convention on Biodiversity at their meeting in Aichi, Japan.
The assessment on land degradation and restoration will identify threats to land-based ecosystems, offering evidence from around the world and a range of best-available solutions to reduce the environmental, social and economic risks and impacts of land degradation.
The findings of the five IPBES reports will also be key inputs to a new comprehensive IPBES global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, due for release in 2019. IPBES has previously issued a large-scale thematic assessment on global and regional pollination.
IPBES meets annually at a date and venue decided at the prior session. The Platform is placed under the auspices of four United Nations entities — the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) — and administered by UNEP.
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UN launches Environmental Rights Initiative
“Those who struggle to protect planet and people should be celebrated as heroes , but the sad fact is that many are paying a heavy price with their safety and sometimes their lives,” Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said Tuesday, launching the UN Environmental Rights Initiative in Geneva.
“It’s our duty to stand on the side of those who are on the right side of history. It means standing for the most fundamental and universal of human rights,” he added.
By helping people to understand how to defend their rights, and by assisting governments to safeguard environmental rights, UNEP maintains that the initiative will bring environmental protection nearer to the people.
Although, since the 1970s, environmental rights have grown more rapidly than any other human right and are enshrined in over 100 constitutions, in January the international non-governmental organization (NGO) Global Witness documented that almost four environmental defenders are being killed weekly – with the true total likely far higher.
Many more are harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands. Moreover, around 40-50 per cent of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2017 came from indigenous and local communities.
“Violations of environmental rights have a profound impact on a wide variety of human rights, including the rights to life, self-determination, food, water, health, sanitation, housing, cultural, civil and political rights,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, recounting recent visits to Papua New Guinea and Fiji where he was made keenly aware of the impact of extractive industries and climate change on individual rights.
“It is crucial that those most affected are able to meaningfully participate in decisions relating to land and the environment,” he stressed.
Two disturbing counter-trends are underway. The first is the escalating intimidation and murder of environmental defenders, and the second is some countries’ attempts to limit NGO activities.
“States have a responsibility to prevent and punish rights abuses committed by private corporations within their territory, and businesses have an obligation to avoid infringing on the human rights of others,” Mr. Zeid continued. “I hope this new Initiative will be able to encourage States and businesses to comply with these obligations.”
Leo Heileman, UNEP director for the office in Latin America and the Caribbean called it “an opportunity to give environmental rights the same legal standing as human rights at the global level.”
Among other things, the initiative will help governments strengthen institutional capacities to develop and implement policy and legal frameworks protecting environmental rights, and assist businesses to better understand their environmental rights obligations and provide guidance on how to advance beyond a compliance culture.
“I am proposing to the UN Human Rights Council that the UN should join countries in recognizing a global right to a healthy environment,” said John Knox Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment . “The time has come to recognize this formal interdependence of human rights and the environment, not only at national level but at the UN level too.”
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