People's Stories Livelihood

Privatisation 'wave' hurts poor as pandemic heightens risks
by ActionAid, Oakland Institute, Global Witness
July 14, 2020
Privatisation 'wave' hurts poor as pandemic heightens risks, by Rina Chandran, for the Thomson Reuters Foundation
A push to privatise land and other resources in countries from Ukraine to Papua New Guinea is hurting indigenous people and the rural poor, while increasing the risks linked to climate change, researchers at a U.S.-based think tank said on Tuesday.
From a rise in deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, a push for land titles in Sri Lanka, to the end of a ban on the sale of farmland in Ukraine, there has been an “unprecedented wave” of privatisation worldwide since 2018, a report published by the Oakland Institute said.
As countries bolster economies battered by the coronavirus pandemic, more resources may be privatised, hurting rural communities who often do not have formal titles, it said.
“The fact that most land, especially in the Global South, is public land or land held under customary tenure systems, is seen as an obstacle to economic growth,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at the Oakland Institute and lead author.
“This push to privatise land threatens people and the planet at a time when we need urgent action to curb carbon emissions and protect livelihoods,” he said.
Globally, indigenous and local communities own more than half of all land under customary rights, but only have secure legal rights to 10%, according to Washington D.C.-based advocacy group Rights and Resources Initiative.
In Papua New Guinea, where nearly all land is under customary tenure of indigenous people, the government is opening up millions of hectares for palm oil, mining and timber operations, Mousseau noted.
In Brazil, deforestation has accelerated under President Jair Bolsonaro, with government data showing that it increased by more than a third from August 2018 to July 2019 from the same period a year earlier.
While Ukraine in March ended a near two-decade moratorium on the sale of land in order to qualify for an $8 billion loan package from the International Monetary Fund.
More such actions are likely as governments try to boost recoveries from the pandemic, Mousseau said, which could lead to evictions of rural communities and environmental degradation.
“Governments around the world are under pressure to conduct ‘pro-business’ reforms so they can be eligible for financial relief,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Indigenous communities are effective stewards of natural resources. Rather than erase local governance, governments must instead build systems that incorporate a diversity of ownership and tenure systems,” he said.
Conflicts over land have flared during the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns exacerbating issues such as weak tenure rights and poor forest governance.
But it is possible to protect the rights of rural and indigenous communities over land and other resources while boosting economic growth, said Michael Taylor, director of the International Land Coalition, a global network.
“Instead of privatising customary land, it means supporting diverse economic opportunities,” he said. “Such an approach is more complex, takes longer, and may not immediately yield tax dollars for the government.”
“However, it is likely to be more sustainable, more equitable, more climate-friendly, and more resilient to future shocks,” he added.
13 July 2020
Smallholder farmers must benefit from Covid-19 bailouts says ActionAid
As the Covid-19 crisis pushes millions more people into hunger, ActionAid warns that farmers must be recognised and supported as frontline workers to ensure supplies of affordable and healthy food in the months ahead.
Since the start of the pandemic, ActionAid’s emergency response teams have been distributing millions of food packages to vulnerable communities and helping smallholders get their produce to markets.
But small family farmers have received little help from Covid-19 bailouts to date, and are struggling to grow and sell their crops, contributing to rising food prices and growing hunger.
Ruchi Tripathi, head of resilient livelihoods and climate justice at ActionAid, says:
“Rising global hunger shows the Covid-19 health and economic crisis is fast escalating into a food crisis. The pandemic is pushing millions more people into poverty and hunger.
“Farmers must be recognised as frontline workers. The immediate threat of coronavirus and the climate crisis, must act as a wakeup call that no lasting global recovery can be achieved without investment in women-led sustainable local food production to transform our farming systems.”
Small family farms provide as much as 80% of the food consumed in Africa and Asia, yet they are being overlooked in Covid-19 responses. Women farmers are struggling with the triple whammy of lost earnings, soaring levels of gender-based violence during lockdowns, and increased unpaid care work, such as looking after sick relatives.
ActionAid warns that many farmers may be forced to sell their tools, land, and assets unless government includes them in social protection schemes and other support such as access to appropriate seeds, markets and finance.
The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, shows that more than 690 million people are suffering from hunger, with the Covid-19 crisis expected to make up to 132 million more severely food insecure this year.
“Hunger has already been on the rise for the past five years due to climate change, putting the global goal to end hunger by 2030 shamefully off track,” says Ruchi Tripathi.
“It is urgent for Covid-19 recovery plans to prioritise investment in sustainable, climate-resilient local food systems to ensure that our population can survive even greater challenges as the climate crisis intensifies.”
ActionAid is calling for: Governments to procure Covid19 food relief and school meal supplies from local producers to help sustain their livelihoods. Minimum income support for farmers and farm workers. Support for programmes that connect smallholder farmers to consumers, through direct local sales, door to door sales, local markets with physical distancing measures, independent shops, public procurement and food apps that support local producers.
Replenishment of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP), an innovative fund to support low-income countries’ agriculture introduced in the wake of the 2008 food crisis, to avoid another global hunger emergency. Debt cancellation and emergency liquidity support for developing countries so that they can expand social protection, health care and other essential services to rural communities and other groups hard-hit by Covid-19.
Longer-term Covid-19 recovery plans to include significant investment in creating green livelihoods in sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture.
July 2020
Defending Tomorrow: The climate crisis and threats against land and environmental defenders, a new report from Global Witness
For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against climate breakdown. Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work.
The climate crisis is arguably the greatest global and existential threat we face. As it escalates, it serves to exacerbate many of the other serious problems in our world today – from economic inequality to racial injustice and the spread of zoonotic diseases.
For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against the causes and impacts of climate breakdown. Time after time, they have challenged those companies operating recklessly, rampaging unhampered through forests, skies, wetlands, oceans and biodiversity hotspots.
Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play and the dangers they increasingly face, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work.
Our annual report into the killings of land and environmental defenders in 2019 shows the highest number yet have been murdered in a single year. 212 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2019 – an average of more than four people a week.
Key findings
Shockingly, over half of all reported killings last year occurred in two countries: Colombia and the Philippines. Both have seen a rise in attacks against land and environmental defenders since 2018, with killings in Colombia in 2019 peaking at 64 activists – the highest Global Witness has ever recorded in the country. Reports show that the murder of community and social leaders has risen dramatically in Colombia in recent years.
The United Nations Human Rights Office points to several reasons for this growing tide of violence, such as the challenges of implementing the 2016 Peace Agreement including land reform and programmes meant to encourage farmers to swap illegal crops for legal harvests. The resulting shifts in local power dynamics is driving increased violence.
The Philippines has become even deadlier for activists since 2018, having been consistently named as one of the worst places in Asia for attacks against defenders.
But things got even worse in 2019 with the number of murders rising to 43. The relentless vilification of defenders by the government and widespread impunity for their attackers may well be driving the increase.
Over two-thirds of killings took place in Latin America, which has consistently ranked the worst-affected region since Global Witness began to publish data in 2012. In 2019, the Amazon region alone saw 33 deaths. Almost 90% of the killings in Brazil were in the Amazon. In Honduras, killings rose from four in 2018 to 14 last year, making it the most dangerous country per capita in 2019.
Mining was the deadliest sector, with 50 defenders killed in 2019. Agribusiness continues to wreak destruction, with 34 defenders killed, and 85% of such attacks recorded in Asia. And logging was the sector with the highest increase in killings globally since 2018, with 85% more attacks recorded against defenders opposing the industry and 24 defenders killed in 2019.
Europe remains the least-affected region, with two people killed in 2019, both working to stop illegal logging in Romania. Indigenous peoples continue to be at a disproportionate risk of reprisals, with 40% of victims belonging to indigenous communities. Between 2015 and 2019 over a third of all fatal attacks have targeted indigenous people – even though indigenous communities make up only 5% of the world’s population.
Over 1 in 10 defenders killed were women. Often the backbone of their community, women tend to take on more of the responsibility of looking after children and elderly relatives, on top of trying to earn a living and work as activists.
Women who act and speak out may also face gender-specific threats, including sexual violence. If other members of their household are defenders, they can become targeted too.
On average, four defenders have been killed every week since December 2015 – the month the Paris Climate agreement was signed, amid hopes of a new era of climate progress. Countless more are silenced by violent attacks, arrests, death threats, sexual violence or lawsuits.
Agribusiness and oil, gas and mining have been the biggest industrial drivers of this conflict – and, as they cut down our forests and pump carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, they are also the sectors pushing us further into runaway climate change.
Land and environmental defenders play a vital role in protecting these climate-critical forests and ecosystems.
Recent research shows that indigenous and local communities around the world are managing forests that contain carbon equivalent to 33 times our current annual emissions – although even this staggering figure is likely to be an underestimate.
At the same time, research is clearly showing that indigenous-managed lands have lower deforestation rates and better conservation outcomes than protection zones that exclude indigenous peoples.
The dark side of these facts is that indigenous communities also suffer a highly disproportionate number of the attacks on defenders. Insecure land tenure, irresponsible business practices and government policies that prioritise extractive economies at the cost of human rights are putting these people, and their land, at risk.
Addressing these issues should be at the forefront of the world’s efforts to tackle climate change. But as things stand, we are in danger of missing an enormous opportunity.
The question for all of us is whether we want to build a better, greener future for our planet and its people. The answer lies in following the leadership, the campaigns and solutions that land and environmental defenders have been honing for generations.
We must listen to the demands of land and environmental defenders and amplify them. Inspired by their bravery and leadership, we must push those in power – businesses, financiers and governments – to tackle the root causes of the problem, support and safeguard defenders and create regulations that ensure projects and operations are carried out with proper due diligence, transparency and free prior and informed consent.
Large-scale agriculture, mining and logging are still driving the majority of attacks against environmental defenders across the world.
But it does not have to be this way - we’re exposing these companies with irresponsible practices, and those that finance them and urging them to take action to ensure their operations do not harm our environment and those who stand up to protect it.


The immediate introduction of a Temporary Basic Income for the world’s poorest people
by Achim Steiner
United Nations Development Programme
July 2020
The immediate introduction of a Temporary Basic Income for the world’s poorest people could slow the current surge in COVID-19 cases by enabling nearly three billion people to stay at home, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released today.
The report, Temporary Basic Income: Protecting Poor and Vulnerable People in Developing Countries estimates that it would cost from $199 billion per month to provide a time-bound, guaranteed basic income to the 2.7 billion people living below or just above the poverty line in 132 developing countries.
The report concludes that the measure is feasible and urgently needed, with the pandemic now spreading at a rate of more than 1.5 million new cases per week, particularly in developing countries, where seven out of ten workers make a living through informal markets and cannot earn money if they are at home.
Many of the huge numbers of people not covered by social insurance programmes are informal workers, low-waged, women and young people, refugees and migrants, and people with disabilities – and they are the ones hardest hit by this crisis.
UNDP has carried out assessments on the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 in more than 60 countries in the past few months and the evidence shows that workers who are not covered by social protection cannot stay at home without an income.
A Temporary Basic Income would give them the means to buy food and pay for health and education expenses. It is also financially within reach: a six-month Temporary Basic Income, for example, would require just 12 percent of the total financial response to COVID-19 expected in 2020, or the equivalent of one-third of what developing countries owe in external debt payments in 2020.
“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented social and economic measures. Introducing a Temporary Basic Income for the world’s poorest people has emerged as one option. This might have seemed impossible just a few months ago,” said UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner.
“Bailouts and recovery plans cannot only focus on big markets and big business. A Temporary Basic Income might enable governments to give people in lockdown a financial lifeline, inject cash back into local economies to help keep small businesses afloat, and slow the devastating spread of COVID-19,” he said.
A Temporary Basic Income is not a silver bullet solution to the economic hardship this pandemic has brought, however. Protecting jobs, expanding support to micro, small and medium enterprises, and using digital solutions to identify and access people who are excluded, are all measures that countries can take.
One way for countries to pay for a Temporary Basic Income would be to repurpose the funds they would use this year to service their debt. Developing and emerging economies will spend $3.1 trillion in debt repayment this year, according to official data.
A comprehensive debt standstill for all developing countries, as called for by the UN Secretary-General, would allow countries to temporarily repurpose these funds into emergency measures to combat the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
Several countries have already taken steps to introduce Temporary Basic Incomes. The government of Togo has distributed over $19.5 million in monthly financial aid to over 12 percent of the population through its cash transfer programme, mostly to women who work in the informal sector. Spain recently approved a monthly budget of €250 million to top up the incomes of 850,000 vulnerable families and 2.3 million individuals up to a minimum threshold.
COVID-19 has exacerbated existing global and national inequalities and has created new disparities that are hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest. With up to 100 million more people being pushed into extreme poverty in 2020, 1.4 billion children affected by school closures, and record-level unemployment and loss of livelihoods, UNDP predicts that global human development is on course to decline this year for the first time since the concept was introduced.
UNDP is the socio-economic lead for the UN system on COVID-19 recovery and is implementing social and economic recovery strategies in countries across the world.
July 23, 2020
Temporary Basic Income (TBI) - UNDP Report
As the rate of new COVID-19 cases accelerates across the developing world, it exposes the potentially devastating costs of job losses and income reversals. Unconditional emergency cash transfers can mitigate the worst immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis on poor and near-poor households that do not currently have access to social assistance or insurance protection. This paper provides estimates for a Temporary Basic Income (TBI), a minimum guaranteed income above the poverty line, for vulnerable people in 132 developing countries.
A TBI amounts to between 0.27 and 0.63 per cent of their combined GDPs, depending on the policy choice: i. top-ups on existing average incomes in each country up to a vulnerability threshold; ii. lump-sum transfers that are sensitive to cross-country differences in the median standard of living; or, iii. lump-sum transfers that are uniform regardless of the country where people live.
A temporary basic income is within reach and can inform a larger conversation about how to build comprehensive social protection systems that make the poor and near-poor more resilient to economic downturns in the future.

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