It’s Time for Results as Sudan Enters Second Year of NDC Partnership

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is most vulnerable to climate variability and change with drought and flooding being the biggest climate challenges. This dated photo show displaced children fetching water following 2008 floods in Sudan. Courtesy: UN Photo/Tim McKulka

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is most vulnerable to climate variability and change with drought and flooding being the biggest climate challenges. This dated photo show displaced children fetching water following 2008 floods in Sudan. Courtesy: UN Photo/Tim McKulka

By Reem Abbas
KHARTOUM, Nov 24 2020 – Earlier this year, when heavy rains caused massive flooding in Sudan, a three-month state of emergency was declared in September. The floods which began in July, were the worst the country experienced in the last three decades and affected some 830,000 people, including 125,000 refugees and internally displaced people.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Nile had reached a level of over 17 metres, bursting it banks and leaving thousands “homeless and in desperate need of humanitarian support”.

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, is most vulnerable to climate variability and change.

“Drought and flooding are the biggest climate challenges in Sudan and we have seen this recently,” Rehab Abdelmajeed Osman, a researcher and the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) coordinator at Sudan’s Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources (HCENR), told IPS, referring to the recent floods.

NDCs outline the plans by countries to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. As agreed by the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries review these plans every 5 years.

Support to submit enhanced NDCs

With support from the Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP), an initiative of the NDC Partnership, Sudan is one of 63 countries that have been given financial and technical assistance to submit enhanced NDCs and fast track their implementation. CAEP has brought together member countries and 40 partners that include International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the World Resources Institute, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the U.N and the Nature Conservancy. In Sudan, the support is being implemented through the HCENR.

Abdelmajeed Osman and Areeg Gafaar, the coordinator for the NDC Partnership, are rushing to finish the plan by next year.

Sudan’s NDCs prioritise mitigation and adaptation as strategies. 

“By looking at mitigation, we look at the problems we have in Sudan through this lens. Sudan is facing increasing floods and droughts and this will affect food security and also in some places, rainfall is decreasing and people have to adapt accordingly,” Gafaar told IPS.

Food security also remains among the key issues of concern for people. An assessment after the floods noted that more than 2 million hectares of farmland had been affected

And in August, the U.N. World Food Programme noted that 1.4 million people in Khartoum alone “are experiencing high levels of food insecurity through September due to economic decline, inflation and food price hikes exacerbated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic”. 

“In agriculture, we have to adapt to climate vulnerabilities and in this regard, our adaptation projects are critical and they provide services such as improved seeds and working on improving our micro-forecast systems,” added Gafaar.

The environment takes a backseat to conflict

The challenges Sudan faces to develop and implement the NDCs are not only linked to external factors, such as access to funding, but also to internal ones, which include the chaotic structure in which Sudan’s environmental entities operate, as well as conflict.

“Conflict is the biggest threat to the environment because it is a result of, as well as a source of, competition over scarce resources. Peace makes sure that conflict over resources is lessened,” said Abdelmajeed Osman.

In April 2019, Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir, who had ruled for 30 years, was ousted from power after four months of sustained protests. A war between the transitional government and rebel groups from the western region of Darfur and the southern states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, ended in October after an historic peace agreement between the transitional government and armed groups was signed.

Over the past 15 years, Sudan developed two national communications as part of its obligations to the climate convention and now a third communication is underway.

“The communication is just a communication but not a strategy. Sudan had a national action plan and it was developed as per the commitments to the convention to help countries pursue a climate friendly system. But due to political issues, Sudan couldn’t access many funding pools and as a result, a few pilot projects were implemented, but they were not mainstreamed,” said Gafaar.

Reasons for this include Sudan’s inclusion on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list for 27 years (Sudan was removed from the list this month by United States President Donald Trump) and the U.S. having imposed sanctions on the country since 1998.

Another reason is the chaotic department structure created by Sudan’s previous government.

“There were many different institutions such as the [HCENR] where we work, but also a national council for the environment as well as the national council on deforestation and the new government created a law that merged those councils and put us under the Council of Ministers,” said Abdelmajeed Osman.

Under Al-Bashir’s government, the same entities found themselves under the former presidency as well the short-lived Ministry for the Environment. The ministry essentially had the same departments as the HCENR, which resulted in a duplication of efforts and a lack of coordination that led to antagonism towards the HCENR. 

A new structure in place

“Now because we are under the Council of Minister, our budget will increase and the decisions are made quicker because of the direct channel,” said Abdelmajeed Osman.

Sudan’s constitutional declaration for the transitional period prioritises environment protection as a mandate of the government, stating the government will “work on maintaining a clean environment and biodiversity in the country and protecting and developing it in a manner that guarantees the future of generations”.

This commitment from the top-tiers of the government is essential as the NDCs are described by the higher council as a government paper that requires implementation by it.

Gafaar, who has years of experience working in this field, told IPS that some of the mitigation options that the government can focus on include renewable energy, forest management and waste management.

“This process gave us access to partners. We will have access to mitigation options by an international expert company and we will work on power and nature with IRENA,” said Gafaar.

Does WFP Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Nov 24 2020 – On 10 December, representatives for the World Food Programme (WFP) will in Norway receive the Nobel Peace Prize at the Oslo City Hall. This is taking place while the COVID-19 pandemic is causing lock-downs and suffering all over world, limiting agricultural production and disrupting supply chains.

The World Food Programme focuses on hunger and food security. It supports 100 million people in approximately 90 countries. Two-thirds of WFP´s activities are carried out in conflict zones, where the organization provides food assistance to people who otherwise would have been fatally affected by undernutrition and starvation.

It is in particular the world´s poorest households that suffer from acute hunger, and their situation is worsening. In 2019, 135 million people were categorized as ”critically food-insecure” and the numbers are constantly increasing. This is not only due to the ravages of COVID-19, the current food crisis is furthermore aggravated by weather extremes, economic shocks, sociopolitical crises, lack of employment, increasing food prices, as well an endemic lack of adequate nutrition and food diversity, safe water, sanitation and health care. In several areas, protracted armed conflicts are adding to the suffering. An estimated 79 million people are currently displaced – 44 million internally, while 20 million refugees are under UNHCR´s mandate. Being deprived of their livelihoods a vast amount of these desolate individuals are constantly threatened by starvation.

Considering the above, you could assume that most people reckon that WFP´s Nobel Prize is well-deserved. Nevertheless, the World Food Programme and its mandate have often been questioned. Some have even demanded the organisation´s demise, referring to a general debate about the net effectiveness of aid. Among other arguments it has been stated that some nations have become overly reliant on foreign aid and it thus has to cease. Politicians, journalists and even some aid workers have pointed out that food support to starving people may worsen an already catastrophic situation by prolonging conflicts, creating and stimulating corruption, strengthening predatory regimes, supporting warring fractions and fostering black markets. Furthermore, it has been indicated that an apparent inefficiency of huge, UN supported and global organizations like WFP, motivates their defunding.

During assignments as consultant to WFP´s Headquarters in Rome I have listened to people telling me about their experiences from being confronted with thousands of starving people, especially undernourished, sick and dying children. This while they were putting their own lives at risk, being surrounded by murderous armies, bandits and militias. I was also told about their discomfort at being forced to cooperate with politicians who used starving people as pawns in their cynical power games. When asked if they believed in WFP´s mandate and right to exist, they answered that if you have been confronted with the suffering of severely undernourished fellow human beings, you could not even imagine a justification for not trying to help them. “To witness someone dying due to undernourishment is horrible. How can your conscience endure the knowledge that you did nothing about it, while realizing that you could have saved the one who died.”

The people I talked to were well aware that the organisation they served had its shortcomings, but they were also eager to amend them. They told me they felt privileged for having been provided with a possibility to ease the suffering of others. While passing through the foyer of WFP, I could not avoid a glance at a wall covered with bronze plaques paying homage to WFP staff who had been killed in the field while trying to help starving people. Last time I saw the wall, sometime in 2018, there were 98 names.

Like any other UN organisation, WFP is not a self-sufficient entity, it depends on voluntary donations, principally from governments. Accordingly, WFP consists of its member states and criticizing WFP means that you actually need to question your own government´s engagement in the running of the organization. Amending WFP´s flaws does not mean cutting off its financial support, it would be far better if more people became informed about the organization´s impressive achievements and tried to rectify assumed deficiencies by working through their own representatives within WFP.

Why should we terminate an experienced, global organization, which keeps track on human suffering around the world, while trying to amend it? Why allow suffering, when it can be mitigated? We all depend on each other. The suffering of others is a warning to you and me, as Hillel stated in the quote above – if I chose not to help someone, how can I then demand help from others when I find myself in peril?

Many of us live within an absurd paradise of reckless consumption, depleting the resources of our planet, destroying the very prerequisites for our existence and well-being. Just the packaging of everything we consume threatens to asphyxiate the Earth. The cost of supporting WFP and it efforts to amend world hunger is a minuscule fraction of what is spent on luxurious, unnecessary and even harmful luxury production – not talking about the arms industry. To accord a Nobel Peace Prize to an organization like WFP constitutes an acknowledgment of the responsibility we all have for each other.

In times when every inhabitant on Planet Earth is overshadowed by COVID-19, a Nobel Peace Prize to WFP reminds us how precious we are to each other. When people are confronted with a disease that so far cannot be controlled by drugs and efficient health care it makes us realize the importance of ignoring petty chauvinism, narcissism, power games and egoism. It is high time to increase international cooperation and realizing that the Earth is an enclosed, biological sphere, where we for our own survival have to join forces to save both our planet and humanity. No nation can single-handedly combat a pandemic, neither can starvation and pollution be amended without international organisations.

So let us rejoice in WFP´s Peace Prize and hope the world´s wealthy nations realize the urgency of supporting the organisation and replenish its funds. Their contributions have so far been insufficient for covering the identified needs of food-insecure populations and WFP´s funding gap is currently USD 4.1 billion and steadily increasing.

Source: Global Network Against Food Crisis (2020) 2020 Global Report on Food Crises: Joint analysis for better decisions. Rome: WFP

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

 


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