#2030WhatAreUDoing? SDG ambassador for the 2018 Lavazza Calendar

“These Goals seem very academic and complicated, so we tried to humanize the data and statistics so everyone could see themselves in the story. […] In my role as cultural provocateur, with this project I have tried to ignite a respectful debate about moral compass, and the importance of good leadership. Because here there’s no negativity, no blame is laid, there’s just energy and passion: and so it’s a positive revolution. These are 17 extraordinary stories, which could be a source of inspiration and become the force leading a community of responsible global citizens, driven by compassion and a deep respect for service.” – Platon

Buddy Icon 1Earlier this year, I had the privilege of being invited as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals ambassadors to feature in the 2018 edition of the Lavazza Calendar, representing SDG8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth due to my role in the Solutions Initiatives team of SDSN Youth. The Calendar’s theme is “2030, What Are You Doing?“, and tries to convey the message that the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development ultimately rests on the skills and vision of real human beings, coming from all countries and sectors of society.

From the Lavazza family to the incredible Platon, all the way to ASviS and my fellow ambassadors, I would like to congratulate everyone who has been involved in the launch of this project. Communicating the vision of the SDGs through the faces of those who are contributing to their implementation is an extremely powerful idea, and can strengthen civil society engagement across the full spectrum of the challenges addressed by the 2030 Agenda.

PS: if you haven’t already, I urge you to check out (and consider supporting) The People’s Portfolio, Platon’s wonderful initiative to use visual language in support of dignity and human rights for all. 

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Field Dispatch from COP23

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A few days ago, I joined the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn. This was the shortest trip among my three COP participations, but on 9 November I had the opportunity to moderate a great side-event co-hosted by SDSN Youth on how public and private actors can invest more effectively in youth-led innovation on climate and energy. It was incredibly interesting to join many young innovators and high-level experts from the Green Climate Fund, the Climate Markets and Investments Association, the SDG Action Campaign and the Government of Canada to explore the gaps in innovation systems that prevent brilliant projects from reaching their optimal scale. Huge thanks to all involved, and vinaka vakalevu to Fiji for bringing their call for global climate action to Germany! You can read the summary of the side-event on SDSN Youth’s website (here).

On a side note, I also had the fortuitous privilege of sitting next to Dënesųłiné Chief François Paulette on my flight to Bonn. To discuss the struggle of the First Nation peoples of Canada against tar sands with him was nothing short of incredible. As it usually happens during COPs, it’s the encounters you have, often with stories so radically diverse from yours, that leave a mark.

In particular, meeting Chief Paulette made me appreciate once again the UNFCCC process and its ability to create an inclusive forum for all voices to be heard and respected. It might not be ideal when negotiations stall (and this year there is indeed much to be unhappy about), but the ever-increasing role played at COPs by non-state and civil society actors is encouraging. It confirms that the climate change regime constitutes the first successful attempt at creating a truly universal movement to protect our global public goods.

  • For an analysis of the key outcomes of COP23, read this report from Carbon Brief.

P.S. I am happy to announce that this blog was recently identified by Feedspot, a popular content reader, as one of the Top 100 Environmental Law blogs on the internet. You can find the full list here.

 

Book Review of ‘Governing Through Goals’

The latest issue of Transnational Environmental Law (Volume 6 – Issue 3 – November 2017) features my Book Review of ‘Governing Through Goals: Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation‘, an interesting volume edited by Norichika Kanie (Senior Research Fellow at UNU-IAS) and Frank Biermann (Professor of Global Sustainability Governance at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development) which analyses the challenges and opportunities of goal-setting as a governance strategy.

The book, published by MIT Press, is available here.

You can read the review, written together with Prof. Riccardo Pavoni (Professor of International Law at the University of Siena), here.

 

Environmental determinants of health: how can global health governance contribute?

The following opinion piece has appeared, in two different forms, on Sense & Sustainability and in ASviS‘s newsletter.

According to a 2012 study by the World Health Organization (WHO), environmental factors are directly or indirectly responsible for almost 13 million deaths worldwide, or about twenty-three percent of all deaths. Overall, more than one third of lower respiratory infections, over half of diarrhoeal diseases, forty-two percent of malaria infections, one fifth of all cancers and a significant proportion of chronic obtrusive respiratory diseases and cardiovascular diseases are attributable to environmental determinants of health, including household and outdoor pollution, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, proliferation of disease vectors, and exposure to chemicals.

To put it simply, environmental conditions, and more specifically the changing ecological dynamics which characterize the Anthropocene, help to determine whether people are healthy, and how long they live. By undermining the benefits that people obtain from healthy ecosystems, environmental degradation effectively acts as both a cause and a multiplier of health threats, and as the level of global environmental change dangerously approaches the threshold of the planetary boundaries which regulate the resilience of the Earth system, the deterioration of human well-being will likely increase and be characterized by surprise and uncertainty.

Environmental determinants represent an insidious threat to public health for three different reasons. First, because they are driven by unsustainable patterns of resource consumption, technological development and population growth which operate almost entirely outside of the boundaries of the health sector, and thus are particularly difficult for traditional health actors  to engage with. Secondly, because in the past environmental degradation has coincided with a stark improvement in health outcomes, a condition that has described as “mortgaging the health of future generations”. Finally, because environmental impacts on health are usually uneven across life course, geography and gender, and they also operate in different ways with respect to different diseases, thus making it hard to design holistic public health strategies for prevention and response. The question, then, becomes an obvious one: how could health-focused institutions, and particularly the WHO, the United Nations agency tasked with guiding and supporting policy-making on health issues, contribute?

A global health approach to environmental degradation?

At first glance, it would seem misguided to think that health as a sector of global governance could ever be fit for the purpose of addressing the environmental determinants of ill health. From a pragmatic perspective, global health actors are simply not in the position to deal with the whole range of environmental risk factors operating across different levels of governance and spatial scales, including chemicals, biodiversity loss, land degradation, climate change, and water and air quality. From a historical perspective, despite the fact that over the last few decades several environmental agreements have explicitly incorporated health considerations within their preambles, in specific provisions or even as their primary objectives, the international institutions patrolling the two areas of health and environment have usually operated with separate and unlinked agendas.

At the same time, the situation appears to have evolved in recent years, owing to attempts at fostering a greater collaboration between the work of the WHO and other international institutions (for example, the UN Environment Programme/WHO’s Health and Environment Linkages Initiative and the UNECE/WHO-Europe’s Protocol on Water and Health) as well as to WHO’s increasingly vocal leadership on the public health implications of climate change, culminating in the 2016 Marrakech Declaration on “Health, Environment and Climate Change”.

In this context, two important developments can be emphasized. First, from a legal standpoint, the interlinkages between health and environment have increasingly been framed in the language of human rights, through the emergence of the concept of a ‘right to a healthy environment’. Whilst the understanding of the obligations that such a right would impose on governments and private actors varies greatly, the sharp increase in domestic and international litigation linked with environmental health considerations cannot be ignored, and will arguably play a growing role in complementing the ‘compliance’ gap which characterizes many international environmental regimes. Secondly, from a broader political standpoint, health considerations might be used (and indeed, increasingly are) as a catalyst for raising ambitions and creating political momentum around a certain environmental issue, as recently shown by the advocacy of WHO, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) and the Government of Norway on the health risks of short-lived climate pollutants as part of the BreatheLife global campaign.

Environment and health: the necessity of targeting co-benefits

Beyond courts and political leadership, however, there are several additional ways in which the nature of WHO as a normative and technical support agency could be harnessed in addressing the environmental determinants of health. These of course, are not meant to undermine the authority of environmental governance actors. On the contrary, they could be key in reaping the full health co-benefits that can come from environmental policies, whilst in turn encouraging bolder ambition and integration among different regimes.

First, the uptake of multi-sectoral approaches to policy design, such as the concept of Health in All Policies (HiAP) and the One Health approach, appears necessary to operationalise the linkages between Sustainable Development Goal 3 (‘Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages’) and the other Goals and targets contained in the 2030 Agenda. For example, greater mutual supportiveness can arise from the improvement of environmental impact assessment laws, with a view to ensure an adequate consideration of the interplay between health and environment impacts in decision-making. Despite a consensus on the need to integrate Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) and EIAs, such an integration remains problematic. On the one hand, EIAs rarely incorporate assessments of pathways between environmental exposures and health outcomes. On the other, the promotion of HIAs as a separate tool greatly contributes to fragmentation and unnecessary overlaps. In this context, renewed UNEP/WHO efforts under the Health and Environment Linkages Initiative could be instrumental in providing the necessary assistance to countries seeking to develop more integrated frameworks for impact assessment.

Secondly, WHO’s expertise can be leveraged to promote a more effective implementation of multilateral environmental agreements. Focusing in particular on capacity-building for risk reduction, risk assessment and improved coordination among sectors and stakeholders, WHO can help by fostering development of national action plans, use of guidelines and standards, and dissemination of training materials (one recent example involving a Secretariat report on the contribution of the health sector to safe chemical management). In addition, WHO can provide strong evidence of health impacts arising from environmental degradation and/or green economy strategies, due to its expertise on health metrics and indicators, and accordingly contribute to strengthening and harmonizing surveillance and monitoring of progress. Finally, WHO should promote the resilience of health systems in the face of environmental change (including climate change). This would entail encouraging the inclusion of health elements into national climate adaptation plans, ensuring an effective training and management of health personnel to deploy in disaster response, and providing specific guidance on the improvement of public health infrastructure and the assessment of vulnerability and adaptation costs.

During his election campaign, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, the new Director-general of the WHO, has effectively laid out a vision for placing health at the center of the global sustainable development agenda, and accordingly identified environmental change as one of his top five priorities. As the SDGs turn two years old this September, the urgency of streamlining such a vision into the work of the organization and in the wider UN system grows stronger with each day.

Jean Monnet Module proposal selected by the European Commission

Exciting news! The European Commission’s Education, Audiovisuals and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) has selected a Jean Monnet Module proposal I wrote with Prof. Riccardo Pavoni (University of Siena) for co-funding under the Erasmus+ Programme (Call EAC/A03/2016).

Among the 833 proposals received by the EACEA for Jean Monnet teaching and research activities, 141 were selected for funding. The project activities will now be hosted by the Department of Law of the University of Siena and implemented over the course of three years.

EULawSD seeks to explore the ever-expanding corpus of European Union Law relating to sustainable development, with an emphasis on its interactions with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in September 2015. The module will consist of an annual 40-hour course primarily aimed at students of the Single Cycle Degree Programme in Law at the University of Siena, but also open to students from the Political Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences departments. The course will be complemented, on an annual basis, by a keynote opening lecture, a final expert roundtable, a dedicated website, and a series of webinars.

I am honored to be a co-recipient of such a prestigious grant, among the hundreds of applications received by the EACEA, and I look forward to my involvement as manager of the module’s activities despite my distance from Siena.

The full list of selected proposals can be found here.

New Policy Brief from SDSN Youth

I am happy to announce the publication of a new joint Policy Brief by UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network – Youth and The Social Investment Consultancy on “Supporting youth-led innovation to achieve the SDGs”, which I co-authored.

The Brief, presented on 17 July 2017 at the United Nations‘ High-level Political Forum in New York, outlines a series of opportunities for action by all stakeholders to leverage youth skills and solutions in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“Among its repeated references to the importance of partnerships for sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda emphasizes the role of children and young people as “critical agents for change” and encourages the UN Major Groups (including the UN Major Group on Children and Youth) to participate in the review of, and report on their contribution to the achievement of the SDGs.

In order to move beyond statements of principles, however, it remains essential to assess the real extent to which young people worldwide are delivering solutions to sustainable development challenges at all levels, as well as to investigate (and learn how to overcome) the barriers preventing young innovators and problem-solvers from implementing their projects and bringing them to scale.”

You can download the publication at http://www.youthsolutions.report/publications/. Please direct any inquiries to solutions@sdsnyouth.org.