Co-author of new Lancet and Financial Times Commission report

On 24 October 2021, The Lancet and Financial Times Commission on Governing Health Futures 2030 announced the publication of its long-awaited report during an event at the World Health Summit in Berlin.

In the report, which I co-authored, we explore the multi-faceted interactions of digital technologies and human health and well-being. We argue that digital technologies and data should be considered as increasingly important determinants of health, both in their own right and in relation to other social, commercial, and environmental determinants. As a result, we call on policy-makers to dramatically rethink what Universal Health Coverage means in in a digital age, and we urge them to govern digital transformations according to a precautionary, value-based framework rooted in established public health principles.

In practice, we propose four main action areas. First, governments must close all digital, health and education divides by 2030, as a necessary baseline for sustainable health futures. Secondly, it is vital to build public trust in the digital (health) ecosystem. This means ensuring public participation ‘by default’ in the design and governance of digital health tools, for example through open data and bottom-up accountability mechanisms. Third, we suggest a new approach to health and health-related data, rooted in the concept of data solidarity. We need independent data institutions in every country, to protect privacy while ensuring that data is easily used and shared when needed for the public good. Fourth, governments must invest in the pillars of digitally-enabled health systems, while also ensuring that digital health solutions are tailored to local contexts and needs. For example, digital public goods can be a key component of digital health strategies in many countries.

You can read the whole report here.

New comment for the EIEL website on logging in the Białowieża forest

A few weeks ago, the Polish government announced the release of an update to its management plan for the Białowieża forest in eastern Poland – parts of which are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Natura 2000 site, and a national park – and authorised new logging operations in the area for the first time since 2016.

According to the authorities, the updated plan proves the country’s intent to comply with the 2018 judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU in Commission v Poland (C-441/17), which had found it in breach of the Habitats and Birds Directives. Some experts and advocacy groups, on the other hand, argue that the announcement merely represents the new chapter of an ongoing controversy over Poland’s violation of European environmental law.

I have shared some reflections on the plan, its relationship with the ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU, and the recent letter of notice addressed to Poland by the European Commission on the blog of the Jean Monnet Module in European and International Environmental Law (EIEL), which is hosted by the University of Siena and co-funded by an Erasmus+ grant until 2023.

You can find my comment here.

Photo creditsBialowieża National Park (detail), by Mariusz Cieszewski, CC BY-NC 2.0.

New Erasmus+ grant award for European and international environmental law studies

I am excited to announce that after three years as programme manager of a Jean Monnet Module in European Union Law and Sustainable Development (EULawSD), I am once again the co-recipient of an Erasmus+ grant for Jean Monnet Activities, which was awarded by the European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) as part of its 2020 call for proposals.

The grant concerns a new Jean Monnet Module, entitled ‘European and International Environmental Law‘ (EIEL), which is closely related to, and builds upon, the activities of the EULawSD module. In particular, the module aims to provide students, practitioners and European civil society with in-depth knowledge about the state of the art of European and international environmental law and policy, its achievements and challenges, and its interaction with emerging environmental issues and landmark intergovernmental processes. 

Two overarching themes will run through the module, informing the discussion of both cross-cutting and sectoral topics in all project activities. The first is the importance that will be attributed to the most pressing and/or emerging issues in European and international environmental law, with an emphasis on the Union’s approach to the two major planetary crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss and its role in the implementation of the relevant international legal instruments (i.e. the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity and its post-2020 framework). The second will be represented by a particular focus on implementation and enforcement at the level of the EU and its Member States, consistent with the outstanding needs outlined in the Commission’s latest Environmental Implementation Review (2019).

The EIEL module will similarly be hosted by the Department of Law of the University of Siena, and will be implemented for three years starting on September 1st, 2020. Module activities will consist of the following: (i) 50 hours of lectures, group discussions and seminars across four courses offered by the Department of Law; (ii) engagement of academics, practitioners and civil society through public keynote lectures, webinars and a final conference; and (iii) a dedicated website, social media pages, a newsletter and at least two publications which will facilitate the dissemination of the project’s research outputs.

Professor Riccardo Pavoni will be the academic coordinator for the module, while I will retain the role of programme manager and Professor Sonia Carmignani will remain a member of the teaching staff. The EIEL team will also include two new key teaching staff members, Professor Elisa Morgera and Gabriele Salvi. Elisa Morgera is widely recognised as one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of international environmental law. She is currently Professor of Global Environmental Law at the University of Strathclyde Glasgow and Co-Director of the Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance. Gabriele Salvi is a Senior Researcher in Civil Law at the University of Siena, and brings a specific expertise in the private law aspects of European environmental law to the team.

Photo credits: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by European Space Agency, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

A discussion on science-policy interfaces with Sir Robert Watson

I am honoured to announce that on May 29th, starting from 8am EDT, I will moderate a webinar with Professor Sir Robert (Bob) Watson CMG FRS on the role of science-policy interfaces in the areas of biodiversity and climate change.

An atmospheric chemist by formation, Sir Bob Watson is rightly recognised as one of the most influential environmental scientists of the last few decades and is perhaps the world’s leading expert on the role of scientific assessments in environmental decision-making, having chaired both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Over the years, he has also led a range of other iconic initiatives, including the UNEP’s Global Biodiversity Assessment, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and several international scientific assessments of stratospheric ozone depletion. Throughout this time, he has held key positions at institutions including the UK Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the World Bank, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House.

For his outstanding achievements, Sir Bob Watson was knighted in 2003 and has later received international awards and prizes including the Asahi Glass Blue Planet Prize and the UN Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation.

The webinar is hosted by SDSN Youth, the global youth initiative of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) headed by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, and is part of the SDSN Youth Live! Webinar Series. I would like to thank the organisers for the prestigious opportunity that they offered me, and I look forward to chairing the discussion with Sir Bob Watson on May 29th.

The event will be livestreamed on SDSN Youth’s Facebook page.

Until May 26th, it will be possible to send questions for Sir Bob Watson at this link.

Opinion on the Global Policy journal’s website: global health governance in the age of COVID-19

At the beginning of last year, the Global Policy journal published a research article on ‘Gridlock, Innovation and Resilience in Global Health Governance‘, that I had co-authored with Ilona Kickbusch, Michaela Told, Kyle McNally and the late David Held. One of the arguments of the study was that our era of growing health risks and socio-economic insecurities could easily lead to a crisis that would threaten to upend decades of progress in global health.

Today, the same journal hosts an opinion piece in which Ilona Kickbusch and myself reflect on the ‘legacy’ of that research in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our key takes are the following:

  • the international response to COVID-19 highlights a number of negative dynamics that were already present in the global health system, from rising geopolitical rivalries to the risk of excessive fragmentation in governance instruments;
  • at the same time, COVID-19 is a window of opportunity to break open existing bottlenecks and strengthen multilateralism in global health and beyond.

You can read the opinion piece at this link.

New publication discusses interface of resource inequality and global economic governance

A new, open access article I co-authored with Yixian Sun and Defne Gonenc is out in online first view for the journal International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics.

The article, which will eventually be part of a Special Issue harnessing the first decade of Earth System Governance (ESG) scholarship on issues of access and allocation, reviews the ESG literature to understand what we have learned (and what we still don’t know) about the impacts of the global economic system on resource inequality. In particular, the review shows that while ESG scholarship has begun to highlight the dynamics of unfair access and allocation deriving from the global economic system (e.g. direct impacts of trade and investment on environmental inequality and socioeconomic opportunities, indirect equity implications of environmentally motivated restrictions in international trade and investment regimes), critical questions remain about the identity of vulnerable groups and the potential pathways for more equitable sharing of benefits and burdens.

You can read the article here.

To cite the article: Gonenc, D., Piselli, D. & Sun, Y. The global economic system and access and allocation in earth system governance. Int Environ Agreements (2020).