Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Future Global Cooperation - Key to Survival

Global warming is now perceived as the dominant threat to humans and to present civilisation. This will manifest increasingly in more extreme events such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, heat waves etc putting at risk water, food and infrastructure resources; rising sea levels putting at risk two thirds of the world’s major cities and all low lying coastal areas; loss of biodiversity with the consequent crashing of food chains; increases in deadly diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and in worst case scenarios the risk of escalating chaos and conflict in developing countries.

Gradually humans in all countries are realising that only through cooperation on a global scale can they effectively survive the major threats to their survival in the future. In the areas of health, technology, agriculture, trade, climate change and disaster management, global partnerships are beginning to make a significant difference to the lives of the disadvantaged.

Global warming and its impact on ecosystems and biodiversity is one of the most critical areas where cooperative research is essential, with the very survival of the planet at stake. Conserving ecosystems and the services they provide such as maintaining clean air and water, is now seen as vital to human self-interest and survival. This has now been recognised with the establishment of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which came into force 1993, with the goal of arresting the decline in global diversity by 2010. In addition, 190 countries at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development committed to achieving a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss.

Global Warming and the increasing awareness of the need to shift to less polluting energy solutions as well as conserve energy water resources has become a major issue for communities and business. In a very short timeframe all human developed social and physical infrastructure systems, including those of health, transport, education, communications, energy, building, computing etc will need to be oriented towards mitigating this potential global catastrophe.

The International Conference on Biodiversity Science and Governance in January 2004, organised by France and UNESCO, suggested a global network of experts be established, to increase knowledge of biodiversity and establish the scientific basis to achieve its goals. This requires broad based international cooperation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the creation of a UN Environmental organization. Agreeing on suitable indicators to measure this loss is obviously critical. The first step was taken in 2004 by this convention’s agreement on 18 indicators with France to include an environmental charter in its constitution in 2005. Researchers from around the world are also planning a global project to tag important marine species- The Ocean Tracking Project. This will cover 14 ocean regions and should provide insights into how climate change is affecting marine ecosystems and migration.

Another key long term initiative is the Climate Watch Pact, an earth observation summit, which defines how the US, Japan, Russia, China and the EU will apportion data collection among the earth orbiting satellites, monitoring future water supply, weather forecasting, drought mitigation, bushfire control, flood prediction, hurricanes and crop growth.

Global warming and related poverty is also linked to increases in major diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, tuberulosis and HIV/Aids. There are now thousands of medical research initiatives seeking to apply the new scientific breakthroughs in molecular biology to counter the pathology of disease. One critical area is the ongoing effort to find an effective vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Twenty million people have already died and 40 million more currently have the virus, reducing life expectancy by in some countries by 18 years.

The WHO summit recently hosted four hundred government and UN agency officials, donors and experts in human and animal health, to develop a global plan to build early warning systems to spot early outbreaks of infectious diseases, stockpile drugs and encourage vaccine research and cooperation at all levels. The WTO provides inexpensive drugs to the poor and allows Africa to import cheaper copies of patented drugs for diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Tapping into the expertise of nationals living abroad is one example of cooperation. Because of the reduced support and interest by rich countries in finding solutions for problems of developing countries in the tropics, a consultative group on international agricultural research was established, which promotes sustainable agricultural development across the developing world, with a shift of research activities from the public to private sector. Another initiative was the creation of the Arab Science and Technology Foundation in 2002 in the United Arab Emirates to promote international cooperation on science and technology among Arab countries and other members of the international community.

All the above initiatives are critical to the survival of our civilisation and demonstrate the underlying imperative of evolution in reacting to environmental indicators that signal a threat to the survival of life. Cooperation through sharing and integrating the world’s knowledge and resources in the future to facilitate energy, health, education, food and water access and sustainability for all, will now be critical our survival.

Since the Indian ocean tsunami, which killed over 300,000 people in 2004, together with the recent disastrous earthquakes in China, Iran, Pakistan, Kashmir and Indonesia, it has been increasingly recognised that major disasters can only be managed and mitigated through cooperation and the sharing of resources on a global scale. These catastrophes have been the catalyst for cooperative assistance and long-term economic development in poorer countries. They have also served to raise humanitarian awareness beyond racial, social, religious and sectarian constraints in developed nations.

Global Cooperation must therefore continue to develop, to ensure human and life's survival and the full realisation of its potential

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