Act now to make long-term prosperity possible

Founder’s Letter for 2023

Dear Friends,

Four major forces shaped emerging geopolitical dynamics in 2022:

  • Worsening climate disruption, with extreme impacts in all regions;
  • The ongoing COVID pandemic, including ripple effects;
  • Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and the resulting increase in food insecurity, energy price volatility, and destabilization of trade and security; 
  • Debt pressures pushing more than 90 countries towards debt distress.

These forces—climate, COVID, conflict, along with resulting disruptions in trade, finance, and food, and the need for widespread, structured debt relief—will have major impact on geopolitical dynamics in 2023. The converging and compounding crises of the last three years have left more people without basic nutrition, clean water, access to health services, local and personal security, or access to climate-resilient development outcomes.

All of this is made worse by three other major factors:

  • Inflation driven by fossil fuel price volatility, driven in turn by OPEC+ actions intended to inflate oil revenues;
  • Disinformation deliberately spread across the world, by corrupt regimes and criminal networks;
  • Generalized distrust in established institutions, exacerbated by all of the above.

How the world is responding

We have already seen signs of how people and nations can and will respond to these conflicting and destabilizing forces:

  1. In Ukraine, the country has become more united and defiant in its people’s desire to resist Russian authoritarianism; 
  2. In China—where the official count of new COVID cases ranged last week worryingly between 62,000 and 250 million—the broadest mass protest movement in decades has called for a scaling back of authoritarian controls, along with greater transparency and accountability;
  3. In Iran, the public response to the police killing of Mahsa Amini—a woman arrested for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly—is the biggest mass protest movement since the 1979 revolution;
  4. There are calls for reform of global institutions to block or downgrade authoritarian regimes that violate the UN Charter;
  5. Human rights and calls for stakeholder engagement are entering international negotiations around climate, health, biodiversity, and development;
  6. Calls for reform of multilateral development and finance institutions have reached consensus, formally figuring in the formal outcome of the COP27 global climate negotiations;
  7. Vulnerability-responsive debt relief and financial innovation are beginning to happen, in line with the Bridgetown Initiative;
  8. The COP27 agreed to create a Loss and Damage Fund, with a Transitional Committee to begin mobilizing existing resources in 2023;
  9. The rise of destabilizing disinformation has sparked renewed interest in fact-finding journalism and more constructive social media;
  10. The transformation of food systems may be boosted by local shifts in community priorities and practice—partly in response to rising food insecurity (this is both an opportunity and a risk);
  11. The move toward constructive international cooperative arrangements to mainstream climate finance is gaining momentum;
  12. The conditioning of trade and finance to counter corruptionpenalize drivers of conflictalign climate standards, and foster open societies, is also on the rise.

A decisive decade of action

We are living through a decisive decade—for the future of human societies, and for the life of our species and millions of other species. In 2023, we should expect mainstream political conversations in diverse country contexts to include the “decisive decade” framing for policy, investment, and action.

Key actions we need to take in this decisive decade:

  1. Dramatically reduce the threat of unchecked climate disruption;
  2. Address and overcome degradations driven by climate disruption and nature loss;
  3. Establish critical multidimensional early warning systems for all people in all regions;
  4. Transform food systems so they support the health of people and nature, sustainably;
  5. Advance One Health standards and practice—protecting human health, as well as the health of wild and domesticated biodiversityecosystems and watersheds—across industries and bioregions;
  6. Reform international finance and trade to foster sustainable benefits and co-benefits, inclusively and measurably.

The most fundamental and immediate action the community of nations can take would be to materially support all ten elements of the Peace Formula presented by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the G20 Summit in Indonesia, in November. 

  • This would include rapid progress toward reducing the immediate threat of starvation facing millions across the world. 
  • It would also establish clearly that international law, rights and justice, have primacy over the destructive whims of the world’s worse actors. 
  • Coordinated efforts to prevent ecological breakdown can have far-reaching benefits, modeling critical action on the Global Biodiversity Framework.

To reinforce the transition from conflict and exploitation to resilience and shared prosperity: 

  • Institutions across the developed and developing worlds, including in the world’s leading democracies, must find strength and resolve in the defense of human rights above the whims of the powerful;
  • Progress on vulnerability-sensitive debt relief and restructuring will be a critical safeguard for international shared prosperity and security, as will a global commitment to phase out the use of climate-polluting energy.

2023 must also apply stark lessons learned—along with new science, policy tools, and development strategies—to enable an ambitious reinvigoration of multilateralism through the Summit of the Future in 2024. This will be vital for recognizing the needs, aspirations, and capabilities of young people, and defending the right of future generations to remain free from harm.

We will need these solid practical and legal foundations for a concerted effort to avert climate breakdown and the ensuing breakdown in fiscal and human security. 

Good for all, with no exceptions

Actions like these, aimed at strengthening the foundations for human wellbeing, must be part of a wider shift to valuing resilience in an integrated and holistic way—accounting for cascading costs and co-benefits. Food systems, for example, can provide significant progress across all of the above areas—if the overarching goal is sufficiently clear and ambitious.

That goal could be “good food for all, with no exceptions”, with the following shared understanding of “good food”:

  • Building health for people and nature;
  • Operating within planetary boundaries;
  • Fostering access and affordability;
  • Eliminating malnutrition generally;
  • Supporting food-system co-benefits for climate, health, biodiversity, and sustainable development;
  • Reducing climate-related loss and damage, supporting adaptation and resilience, and holding global heating to no more than 1.5ºC, before drawing down remaining emissions;
  • Driven by inclusive sustainable finance that empowers, without siphoning income from those in need.

It is possible for any city, nation, company, or supply-chain actor, to work toward this Good Food for All goal, while advancing all of these goals. Not only is it possible, doing so will build value for whole societies; that value should be measured and rewarded by financial actors—including public, private, and multilateral actors.

The standard of “good for all, with no exceptions” can be applied to other fundamental areas of need that can be addressed by governments and markets. As that upgrading of standards and practices filters through overlapping sectors and services, more money from more sources will gravitate toward the mainstreaming of climate-resilient, inclusive development. 

What kind of political process will produce these results?

Political processes that act effectively on these imperatives need to be:

  • Open, participatory, and inclusive;
  • Informed by science and evidence;
  • Truly transformational—empowering stakeholders to drive change;
  • Aligned with shared cascading benefits.

Geoversiv will be supporting this kind of integrated and holistic approach to solving major challenges, through Resilience Intel and other partnerships, keeping the Capital to Communities approach top of mind, and supporting food systems transformation and the energy landscapes revolution.

Because it is so important, we commit once again to work together, every day, to restore by action our faith in the power of solidarity.

Joseph Robertson
Geoversiv Founder

Emerging action opportunities

Past New Year’s Letters

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