For centuries, wise people have been saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The same can easily be repeated in this era of pandemic, climate change and intractable conflict, leaving little excuse for forgetting that age-old maxim. While governments, politicians and human organizations of all kinds persist in relearning old lessons, not least among them are the causes of war, environmental destruction and the consequences of complacency in the face of epidemic disease over the past century.
Qualified with their own folk wisdom, research, practical experience, policy analysis and a certain indispensable perspective from outside bloated and ossified bureaucracies, civil society organizations and social movements generally have sought to identify and remedy the root causes of problems that seems to recur with stubborn regularity. Perhaps CSOs are predisposed to this more-economizing policy approach of avoiding greater long-term costs out of their own scarcity consciousness, while trying to do so much with so few resources.
This 20th issue of Land Times/أحوال الأرض reminds us auspiciously how these lessons and their civil purveyors relate to the promises of global sustainable development and their stated intensions of meaningful participation, equity and crisis avoidance. The current evolution toward policy coherence—aligning short-term emergency aid with longer-term, institution-building development approaches, within the framework of treaty-bound, preventive and remedial human rights obligations—forms a central pillar of the Agenda 2030 commitments of states, which HIC’s statement to the 2020 High-level Political Forum (HLPF) reminds us. In full HLPF session, amid the country-specific reviews of Sustainable Development Goal progress in Comoros, Libya, Morocco, Syria and other regions, civil society, once again, recalled why these lessons were already learnt and how the majestic failure to heed them has affected us all as national and global citizens.
This timely issue also highlights the demonstrably leading efforts of civil society to assess the implementation of more-specific global instruments in currently monitoring the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises, which was adopted in 2015 on the premise of identifying and remedying root causes of such crisis. Coincidently, in the spotlight is the complex crisis currently afflicting Lebanon, while that country is undergoing its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council.
Part of civil organizations’ role traditionally has been to faithfully assess the consequences of policy formulated at the highest levels as they are felt on the ground. Again, in this 20th issue, their independent perspective enables that wider vantage point needed to see the patterned injustice inherent in such trends as neoliberal housing policies in Europe and mega-city development in Saudi Arabia, while anticipating even graver consequences of looming homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic, despite calls for a global moratorium on evictions.
And once again, the MENA region serves as a font of time-honored wisdom, but also some of the central examples of cross-border organized crimes in the form of annexation, apartheid, dispossession, population transfer and their corresponding impunity, whether in Palestine or Western Sahara. In this issue, civil society shines a light on these and under-reported subjects such as landlessness, the serial murder of land defenders around the world, counting the real costs to women of land and home dispossession, and the hazards of missing civil documentation in the context of conflict-induced displacement. However, it also poses their solutions, as in the decommissioning process in Sudan, in general, and, more specifically, practical part II of “A Call from Nuba Mountains.”
While powerful political, ideological and economic interests motivate official evasion of lessons already learnt, in this issue of Land Times/أحوال الأرض , civil society’s attention to root causes reminds us of their predictable outcomes of progress or regression.
And in this period, too, we wish well to the MENA region’s candidates in the coming election to the HIC Board to carry on this critical tradition.