Insecurity: NGOs move to promote peace, unity with cultural fiesta in Nasarawa

Global law firm Hogan Lovells hosts panel session at COP 26, highlighting a new Africa-led movement to build an 8,000km corridor of plants and trees in the Sahel region at the southern border of the Sahara desert, from Senegal in the west, to Djibouti in the east.

Since the first Conference of Parties (COP) meeting in 1995, the fight against climate change continues to be a priority for countries across the world. The 26th session of the Conference of Parties: UN Climate Change 2021 was recently hosted in Glasgow by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy. COP 26 seeks to: secure global net-zero by mid-century, keep 1.5 degrees within reach, adapt to protect communities and nature, mobilise finance, and enhance partnership.

Africa has contributed negligibly to climate change, but still stands as the most vulnerable region. The Sahel is on the frontline and millions of locals are already facing a devastating impact through droughts, dwindling natural resources, and mass migration. To address this, the Great Green Wall Initiative, an African-led movement, was started with an ambition to grow 8,000km of plants and trees across the Southern border of the Sahara to revive degraded land. As part of its support for this initiative, global law firm Hogan Lovells hosted a panel session at COP 26, which showcased the documentary ‘‘The Great Green Wall,’’ highlighting human stories of the climate challenges in communities across Africa where the wall travels through.

Giving her opening remarks, Malian musician, climate activist and supporter of the Great Green Wall initiative, Inna Modja, who also profiled the project at Hogan Lovells’ recent Africa Forum, said

‘‘The Great Green Wall initiative inspired me. Meeting with the communities gave me a powerful drive to go on this journey and share the message of these resilient regions. The initiative is an African project that will benefit the world. It is a movement that welcomes everyone.’’

The panel session, which was chaired and moderated by Andrew Skipper, Head of Africa Practice at Hogan Lovells and Co-Chair of UK government’s Africa Investors Group, featured representatives across the private sector, multilateral, government, and the local community. They include Pierre Rousseau, Senior Strategic Advisor for Sustainable Business at BNP Paribas; Andrea Ledward, International Biodiversity and Climate Director for Defra; and Kemo Fatty, Head of Community Engagement at Civic & Founder of Green Up Gambia. Panelists illustrated practical contributions to the Great Green Wall Initiative, its impact on local communities and the need for the global investment community to support the realization of the project by 2030.

Ledward spoke on the commitment of the UK Government to protecting and restoring the ecosystem and ensuring a shift to more agriculture that does not result in deforestation.

‘‘The UK government is particularly committed to the regions that the Great Green Wall is in. Through the green climate funding and global environment facility funding, we have invested over $100 million and bilaterally worked closely with many of the partner governments of the countries the Green Wall traverses.”

Rousseau emphasised that when we focus on climate and nature, it is also important to focus on people. This should begin with small projects that are impactful and can be nurtured to drive growth. ‘‘Nature should be treated as an asset, not a cost. If we can build it as an asset, we can put it up as collateral through carbon, services, and biodiversity.’’ 

Kemo Fatty spoke on the importance of ensuring that local communities are the key drivers of the initiative. Sharing some of the works of Green Up Gambia, he stated that efforts in ensuring that communities are in charge through citizens assemblies comprising of village heads, youth leaders, women, and children. This will help to create a blueprint for managing the lands, thereby developing a national implementation approach. ‘‘It is an African solution to a global problem, so we want everyone to contribute to this movement,’’ he added.

The Great Green Wall initiative seeks to bring hope by restoring 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequestering 250 million tonnes of carbon, and creating 10 million jobs in rural areas. It promises to be a compelling solution to the many urgent climate change threats facing Africa. Through the penetration of mobile phones and access to data in many parts of Africa, citizens can also share information and harness technology in reaching more people regarding the initiative.

‘‘The session was very enlightening and we at Hogan Lovells are happy to be part of the Great Green Wall Initiative. Partnership plays an important role in the fight against climate change in Africa, therefore we need to create opportunities to engage and invest in projects that benefit local communities,’’ Andrew Skipper said.

The only law firm to host a session in the Green Zone at COP26, Hogan Lovells is committed to being a responsible business. The firm is advising pro bono on the Gambia project as part of the Great Green Wall initiative, providing support to set up the correct corporate structure and legal entity for it. This is in addition to leveraging its global network of contacts to support the project and raising awareness of the initiative among clients.

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