Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 25, Number 4 --- 15 April 2023
Article submission: email@example.com Deadline next issue 10 May 2023
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Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
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This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to email@example.com.
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No man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity.
No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation. --- Baha’u’llah
The importance of justice has been emphasized in many recent initiatives and events which is reflected in this newsletter.
Justice is at the center of the successful initiative by the island state of Vanuatu which is seriously threatened by climate change. Its efforts have resulted in the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution seeking an advisory opinion on climate change and human rights from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This is the first time that the ICJ was called on to address the climate crisis. You will find this article on page 4.
A recent statement by the Bahá’í International Community emphasizes the importance of enabling all people to develop their capacities to contribute to society thereby “creating full and productive employment and decent work for all as a means of overcoming inequalities” (see page 5).
While, in the past, the call for justice has most often been raised by religion, it is now also emerging in science (see the article Living within planetary limits requires attention to justice as biophysical boundaries are not inherently just on page 7).
And last, but not least, there is the interesting Baha’i-inspired Justice Conference in the Netherlands, recently held from 7-10 April (some glimpses from it are on page 3).
The IEF warmly welcomes the following new members and associates:
Kirk Johnson, Guam
Anette Fagerlund, Sweden
Anthony Cox, Australia
Zerihun Gebregiorgis, Ethiopia
Quanta Dawn-Light, United States
Adib Amini, USA
Yifan Zhang, Belgium
Guadalupe Herrera Zamarron, Mexico
Mohammed Imaduddin, India
Dr. Mohammad Isa Ansari, India
Abdulwasiu Usman, Nigeria
We look forward to getting to know you all!
A Fond Review on the IEF Group Studies of One Planet One Habitation
Three groups have now completed their four Zoom study sessions on the statement by the Bahá’í International Community One Planet, One Habitation: A Bahá’í Perspective on Recasting Humanity's Relationship with the Natural World.
IEF President Arthur Dahl facilitated the discussions with a great deal of thought and encouraged input and comments. Sometimes you could almost see the thinking clouds rise through the Zoom sky. Often, there were lively discussions that encouraged further thinking long after a study session was over.
Altogether, about 50 people participated in the study. They came from Puerto Rico, The Netherlands, Sweden, the Marshall Islands, Malawi, Kiribati, Australia, China, the Mariana Islands, Canada/Ireland, France, Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland, USA, Germany, Colombia, Spain, Slovakia, and Belgium. (Sorry, if we missed reporting a country.)
It is not too late to study the statement individually, and formation of further study groups is encouraged. The statement is available for download in a beautiful PDF version as well as in a text version that is more suitable for study. Arthur Dahl’s slides, which he used to facilitate the study, are here: Part 1 pdf or ppt, part 2 pdf or ppt, part 3 pdf or ppt, part 4 pdf or ppt. The statement is also available in Romanian, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
By IEF Webinar Coordinator Khela Baskett
19th IEF Webinar
Book Club Style Webinar on Love of Nature
This webinar was postponed and will now be held on Saturday, 6 May 2023
10am PDT California
1pm EDT New York
7pm CEST Central Europe
New Registration link: https://tinyurl.com/IEF-Sweetgrass-Beans
We'll be continuing with the "Book Club" format for our webinar this month, which is focused on member participation, discussion, and principles we can implement in our lives to live in harmony with our natural world.
We'll listen to Robin Kimmerer read the chapter "Epiphany in the Beans" from her book "Braiding Sweetgrass." This chapter discusses the deep love the author has for nature and presents a lens through which we can see nature the way she does.
You do not need to read ahead, as we will listen to the audiobook chapter together, but for your reference, here's the book.
In order to encourage maximum participation and discussion, Book-Club Style Webinars are not recorded.
Justice Conference in the Netherlands
Deliberative Humanity: Justice, Consultation and Co-Governing the World: This was the overall topic of a Baha’i-inspired conference that took place at the De Poort Conference Centre, Netherlands, from 7-10 April 2023.
Among the many distinguished speakers were IEF members Maja Groff, who was also one of the principal organizers, Arthur Dahl, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, and Gary Reusche. Topics discussed in various presentations and workshops included: “Environmental requirements for planetary governance”, “The Role of Agriculture for Global Justice and the Advancement of Humankind”, “Towards Just, Safe, Secure and Sustainable Food Systems”, and “Creating a Sustainable Foundation for Global Cooperation and Governance.”
Among the 80 – 100 participants was Noushin Irani who shared some of her highlights in German over Zoom with the IEF newsletter editor:
Noushin was very impressed with the clear analyses of the problems of our age; such as corruption, the arms race, the lack of global governing institutions, and the tendency that politicians are too busy to deal with issues outside of their own domains. On the other hand, there have been many enlightened thinkers at the United Nations or the Club of Rome that have paved the way to global thinking. Also, promising initiatives for sustainable agricultural methods and new sustainable foods (for example insect flour) are forthcoming. However, in the European Union and globally, there is no institution that can examine such new foods for safety. Currently the companies that produce and sell such new foods also determine their safety standards. This presents a clear conflict of interest.
Noushin also admired the clear explanation about the state of the world’s climate: For the past 10,000 years, the Earth has provided the ideal climate for agriculture and human life. Compared to other planets, it was a Goldilocks situation – not too hot and not too cold. However, since the Industrial Revolution, the Earth has warmed already 1.2°C and the impacts on the climate we are experiencing now are already very serious. Scientists agree that a 1.5°C warming will not be safe but will likely be surpassed.
Measuring happiness and success with GDP and a false concept of continual economic growth do not work. In a just accounting system, environmental destruction must be counted as a negative factor. Despite presenting the reality of today’s problems, the conference was an uplifting experience for Noushin because the power of spiritual transformation, which permeated the conference, can change the way we are thinking and acting. One of the workshops, for example, was about nurturing spirituality in children. Additionally, many speakers talked about how to implement spiritual principles and apply them to real life problems so the world can become more just and sustainable.
Noushin said that she found the conference “totally inspiring” and that she felt “like a kid in a candystore”.
UN General Assembly requests advisory opinion
from International Court of Justice on climate change
29 March 2023
On 29 March 2023 the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution seeking an advisory opinion on climate change and human rights from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
This is a milestone moment in a campaign launched over two years ago by the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), in a law school classroom in Vanuatu.
It was taken forward as a diplomatic endeavor by the Government of Vanuatu who worked alongside a core group of 18 nations to prepare the first draft of the resolution, and ultimately won the backing of over 120 countries before it was tabled in the UN today. The adoption by consensus for an advisory opinion from the ICJ is unprecedented.
An advisory opinion from the ICJ will provide clarity to States on their obligations under international law to protect their people, now and in the future, from climate impacts and their responsibility in upholding fundamental human rights.
While non-binding in nature, it will add weight to efforts to hold governments accountable on their climate promises and strengthen climate negotiations in multilateral fora, and it can be cited in climate litigation.
Today’s win is a significant diplomatic moment for Vanuatu and Pacific Island nations who have a strong legacy in climate leadership. For instance, Vanuatu and small island developing states have long championed the need for a Loss and Damage fund – which came to fruition at COP27- and more recently led a six-nation Pacific pledge, ‘Port Vila call‘, to phase out of fossil fuels and called for a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“This is not a silver bullet but it can make an important contribution to climate action. The world is at a crossroads and we as the international community have the obligation to take greater action. Together we can send a loud and clear message into the future that on this very day the people of the United Nations acting through their governments decided to leave behind their differences and act together to tackle the challenge of climate change,” said H.E. Ishmael Kalsakau, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, as he introduced the draft resolution at the UN plenary hall today.
The advisory opinion is requested on the following question:
“Having particular regard to the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the duty of due diligence, the rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the principle of prevention of significant harm to the environment, and the duty to protect and preserve the marine environment,
(1) What are the obligations of States under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases for States and for present and future generations;
(2) What are the legal consequences under these obligations for States where they, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system and other parts of the environment, with respect to:
(a) States, including, in particular, small island developing States, which due to their geographical circumstances and level of development, are injured or specially affected by or are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change?
(b) Peoples and individuals of the present and future generations affected by the adverse effects of climate change?”
Exploring the future of work
new Bahá'í International Community Statement
Bahá'í World News Service
9 April 2023
BIC New York — With the changing landscape of work, influenced by digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence, as well as other technological or social forces, a range of profound questions are entering public consciousness: What is the purpose of employment? What kinds of lives conduce to human fulfillment? What kinds of societies do we seek to create together?
The New York Office of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) examines these questions in a new statement titled “Employment and Beyond: Drawing on the Capacities of All to Contribute to Society,” which was presented to the 61st session of the United Nations Commission for Social Development.
The statement calls for an examination of the assumptions underlying economic models in relation to employment. In many contexts, says the BIC, the notion of work has evolved from solely being a means for survival to one that recognizes the creative potential of individuals to contribute to the well-being of society.
This idea underpinned the contributions of the BIC delegation in relation to the Commission’s priority theme for this year: “creating full and productive employment and decent work for all as a means of overcoming inequalities…”
The complexities of this pursuit were highlighted in the BIC statement, which reads: “History demonstrates that employment alone does not invariably foster equality. Many countries have, for example, experienced periods in which high rates of employment were accompanied by widening inequalities.”
At the UN Civil Society Forum held during the Commission, Liliane Nkunzimana, a representative of the BIC, expanded on this idea, emphasizing that traditional models of employment and wages are not sufficient to foster equitable and flourishing societies.
“The inadequate protection of workers in the formal and informal economy, reveals systemic inequities that prioritize conceptions of progress rooted in narrow self-interests, resulting in the advancement of a handful at the expense of the generality of humankind,” she said.
The challenge, then, is to move toward a more equitable economic system that refuses to exploit some for the benefit of others, a system that upholds the dignity of all people and meets their needs.
Echoing Ms. Nkunzimana’s concerns, Arash Fazli, another member of the delegation and holder of the Bahá’í Chair for Studies in Development at Devi Ahilya University in Indore, India, spoke about the need to rethink the dominant economic paradigm that has governed many societies for centuries. He emphasized the importance of interdependence and cooperation.
Dr. Fazli explained that prevalent economic thinking which sees human beings as “utility-maximizing, self-interested actors, and views the pursuit of unlimited economic growth and limitless wealth as the center of society,” has led to a crisis of values, where economic considerations have displaced all other values. “Almost every aspect of human life has been marketized,” he said. “The market has become the mediator of all needs and aspirations of humanity.”
“We need a new set of values based on the nobility of the human being,” added Dr. Fazli, “and principles that foster a sustainable relationship with the natural environment.” He also emphasized the importance of principles that recognize capacity in all people to contribute meaningfully to their societies, that centre on the oneness of humanity, and promote the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty.
Reflecting on these discussions, Ms. Nkunzimana underscores the significance of the growing desire at all levels of society to reshape the future of work.
“By enriching conversations about work with an exploration of relevant moral and spiritual principles,” she says, “a deeper understanding can be fostered of the need to not only develop people’s skills and abilities for employment, but also to cultivate people’s commitment to social justice.”
Global Futures Forum
New York and online
20-21 March 2023
Global Futures Forum Calls for UN Reforms to Address Emerging 21st Century Challenges
New York, 28 March 2023:
Civil Society Organizations worldwide have called for a strengthened United Nations to address emerging 21st century challenges and opportunities. At the Global Futures Forum from March 20-21—which reached over 2,000 registered participants from across the globe both online and in person in New York—CSOs deliberated on some three dozen reform proposals and engaged key diplomats, UN officials, and others to better understand how the suggestions could be implemented. A key to success will be the meaningful engagement of Civil Society in the preparation of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals Summit and the 2024 Summit of the Future.
"In spite of the diversity of backgrounds and interests among participants there is a common denominator that unites us,” opened Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Co-Chair of the Coalition for the UN We Need and Executive Director, Global Women Leaders: Voices for Change and Inclusion. “We want the UN, the multilateral architecture to deliver more and better and to respond to the global governance challenges of today’s world.”
The SDG Summit, scheduled for September 2023, is this year's top UN priority, said the UN’s Under Secretary-General for Policy, Guy Ryder, and Summit Co-Facilitators, Ambassador Fergal Mythen of Ireland and Ambassador Alya Al Thani of Qatar. Citing the vital contributions of Civil Society in the adoption of the SDGs in 2015, Ryder emphasized the need for the preparatory processes of the Summit of the Future (SOTF) to include strong multi stakeholder engagement.
The Global Futures Forum featured reports from recent CSO regional forums, a deep dive into the gender dimension of the proposals, and seven thematic consultation tracks where participants discussed numerous proposals for the reform and reimagining of the institutions and practice of global governance. These seven thematic tracks addressed issues such as the global economic and financial architecture, environmental governance, building inclusive, just and peaceful societies, adopting a Global Digital Compact, peace and security, human rights, and promoting meaningful engagement in governance, especially for youth, women and vulnerable populations in the Global South.
These thematic discussions represent contributions to an interim "People's Pact for the Future," which will be an evolving vehicle for feeding diverse civil society ideas and insights into official discussions on the SOTF outcome document.
At the concluding session, German Ambassador Antja Leendertse provided delegates with additional details on SOTF preparations, including the upcoming discussions on the scope of the SOTF and the imminent report of the High-level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism appointed by the Secretary-General last year.
On behalf of the organizers, Ms Espinosa thanked delegates for their commitment. “This movement for a better UN is real, is serious and is much needed. The time is now. We have our homework ahead of us.”
The IEF is a co-sponsor of the Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN) and the Global Futures Forum and participated actively in its preparation.
SOURCE: Post-Global Futures Forum Brief 28 March 2023, C4UN
The Environmental Education of Children
IEF member Victoria Thoresen wrote an excellent article about the importance of holistic education. It was published by the G20 Interfaith Forum on 11 April 2023.
In the article, Victoria Thoresen points out that “Many schools include environmental education in their curricula, but this is often done by merely sharing factual information about the critical state of parts of the physical environment, leading to feelings of anxiety and vulnerability.” She then advocates for a holistic, integrated, and behavior-based environmental education, and provides some examples of faith communities as trailblazers of integrated behavioral change.
You can read the whole article here: https://blog.g20interfaith.org/2023/04/11/the-environmental-education-o…
Climate Change and Its Ethical Challenges
The Bahá'í World online
The article Climate Change and Its Ethical Challenges by Arthur Dahl, originally published by the Bahá'í World Centre in The Bahá'í World 2005-2006, An International Record, has now been republished online at https://bahaiworld.bahai.org/library/close-climate-change-and-its-ethic….
To ensure a safe and just future for people, nature and the planet, Earth System Boundaries must include justice, researchers find
By the Earth Commission
In a new study published in Nature Sustainability an international team of scientists from the Earth Commission, convened by Future Earth, investigates how global biophysical boundaries need to be adjusted to ensure a safe and just future for people, nature and the planet.
This new framework integrates methods to reduce harm to people, increase access to resources, address tradeoffs, and challenge powerful interests whilst addressing inequality between generations and between humans and nature within discussions on Earth system boundaries.
“These topics still require debates and engagement with different knowledge systems – to meet the principles of procedural and recognition justice – on the structural and systemic changes that are needed to ensure a more just resource consumption so that the needs of all people can be met whilst ensuring justice between species and a stable Earth system”, lead author Joyeeta Gupta, Co-Chair of the Earth Commission and Professor of Environment and Development in the Global South at the University of Amsterdam, explained.
The research comes ahead of an associated Earth Commission report due out in early 2023 that defines ‘safe and just’ ‘Earth System Boundaries’ (ESBs) to safeguard a stable and resilient planet. These ESBs will underpin the setting of new science-based targets for businesses, cities and governments to address the polycrises of: increasing human exposure to the climate emergency, biodiversity decline, mass extinction of species that threaten the stability of the planet.
In the paper, researchers argue that Earth System Boundaries must not only ensure the stability of the planet but also protect humans and other species from significant harm. This might require more stringent targets; however, such stringent targets may also influence the access of people to basic resources and the allocation of resources.
Building on the scholarship on justice, they define the concept of Earth system justice, offering a theoretical framework for Earth system justice, operationalizing it and additionally outlining the transformations required to do so. This entails substantive and procedural justice where substantive justice aims at ensuring access to minimum resources, reducing harm, and allocating responsibilities fairly. Procedural justice implies that people should be able to access information, participate in decisionmaking, enjoy civic space and the right to go to courts. Adjusting biophysical targets to ensure that the poor have access to resources and the vulnerable are protected from harm is needed.
“While it is important to establish boundaries for climate change, biodiversity, water, and pollution that ensure a stable and safe earth system we also need to consider how such boundaries can also be just in minimizing harm to humans and nature. This includes avoiding tradeoffs, and ensuring that we meet the goals of sustainable development in ensuring that everyone has access to the energy, food, water and other resources for a dignified life”, said Diana Liverman, Earth Commission member and Regents professor at the University of Arizona.
“We need to assess who is most responsible for Earth system change, who is most vulnerable to it, and who should take action to reduce the risks and reallocate resources, responses and risks in line with principles of justice”, she added.
At the core of Earth System Justice the researchers consider the need for justice among present nations, communities and individuals (Intragenerational Justice), justice for future generations (Intergenerational justice) and for other living things and Earth system stability (‘Interspecies Justice and Earth system stability’). To operationalise the framework, they evaluate if safe (ecological and physical) Earth system boundaries reduce harm to the most vulnerable while ensuring ‘just access’ to food, water, energy and infrastructure.
The authors argue that if we are to achieve truly just and sustainable futures, we need to grapple with what Earth system justice means and how it can be put into practice. This will ensure that historical and present injustices are addressed and not continuously postponed or reproduced. The authors conclude that living within planetary limits must include attention to justice.
The Earth Commission is the scientific cornerstone of the Global Commons Alliance.
Read the full article in Nature Sustainability here.
Access the full press release here.
SOURCE: Earth Commission, 2 February, 2023 https://earthcommission.org/news/earth-commission-news/to-ensure-a-safe…
The Latest on Climate Change
IPCC Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report
Summary for Policy Makers
Released 20 March 2023
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as the scientific advisory body to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), provides the authoritative assessment of the science of climate change and its impacts, which it summarises for policy makers in a Synthesis Report that is approved by governments. The sixth and latest reporting cycle has just concluded with the release on 20 March 2023 of the AR6 Synthesis Report. Below we provide the Headline statements that are the overarching conclusions of the approved Summary for Policymakers which, taken together, provide a concise narrative with high confidence. On the IEF website, we provide the Headline statements that are the overarching conclusions of the approved Summary for Policymakers which, taken together, provide a concise narrative with high confidence. Go here to read the Headline statements: https://www.iefworld.org/node/1377
Triple Planetary Crisis and Global Governance
Global Policy Dialogue
Recife, Brazil, 19-20 January 2023
Global Policy Dialogue: Addressing the Triple Planetary Crisis
through Improved Global Governance
(excerpts from the Executive Summary)
The Triple Planetary Crisis (TPC), the nexus between climate change, loss of biodiversity and nature, pollution and contamination, is perhaps the single greatest challenge of our times: a problem of planetary scope... that can only be meaningfully addressed through international cooperation. The term TPC is an effort to capture the complex, intertwined crises faced by humanity which have accelerated considerably over the past half century.
The current global governance system has proven highly ineffective in tackling the TPC. In addition to recent rollbacks in climate commitments by wealthy countries, older problems remain. Key institutions of global governance, including central elements of the United Nations (UN) system, remain highly porous to global power geopolitics; specialized silos within the system often preclude a coordinated response to cross-cutting issues like climate change; and the developing world has become fragmented in its approach to global governance reform.
Against this backdrop, a Global Policy Dialogue (GPD) on Addressing the Triple Planetary Crisis through Improved Global Governance was convened on 19-20 January 2023 in Recife, Brazil, involving 53 select diplomats, researchers and experts from the UN Secretariat, think tanks and universities (including IEF member Maja Groff). The ideas and policy proposals generated covered four broad themes.
Just Transition and Sustainable Development and Trade
Reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Bretton Woods Institutions to boost their ability to regulate and enforce strict social-environmental criteria in trade and finance flows, as well as enhance the latter's capacity to provide climate financing, not only for mitigation but also for climate adaptation and loss and damage.
Creating a global tax body to coordinate fiscal responses to promote a just transition, including: suggesting and/or implementing variable taxation rates to different energy sources in accordance with their rate of greenhouse gas emissions. As efficiency in increased, tax rates could be reduced accordingly.
Promoting change in behaviour consumption patterns to prevent excessive use of conventional energy and natural resources, as well as the exacerbation of associated environmental harms and inequalities.
Balancing the COP Agenda: Climate Adaptation and Loss and Damage
Developing a strategic plan - led by the Global South - containing a collective vision on climate adaptation and loss and damage to provide clarity on key concepts, needs and criteria, as well as serve as a basis for international cooperation initiatives based on common priorities for developing nations.
Creating a platform of good practices - where successful climate adaptation projects would be mapped, assessed and connected to international bodies and funding agencies, such as the Green Climate Fund, which would be dedicated to allocating the necessary resources to give scalability to these initiatives. In addition to making use of existing funding mechanisms, resources for the platform could be gathered through the creation of a mechanism to allow Emissions Trading System contributions, taxes and exceptional levies on major polluters, in accordance with the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities.
Fostering a New Global Deal to facilitate universal access to technology, capacity building and Research and Development (R&D), combined with macroeconomic and financial strategies to ensure the financial means required to develop technological solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Climate, Gender and Human Rights
Promoting and disseminating research and data on how the triple planetary crisis affects people differently, acknowledging intersectionality - different aspects of harm and discrimination and how they amplify the negative and unequal aspects of the TPC.
Developing communication and education strategies to make discussions on climate change more accessible, including with regards to instructions on how to behave in practical circumstances, such as when flooding and other extreme events occur.
Increasing accountability for the state's insufficient response to TBC, including by ensuring greater participation of civil society in the design, monitoring and implementation within countries of relevant climate conventions.
Biodiversity and Climate Governance
Creating greater synergies between the "Rio '92 Conventions": the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This could be advanced via greater cooperation channels between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the UNCCD's Committee on Science and Technology (CST), among other expert and scientific bodies.
Promoting a "Super COP" on climate, biodiversity and desertification, where some sessions and official events could be dedicated to addressing common challenges and solutions related to the UNFCCC, CBD and UNCCD agendas collectively.
Making use of the consecutive presidencies of the G20 by developing nations (India, Brazil and South Africa) to enhance synergies between the G20, Bretton Woods Institutions and other key global governance structures to strengthen the climate and biodiversity agenda, especially with regards to global south priorities such as greater finance for adaptation, halting and reversing biodiversity loss and loss and damage.
15 April 2023