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Mon, 29 Jun 2020

Global recovery must include the Tropics

Long shot of a man in a field carrying a bale of rice to put in a wooden cart.
The second State of the Tropics report has been released today to mark the International Day of the Tropics. Photo: Mark Ziembicki

Six years after the release of the landmark State of the Tropics Report, the Tropics are more important than ever, especially in a post-COVID-19 world.

The second State of the Tropics report has been released today to mark the International Day of the Tropics.

It highlights the rapid changes that have been made across the Tropics. Cities have continued to grow, more people have escaped extreme poverty, and people are living longer and healthier than ever before.

However, the dramatic and unanticipated changes brought about by COVID-19 risk undoing the positive changes of the previous years.

In 2014, the first State of the Tropics report projected that half of the world’s population and 67% of the world’s children under 15 years of age would be living in the Tropics by 2050, an estimate that is still on track. This raises serious implications for global policy makers as they look for ways to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

State of the Tropics convener and Vice Chancellor of James Cook University, Professor Sandra Harding, said refocusing the world’s attention on the Tropics is more important than ever.

“The impact of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic on the world has been unprecedented and is already having a major impact on the health and economic systems in tropical countries,” she said.

“What we do from here to recover from the global economic and social impacts needs to include the Tropics.”

Areas of improvement since the 2014 report include maternal and child health outcomes, near-universal primary education, and more girls finishing school. However, progress has been slow and the report suggests the region is not on track to meet the UN Sustainable Development goals.

“Areas of particular concern include conflict, commodity prices, and global trade wars,” said Prof Harding. “Unfortunately, issues such as the US-China relationship and, of course, COVID-19 have taken attention away from development in the Tropics.”

Prof Harding said the State of the Tropics report aims to provide an extensive exploration of key environmental, social and economic indicators to assess progress in the Tropics.

“We want to know if life in the Tropics is getting better,” she said. “And it is getting better, but there are persistent pockets of extreme poverty throughout the Tropics, undernourishment is increasing, and carbon emissions continue to rise.

“As a global community, we need to do better.”

The State of the Tropics report is an initiative of 12 research institutions from across the world and provides an in-depth, impartial assessment of the Tropics as an environmental and geopolitical entity in its own right.


Bethany Keats

JCU Media