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Aung San Suu Kyi launches landmark tropics report

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has launched the landmark State of the Tropics report in Rangoon, which reveals that the equatorial regions will play a critical role in guiding the world’s demographic, economic and environmental changes over the coming decades.

Known as the Tropics, these regions reside between the latitudes of the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, which includes central Africa, Latin America, India and Southeast Asia. The report, launched on Sunday in Rangoon, has ground-breaking analysis which reveals that the regions are expanding as the Earth warms, but at a slower rate than earlier forecast.

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

It reveals that half of the world’s population and 67 percent of the world’s children under 15 years of age will be living in the Tropics by 2050, raising serious implications for global policymakers.

Aung San Suu Kyi told the audience in Rangoon she hopes the report will change viewpoints.

“I would like this report to be able to contribute towards a more caring world for all of us. And there is so much that we can learn from this report to make us better carers: to care for our environment, to care for one another, to care for those who are different from us, and to understand that those who are different from us are just as worthy of care as we are,” she said.

The report shows that the tropical population is expected to exceed that of the rest of the world in the late 2030s, confirming just how crucial the regions are to the world’s future.

The project’s convener and Vice Chancellor of Australia’s James Cook University, Professor Sandra Harding, said the launch will become a critical moment in reframing our understanding of global dynamics.

“The Tropics accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s population, around 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and features some of the most pressing issues of our time: population growth rates ahead of the rest of the world, health and disease, environmental management, the development of governance and judicial structures, all playing out in Aristotle’s Torrid Zone,” she said.

The report also shows that while these regions are changing rapidly, they also have much to offer, and its influence and impact on the rest of the world is set to dramatically rise in the coming decades. Economic growth in the equatorial regions has outperformed the rest of the world over the past 30 years and is now estimated to represent 18.7 percent of global economic activity, up from 14.5 percent in 1980, the report said.

But it also warned that climate change has the potential to disproportionately affect these advances through the impacts on human and food security, renewable water availability, rising sea levels, and vector-borne diseases.

“Building strategic partnerships will become a critical key to achieving sustainable development. That goes back to: how are we going to use this report to achieve sustainable development?” asks Rose Aderolili, head of human and social development for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

“I believe that getting this report into the hands of the people will really make good use of it, in terms of informing policy, in terms of implementing policies that address the issues that I have outlined,” she said. “[It] will be a big step forward.”