Points of Progress: Atlanta tackles gentrification, and more

Points of Progress: Atlanta tackles gentrification, and more

Why We Wrote This

This is more than feel-good news – it’s where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.


Places where the world saw progress, for the March 8, 2021 Monitor Weekly.


February 26, 2021

1. United States

A new community-owned real estate model that targets both residential and commercial gentrification has launched in southwest Atlanta. The Guild, a co-living organization, has purchased a building on Dill Avenue in Capital View, a historically Black neighborhood. During the Great Recession, residents say that investors bought up much of the commercial real estate but have done little to promote growth. The Guild is hoping to set a precedent that will give residents agency in their own neighborhoods. It plans to redevelop the Dill Avenue property with retail on the ground level – including a grocery store, which the neighborhood requested – and 15 to 17 housing units on the upper floors. Anyone in the property’s ZIP code can contribute up to $100 a month toward shares in the community real estate trust. Resident investors get a return based on an annual dividend and the current share price, which will reflect property values in the neighborhood. Coordinators anticipate gaining 250 to 350 investors, many from low- or middle-income families, over the next decade. (Next City)

2. Nigeria

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will allow tens of thousands of Nigerians to sue Royal Dutch Shell in English courts for repeated oil spills that contaminated land and groundwater in the Niger Delta, representing a watershed moment for those seeking greater accountability for multinational companies. The court found that the parent company is arguably responsible for the actions of its overseas subsidiaries. Locals are saying that years of oil spills, which Shell claims were caused by sabotage, have never been adequately addressed, and Royal Dutch Shell owed them a duty of care as the global corporation had significant control over its Nigerian subsidiary.

Ron Bousso/Reuters/File

Nigerians hope to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for a series of oil spills in the Niger Delta, pictured on Aug. 1, 2018.

“Increasingly impoverished communities are seeking to hold powerful corporate actors to account and this judgment will significantly increase their ability to do so,” said a partner at the law firm representing 42,500 Nigerian farmers and fishermen affected by the spills. “U.K. common law is also used in countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand so this is a very helpful precedent.” (Reuters)

3. China

Emissions of CFC-11 have declined after a precipitous spike, suggesting Chinese authorities have followed through on promises to crack down on its use. Once a popular coolant in air conditioners and in the manufacture of insulating foams, CFC-11 is considered a Class 1 ozone-depleting substance and is banned under the Montreal Protocol. In 2018, researchers documented five years of an unsettling increase in East Asian emissions of the outlawed industrial chemical, and further investigations pinpointed Shandong, China, as a primary source. Even as China denied the severity of the problem, it enacted policy changes and prosecutions targeting the CFC-11 trade. “[It’s] exciting to see atmospheric studies confirming that on-the-ground intelligence and subsequent enforcement have culminated in a spectacular climate win,” said Avipsa Mahapatra, a climate campaign lead for the Environmental Investigation Agency. (Nature, The New York Times)

4. Colombia

Colombia will grant temporary legal status to Venezuelan migrants, President Iván Duque announced – a move praised by refugee advocates around the world. At least 5 million Venezuelans have fled their country since 2015, according to the United Nations. Of the 1.7 million in Colombia, almost half do not have legal status. The new protections will last 10 years, making it easier for migrants to work, apply for permanent residency, and access public services. The change comes after Mr. Duque reversed a policy stating Venezuelans without legal status would be barred from Colombia’s COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Fernando Vergara/AP

Venezuelan migrant Katerine Valero and her children rest by a strip mall in Bogotá, Colombia, Feb. 9, 2021. Many of the estimated 1.7 million Venezuelans living in Colombia lack documentation.

The new protections could create more tension between migrants and their hosts. Still, global commentators are hailing the move as both pragmatic and humane. Following the announcement, there was a sense of relief among Venezuelans throughout the country. Andrea Guerra, a migrant who arrived in Colombia as a teenager three years ago, told The Guardian, “Now I can apply for real jobs, and I can think about building a real life here.” (BBC, The Guardian)

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5. United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates’ Mars probe has reached the red planet, a first for the country and a victory for the mission’s majority-women science team. The Hope probe entered the planet’s orbit in early February and has begun sending photographs back to Earth, which will allow researchers to gather new data about the Martian climate and atmosphere. The UAE is the first Arab nation to complete an interplanetary mission.

Christopher Pike/Reuters

Sarah Al Amiri speaks about the Hope probe in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Feb. 9, 2021.

The successful mission also marks women’s place at the forefront of the UAE’s space exploration program as the country works to expand its scientific capabilities and reduce its dependence on oil. Women make up 34% of the Hope mission – compared with 28% of the overall Emirati workforce – and 80% of its science team. “They are there based on merit and based on what they contribute towards the design and development of the mission,” Sarah Al Amiri, chair of the UAE Space Agency, told Deutsche Welle. (Deutsche Welle, BBC)

6. Maldives

The Maldives has outlined the first phase of an ambitious plan to rid the island nation of single-use plastics by 2023. Starting in June 2021, the import of various items including straws, plastic foam lunch boxes, cotton swabs, and small toiletry bottles will be banned. The next phase will prohibit the sale of thin carrier bags, 50- to 200-milliliter toiletry bottles, and PET beverage bottles up to 1 liter in size. Residents and tourists together produce more than 600 million pounds of trash every year, much of it plastic. When that trash gets collected by a barge and moved to a garbage island, government officials estimate 25% falls overboard into the ocean. Early efforts at eliminating plastic bottles by one resort have shown a reduction of daily waste from 6 pounds to ½ pound per person. The phases are determined by a committee that includes civil society representatives and policymakers who have consulted with the public. “Us doing it is not going to save the planet,” said former President Mohamed Nasheed, who helped draft the legislation to eliminate single-use plastics. “We can only be an example.” (Raajje, NBC)

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