›February 28, 2007 // By Gib ClarkeCICRED is organizing an international conference on population, development, and environment in the South, March 21-23, 2007 in collaboration with UNESCO, as part of the Programme for International Research on the Interactions between Population, Development, and Environment (PRIPODE).
The conference will last two and a half days. Beyond the dissemination of the PRIPODE findings, this conference will also create an arena for dialogue between scholars, actors, and decision-makers from the South and the North, and it will aim to strengthen the links between research and action in the field of sustainable development.
For further information, please visit the Conference website.
›February 21, 2007 // By Ken CristSoutheast Asia’s tropical forests are being cleared at a rate far faster than once believed, threatening the livelihoods of local people, and rapidly destroying the habitat of orangutans, rhinos, elephants, and tigers, according to the recent report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). If estimates are correct, only 2 percent of Sumatra and Borneo’s rainforests will be left by 2022.
The report cites illegal logging as a primary cause of deforestation, and notes the growing concern of Asian officials, who are advocating for Western industries and consumers to stop purchasing smuggled timber. “We are appealing today to the conscience of the whole world: do not buy uncertified wood,” said Rachmat Witoelar, Indonesia’s environment minister.
Asia also faces the connected challenge of forest conflict. Often instigated by fierce competition for forest resources among the political elite, military officials, local communities, and others, forest conflict has affected millions in Southeast Asia, particularly those who rely on forest land as their sole source of income.
›February 15, 2007 // By Karen BencalaThe United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said yesterday that by 2025 some 1.8 billion people will be living in areas of absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population may be water-stressed. The leading factors prompting FAO to sound the alarm are population growth and increased water use, especially in the agriculture sector, which sucks up roughly 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawals (the figure is even higher in several developing countries where drip irrigation and water-conservation measures have yet to be implemented).
None of this is news to most of us in the water world, but the FAO deserves credit for recommending proper management—the right answer, but not a revolutionary one. Integrated water resource management (IWRM)—a coordinated and participatory way of developing and managing water resources—has been the favored solution to water problems around the world for many years. Yet little action has been taken so far; water is a field full of experts, each with his own interests and concerns—fish in the stream, health of individuals, capacity of governments, etc.
The success of IWRM depends on including all stakeholders and illustrating how this comprehensive look can benefit everyone now and as well as in the future. With health, livelihoods, the environment, and much more at stake, developing a management plan is not an easy process. But as Pasquale Steduto, chief of FAO’s Water, Development and Management Unit, noted, progress is possible:
“Sound water resource management at all levels can help countries adopt flexible approaches that allow more people to have the water they need while preserving the environment. The global community has the know-how to cope with water scarcity, but we have to take action.”Effective action doesn’t have to be large-scale or technology–intensive, as shown by The New York Times story about farmers plowing around trees in their fields instead of chopping them down. We should all take note. IWRM doesn’t necessarily mean big. Bottom-up can work. Small can be beautiful.
›February 14, 2007 // By Alison WilliamsPresident of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—the first elected female head of state in Africa—spoke in Washington on Monday about the progress and challenges to development in her country. Efforts to expand development beyond the capital city of Monrovia (electricity and running water only recently returned after a 15-year hiatus) have been hampered by time spent pleading with international lenders to forgive the odious debt incurred during Charles Taylor’s regime.
Debt forgiveness seems like a no-brainer for a country that has shown remarkable progress in development and democracy, despite being written off not long ago as a decidedly failed state. So I was pleased to see Condoleeza Rice’s statement today, announcing that the United States will cancel $391 million of Liberia’s debt.
This is only a start though. Liberia’s total external debt is 3,000 times greater than the revenue of its exports. Without further forgiveness, the country will not be able to implement many (or any) of the plans Johnson Sirleaf spoke so passionately about during her U.S. visit: secondary road construction to revive trade in natural resources and agriculture, health care and education, and increased stability and security.
Surprisingly, Johnson Sirleaf focused very little on the role environmental resources played in Liberia’s decline. Charles Taylor partly financed his dictatorship and the war with Sierra Leone with revenues from timber, and the lifting of timber sanctions by the UN Security Council is arguably one of Johnson Sirleaf’s greatest accomplishments. Yet reference to timber was oblique; committing to better overall resource management, she said: “We are trying to build a country where our natural resources are used for the benefit of all.”
Similarly, diamonds—for which sanctions have yet to be lifted—were only briefly discussed. Johnson Sirleaf acknowledged the country is still struggling to comply with the Kimberly Process. And finally on the resource angle, Mittal Steel’s new contract for iron ore was a big focus point. It is an interesting new development if only because the company is one of the country’s few private investors—and at $1 billion, the contract is by far the largest.
›February 13, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesYears of drought, irregular rainfall, and environmental degradation ravaged Africa’s Sahel region in the 1970s and ‘80s, exacerbating economic, social, and environmental conditions in one of the world’s poorest regions. Coupled with an exploding population, these events provoked a collective re-think on development and conservation policy—shifting toward regional schemes to boost local capacities, establish effective land use policies, and improve community resilience to unpredictable climate conditions. Farmers in southern Niger provide a success story, reports The New York Times:
“Better conservation and improved rainfall have led to at least 7.4 million newly tree-covered acres in Niger, researchers have found, achieved largely without relying on the large-scale planting of trees or other expensive methods often advocated by African politicians and aid groups for halting desertification, the process by which soil loses its fertility.”Nevertheless, drought is only one of many forces dictating life in the Sahel. Add to the mix unknown impacts of climate change on the region’s drought cycles, shifting political and military power as well as variable financial flows from volatile markets like oil and it remains to be seen if this model can be replicated and sustained throughout the region.
For additional resources on the Sahel, see University of Nigeria Professor Anthony Nyong‘s presentation at the Wilson Center.
›February 6, 2007 // By Ken CristCongressional Democrats agreed last week to spend $4.5 billion in 2007 to combat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis , signaling support of the Bush Administration’s earlier efforts to strengthen international programs aimed thwarting the diseases. New York Representative Nita M. Lowey said the joint support is a sign of the times:
“We’re in a different world now…. This is the first time since Sept. 11 we’ve had a power split in Washington, and there’s a growing recognition among the public and policy makers that foreign assistance is critical to stability around the world.”Under Bush’s leadership, aid has quietly risen to more than twice the level of any previous administration. The upward trend reflects Washington’s renewed commitment to stemming the spread of AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, which continue to claim the lives of millions of people around the world each year.
›February 5, 2007 // By Alison WilliamsThe effects of climate change could launch a new wave of conflict and terrorism, say climate and security experts. Increased drought and refugee migration resulting from rising sea levels could lead to conflict in the countries worst affected by global warming.
Sir Crispin Tickell, Britain’s former ambassador to the United Nations, said terrorists might exploit these tensions, reported Reuters:
“Those who are short of food, those who are short of water, those who can’t move to countries where it looks as if everything is marvelous are going to be people who are going to adopt desperate measures to try and make their point.”Crispin says the world “must accept” the likely increase of violence within and between states at the hands of environmental change.
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