›May 29, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesAs Americans grow increasingly uneasy with our reliance on oil imports from the Middle East, a new region in Africa—the Gulf of Guinea—is emerging as a pivotal oil exporter. An ambitious new book, Oil and Terrorism in the New Gulf, written by James J. F. Forest and Matthew V. Sousa, focuses on this region of Africa and highlights the U.S. strategic interest in its oil-producing countries: Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, and the island nations of Príncipe and São Tomé. This “New Gulf” not only provides the U.S. with a new oil supply, but also affords a chance to reframe our energy relationships.
Oil consumption is on the rise, with the United States leading the pack at nearly 25 percent of aggregate global oil use. Meanwhile, rapid industrialization and economic growth in India and China continues to push demand even higher. The Gulf of Guinea region is vying to meet the demand.
This book asks a critical question: how will the New Gulf cope with growing demand for oil in the face of pervasive poverty, weak governance, and corruption? The crux of the problem: stability in this region is an obstacle. According to the authors, stability is contingent on a calculated foreign policy framework, and the United States’ ability to learn from its mistakes in its quest for Middle East oil:
Our continued support for undemocratic regimes, coupled with our willingness to do virtually anything to maintain open and reliable access to the oil resources of the Middle East, has produced increasing animosity throughout the region that will take years of hard work to reverse.The authors advocate building energy relationships that avoid the Middle East model—a model beset by “shortsighted U.S. interests rather than long-term, fundamental U.S. values.” Instead, they say, America’s energy relationship with the New Gulf should be stable and cooperative, and built off a clear framework that promotes three, integrated priorities:
- 1. Human security
- Economic development
›May 22, 2007 // By Gib ClarkeThe finalists of the World Bank‘s annual Development Marketplace competition are presenting their winning projects this week in Washington, DC. Overall, 2,500 proposals were submitted on population, health, and nutrition, and the final 104 projects—hailing from 42 countries around the world—will be on display for all to see on May 22 and 23.
The Development Marketplace is sort of a micro-version of the Gates Foundation-sponsored Grand Challenge Initiative, in that it provides funding to non-traditional projects that would otherwise not be funded because they fall outside the development community’s comfort level. Innovative projects are something of a double-edged sword—funders tend to be turned off by their uniqueness; yet if successful, these projects could serve as useful models in other development settings.
The finalists’ projects range from selling soap to buy medicine in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, to using farm animals to distract malaria-carrying mosquitoes in the Philippines, to promoting healthy sexual behavior by teaching DJs to mix “Sounds of Life” samples into their performances.
I was thrilled to participate as a judge in this competition. It was exciting to see so many novel ideas, from creative recycling of garbage to board games used to teach reproductive health. Choosing certain projects to advance to the next round was difficult, given the wide array of problems they were addressing. In the end, the projects that made it to this last round share a few characteristics – creativity, small-scale, and potential for replication in a variety of settings. Hopefully these new, small, non-traditional projects will help us solve the old, large, traditional problems.
World Bank staff have created their own blog for the Development Marketplace. Judges, attendees, contestants—and interested readers—are encouraged to comment. They will be updating the blog with stories about the projects throughout the two day competition.
›May 15, 2007 // By Sean PeoplesRemember the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)? We are approaching the halfway point marking the 15-year effort toward eradicating poverty, and improving livelihoods and sustainability. Taking stock of progress in reaching these targets could not come at a better time.
The Global Monitoring Report 2007 annually reviews progress on the MDG targets and highlights emerging priorities on achieving them. This year’s report focuses on gender equity and fragile states. According to the report, progress is evident, but it is clear there is much more work to be done, specifically in harmonizing aid and “translating good intent into viable outcomes on the ground.” It also says that promoting gender equity and empowerment of women can be a conduit to achieve targets for universal primary education, improved child mortality rates and maternal health, and reduced HIV/AIDS transmission—each an MDG in its own right. Similar themes are voiced—albeit with an emphasis on health disparities—in Save the Children’s latest report State of the World’s Mothers: Saving the Lives of Children Under 5.
One of the most interesting resources in tracking progress is The World Bank Group’s Online Atlas of the Millennium Development Goals, which maps each of the eight MDGs by country. The atlas is an easily digestible interface with visually stimulating functions that complement narrative progress reports.
Together, these reports provide a sobering snapshot of what still needs to be done. Indeed, others sources point to the lack of quality data for indicators within the MDGs, which makes tracking progress and assessing success extremely difficult. The Global Monitoring Report doesn’t mince words when it says that “[s]even years after the Millennium Summit at which the MDGs were adopted, there is yet to be a single country case where aid is being scaled up to support achieving the MDG agenda.” Continuing with the MDG development framework is important, but failing to scale up support and harmonize donor effort could further stall progress and “jeopardize the credibility of the program itself.”
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