›February 29, 2008 // By Wilson Center StaffNorman Borlaug’s innovative plant breeding techniques—which he used to develop varieties of wheat resistant to stem rust—spawned the Green Revolution and earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. An article in MIT Technology Review (free registration required) discusses why the Green Revolution did not spread to Africa and which policies and techniques could strengthen African agriculture.
“In Mexico City, mass protests about the cost of tortillas. In West Bengal, disputes over food-rationing. In Senegal, Mauritania, and other parts of Africa, riots over grain prices.” An article from the World Bank explores the causes and consequences of—and solutions to—skyrocketing food prices.
Frequent ECSP contributor Richard Cincotta examines the links between population age structure and democracy in an article in Foreign Policy magazine (subscription required for full article).
“We must address the human consequences of climate change and environmental degradation,” said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wa Kang at a February 19 conference on climate change and migration. Full transcript here.
›February 26, 2008 // By Liat RacinRwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced an unprecedented joint effort to save the critically endangered mountain gorilla on February 20, 2008. As part of the 10-year Transboundary Strategic Plan, the countries will develop and adhere to a consistent set of conservation policies and laws in Virunga National Park, which overlaps the three countries and is home to more than half of the world’s 700 remaining mountain gorillas.
In addition to protecting the gorillas, the plan will also seek to promote regional stability and improve the livelihoods of nearby communities. The links between environmental conservation and poverty alleviation are particularly strong in areas close to gorilla habitats, where foreign tourists bring in significant revenue for local communities and national governments. The plan calls for more of the $500-a-person gorilla tracking permit revenue to go to local communities.
The first four years of the plan are being funded by the Dutch government, which Susan Lieberman of the World Wildlife Fund praised for recognizing “that species conservation and sustainable development and poverty alleviation go hand in hand.”
Heavy fighting in the DRC between Congolese troops and ex-general Laurent Nkunda’s rebel soldiers has prevented park rangers from entering Virunga National Park for months at a time. This has left the gorillas vulnerable to poaching and execution-style killings. In addition, the expansion of human settlements has damaged their habitat.
›February 25, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarToday’s Los Angeles Times reports that Colombia’s Macarena National Park is being deforested and polluted by illegal coca farms. After being driven from farmland by U.S.-sponsored aerial fumigation, coca growers have invaded Macarena and other national parks, where fumigation is illegal. In August 2006, six workers manually clearing coca in Macarena were killed by a bomb detonated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Recently, Colombia has begun to shift away from aerial fumigation toward manual eradication, which is more effective but poses significant risks to the workers and the security personnel guarding them.
Coca farming gives rise to a wide range of negative environmental effects, including “chemical dumping, deforestation, soil erosion, water pollution, a shift to mono-agriculture, bio-diversity loss, and a potential loss of cultural eco-knowledge,” according to American University’s Trade and Environment Database.
A New York Times article from 1989 demonstrates that, sadly, coca trafficking has been causing violence and environmental destruction across South America for decades.
›February 22, 2008 // By Wilson Center StaffIn Dead Water, a report released today by the UN Environment Programme, warns that pollution, overharvesting, invasive species, and climate change pose grave threats to the world’s fisheries and coral reefs. “Fishing for a Secure Future,” a recent meeting series hosted by the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP), examined the many challenges facing fisheries—as well as potential solutions.
U.S. officials might have taken more aggressive steps to combat climate change at the recent UN climate change conference in Bali had the Pentagon pressured them more forcefully, argue John Podesta and Peter Ogden in a Financial Times op-ed. According to Podesta and Ogden, climate change will threaten the U.S. military’s ability to effectively perform many of its duties, including responding to natural disasters and stabilizing fragile states.
“While governments continue to rely on the military as a preferred tool of security policy, the nature of many of the world’s intractable conflicts suggests severely misplaced priorities. Research suggests that among the underlying reasons for many tensions today are competition over lucrative resources and the repercussions from environmental degradation,” writes the Worldwatch Institute’s Michael Renner, who argues that UN peacekeeping forces, if given sufficient funds, could do a better job calming unstable regions than militaries. Renner also discussed environment-conflict links at the Wilson Center in June 2007.
Mongolians are moving from the steppes to cities in record numbers, and climate change is one of the drivers of this migration, reports National Geographic. “Reign of Sand,” a multimedia report by the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum and water NGO Circle of Blue, explores how desertification is threatening Inner Mongolians’ traditional livelihoods.
A report by the Population Council examines the impact of the Partners for Food Security project, which aimed to reduce the food insecurity of HIV-infected households in Tororo, Uganda, by fostering collaboration among agricultural, health, and economic development organizations. According to the report, “the coordination of agricultural extension and HIV/AIDS education and awareness can enhance the outcomes of both sets of activities.”
›February 21, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarNigerian Senator David Dafinone argued yesterday that the Nigerian government should abandon plans to allocate 444.6 billion Nigerian nairas in the 2008 budget to security in the conflict-ravaged Niger Delta. “Dedicating such huge amount to policing the Niger Delta will be counter productive because resentment of the state and the oil companies by the people will continue to deepen,” said Dafinone, who hails from the Delta. “There is urgent need to reorder the political, social and economic development of the Niger Delta,” he continued. “The root cause of the crisis in the region remains the denial of the peoples’ right to land and its content.”
The University of Bradford’s Kenneth Omeje calls for international efforts to hold the oil industry to standards of social and environmental responsibility and disarm and demobilize all Niger Delta militias and anti-oil combatants. But he emphasizes that “it will require a great deal of international pressure not only to compel the state to participate in a consequential roundtable with oil-bearing communities, but also to secure its commitment to far-reaching, proactive concessions that help meet the aspirations of the Niger Delta’s people.”
›February 20, 2008 // By Sonia SchmanskiLast month, the Brazilian government announced it would step up measures to combat illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest, including deploying Brazilian soldiers and police officers to regions that have recently suffered heavy deforestation. Last week, it made good on that promise, as Brazilian police confiscated 353,000 cubic feet of lumber from eight illegal sawmills in the state of Para—one of the biggest loads ever seized.
The heightened enforcement follows a recent surge in illegal logging in the Amazon. Despite assurances from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that his administration had implemented successful policies to curb deforestation, 1,250 square miles of rainforest were cleared during the last five months of 2007. (It’s worth noting that this figure, provided by the government, is disputed, and as higher-resolution images become available, some expect it will as much as double.)
This isn’t the first time the Brazilian government has tried to utilize security forces to protect the Amazon. The System for Vigilance of the Amazon (SIVAM) was created more than a decade ago “(a) to monitor human movements and activities and their impact on the Amazon; (b) to increase knowledge about the region’s environment, biodiversity, climate, and geophysicalfeatures; and (c) to protect the Amazon’s environment while promoting local economic development there,” according to Thomaz Guedes da Costa. Several years into the program, he observed that SIVAM’s lack of transparency and failure to involve non-official organizations were seriously hampering its ability to achieve its objectives.
Some environmental experts doubt the new measures will do much to slow the pace of illegal logging in the Amazon. Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth Brazil, told Reuters, “The government raises a red flag with the left hand and chops trees with the right,” referring to the negative impacts of government infrastructure, mining, and landless peasant resettlement projects on the Amazon.
Rainforest destruction has been at the forefront of global discussion lately, with high-profile figures leading the way. In a speech to the European Parliament last week, Prince Charles argued for the creation of a global fund to preserve tropical rainforests, explaining that “in the simplest of terms, we have to find a way to make the forests worth more alive than dead.” International attention has likely put pressure on the da Silva government to undertake heightened measures against illegal forest clearing.
Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a Harvard law professor and Brazil’s new minister for strategic affairs, hopes to use his office to create a plan for Amazonian development that addresses both ecological and economic issues. “The Amazon is not just a set of trees,” he told The New York Times. “It is a set of 25 million people. If we don’t create real economic opportunities for them, the practical result is to encourage disorganized economic activities that results in the further destruction of the rain forest.” A recent Wilson Center event explored the challenges associated with balancing infrastructure development and environmental conservation in the Amazon.
›February 15, 2008 // By Wilson Center StaffA paper commissioned by the Institute for Global Dialogue and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa explores the prospects for sharing and jointly managing the water resources of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). “Water resources availability has been and still is high on the national security agenda of most SADC states,” write Daniel Malzbender and Anton Earle.
A report from the Institute for Policy Studies analyzes the disparities between the U.S. government’s FY 2008 spending on military security and climate security.
The United Nations, European Union, and United States each have important roles to play in mitigating climate change’s security threats, argue John Podesta and Peter Ogden in The Washington Quarterly. The article echoes The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change, published jointly last year by the Center for a New American Security, which Podesta heads, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
UNAIDS released a statement earlier this week expressing its concern that the recent violence in Kenya is disrupting efforts to combat the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In the Global Dashboard blog, David Steven remarks on three “hidden drivers” of instability in Pakistan: the government’s failure to capitalize on the “demographic dividend,” the potential socio-economic benefits of a large working-age population; the rising food, water, and energy scarcity faced by working- and middle-class Pakistanis; and what Steven calls “the worrying role being played by the Pakistan army, once a source of national stability and pride.”
›February 13, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarThe recent fighting in Chad was partially fuelled by rebels’ resentment over President Idriss Déby’s handling of the country’s oil revenue, reported The New York Times. “They say that he has not managed the country’s growing oil wealth well and that he has given preferential treatment to members of his ethnic group, the Zaghawa.”
Although an agreement with the World Bank states that Chad’s government must devote 70 percent of oil revenue to development, few believe this is occurring, especially given Déby’s recent high levels of military spending. Philippe Hugon, a researcher specializing in African economic affairs, told Agence France-Presse, “The oil wealth has been partially siphoned off and wasted on arms spending and on building up the personal fortunes of people close to Idriss Déby….The rebels want their share.”
Chad’s oil production is tiny when compared with that of some of its neighbors, such as Nigeria; even so, it constitutes a considerable portion of the country’s economy. Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranked 170th out of 177 countries in the 2007-2008 Human Development Index.
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