›From Poverty to Power: How Active Citizens and Effective States Can Change the World, by Oxfam’s Duncan Green, is a very important book—one that should be read by everyone at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and bilateral aid agencies. It combines a critique of current development policies and institutions with insights from community organizing and grassroots empowerment. Furthermore, it is comprehensive, covering not only aid but also politics, inequality, vulnerability, and reform of global governance structures. Finally, the book links the two critical components of the development equation: citizen participation and competent governance. The dichotomy between these two has always been a false one.
Green’s central message is that “development, and in particular efforts to tackle inequality, is best achieved through a combination of active citizens and effective states.” This should become part of the operational code of every development institution.
Green points out that “shocks and changes” can be important catalysts for reform. The current financial crisis is one of these shocks, and for our political leaders, it has made global governance a problem to be dealt with—as opposed to an issue too easily ignored. Just look at the recent G20 meeting. My colleagues and I spent a fair amount of time a decade ago designing and trying to sell leaders on an expanded summit to deal with the challenges of globalization. There were no takers. Yet this month we had a heads-of-state meeting that included leaders previously excluded from the G7.
No one really knows how long this crisis will last. But if leaders and their governments do not respond wisely and creatively, the human costs in both rich and poor countries will be immense. Leaders must understand that market forces left unregulated can ultimately prove destructive. This is the lesson of the struggle to regulate the U.S. national economy during the 19th century and of the period after World War I.
The financial crisis also provides an opportunity to raise fundamental questions about long-standing development policies. I strongly believe that the world, and particularly the United States, needs to adopt a new type of realpolitik—call it global realpolitik if you wish. For the United States, a global agenda should include:
- An energy strategy that transitions to a less oil-dependent energy supply;
- A climate policy that recognizes one of the greatest threats to our well-being;
- A renewed emphasis on agriculture so that food production increases, particularly in poor countries;
- A health policy that deals with major health threats, old and new, and equips the world to deal with the next pandemic;
- An international effort to deal with failing states and internal conflicts; and
- A major emphasis on ending poverty.
In all of these areas, development promotion provides an important set of tools. No matter how good our intentions, we cannot accomplish these goals without competent partners: states with the capacity to manage their own affairs and cooperate on global problems—states in which rights and freedoms are guaranteed, and in which people feel they have a voice in the policies that affect them. International development is critical to helping foster such states.
I have two additional comments on From Poverty to Power. First, I think the section on aid could have been stronger. The aid “business” is in considerable disrepair, with simply too many donors trying to do too many things in too many places with too little coordination. There are many ways to make aid more effective, but they will not be easy to implement, and Green could have delved into the complexities a bit more.
Second, the book’s strength is also its weakness. It is nearly 500 pages long and has 792 endnotes! Fortunately, there are summaries in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese available online—but there needs to be a version aimed specifically at policymakers. Imagine you had 10 minutes to brief President-Elect Obama on the key findings of the book. What would you tell him? For better or worse, in this town, your insights are only as good as your elevator speech.
John W. Sewell is a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the former president of the Overseas Development Council.
How to Win (Green) Friends and Influence People (Who Are Interested the Environment)—Without Leaving Your Computer›November 28, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarNew York Times environment reporter Andrew Revkin recently invited readers to post cost-effective environmental proposals on his blog, Dot Earth. He promised to send the 10 best ones, as determined by readers’ recommendations, to the Obama transition team on energy and the environment.
Intriguingly, two of the proposals focus on population. “In a world of increasing scarcity, if we do not get a handle on our own population, it will get a handle on us,” writes one reader. “Because of sustained exponential population growth, we are collectively destroying what remains of the natural world. We are also putting our species at grave risk for rapid catastrophic population decline. We cannot expect to sustain exponential population growth indefinitely,” warns another.
If you missed this opportunity to put in your $0.02 on environmental and population issues, don’t worry: You can submit your comments directly to the energy and environment policy team on the Obama transition website.
Yet another venue for influencing influential people is Thomas Friedman’s Chapter 18 Project. Friedman’s latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—And How It Can Renew America, consists of 17 chapters, but he has said that the second edition will include an additional chapter comprising readers’ best ideas on how to make the transition to clean energy, improve our global environmental stewardship, and revitalize America’s economy and international reputation by “going green.” You can submit your proposals on his website.
›November 26, 2008 // By Rachel Weisshaar
Upon arriving in Los Angeles last week to accept a Global Media Award for Excellence in Population Reporting from the Population Institute (PI) —the New Security Beat won the “Best Online Commentary” award—I was greeted by a massive gift basket from PI. The rest of the week was equally bountiful, full of interesting people and vibrant exchanges of ideas.
After a dinner for the award-winners and PI and Population Media Center (PMC) board members and staff on Monday night, we spent most of Tuesday at a conference sponsored by PMC designed to help Hollywood writers and producers incorporate climate change and other serious environmental issues into their work. After Dr. Howard Frumkin of the Centers for Disease Control and Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn (Ret.) outlined the health and security impacts of climate change, various industry insiders—from “CSI” and Fox, for instance—shared how they have managed to include climate change impacts in their jokes, dialogue, and storylines without sacrificing entertainment value. It was truly fascinating, and I encourage you to read more about it in another New Security Beat post.
Paul Ehrlich, who is Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University, was the keynote speaker at the awards ceremony on Tuesday night, and he discussed the connections between population and environment in his trademark candid manner. “As long as you keep the population and consumption growing, you are, in the technical term, screwed,” he said. Bill Ryerson, president of both PI and PMC, and former CNN anchor Carol Lin presented the awards:
- Best Combined Media Effort: DZMM Radio, Philippines
- Best News Service: Reuters
- Best Online News Service: PUSH Journal (Communications Consortium Media Center)
- Best Individual Reporting Effort: More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want (Robert Engelman)
- Best Film or Miniseries: “Planet in Peril” (CNN)
- Best Print Editorial: “Global Overpopulation Is the Real Issue” (Boris Johnson, Mayor of London)
- Best Online Commentary: New Security Beat blog (Environmental Change and Security Program, Wilson Center)
- Best Magazine Article: “Why Have Scientists Succumbed to Political Correctness?” (Albert Bartlett)
- Best Radio Show: “The Naked Scientists” (BBC Radio)
- Best TV Show: “Morning Joe” (Joe Scarborough)
- Best Editorial Cartoonist: Don Wright (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, 1966 and 1980)
Population remains an underreported issue, but as challenges like climate change, food shortages, water scarcity, and lack of youth opportunity in the Middle East rise to the top of the international agenda, a growing number of journalists seem to be incorporating demographic angles into their stories. Thanks go to PI for calling attention to some of these important contributions.
Photo: The New Security Beat‘s Global Media Award for “Best Online Commentary.” Courtesy of Dave Hawxhurst and the Wilson Center.
The government of American Samoa has decided to boldly address the issue of rapid population growth, due to its potentially severe environmental impacts on the territory. Governor Togiola Tulafono’s Coral Reef Advisory Group, for which I work, has identified population pressure as the single largest threat to American Samoa’s coastal resources. This is an important finding because all of American Samoa’s population lives along the coast, and the entire territory is considered a coastal zone.
The government recently hosted a Population Summit with more than 130 key stakeholders to discuss the problems and to devise collaborative solutions. Governor Tulafono opened the summit by stating that “resources are not finite—there are limits—and in an island setting as ours, the primary threat comes from people and how they behave responsibly in their use of land, water and air.” Participants developed a Population Declaration containing numerous policy initiatives, project proposals, and a recommendation to create a Population Commission. This declaration was presented to the legislature and Governor Tulafono for their consideration. American Samoa recently held elections, and the new government will be sworn in come January, at which point the working team I coordinate will be pressing the government to implement this important call to action.
Population-health-environment (PHE) activities are still in their infancy in American Samoa. However, we do have some projects underway. The most progress so far has been with local education and outreach efforts. I am working with one of our local environmental educators to develop PHE lesson plans and activities for local schools. We will be advertising these lesson plans in the local newspaper and informing teachers that our staff are available to come to their schools to introduce these issues. In addition, we are developing a number of PHE educational resources to distribute at schools we visit.
Family planning clinic staff and environmental educators have begun collaborating on a weekly radio series on the issue of rapid population growth. These discussions are raising the awareness of listeners and encouraging them to be good stewards of their health and their environment. In addition, a team of educators is planning the first annual World Population Day event here next year.
On the policy side, we are collaborating with the various agencies, planning departments, and staff from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community to develop a Territorial Population Policy. Once this is developed, American Samoa will be one of only three island states in the South Pacific with such a policy. This policy is still in the early stages of being written, but I am confident that a draft will be developed over the coming year.
Finally, American Samoa is ramping up its marine-protected-area efforts, especially the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources’ community-based fisheries management program, which is an ideal venue for integrating population and environmental efforts. One of my main focus areas over the coming year will be looking at how I can connect the ongoing Department of Health activities with these programs. Although we are still in the early stages of addressing PHE issues in American Samoa, I am hoping to use the momentum from the recent summit to get us up to speed as quickly as possible.
Alyssa Edwards, a former ECSP intern, is the population pressure local action strategy coordinator with the Coral Reef Advisory Group in American Samoa.
Photo: Samoan schoolchildren play on a truck. Courtesy of Alyssa Edwards.
›The National Intelligence Council has released Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World, an unclassified report seeking to identify a range of future security trends. As the Washington Post notes, the report “makes for sometimes grim reading in imagining a world of weak states bristling with weapons of mass destruction and unable to cope with burgeoning populations without adequate water and food.” ECSP hosted a review of an intermediate draft of the report in July 2008.
The United Nations, the U.S. Department of Defense, and several other militaries are spearheading an effort to fight climate change and ozone-depleting substances. The partnership comes out of a conference held in Paris earlier this month on the role of militaries in protecting the climate. Andrew Alder, who attended the conference, writes, “the Pentagon can also play a leading role in reducing carbon emissions, ironically helping to reduce the very threat for which it is preparing.”
In “Quantum of Solace,” James Bond goes up against a villain who takes control of a country’s water supply. Pacific Institute Director Peter Gleick thinks this is “art imitating life in many ways,” as he believes conflict over water will become more severe unless we develop and implement more efficient ways of using our limited freshwater resources.
“Data on rainfall patterns only weakly corroborate the claim that climate change explains the Darfur conflict,” argue Michael Kevane and Leslie Gray of Santa Clara University in “Darfur: rainfall and conflict,” a paper in Environmental Research Letters.
Human and animal diseases must be addressed before the different protected areas that make up the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area can be connected, according to “As the Fences Come Down: Emerging Concerns in Transfrontier Conservation Areas.”
Healthy People, Healthy Ecosystems is a new manual by the World Wildlife Fund on how to integrate health and family planning into existing conservation projects. It features examples of population-health-environment projects from the Philippines, Nepal, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Uganda.
›November 21, 2008 // By Calyn OstrowskiReleased at the National Press Club on November 12, 2008, the UN Population Fund’s State of World Population 2008 encourages policymakers and the development community to embrace culturally aware approaches to achieving human rights such as gender equality and reproductive health. Noting the role local culture plays in these issues, the report makes suggestions for addressing traditional attitudes toward maternal mortality, female genital mutilation, honor killings, and contraceptive use, highlighting the need to develop alliances with local opinion leaders in program design and service delivery.
U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) urged both policymakers and development professionals to carry out development projects within the context of local cultural norms. According to Maloney, the Obama administration has promised to allocate funds to help implement the report’s recommendations. Azza Karam, senior culture advisor with UNFPA, explained that much development work still does not guarantee women’s rights and argued that State of World Population 2008 includes effective approaches to addressing harmful cultural practices. Karam encouraged the development community to approach culture pragmatically, demonstrating to local community leaders how changes in cultural practices benefit the whole community.
State of World Population 2008 devotes an entire chapter to the need to include women in post-conflict reconstruction, using case studies to demonstrate how gender equality can be incorporated into a variety of different peace interventions. The report pushes policymakers and program managers to endorse gender-sensitive approaches and abandon preconceptions that women lack the expertise to assist in long-term peacebuilding. Increasing women’s participation in post-conflict reconstruction “can help development practitioners mitigate some of the ill effects of conflict, minimize deterioration in gender relations and work with local communities and relevant stakeholders” to ensure women’s rights such as reproductive health and gender equality.
›November 20, 2008 // By Rachel WeisshaarAs U.S. governors and international climate representatives met at the Beverly Hills Hilton for California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate change summit on November 18, a group of Hollywood writers and producers—plus a few climate change experts—gathered on the other side of Los Angeles at the Skirball Cultural Center for “Changing Climate…Changing People: Connecting to the Biggest Story of Our Time,” a unique conference sponsored by the Population Media Center on how to incorporate climate change into mainstream TV and film.
Entertainment industry insiders like Sonny Fox emphasized that “earnest isn’t enough and won’t cut it”—that a show or film’s entertainment value cannot be compromised by its addressing serious issues like climate change impacts. Yet Chris Alexander, senior vice president of corporate communications for 20th Century Fox, showed that this is possible, with examples of how “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill,” and “Boston Legal” have seamlessly incorporated environmental issues into jokes, dialogue, and storylines.
David Rambo, a writer and supervising producer for “CSI,” described how “CSI” has addressed climate change impacts in two separate shows: one that examined the surprisingly large effect of a degree or two difference in temperature; and another that explored the high concentration of pharmaceuticals in water that has been recycled due to water shortages. According to Rambo, after that episode aired, “CSI” received grateful letters from public officials and educators from around the country, who said that the fact that “CSI” had addressed water reuse had made it acceptable for them to broach this once-taboo topic.
The conference was also anchored by some heavy-hitters—Dr. Howard Frumkin, director of the National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn (Ret.). Frumkin discussed the potential health impacts of climate change, which include increased levels of air pollution; higher incidence of allergies; geographic spread of vector-borne and waterborne diseases; severe disruptions to water and food supplies; and mental health problems, often resulting from exposure to natural disasters. McGinn explained that because climate change is a threat multiplier for instability, it could increase the risk of humanitarian disasters, failed states, civil conflict, extremism, competition over scarce natural resources, and mass migration.
In addition to panels, the conference also featured a one-act play, “Shuddering to Think,” about the challenges of incorporating serious issues into mainstream entertainment. It sounds dull—but was actually funny and incisive, thanks to sharp writing by Jon Robin Baird and adept acting by Bruce Davison, Scott Wolf, and Bradley Whitford, whom you may remember as Josh Lyman from The West Wing. Speaking after the performance about media’s power to convince the public to get serious about climate change, Whitford observed, “The press failed, the government failed, science failed—but Al Gore’s movie [An Inconvenient Truth] worked.”
›November 17, 2008 // By Wilson Center Staff“Time is pressing, and we need all hands on deck,” says Jean-Yves Pirot, an ecologist with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on the urgent need for conservationists to look outside their sector for help in improving sustainable environmental management in developing countries. In a podcast with ECSP’s Gib Clarke, Pirot, who coordinated the “Healthy People, Healthy Environment” stream at the recent World Conservation Congress, discusses the challenges of integrating population and health into environment programs. He urges conservationists to forge synergies with health and development specialists in order to scale-up small, short-term projects and provide long-term health and environmental benefits to the poor.
Join the Conversation
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