›Elizabeth L. Malone, senior research scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, speaking at the Wilson Center on November 16. “Looking more closely at glacier melt, we come to understand that upstream actions and choices have a potentially huge effect on downstream communities,” added Kristina Yarrow, health advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Asia and Middle East Bureaus.
Malone and Yarrow were joined by Mary Melnyk, senior advisor for natural resource management at USAID’s Asia and Middle East Bureaus, to discuss the agency’s new report, “Changing Glaciers and Hydrology in Asia: Addressing Vulnerabilities to Glacier Melt Impacts,” prepared by Malone in collaboration with CDM International and TRG. “This report is a move towards mainstreaming climate change across the development portfolio to ensure enduring success of our investments,” Melnyk said.
Mainstreaming Climate Change
Providing information about the science, vulnerabilities, and current efforts to respond to environmental change and glacier melt in Asia, the new report also features a number of practical, cross-sectoral approaches to addressing glacial retreat in Asia that, if implemented well, could produce multiple benefits. The report highlights the complexity of the issues surrounding glacier melt in the region, and the critical need to prepare today for future environmental changes.
“The challenge is that, in practice, addressing issues of climate change and other environmental security issues still are not a part of the day-to-day business across sectors,” Melnyk said. This report is a first step in the right direction to raise awareness and action on these issues and “although there is uncertainty, we need to move forward – the time to act is now,” she concluded.
Multiple Sectors, Multiple Benefits
“Cross-sector collaboration and programs, when done correctly, can have a much greater impact than when doing a vertical program within a specific sector,” Yarrow said, stressing the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to address environment, health, and development issues. Understanding the health impacts of climate-related environmental change now can help prepare us to address these specific impacts in the future.
stress on water resources due to climate change and rapid population growth will likely exacerbate health problems caused by lack of clean water. Proactively expanding and improving programs that address the causes and effects of diarrheal disease and under-nutrition can help address these vulnerabilities and make communities more resilient.
“Finding innovative ways to improve access to and integrate family planning messages and services into climate adaptation programs will also yield some important co-benefits,” Yarrow said. Family planning can slow population growth, which could help reduce projected demand for water supplies, as well as potentially reduce the amount of water pollution.
Yarrow also added that “population growth affects glacier melt indirectly through the consumption of resources that exacerbate black carbon.” Black carbon, which is produced by cooking and heating with biomass fuels, contributes to regional climate change and severe health problems, including respiratory illness and pneumonia. Accompanied by efforts to promote alternative fuels, family planning could reduce black-carbon emissions, significantly improve health, and strengthen community resilience to climate change.
“Though challenging, integrating across sectors is absolutely essential – we’re not experts yet, but we’re definitely getting better,” Yarrow said. “Understanding and addressing the multiple issues like climate change, poor health, poverty, dependence on natural resources, and governance challenges that these communities are dealing with in a comprehensive and holistic fashion will improve results.”
Responding to Glacier Melt
“We simply do not have the kind of broad-scale knowledge that we would like to have,” Malone said. Current data on glacier melt is scarce and very few direct measurements of glacier volume exist, making calculations of glacier retreat difficult. Moving forward, it is critical to respond to this lack of information by improving regional scientific cooperation on glaciers, snowpack, and water resources in High Asia, and strengthening climate and water monitoring capacity.
climate change is happening in the Himalayas and is having an effect.”
“If systems – both human and ecological – are already stressed, they are less able to be resilient in the face of changes. But the good news is that we can take actions now that will be crucially important to how societies can respond in the future,” Malone said.
Implementing cross-sector projects can help to target places where environmental, economic, health, and even security issues overlap. Focusing on water resource management, ecosystems, and the needs of high-mountain communities, as well as mitigating climate change by reducing emissions of black carbon, can help reduce both direct and indirect vulnerabilities and improve resilience to future changes.
“The results of this report allow USAID and others to grasp the complexity of these issues, understand the critical gaps, and to respond to the changes in the glaciers to come,” Melnyk said. The next step is applying the knowledge gathered in the report to practitioners in the field and in policy discussions.
“A crucial role USAID can play is to link partners in the government and private sectors to build capacity and spark synergies among new initiatives to really integrate new initiatives with concerns about glacier melt,” Malone concluded.
Photo Credit: “Nepal Sagamartha Trek,” courtesy of flickr user mckaysavage.
›November 30, 2010 // By Ramona Godbole
Addressing and analyzing gender norms, roles, and relations is increasingly viewed as critical in the development of equitable, effective, and sustainable health care. However, there has been relatively little integration of gender into health policies, programs, and systems.
The Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG) – founded in 1997 as a way to bring together NGOs and parts of USAID to share best practices – has partnered with K4Health to create a Gender and Health Toolkit specifically designed to bridge this gap.IGWG’s Gender and Health Toolkit provides access to hundreds of tools, databases, training modules, websites, and publications in one place. Broadly divided into sections including program design, implementation approaches, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, health systems, best practices examples, and even country-specific case studies, the toolkit provides nearly everything needed to begin integrating gender into new or existing public health programs.
Practitioners can also post questions and comments about the toolkit through an integrated discussion board. The toolkit even has a database to share gender-related photos.
While designed primarily for gender and health specialists and practitioners, the scope of the toolkit extends beyond typical public health issues like maternal health, family planning, HIV/AIDS, and reproductive health. The toolkit links to resources and training modules covering a wide range of cross-cutting topics including gender-based violence; nutrition and food security; integrated population, health and environment; and conflict/post-conflict humanitarian assistance.
The accumulated wealth of knowledge presented in the IGWG Gender and Health Toolkit is an impressively comprehensive resource, and it should be bookmarked by environment, health, and gender specialists and interested policymakers alike.
Image Credit: K4Health.
›November 29, 2010 // By Hannah Marqusee
While expectations are deflated for broad international consensus at the UN Climate Change Convention in Cancun, the need to “climate-proof” development efforts has been gaining ground in recent years as a necessary preventative measure to help developing countries adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.
›November 29, 2010 // By Wilson Center StaffJay Gribble, vice president of International Programs at the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), recently attended the Kenya National Leaders Conference on Population and Development, November 15-17, at the Kenyatta International Conference Center in Nairobi. During the conference, he produced a series of posts for PRB’s Behind the Numbers on some of his impressions. Gribble focuses on Kenya’s resurgent interest in integrating population issues into the development agenda, the country’s ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the importance of family planning.
Below are the introductory excerpts from his posts; to read the full posts, please visit Behind the Numbers.
“Anticipating Change in Kenya”
Sitting in the hall where Kenya’s National Leaders Conference will be starting in a few minutes, I can’t help but feel that there is an opportunity to refocus national attention to development…to the goal that I have heard repeatedly of becoming a Middle Income country. And to achieve this goal, they must first recognize that population is an underpinning development issue that cannot be ignored.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Kenya was a leader in reproductive health and maternal health, really setting a pace for the continent. But during the 2000s, Kenya turned its attention to other pressing issues – namely HIV/AIDS – and began to give less attention to population issues. Though HIV continues to be a plague, it is now time to return to the importance of slowing population growth, for until this fundamental issues is addressed, there will be less opportunity for education, jobs, and better health. At the same time, as a predominantly rural country with agriculture representing a major part of the economy, smaller families will be critical to maintaining farms that are large enough to feed families and the country.
Continue on PRB.
“As the Rich Get Richer, the Poor Get Children”
The Kenya National Leaders Conference has begun, representing the first time since 1989 that Kenya’s national population policy has been discussed in a large, open forum. With a new national constitution, Kenya is poised to redress many of the social and economic inequalities that have stood in the way of its development. In fact, the current population policy expires in December, 2010, and one of the purposes of this conference is to gather the input from leaders throughout the country on how a new policy should be framed. I find it impressive that such a large conference is convened to ensure that a new policy reflects the needs of the nation. The conference is also a forum for reaching leaders with important information about the need to address population growth through family planning if Kenya is to achieve its Vision 2030 development plan.
Continue on PRB.
“In Kenya, Prioritizing Population…and Family Planning”
As Kenya’s National Leaders Conference on Population and Development winds down today, it offers leaders an opportunity not only to think and talk about how population growth is an issue that underlies the country’s development, but to act on it too. Whether thinking about business, agriculture, or the environment, it is impossible to be strategic about Kenya’s future without also considering how rapid population growth will affect it.
In talking with Kenyans who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s – back when family planning and population growth were a priority – they remember the messages that were at the tips of people’s tongues – smaller families live better. Before the HIV/AIDS epidemic, family planning and slowing population growth was a priority and a source of national pride because it put Kenya on track for prosperity and development.
Continue on PRB.
Photo Credit: Adapted from “King Kenyatta?” courtesy of flickr user rogiro.
›November 24, 2010 // By Schuyler NullJust two days before dozens of North Korean artillery shells fell on the island of Yeonpyeong off the west coast of Korea, a UN study reported that the DPRK was facing acute food shortages heading into the winter.
In a New York Times report, Choi Jin-wook, of the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, called food “the number one issue.” While Choi just last month praised the resumption of food aid from the South to the North as a “starting point of a new chapter in inter-Korean relations,” she told the Times Wednesday that the North is “in a desperate situation, and they want food immediately, not next year.”
North Korea’s motives are notoriously indecipherable and this latest incident is no exception, but the regime has in the past sought to distract from domestic problems by inciting the international community (the sinking of the Cheonan being the other latest prominent example).
Infrastructure has always been primitive in the North under the DPRK regime, but the country’s tenuous food security situation was made worse this last year by an unusually long and severe winter followed by heavy flooding in the summer. Flooding was so bad during August and September, that the normally silent regime publically announced details of rescue operations around the northern city of Sinuiju. The joint FAO/WFP report put out by the UN does not predicate production will significantly recover in the next year and estimates an uncovered food deficit of 542,000 tons for 2010/11.
“A small shock in the future could trigger a severe negative impact and will be difficult to contain if these chronic deficits are not effectively managed,” Joyce Luma of the World Food Program told The New York Times.
For more on the severe weather events of this summer, including the flooding that impacted the DPRK and pushed the Three Gorge Dam to its stress limits in China, the impact of scarcity and climate change on the potential for conflict, and the intersection of food security and conflict elsewhere, see our previous coverage on The New Security Beat.
Sources: Christian Science Monitor, Food and Agriculture Organization, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, UN, Washington Post, World Food Program.
Image Credit: Google Maps.
›“All conservation efforts will be in vain if family planning issues aren’t addressed,” says Rebecca Hill, project manager for the Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme at Blue Ventures in a video highlighting their population, health, and environment (PHE) programming in Madagascar.
While primarily a marine conservation group, Blue Ventures also recognizes the need for integrating population into their efforts. They began a family planning program in southwestern Madagascar in 2008 as part of a “holistic approach to conservation.” The project aims to address the high unmet need for family planning, high fertility and maternal and infant mortality, and conserve the coastal environment. “We are directly saving lives,” Hill says.
Rapid population growth is creating an unsustainable strain on natural resources, as Matthew Erdman of Blue Ventures wrote in a previous post on The New Security Beat:
The average total fertility rate in Velondriake is 6.7 children per woman, according to our data. On average women are only 15 years old when they first conceive. To compound this problem, a majority of the population is under the age of 15 – at or approaching reproductive age. At the current growth rate, the local population will double in only 10 to 15 years. The local food sources, already heavily depleted, barely feed the current population, let alone twice that amount. Without enabling these coastal communities to stabilize their population growth, efforts to improve the state of marine resources and the community’s food security are considerably hindered.Hill describes the situation in the village when she joined the Blue Ventures in 2008 as “alarming,” with women “having up to 17 children despite not wanting children.” Many people in the town had never heard of condoms and had no idea how to use them, she said, and “they are desperate to have access to contraception.”
Today, the initial family planning program has been scaled up to the surrounding region and generated significant community involvement by peer educators teaching community members about sexual and reproductive health. It’s also become the first PHE project to receive support from the UNFPA within Madagascar.
There are currently 18 community-based distributors who give out two types of contraception in their villages. The fact that the community has so fully embraced the project shows that it can be replicated elsewhere, says Hill in the video. “Communities themselves have harnessed the ideas and consider that what we’re doing is vitally important.”
“Addressing family planning needs and issues is inextricably linked with conservation issues,” says Hill. “All conservation efforts will be in vain, if family planning issues are not addressed.”
Video Credit: Blue Ventures Family Planning Project from Alexander Goodman on Vimeo.
›November 23, 2010 // By Wilson Center Staffecsp@wilsoncenter.org.
The Environmental Change and Security Program is seeking interns to:
Assignments may include:
- Write for our award-winning blog
- Network with leading experts in the environment, population, and security fields
- Work closely with the friendly, dynamic “Green Team” to explore new media while seeking a sustainable future
- Drafting posts for The New Security Beat and ECSP’s website
- Assisting with events and conferences
- Researching environment, population, and security information
- Assisting the preparation of publications and/or outreach materials
- Updating contact databases
- Performing administrative assignments in support of ECSP activities
Potential interns should be students and/or recent graduates with an interest in, coursework related to, and/or experience working on environmental and human security.
In addition, applicants should:
- Possess strong research, writing, and/or administrative skills
- Be detail-oriented
- Be able to work both independently and as part of a group
- Be enrolled in a degree program, recently graduated (within the last year), and/or have been accepted to enter an advanced degree program within the next year
How to Apply
To apply, please submit a resume, cover letter, and short writing sample (between two and five pages in length). Please indicate in your cover letter whether you are applying for a paid or unpaid internship.
Please submit application via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Spring 2011 Internship” in the subject line.
The deadline is rolling. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled. Due to the high volume of resumes ECSP receives, only those candidates selected for interviews will be contacted.
›“Expanding voluntary family planning access and ensuring that all women have access to reproductive health services is, to me at least, a no brainer,” said the Population Institute’s Robert Walker in this interview with ECSP. “I think it’s a win for women, for their health, for their welfare, the welfare of their families, for their communities, for the environment, and for the planet at large.”
While China and India dominate much of the global headlines about population growth, other parts of South Asia – namely Afghanistan and Pakistan – and sub-Saharan Africa receive comparatively little attention. For Walker, a renewed global effort to boost the quality and quantity of reproductive healthcare tools and services in these areas of the developing world is essential.
“This is very, very doable. We face a lot of really incredible challenges in the world today, particularly with respect to food, energy, water, and poverty. But if we can increase what we spend on international family planning assistance by three or four billion dollars a year, we can literally change the world,” Walker said. “And I think we desperately need to.”
The “Pop Audio” series is also available as podcasts on iTunes.
Join the Conversation
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