›September 30, 2011 // By Schuyler NullSouth by Southwest (SXSW) – the popular music, film, and alternative showcase – is moving into the green space with its first ever “eco” conference, kicking off next week, October 4, with more than 50 panels on “solutions for a sustainable world.” There’s one in particular though you should tune into: “Three Great Ideas that Won’t Be On the Rio Agenda,” featuring Geoff Dabelko, director of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program; Roger-Mark De Souza, vice president of research and director of the climate program at Population Action International; and Aimee Christensen, CEO of Christensen Global Strategies.
The panel will feature discussion on three issues that will likely not be on the table at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development next year: integrated population, health, and environment development programs, climate adaptation as a path to peacebuilding, and how to get the private sector better involved in helping cope with climate change.
If you’re traveling down to Austin, “Three Great Ideas” is scheduled for Thursday, October 6 at 10am CST; if not, stay tuned for webcast information!
›In terms of groundwater depletion, “Yemen and Gaza are probably the two places worst off in the Middle East,” Aaron Wolf told ECSP in a recent interview. Wolf, a water expert and geography professor at Oregon State University, said population growth across the broader Middle East region has led to intensified groundwater pumping in recent years. This trend has raised the prospects for water-related conflict down the road, as countries drain their groundwater stocks faster than the aquifers can recharge. Potentially complicating matters further, said Wolf, is that most aquifers in the Middle East cross international boundaries.
Despite the region’s history of water tensions, Wolf said the unprecedented level of demographic change currently being experienced across the Middle East is not necessarily a recipe for future confrontations over the resource, in part thanks to the existence of water-sharing agreements in the area. Nevertheless, mounting demand will likely force water-users across the region – especially within the agriculture sector – to change the ways they utilize the resource.
Accounting for 80 to 90 percent of total water usage in some Middle Eastern countries, agricultural operations have already been forced to adjust to the evolving water-access situation. While moving from flood irrigation to drip irrigation represents one policy option if sufficient funds are available, Wolf said doing away with local food production “is a path that a lot of countries are going to have to take” to ensure a relatively stable water supply for their populations’ drinking, cooking, and cleaning needs.
Wolf added that one frequently discussed but not entirely realistic option for addressing the region’s water-supply concerns involves desalination. To date, widespread deployment of the technology has been hampered by high costs and substantial energy requirements, although that hasn’t stopped a few countries in the region – among them the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Israel – from becoming partially reliant on converted fresh water.
Wolf maintained that desalination’s hefty price tag means the technology is useful only for urban population centers near the coast. Moving converted sea water further inland remains a non-starter, he said, because transporting it requires an enormous amount of energy (a cubic meter of water weighs a metric ton).
For the same reasons, Wolf asserted, using desalinated water for agriculture doesn’t seem to be in the cards any time soon. “Right now a cubic meter of desalinated water costs about 40 cents, and you can’t use that for agriculture unless it drops down to about 8 cents a cubic meter,” Wolf said. “So until you can irrigate with desalinated water, it really doesn’t go a long way towards mitigating the larger water crisis.”
The “Pop Audio” series is also available as podcasts on iTunes.
Sources: American University, International Food Policy Research Institute, World Bank.
›The original version of this article appeared on the Pan American Health Organization website.
Women have made major strides toward greater equality in Latin America and the Caribbean, but stronger advocacy and leadership are needed to address problems they continue to face in health and other areas, said a group of top women health leaders at an event held at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. on September 27.
The event was part of a series of activities surrounding the 51st Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), which is being held this week.
Dr. Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, noted that Millennium Development Goal (MDG) five, reduce maternal mortality, “is the one MDG that has advanced the least in our region and around the world.” She said it is now widely accepted that investing in women is not only an issue of human rights, it is also “the intelligent thing to do economically, politically, and socially. So why doesn’t it happen?” She said making it happen is the major leadership challenge facing women in health and public policy today. “We have to empower women to make the strongest case possible that investing in women is the best thing governments can do, and we have to help ministers of health make this same case with their governments.”
WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said that high levels of maternal mortality reflect “a failure of governments.” “We know how to prevent women from dying while giving birth. It’s a lack of political commitment, policies, and investments in the right areas. We need to get these issues out into the public, and we need to work with men who are enlightened to accomplish this,” she said.
Rocío García Gaytán, President of the Inter-American Commission of Women, said maternal mortality continues to be a major problem in the hemisphere despite the fact that it is almost completely preventable. She said that contrary to common belief, most maternal deaths take place in hospitals and are the result of a lack of proper training of medical personnel. “This problem should not exist in the second decade of this millennium,” she said.
PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses urged women to develop a leadership style that will effectively advocate for women’s top concerns, particularly social, economic, and political progress.
“What is different when women lead?” Roses asked. “We need to support each other and identify what we should do that is different from male models. We must all work together – UN Women, the Council of Women World Leaders – to define feminine leadership and promote it.”
Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation, Beverly Oda, said progress on public policies for women “took many years” to develop in Canada. Today, gender reviews of legislation are now mandatory for legislation, and promotion of gender equality is an integral part of Canadian technical cooperation programs.
Vice-Minister of Health Dr. Silva Palma de Ruiz of Guatemala described a number of initiatives in her country that have been successful in improving women’s health and status. They include joint efforts involving the health ministry, the public prosecutor’s office, the national human rights ombudsman, and civil society organizations to reduce sexual violence by empowering women to report violence and by more aggressive prosecution of perpetrators. PAHO/WHO has supported these efforts with technical assistance in developing guides for care of victims of sexual violence. Other efforts include a new family planning law and education of men and women as well as healthcare workers about women’s rights to use contraception.
Minister of Health Ann Peters of Grenada said that women of the Caribbean “are very vocal” and have had considerable success advocating for women’s health. In her own country, this has helped produce a highly effective comprehensive mother-child health program that includes strong community health services with well-trained midwives and good referral systems, breastfeeding-friendly hospitals, and universal voluntary testing of pregnant women for HIV. Thanks to these programs, Grenada has “no mother-to-child transmission of HIV and virtually no maternal mortality.”
Minister of Health Marcella Liburd of Saint Kitts and Nevis noted the importance of addressing the social determinants of women’s health. For example, in her country as elsewhere, the majority of people living in poverty are women. “We need to consider other aspects of women’s well-being,” she said, “including financial, social, and mental health.”
Paraguay’s Minister of Health, Dr. Esperanza Martinez, said it was important to address women’s concerns in an integral way. She described a new platform for discussing policies that affect women involving different government ministries, not just health. “Women need to participate as policymakers and also to influence policies from the outside,” she said.
Dr. Carmen Barroso, Western Hemisphere Director for the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said, “Civil society is ready to partner with ministries of health to advocate for more resources, legislation, and promotion of women’s sexual and reproductive rights.”
The event was organized by the Council on Women World Leaders, PAHO/WHO, the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program, Global Health Initiative, and Latin America Program.
Ethiopia’s 2011 Demographic and Health Survey: Remarkable Fertility Decline, Continued Rural Health Challenges›September 28, 2011 // By Wilson Center StaffThe original version of this article, by Carl Haub, appeared on the Population Reference Bureau’s Behind the Numbers blog.
Continuing my recent practice of posting a quick summary of results from new demographic surveys in developing countries, here is another new Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) preliminary report, this time from a sub-Saharan African country. This will help readers of this blog to stay right up-to-date with the latest developments.
The Ethiopia 2011 DHS interviewed 16,515 women ages 15 to 49 and 14,110 men ages 15 to 59 from September 2010 to June 2011. The total fertility rate (TFR – the average number of children would bear in her lifetime if the birth rate of a particular year were to remain constant) obtained in the survey was 4.8 for the three-year period preceding the survey. For urban women, the TFR was 2.6 and for rural women, who were a little over 75 percent of the sample, 5.5. There appears to have been an acceleration of TFR decline from the 2005 to the 2011 survey compared with the 2000 DHS, which had a three-year TFR of 5.5. In 1990, a government survey had shown the TFR as 6.4. The desire to continue or cease childbearing provides one insight into possible future fertility trends. Of the women with five living children, 55.8 percent said that they did not wish to have any more children; among women with six or more living children, 68.6 percent said that they also wished to ceased childbearing.
Continue reading on Behind the Numbers.
Image Credit: Population Reference Bureau; data courtesy of Ethiopian Central Statistics Agency (CSA) and ICF Macro, Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS) 2011, Preliminary Report.
It’s not just “carrying water from a water point, but it’s discharging responsibilities that a woman has for using and managing water which may make her vulnerable to violence and bring her into risky areas,” said Dennis Warner, senior technical advisor for water and sanitation at Catholic Relief Services (CRS), at the Wilson Center on August 29. [Video Below]
›September 26, 2011 // By Schuyler NullSad news today as Wangari Maathai, the first African woman and the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize, has passed away in Nairobi. The Green Belt Movement, which Maathai founded in 1977, has planted over 30 million trees and advocates for what Maathai called the three essential components of a stable society: sustainable environmental management, democratic governance, and a culture of peace. [Video Below]
“Almost every conflict in Africa you can point at has something to do with competition over resources in an environment,” said Maathai during her visit to the Wilson Center in 2009:
Unless you deal with the cause, you are wasting your time. You can use all the money you want for all the years you want; you will not solve the problem, because you are dealing with a symptom. So we need to go outside that box and deal with development in a holistic way.Maathai’s message was molded from her experiences in Kenya and across sub-Saharan Africa in general. She was not shy about condemning African leaders and advocating for women in the political space. In ECSP Report 12, she wrote, “I come from a continent that has known many conflicts for a long time. Many of them are glaringly due to bad governance, unwillingness to share resources more equitably, selfishness, and a failure to promote cultures of peace.”
Importantly, though, Maathai advocated for addressing these issues in concert, not separately. She said at the Wilson Center:
I can’t say, ‘Let us deal with governance this time, and don’t worry about the resources.’ Or, ‘Don’t worry about peace today, or conflicts that are going on; let us worry about management of resources.’ I saw that it was very, very important to use the tree-planting as an entry point.A Message to the World
Some raised questions when Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 – the first awarded to someone from the environmental field – but the recognition was more than deserved, wrote Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) Director Geoff Dabelko on Grist:
Maathai is on the front lines of the struggle over natural resources that fuels conflicts across the world. While there is no dramatic footage of tanks rumbling across borders or airplanes flying into buildings, the everyday fight for survival of those who depend directly on natural resources – forests, water, minerals – for their livelihoods is at the heart of the battle for peace and human security.Maathai explained in Report 12 that she thought her winning of the prize was intended as a message to the world to “rethink peace and security.”
Elevating such a strong Southern voice – and one whose elephant’s skin bears the scars of the fight for peace – is a noble choice.
The Nobel Committee “wanted to challenge the world to discover the close linkage between good governance, sustainable management of resources, and peace,” she wrote. “In managing our resources, we need to realize that they are limited and need to be managed more sustainably, responsibly, and accountably.”
Sources: Grist, The New York Times.
Photo Credit: David Hawxhurst/Wilson Center.
›September 26, 2011 // By Wilson Center StaffThe original version of this article, by John Donnelly, appeared on Global Post.
At a forum at the Rubin Art Museum earlier this week, a group of global leaders, including two top U.S. officials, talked about how reproductive health issues for women were wrongly cast as only a women’s issue.
Instead, they said reproductive health was intimately connected to the world’s population boom, climate change, water and sanitation crises, economic downturns, educational rates, and development overall. And greater reproductive health rights would trigger a brighter future for the 600 million young women in the developing world, including the 10 million girls who are married before they reach the age 18, said the panelists, members of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health of Aspen Global Health and Development.
And yet, reproductive health and family planning is generally not a focus on the world stage. In fact, the topic is often avoided.
“If you can help young women feel empowered, where they themselves want to delay pregnancy, they can become the actors in their own lives,” Maria Otero, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs said at the Rubin Museum of Art. “What this Council allows us to do is think about the issue of reproductive health, one that is interconnected to all other issues” related to development.
Continue reading on Global Post.
Image Credit: “Age at 1st marriage (women),” courtesy of ChartsBin; data courtesy of Gapminder.
›“As we’ve learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, reconstruction, development, and governance are crucial to any long-term success – it is a lesson we forget at our peril,” said Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a video address commemorating the U.S. Agency for International Development’s 50th anniversary this fall. Gates was joined by Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a post on USAID’s Impact blog to reinforce the importance of development and USAID in particular to U.S. national security.
USAID was created on November 3, 1961 as part of a total overhaul of U.S. foreign assistance by President Kennedy. From the start, President Kennedy understood that the agency would play a role not just in development abroad but in improving U.S. security as well.
The agency is marking its 50th anniversary in an environment where development and security are seen as perhaps more linked than ever.
Winnefeld described the work that USAID and the military do as going hand-in-hand, saying that “together, we play a critical role in America’s effort to stabilize countries and build responsive local governance.”
In country after country, Winnefeld said, “USAID’s development efforts are critical to our objective of creating peace and security around the world.” He added that “instability in any corner of today’s highly interconnected world can impact everyone. Development efforts prevent conflicts from occurring by helping countries become more stable and less prone to extremism.”
“For 50 years,” Gates said, “USAID has embodied our nation’s compassion, generosity, and commitment to advance our ideals and interests around the globe. It’s a commitment demonstrated every time this agency works hand-in-hand with communities worldwide to cure a child, build a road, or train a judge.”
“By improving global stability,” Winnefeld concluded, “USAID helps keep America safe.”
Video Credit: USaidVideo.
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