USAID’s New Climate Strategy Outlines Adaptation, Mitigation Priorities, Places Heavy Emphasis on Integration›February 29, 2012 // By Kathleen MogelgaardIn January, the U.S. Agency for International Development released its long-awaited climate change strategy. Climate Change & Development: Clean Resilient Growth provides a blueprint for addressing climate change through development assistance programs and operations. In addition to objectives around mitigation and adaptation, the strategy also outlines a third objective: improving overall operational integration.
The five-year strategy has a clear, succinct goal: “to enable countries to accelerate their transition to climate-resilient low emission sustainable economic development.” Developed by a USAID task force with input from multiple U.S. agencies and NGOs, the document paints a picture of the threats climate change poses for development – calling it “among the greatest global challenges of our generation” – and commits the agency to addressing both the causes of climate change and the impacts it will have on communities in countries around the world.
These statements are noteworthy in a fiscal climate that has put development assistance under renewed scrutiny and in a political environment where progress on climate change legislation seems unlikely.
Not Just Challenges, But Opportunities
To make the case for prioritizing action on climate change, the strategy cites climate change’s likely impact on agricultural productivity and fisheries, which will threaten USAID’s food security goals. It also illustrates the ways in which climate change could exacerbate humanitarian crises and notes work done by the U.S. military and intelligence community in identifying climate change as a “threat multiplier” (or “accelerant of instability” as the Quadrennial Defense Review puts it) with implications for national security.
Targeted efforts to address climate change, though, could consolidate development gains and result in technology “leap-frogging” that will support broader development goals. And, noting that aggregate emissions from developing countries are now larger than those from developed countries, the strategy asserts that assisting the development and deployment of clean technologies “greatly expands opportunities to export U.S. technology and creates ‘green jobs.’”
In addition to providing a rationale for action, the strategy provides new insights on how USAID will prioritize its efforts on climate change mitigation and adaptation. It provides a clear directive for the integration of climate change into the agency’s broader development work in areas such as food security, good governance, and global health– a strong and encouraging signal for those interested in cross-sectoral planning and programs.
Priorities Outlined, Tough Choices Ahead
President Obama’s Global Climate Change Initiative, revealed in 2010, focuses efforts around three pillars: clean energy, sustainable landscapes, and adaptation. USAID’s climate strategy fleshes out these three areas, identifying “intermediate results” and indicators of success – such as the development of Low Emission Development Strategies in 20 partner countries, greenhouse gas sequestration through improved ecosystem management, and increasing the number of institutions capable of adaptation planning and response.
In laying out ambitious objectives, however, the authors of the strategy acknowledge constrained fiscal realities. The strategy stops short of identifying an ideal budget to support the activities it describes, though it does refer to the U.S. pledge to join other developed countries in providing $30 billion in “fast start financing” in the period of 2010 to 2012 and, for those USAID country missions that will be receiving adaptation and mitigation funding, establishes “floors” of $3 million and $5 million, respectively.
The final section of the strategy lists over thirty countries and regions that have already been prioritized for programs, including Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Malawi, and Peru. But “we are unable to work in every country at risk from climate change impacts or with the potential for low carbon sustainable growth,” the strategy asserts. An annex includes selection criteria to guide further funding decisions, including emission reduction potential, high exposure to physical climate change impacts, a suitable enabling environment, coordination with other donors, and diplomatic and geographic considerations.
“Integration” Central to Strategy
The concept of integration figures prominently throughout the 27-page document. For those of us working in the large and growing space where the global challenges of climate change, food security, health, livelihoods, and governance overlap, this attention is heartening. While it may sometimes seem simply fashionable to pay lip service to the idea of “breaking out of stovepipes,” the strategy identifies concrete ways to incentivize integration.
“Integration of climate change into USAID’s development portfolio will not happen organically,” the strategy says. “Rather, it requires leadership, knowledge and incentives to encourage agency employees to seek innovative ways to integrate climate change into programs with other goals and to become more flexible in use of funding streams and administrative processes.”
To this end, USAID plans to launch a group of pilot activities. USAID missions must submit pilot program proposals, and selected programs will emphasize integration of top priorities within the agency’s development portfolio (including Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative). Among other criteria, pilots must demonstrate buy-in from multiple levels of leadership, and will be selected based on their potential to generate integration lessons and tools over the next several years.
This kind of integration – the blending of key priorities from multiple sectors, the value of documented lessons and tools, the important role of champions in fostering an enabling environment – mirrors work carried out by USAID’s own population, health, and environment (PHE) portfolio. To date, USAID’s PHE programs have not been designed to address climate challenges specifically, and perhaps not surprisingly they aren’t named specifically in the strategy. But those preparing and evaluating integration pilot proposals may gain useful insights on cross-sectoral integration from a closer look at the accumulated knowledge of more than 10 years of PHE experience.
Population Dynamics Recognized, But Opportunities Not Considered
Though not a focus of the strategy, population growth is acknowledged as a stressor – alongside unplanned urbanization, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and poverty – that exacerbates growing challenges in disaster risk reduction and efforts to secure a safe and sufficient water supply.
Research has shown that different global population growth scenarios will have significant implications for emissions growth. New analysis indicates that the fastest growing populations are among the most vulnerable to climate change and that in these areas, there is frequently high unmet need for family planning. And we have also clearly seen that in many parts of the world, women’s health and well-being are increasingly intertwined with the effects of changing climate and access to reproductive health services.
In its limited mention of population as a challenge, however, the strategy misses the chance to identify it also as an opportunity. Addressing the linked challenges of population growth and climate change offers an opportunity to recommit the resources required to assist of the hundreds of millions of women around the world with ongoing unmet need for family planning.
The strategy’s emphasis on integration would seem to be an open door to such opportunities.
Integrated, cross-sectoral collaboration that truly fosters a transition to climate-resilient, low-emission sustainable economic development will acknowledge both the challenge presented by rapid population growth and the opportunities that can emerge from expanding family planning access to women worldwide. But for this to happen, cross-sectoral communication will need to become more commonplace. Demographers and reproductive health specialists will need to engage in dialogues on climate change, and climate specialists will need both opportunities and incentives to listen. USAID’s new climate change integration pilots could provide a new platform for this rare but powerful cross-sectoral action.
Kathleen Mogelgaard is a writer and analyst on population and the environment, and a consultant for the Environmental Change and Security Program.
Sources: FastStartFinance.org, International Energy Agency, Maplecroft, Population Action International, The White House, U.S. Department of Defense, USAID.
Photo Credit: “Displaced Darfuris Farm in Rainy Season,” courtesy of United Nations Photo.
›February 28, 2012 // By Stuart KentJust as the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov explored the idea of predicting the future to influence the world towards a more prosperous, democratic, and peaceful track, so too must USAID try to better understand the challenges of tomorrow, said Donald Steinberg, deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, during an address at USAID’s “Future of Development” symposium at the Wilson Center late last year. “Development now is too important to the United States to be left to actions that occur over 1, or 2, or 5, or even 10 years,” he continued. Looking beyond budgetary cycles, Steinberg asserted that “we have to prepare for future development patterns” by analyzing the present.
Why Aid Matters
Drawing on the President’s remarks during the UN’s 2010 Millennium Development Goals Summit in New York, Steinberg outlined three reasons why development aid is central to U.S. foreign policy.
First, we all stand to benefit from living “in a world that’s peaceful, that’s democratic, that’s prosperous, that’s respectful of human rights and respectful of human dignity,” he argued.
Second, “a world that is developing is in our economic interest,” he said. “Developing nations are our fastest growing markets abroad,” providing lucrative outlets for U.S. trade and investment. Eighty-five percent of new U.S. exports over the next two decades will find their way to recipients of U.S. foreign aid, he said.
Third, aid impacts national security. Countries that are developing and prospering “don’t spew out large numbers of refugees across borders or across oceans,” he said, “they don’t transmit pandemic diseases, they don’t harbor terrorists, or now even pirates” – in short, “they don’t require American forces.”
Looking to the Future
According to Steinberg, we can take hold of the future by being prepared to grasp opportunities, even if they come in the midst of challenges.
“We’re seeing demographic shifts that are complicating once steady development patterns,” he said, “and we’re seeing more uneven distribution of wealth within countries and between countries.” But “maternal and infant mortality have plummeted [and] literacy rates are skyrocketing.”
“We still see rampant corruption and we still see crackdowns on civil society all around the world,” however Steinberg pointed out that 17 new democracies have emerged in Africa in the last 15 years alone.
On climate change, he drew from recent events in the Horn of Africa. “A changing rain pattern – from a drought every 10 years to what is now basically a drought every year – has brought together a perfect storm of famine, war, and drought,” he said. Yet across the border from Somalia, the situation is markedly different – in part because “USAID has had the capability to work with eight million Ethiopians over the past decade to strengthen their resiliency.”
Each of these shows the opportunity for positive change amidst difficult challenges, if we are prepared.
“We went through a period where we had eliminated our office of policy and planning,” said Steinberg, but over the last few years the newly established Policy, Planning, and Learning Bureau at USAID has brought back an emphasis on futures analysis. “We are now seeking to become…the thought leader in the development field,” he said.
Overall, the total amount of official government aid is small compared to other sources from the United States, said Steinberg – around $30 billion a year (compared to $36 billion in private giving, $100 billion in remittance flows, and $1 trillion in private capital flows). To make the most of that, USAID should be “a catalyst for development,” he said, working in partnership, encouraging technological innovation, and advancing cross-sectoral understanding.
“We at AID like to think in terms of budget cycles,” said Steinberg. “We’re starting to think about fiscal year 14, but I want you to start thinking about fiscal year 25 and fiscal year 30. I won’t challenge you to think 30,000 years ahead like Isaac Asimov did, but I think we do have to consider what the lessons of today are teaching us about the future.”
Sources: The White House.
›“There are 750 million adolescent girls in the world today, and this is by far one of the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable demographics,” said Denise Dunning, the Public Health Institute’s program director for emergency contraception in Latin America during a February 2 panel at the Wilson Center. Dunning, who also leads the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy and Leadership Initiative (AGALI), was joined by Margaret Greene, director of Greeneworks, and Jennifer Pope, the deputy director of sexual and reproductive health at Population Services International, to discuss how to better reach underserved adolescent girls in developing countries with health and livelihood programs. [Video Below]
“Only two cents on every one dollar in international aid funding actually goes to support any type of adolescent girl programming or services,” said Dunning.
And yet, investing in girls represents a “tremendous opportunity to create change,” Dunning said, because that investment doesn’t just impact her, but her family, “her future children, her community, and her country’s economic growth.”
Dunning highlighted education as an example: “We know that adolescent girls who attend seven years of school will actually get married four years later and have 2.2 fewer children than their uneducated counterparts,” she said. And these educated women “have access to livelihoods and jobs that they wouldn’t otherwise [and] who then go on to invest almost 100 percent of their income in their families and in their future children.” On the other hand, said Dunning, men only invest on average 35 percent of their income back into their families, according to research done by the Nike Foundation.
“Pivotal, But Often Hidden”
Even as young girls have the potential to make exponentially huge impacts on their families and communities, the responsibilities they carry within their households can often add to the problems hampering their livelihoods and wellbeing.
Young girls in poor countries have family roles that are “really pivotal, but often hidden,” said Greene. And the fact that those roles are hidden means that “it’s hard to know where to start with the issue of domestic labor and the negative effects that it has on the lives of girls.”
On the one hand, said Greene, “they are bearing the burden of chores in the household, cleaning, fetching water, firewood, caring for family members, often working in fields or in family business.” On the other, “they often have no say in major life decisions that affect them, and their family and community norms often harm their well-being.”
The myriad roles that girls play underscore how many different issues – from education to health care, human rights, and livelihoods – must be addressed to create change for girls. “None of this exists in a vacuum,” said Dunning.
“If we’re not holistically addressing girls’ needs, and engaging them in a process of figuring out their own solutions, [advocacy work] is not going to be nearly as effective as it could be,” she said.
Greene added that the numerous issues important to girls can often be overshadowed by a singular focus on reproductive health. “I think we’re often, with very good intentions, very heavily focused on reproductive health services, and of course girls need much more than that,” she said.
Programming Should Match and Promote Girls’ Agencies
PSI, working in partnership with the Nike Foundation, the Rwandan Ministry of Health, and the Association des Guides du Rwanda, has been able to reach out to girls on a slew of issues by using what had initially been constructed as a reproductive health program as a sounding board to learn more about girls’ concerns and needs. Through the 12+ Program, Pope said girls made it clear that access to assets was a barrier for them; in response, they incorporated financial literacy skills into their programming, which now reaches about 600 10-to-12-year-old girls in Rwanda.
In Guatemala, girls living in the country’s western highlands became engaged in local governance through a program that an AGALI fellow and a Guatemalan reproductive health advocacy group initiated. Through the program, girls from 9 to 18 years old formed a youth parliament, “with boys as well, and actually decided that one of the main problems that they were facing was that they didn’t have enough [sexual and reproductive health] services and programs,” said Dunning. So, she said, these girls lobbied local mayors and ultimately won more funding for programs that met their needs.
In Madagascar, PSI found that the hurdle keeping reproductive health and family planning services out of girls’ reach wasn’t a lack of programming, but social norms that kept girls from making use of programs that already existed. Pope said that, in the case of 16-year-old Anasthasie, her concerns about being judged for going to a clinic that her parents or her parents’ friends might use kept her from seeking out the family planning services she wanted.
In response to Anasthasie’s feedback and others like her, PSI launched Top Réseau, a nationwide network of 173 clinics “focused towards youth…and having a safe space for youth to go to to ask questions,” said Pope. After four years, contraceptive prevalence increased 13 percent in program areas – a sign, said Pope, that with the right information and access to the right services, youth were finally able to achieve what they had wanted all along.
In all these cases, success came from recognizing girls’ agency, and avoiding treating them simply as passive recipients of predetermined aid. We can learn from the girls that our programming targets, said Pope. And once “girls have spoken and people have heard what they have to say,” said Greene, “in many ways there’s no going back.”
Photo Credit: “Fighting poverty in Kenya,” by flickr user Gates Foundation.
›February 24, 2012 // By Stuart Kent“Across the Sahel region of western Africa, a combination of drought, poverty, high grain prices, environmental degradation, and chronic underdevelopment is expected to plunge millions of people into a new food and nutrition crisis this year,” according to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) statement from February 10. The coming “lean season” is predicted to be the third food crisis in less than a decade and highlights a set of glaring vulnerabilities in a region facing severe long-term threats to health, livelihoods, and security. However, as international agencies call for funding to mount yet another emergency response, serious concerns are being raised about what is (or isn’t) being done to address the root causes of vulnerability.
When a Crisis Loses the Surprise Factor
Though more than one million children under-five are estimated to be at risk of “severe acute malnutrition this year, during a ‘normal’ year this figure still hovers around 800,000,” according to the OCHA’s IRIN service. Across the Sahel, UNICEF estimates an under-five child mortality rate of 222 per 1,000 live births – this means that more than one in every five Sahelian children dies before the age of five.
The Sahel is “a crisis in the context of a chronic emergency,” said Oxfam America’s Eric Munoz during a January 25 Wilson Center Africa Program event, “Is a Food Crisis Brewing in the Sahel?”
“It’s not necessarily that there is no food, it’s that the poorest people can no longer afford to access the food with their own means,” elaborated Ben Safari of Catholic Relief Services. Jacques Higgins of the World Food Program weighed in, observing that, “after a crisis, people are not able anymore to recover, to rebuild their coping strategies and resilience until the next crisis hits.” For instance, households previously forced into selling off assets such as livestock during past crises have had insufficient time to recover and cannot now employ the same survival strategy.
The perception that the resilience of populations in the Sahel is being worn down by the increasing frequency of humanitarian events is supported by a December 2011 report from the UN Environment Programme. Livelihood Security: Climate Change, Migration and Conflict in the Sahel, provides a wealth of data, including detailed maps (described on New Security Beat here), and argues that successful strategies to reduce vulnerability and encourage adaptation require understanding “the exacerbating effect of changes in climate on population dynamics and conflict in the region.”
But despite the relatively unified voices emerging from practitioners, evaluations of past crises, and key international agencies about the importance of looking at, and directing funds towards, the long-term and interlinked vulnerabilities that drive food insecurity in the Sahel, “the argument has not been won yet,” said Cyprien Fabre, head of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department in West Africa, to IRIN recently.
Robert Johnson, a UNICEF nutrition specialist, told IRIN:
It is still difficult to ensure funding from government agencies for long-term preventative activities when there are critical life-saving interventions that they can respond to immediately. It’s much easier [for them] to justify life-saving than long-term.Sources of Vulnerability
Populations across the Sahel face a diverse set of interwoven vulnerabilities that exacerbate long-term susceptibility to physical shocks such as late rains and failed harvests, as well as social shocks, such as conflict, insecurity, and displacement.
Though traditional adaptation strategies to threats such as desertification, land degradation, and water scarcity exist, they are increasingly in competition with one another, as conflict over land tenure between pastoralists and agriculturalists has revealed. Likewise, governance failures around the provision and control of resource usage and basic infrastructure (notably, water) have exacerbated tensions in a region where the majority of the population depends on rain-fed farming and/or pastoralism.
A contributing factor is that poor maternal healthcare and high rates of unmet need for family planning are common across the Sahel. This places a significant population-related burden on communities. Across the six nations expected by the UN to be most affected by the current crisis (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, and Chad), the average level of maternal mortality is higher than 700 deaths per 100,000 births while the unmet need for family planning is estimated at more than 26 percent (averaged across states), according to World Health Organization data. (To put this in context, the average maternal mortality ratio in developing countries is 290 per 100,000 births, according to the WHO; in developed countries this figure drops to 14.)
A September 2011 report by the Sahel Working Group (SWG) on the prior crises of 2005 and 2010 concluded that “a glaring weakness in the development aid approach to addressing chronic food and nutrition insecurity is the low level of support for integrated reproductive and maternal health programs.”
Furthermore, mounting insecurity in the region is limiting access and displacing vulnerable populations. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on February 20 that 60,000 people have been displaced within Mali since mid-January as a result of the evolving Touareg rebellion sparked by the return of well-armed fighters from Libya. Another 20,000 have fled across the border into Niger.
The regulation of local, national, and international food markets also has a role to play. “Markets respond to demand, not need,” writes Peter Gubbels in the SWG report. Vulnerable populations that lack the purchasing power to demand food, even when food is available, face significant threats. For instance, the report asserts that “a third of the population of Chad is chronically undernourished – regardless of the rains or the size of the harvest.”
Sustainable and Integrated Approaches
Without an integrated and long-term approach to the delivery of humanitarian and development aid, prospects for successfully addressing what has in essence become the normal state of crisis in the Sahel seem slim. Ideas for integrating maternal and reproductive health into existing programming, for addressing the environment and sources of insecurity together, and for merging crisis response with the need for integrated development through avenues such as disaster risk reduction are out there. But more must be done to put these ideas into practice in order to reduce the complex vulnerability of populations in the Sahel to future crises.
Sources: Al Jazeera, Groundswell International, International Institute for Environment and Development, Oxfam International, ReliefWeb, The International Committee of the Red Cross United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), World Health Organization.
Photo Credit: “Walking among scattered bones,” courtesy of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Integration, Communication Across Sectors a Must, Say Speakers at 2012 NCSE Environment and Security Conference (Updated)›February 23, 2012 // By ECSP StaffECSP staff were among the more than 1,000 attendees discussing non-traditional security issues at the 12th National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment last month at the Ronald Reagan Building. Our own Geoff Dabelko spoke on the opening plenary (above) and we collected other excerpts below, though they’re only a small slice of the conference. Find our full coverage by following the NCSE tag, see the full agenda on environmentalsecurity.org, and follow the conversation on Twitter (#NCSEconf).
Climate, Energy, Food, Water, and Health
At the conference’s lead-off plenary, Jeff Seabright (Vice President, The Coca-Cola Company), Daniel Gerstein (Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security), Rosamond Naylor (Director, Stanford’s Center on Food Security and Environment), and our ECSP’s Geoff Dabelko highlighted the challenges and opportunities of addressing the diverse yet interconnected issues of climate, energy, food, water, and health.
“We need to embrace diversity regardless of the complexity,” said Dabelko, and “abandon our stereotypes and get out of our stovepipes.” Government agencies, academics, and NGOs must be open to using different tools and work together to capture synergies. “If we know everyone in the room, we are not getting out enough,” he said.
“We have to be concerned with every level – national, state, tribal, regional, down to the individual,” said Gerstein. DHS recognizes that climate change affects all of its efforts, and has established three main areas of focus: Arctic impacts; severe weather; and critical infrastructure and key resources.
For Coca-Cola, “managing the complex relationship among [food, water, and energy] is going to be the challenge of the 21st century, said Seabright, who noted that the business community is “seeing a steady increase in the internalization of these issues into business,” including as part of companies’ competitive advantages and strategies.
Similarly, we must offer opportunities and not just threats, said Dabelko, such as exploring climate adaptation’s potential as a tool for peacebuilding rather than simply focusing on climate’s links to conflict. We need to “find ways to define and measure success that embrace the connections among climate, water, and energy, and does not try to pretend they aren’t connected in the real world,” he said.
Communicating Across Sectors: Difficult But Necessary
Next, Sherri Goodman (Executive Director, CNA Military Advisory Board), Nancy Sutley (Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality), Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti (Climate and Energy Security Envoy, UK Ministry of Defence), and Susan Avery (Director, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) called on governments, militaries, and institutions to move away from traditional, vertically segmented responsibilities to address today’s environmental and security challenges.
“We live in an interdependent, connected world,” Morisetti said, but communicating that is a challenge. Militaries are likely to have new, broader missions, including conflict prevention, he said, which makes communications all the more important.
Science is moving from reductive to integrated outlooks to better address larger, systems-wide challenges, said Avery, but communicating results of this research to the public, and across and between disciplines, is difficult.
Confronting these communication and education challenges, particularly the difficulties of conveying the probability of various risks, is a key focus of the Council on Environmental Quality, said Sutley. “We confront the challenge of risk communication every day and it’s not limited to climate change,” she said.Challenging Conventional Wisdom on Climate and Conflict
The common argument is that climate change will lead to scarcity – less arable land, water, rain, etc. – and scarcity will lead to conflict, said Kate Marvel (Lawrence Livermore National Lab). But the link between scarcity and conflict is not that clear. It’s “very important to treat models as tools, not as magic balls,” she said. Developing better diagnostics to test models will help researchers and observers sort out which ones are best.
Kaitlin Shilling (Stanford University) called on the environmental security community to move beyond simple causal pathways towards finding solutions. After all, rolling back climate change is not an option at this point, she said; to find solutions, therefore, we need more detailed analysis of the pathways to violence.
The most common types of climate-conflict correlations are not likely to directly involve the state, said Cullen Hendrix (College of William and Mary). Traditional inter-state wars (think “water wars”) or even civil wars are much less likely than threats to human security (e.g., post-elections violence in Kenya) and community security (e.g., tribal raiding in South Sudan). For this reason, the biggest breakthroughs in understanding climate and conflict links will likely come from better interactions between social and physical scientists, he said.
Because the many unique factors leading to conflict vary from place to place, a better way to assess climate-conflict risk might be mapping human vulnerability to climate change rather than predicting conflict risk in a given place, said Justin Mankin (Stanford University). While human reactions are very difficult to predict, vulnerability is easier to quantify.
Yu Hongyuan (Shanghai Institute for International Studies) compared the concerns of U.S. and Chinese officials on climate change. Polling results, he said, show Chinese officials are most concerned with maintaining access to resources, while American policymakers focus on climate change’s effects on global governance and how it will impact responses to natural disasters, new conflicts, and humanitarian crises. Given the centrality of these two countries to international climate negotiations, Yu said he hoped the “same issues, different values” gulf might be bridged by better understanding each side’s priorities.
Schuyler Null, Lauren Herzer, and Meaghan Parker contributed to this article.
Video Credit: Lyle Birkey/NCSE; photo credit: Sean Peoples/Wilson Center.
›Defense Science Board, which advices the U.S. military on scientific and technical matters, writes in a recent task force report that the most immediate and destabilizing effects of climate change will impact U.S. security indirectly, through American reliance on already-vulnerable states that are “vital” sources of fuel and minerals or key partners in combatting terrorism. The report singles out three specific themes as particularly important to responding to near-term climate-driven threats and adapting to climate change’s long-term impacts: providing “better and more credible information [about climate change] to decision makers,” improving water management, and building better local adaptation capacity, particularly in African nations. Ultimately, the report concludes that the most effective, most efficient way the United States can respond to climate change is not militarily but “through anticipatory and preventative actions using primarily indigenous resources.”
Maritime Boundary Disputes in East Asia: Lessons for the Arctic,” published in International Studies Perspectives, James Manicom writes that as climate change makes access and exploration easier, there are lessons to be learned from East Asian states’ handling of maritime disputes for Arctic nations. Manicom finds that simply because a state may be party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), disputes over boundaries and “over the methods used to settle disputes” persist. Domestic identity politics also can and do affect the extent to which a state attempts to exert influence over disputed areas – a noteworthy conclusion given growing rhetoric in Arctic states over the national importance of disputed territories. Finally, Manicom points out that, while “high expectations of resource wealth” may fuel disputes and “political tension,” those expectations do not inevitably doom competing states to conflict over resources.
›“There’s been a tremendous amount of work done on looking for a climate signal for civil conflict, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and a lot of this work draws a very clear and simple path – if it rains more, or if it rains less, there will be more or less conflict,” says Stanford University’s Kaitlin Shilling in this short video interview. Unfortunately, that straightforward research does little in the way of helping policymakers: “the only way to change the agricultural outputs due to climate change is to change climate change, reduce climate change, or stop it,” she says, “and we’re not really good at that part.”
Shilling moderated a panel at last month’s National Conference on Science, Policy, and the Environment on climate-conflict research. Agricultural export crops – cotton, coffee, cocoa, tea, vanilla – represent one area where policymakers might be able to intervene to prevent climate-driven conflict, says Shilling. Though not as important from a food security perspective, “these crops are really important” for sub-Saharan economies, as well as for “government revenues, which [are] closely related to government capacity.”
But “the effects of climate change on those crops are less well understood,” Shilling says. How they relate to “government revenues and how those relate to civil conflict is an area that I spend a lot of time doing research on.”
By “understand[ing] the mechanisms that underlie the potential relationship between climate and conflict, we can start identifying interventions that make sense to reduce the vulnerability of people to conflict and help them to adapt to the coming climate change.”
›This excerpt is from Marc Sommers’ Stuck: Rwandan Youth and the Struggle for Adulthood, published by the University of Georgia Press. The book was launched at the Wilson Center on February 28 (webcast available here).
Several years ago, I wrote that the central irony concerning Africa’s urban youth was that “they are a demographic majority that sees itself as an outcast minority.” Since that time, field research with rural and urban youth in war and postwar contexts within and beyond Africa has led me to revise this assertion. The irony appears to apply to most developing country youth regardless of their location.
Research for this book underscores the relevance of this unfortunate irony. Youth who felt overlooked and misunderstood ran like a deep, wide river through the field data for this book. The irony surfaced in many ways, including in a theme linking the plight of urban and rural youth in an immediate and concrete fashion: 200 francs ($0.37). Amafaranga magana abiri was a common way of highlighting the plight of a youth’s immediate situation. In rural Rwanda, 200 francs is the most common daily payment for cultivating another person’s farmland. That wage rests at the core of the plans of many if not most rural youth. For male youth, those earnings are how they buy roof tiles for a house they hope to complete. For female youth, the earnings go toward personal care products and perhaps savings that might attract a male youth. In Kigali, Rwanda’s mushrooming capital, 200 francs is what it costs to buy one plate of food in a simple restaurant. This was the daily focus of many urban youth: to somehow get enough money to eat one hot meal a day (most lacked cooking facilities in their residences).
These activities circumscribe the central findings in this book: the exacting adulthood requirements in Rwanda’s countryside and the desperation of city life for its urban youth. Stuck is offered as a contribution toward a more accurate picture of contemporary Rwanda and toward a deeper understanding of the powerful influence of two dynamic forces in youth lives across the world: masculinity and urbanization.
The two forces are linked. The first step to socially recognized manhood in Rwanda is to build a house. This sets the stage for a formal, legal marriage (as opposed to an embarrassing and illegal informal arrangement) and then children. Once a man can do this, and protect and support his children and wife, manhood is achieved. Yet research for this book revealed that attaining manhood is exceedingly difficult. Many male youth are caught on a treadmill toward the first step – building a house – which they know they may never complete. Rwanda, already among the world’s highest ranked in population growth, population density, urban growth, and poverty, also has a traditional culture that is both demanding and unrelenting toward its own young people. Male youth drop out of school to start working in order to save to build their house. Then they get stuck. The fallout from this housing crisis is breathtakingly severe, and a common result is for male (and female) youth to escape adulthood requirements by migrating to an urban area, usually Kigali, where their main pressure is not obtaining adulthood but sheer survival.
The impact of this situation on female youth is profound. Because male youth get stuck, female youth get stuck too, since they cannot attain womanhood without having a formal, legal marriage and then giving birth to children. Rwanda’s infamous genocide of 1994 (and its far lesser known civil war of 1990-94) has compounded this female youth challenge, since it is estimated that there may be 88 men for every 100 women in the land. With polygamy outlawed, and if the above estimate is accurate, then perhaps 12 percent of female youth cannot marry because there aren’t enough men to wed.
A much more immediate fact is that so few male youth are able to marry because they are unable to complete their houses. In addition, the clock is ticking: while male youth strain to construct a house and consider the prospect of a life of public failure, female youth must marry before society considers them failures as well. Once unmarried women reach the age of 28, but perhaps just 24 or 25 (male youth and men debate the cutoff age), they are labeled “old ladies” or “prostitutes” and permanently forced onto the margins of society. Since no one can legally marry before the age of 21 in Rwanda, the window of marriage opportunity for female youth may be as narrow as four years. A male youth, by contrast, has more time to marry than female youth, but it’s far from forever: by his early 30s, a single male youth faces public embarrassment if his house is not completed and he still isn’t married.
The widespread inability of most male and female youth to become adults in Rwanda results in an array of negative social and economic concerns. These include illegitimate children, prostitution, the spread of HIV/AIDS, crime, a high urban growth rate, and an increase in school drop-out rates. Rwanda’s government, together with some of its largest international donors, engages with youth concerns mainly through efforts to expand access to secondary and vocational education. Its disconnect from youth priorities is stark. Even after the government and donors doubled access to secondary education, few Rwandan youth are able to attend, and many youth drop out of primary school to start wage work aimed at becoming adults. Vocational education is available to even fewer youth. Meanwhile, as we see in chapters five and seven, government restrictions on house construction and on income generation make the task of attaining adulthood, and a stable economic existence, significantly more difficult. National and international institutions in Rwanda are focused on what they think youth should be doing, not on what youth priorities are.
The importance of masculinity in the minds of Rwandans shone through the research for this book and brought forth a challenging proposition: if one wants to help young women in countries such as Rwanda, one probably has to help young men first. The traditional dependence of womanhood on manhood appears to make this necessary. Clearly, this is a troubling suggestion, since exacting a measure of independence for and direct assistance to women often seems appropriate if not absolutely urgent. But not helping male youth may prove dangerous and destructive for female and male youth alike by undermining their prospects for becoming adults. Many youth, and nonelite youth in particular, may lack the ability, and sufficient agency, to escape adulthood mandates without risking harsh and perhaps devastating repercussions.
Marc Sommers is a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Africa Program and visiting researcher at Boston University’s African Studies Center. Stuck: Rwandan Youth and the Struggle for Adulthood is published by the University of Georgia Press.
Photo Credit: Marc Sommers/University of Georgia Press.
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