Climate change in the news (Sept 14 - Sept 18, 2009)
- News Update
Climate change in the news (Sept 14 - Sept 18, 2009)
I saw one of the World Development Report’s recommendations in action yesterday. Kenya’s Green Belt Movement (founded by Professor Wangari Maathai) is working with the Kenya Forest Service, with support from the French Development Agency, a grant from the Government of Japan (PHRD) and carbon credits (both managed by the World Bank), to replant native forests.
|Mercy Karunditu, Project Officer|
The original forest had been cut down and a tough native grass had taken over. Patches of grass had to be cut in order to plant the seedlings of native trees and the grass constantly managed for the first years until the trees were strong enough. The team told us how the carbon credits were planned for 12 years from the start of the project, though it was clear that the trees would still be small at that point. Up front financing for a period of many years is clearly essential.
Project officer Mercy Karunditu told us of the multiple challenges the team faces in nurturing these seedlings. First, villagers grazing their animals on the land where the year old seedlings stand at just ankle height. Second, elephants which destroy the seedlings. Third, fires set by villagers in the native forests to encourage growth of new grass for their animals. And fourth, climate change.
“We used to be sure when the rains would come, now we cannot be sure and when they do come they are very strong and last only for a very short period,” Mercy said.
Getting the operational details right so that teams like this can succeed will be key to making this tool, which brings both mitigation and adaptation benefits, succeed.
A follow-up to an earlier post on Toby Mendel’s new book The Right to Information in Latin America: A Comparative Legal Survey. 11 country cases and a comparative analysis chapter are organized around the following categories: definition of access to information (“The Right of Access”); rules for processing of information requests (“Procedural Guarantees” ); public authorities responsible for disclosure (“Duty to Publish”); grounds for refusal to disclose (“Exceptions”); complaint mechanisms for refusal of access (“Appeals”); punishment for obstructing access (“Sanctions and Protections”); and public engagement and education (“Promotional Measures”).
The systematic manner in which Mendel breaks down each country analysis gives the reader a comparative sense of the 11 Latin American countries covered. As I continued going through the country chapters, I gained an appreciation for the various dimensions of how the “right to information” has been institutionalized to varying degrees in different countries in the region. It became clear to me that all these categories are important in getting a sense of whether the “right to information” is indeed a right since, as we know, when it comes to law, the devil lurks in the details.
As I suspected, the event earlier this week on Industrial Policy and the Role of the State in Promoting Growth attracted a standing-room only crowd. Although the event was billed as a "panel discussion", the structure ended up being much more of a friendly debate, with Justin Lin and Ann Harrison sitting on one side of the table and Bill Easterly on the other.
Reading about the financial crisis and the effects that have rippled around the world, it’s always heartening to find something positive in the midst of piles of red ink and pessimistic expectations.
Although the majority of industries and economies around the world have suffered due to the downturn, Internet traffic growth accelerated at an increasing rate in 2009 compared to 2008 with no discernible slowdown due to the crisis. According to data released by Telegeography, every single region around the globe registered growth in internet traffic, or flow of data. South Asia has registered over a 100% increase, higher than the 79% posted worldwide, although it must be noted that South Asia had a lower baseline capacity.
In recent years, a broad swath of African countries has begun to show a remarkable dynamism. From Mozambique’s impressive growth rate (averaging 8% p.a. for more than a decade) to Kenya’s emergence as a major global supplier of cut flowers, from M-pesa’s mobile phone-based cash transfers to KickStart’s low-cost irrigation technology for small-holder farmers, and from Rwanda’s gorilla tourism to Lagos City’s Bus Rapid Transit system, Africa is seeing a dramatic transformation. This favorable trend is spurred by, among other things, stronger leadership, better governance, an improving business climate, innovation, market-based solutions, a more involved citizenry, and an increasing reliance on home-grown solutions. More and more, Africans are driving African development.
The global economic crisis of 2008-09 threatens to undermine the optimism that Africa can harness this dynamism for long-lasting development. In light of this, it might be useful to re-visit recent achievements. The African Successes study aims to do just that.
The study will identify a wide range of development successes (see list), from which around 20 cases will be selected for in-depth study. The analysis of each successful experience will evaluate the following: (1) the drivers of success—what has worked and why; (2) the sustainability of the successful outcome(s); and (3) the potential for scaling up successful experiences. African success stories offer valuable insights and practical lessons to other countries in the region.
I welcome your comments and suggestions for success stories. Click here to see the list of what we have come up with so far.
| Photo © World Bank/
Tree planting: Professor Wangari
Maathai with Johannes Zutt
I spent yesterday in rural Kenya with the World Development Report (WDR) team and the inspirational activist Professor Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Professor Maathai graphically showed us the problems across multiple areas of the economy when the climate does not behave as predicted. The visit powerfully demonstrated how much worse the effects are when the changing climate combines with a poorly managed environment. Only 1.7 percent of Kenya's territory has forest cover, compared to about 10 percent a century ago. And the forests are increasingly fragmented. Yet these fragments protect water towers that are the source of the country’s rivers. The diverse natural forests regulate rainfall, provide homes for Kenya's stunningly diverse flora and fauna, and of course they also help our planet to store carbon. But human activity in and around the forests continues to threaten their survival. Over recent decades, plantation forests have replaced much of the natural forests that once covered Kenya, but they are much less effective at regulating rain, preventing soil erosion and protecting diversity. As I said on our visit to the Aberdare Forest yesterday, in many places I did not see forests; what I saw instead were tree farms.
The founders of a microfinance website I came across a few months ago are giving an interesting, benevolent twist to social networking. At least, that’s one way of looking at Wokai.org, a non-profit organization benefiting entrepreneurs in rural China.
Wokai has been dubbed by some as a “Facebook for farmers,” yet it may be more comparable to well-known microfinance sites like Kiva, which allow people with an Internet connection to give loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Wokai, however, focuses solely on impoverished people living in rural China.
An instructor in Law School was the first to explain to me the nature of 'deal anxiety' as a problem for business; now I know that it is a problem for governance reform as well. For a lawyer 'deal anxiety' manifests when a client - usually a business executive - is so anxious to close a business deal she ignores the need for her attorney to exercise due diligence over the contract. For instance, what happens if there is a dispute? What dispute resolution mechanisms might be needed? What about conflict of laws if it is an international contract? Are we going to use the laws of the domicile of Party A or Party B? And so on. You'd be amazed how many business leaders just want to shake hands on the deal, and get on with 'the real business of making money', until something goes wrong and both sides reach for their lawyers ...as cowboys reach for guns. Then you have a shoot out.
In international development, 'deal anxiety' manifests as the pell-mell rush to get a (reform?) project going. Whether in grant making donor agencies or in multilateral lending institutions there is a tendency to rush to close the deal, get the partner government to sign the relevant documents, get the internal approving authorities to say Yes. The attitude is: Let's keep this moving folks!