Natural disasters – such as tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones and floods – are costly to society, in terms of both human destruction and financial losses. Governments ultimately bear the full cost of the havoc wreaked by natural disasters, which can create an enormous strain on limited government budgets, especially in developing countries. This is even before we begin to contemplate the development impact and how the poorest of the poor are disproportionately affected.
Just last week, the world saw the widespread damage that the St. Jude storm inflicted across Europe, and we witnessed its effect on hundreds of thousands of people. Most advanced economies, however, have sufficient capacity to be able to absorb the financial losses inlicted by natural disasters. Higher-income countries enjoy (relatively) efficient public revenue systems and developed domestic insurance markets.
By contrast, developing countries do not have the same degree of access to financial and insurance markets. They face limited revenue streams, limited fiscal flexibility, and limited access to quick liquidity in the wake of an event. This is particularly so for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as the Pacific island nations.
Pacific Island small states (PSS)
I am here this week in Majuro in the Marshall Islands – where leaders from the Pacific Island Forum have gathered to discuss the impacts of climate change and to push for global action to mitigate the effects.
Here in the Marshall Islands, the highest point above sea level is only 3 meters.
In May this year, an unprecedented drought in the northern atolls of the Marshall Islands left many without enough food and water.
If you live on an island in the ocean, energy and climate issues come together in a palpable way. Most small island developing states depend heavily on imported fossil fuels, especially diesel, for their power. For remote islands, in the Pacific for example, the fuel must be shipped over long distances. It’s expensive, the supply is limited and intermittent, and paying for it stretches government budgets. Because of this, low-income families and communities often rely instead on kerosene, and wood or other biomass for lighting and cooking.
Participants at the first Community Practitioners Academy meeting, which was held ahead of the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction in Generva. - Photos: Margaret Arnold/World Bank
Communities are organized and want to be recognized as partners with expertise and experience in building resilience rather than as clients and beneficiaries of projects. This was the common theme that emerged from the key messages delivered by grassroots leaders at the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction taking place in Geneva this week, organized by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). The Global Platform is a biennial forum for information exchange and partnership building across sectors to reduce disaster risk.
Ahead of the Global Platform, 45 community practitioners from 17 countries - Bangladesh, Chile, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Uganda, Venezuela, and the United States - met for a day and a half to share their practices and experiences in responding to disasters and building long-term resilience to climate change, and to strategize their engagement in around the Global Platform. I had the privilege to participate in this first Community Practitioners Academy, which was convened by GROOTS International, Huairou Commission, UNISDR, the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Reduction (GFDRR), Act Alliance, Action Aid, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), Cordaid, and Oxfam, and was planned in partnership with the community practitioners from their respective networks.
- Community Driven Development
- Disaster Risk Reduction
- climate resilience
- Climate Change
- Climate Change
- South Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
- Venezuela, Republica Bolivariana de
- United States
broadband internet being installed in downtown
Nukua'lofa, the capital of the Kingdom
Hoko (‘connect’ in Tongan) is the current buzzword on the streets of the Kingdom of Tonga.
With May 17th recognized around the world as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, the Tongan capital Nuku’alofa is a hive of activity as telecommunications providers set up their activities to mark the day. The billboards have gone up, teenagers have been lining up at auditions to become the new public face of the marketing campaign for Tongan internet, and the Prime Minister, Lord Sialeʻataongo Tuʻivakanō is planning a public Skype session with Tongan soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan.
If there is any year the Kingdom of Tonga would be justifiably excited about its telecomms story, 2013 is it. As one of the most remote island nations on the planet, the impending arrival of high-speed, fiber-optic broadband internet – made possible through the World Bank-supported Pacific Regional Connectivity Project, an 830km-long cable being connected between Fiji and Tonga – means that everyone is talking of hoko.
I spoke to a number of people about the experience with internet in Tonga and how broadband internet would affect their lives.
has access to some form of modern
Recently my 10 year old son invited me to be friends with him on Facebook. “Hi mum I’m here too, can we be friends?” was the message I got. I was shocked and worried at the same time, and my initial reaction was fear of the perceived harm social media could do to a person as young as he.
We finally agreed that his father would have access to his Facebook account to monitor his online activities until he reaches 18. But the moment he gets or posts something inappropriate, the deal is off. That’s a fair deal, I told myself and interacting through social media could actually enrich my son’s life.
What I’m going through is also experienced by other families in the Solomon Islands. It started when mobile phone technology began revolutionizing the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders in the last five years, when the telecommunications industry was opened for competition. Previously, only business executives and senior government officials owned or had access to mobile phones – a luxury only the rich and the influential would enjoy.
Clearly that was no flash in the pan. Last week, I chaired a high-level ministerial dialogue on the margins of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings where government ministers and senior representatives of more than 40 countries came together to compare notes on how natural capital accounting is working for them.
Country after country – represented by finance, development, or environment ministers – talked about how natural capital accounting fit their countries’ priorities and how it could be a tool to address some of their key policy challenges. With each statement from the floor, it was clear that natural capital accounting is no longer an academic concept. It is alive and well and being utilized across the world in developing, middle, and high-income countries.
In a new study on gender equality, researchers asked 4,000 people in 20 countries to describe the gender norms in their communities and the influence those norms have on their lives and their every-day decisions. The researchers spoke with men and women, youth and adults, living in villages and cities in developing countries, as well as higher income countries.
Here, three of the researchers describe their most memorable experiences from the interviews and the findings that surprised them the most.
|Availability of work has provided new opportunities for people in Honiara.|
We were shooting a film in the main street of Honiara about the Rapid Employment Project wh
It’s been clear here at the World Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, is fast emerging as a leader in forging a more sustainable energy future. With 159 countries—plus the EU— having joined it, a staff of 70 and a $28-million annual budget, IRENA held its third Executive Assembly here, making an impressive show on the sidelines of the summit. One example is its Renewable Energy Roadmap, which attracted lively interest among delegates.
|The ocean represents transport, food, culture and livelihoods for people of the Pacific.|
A few years ago in Papua New Guinea on a holiday I was lucky enough to spend a day with a fisherman who took me out on his dugout canoe. For hours we slowly skimmed along the surface of the ocean, the clear water providing a wonderful lens to the world below teeming with life. Fish, starfish, coral, eels, plants—a world beyond my wildest imagination.
He pointed out the plants he ate and others he used as traditional medicine. He showed me innocuous-looking creatures that would spell certain death. He showed me the craggy hiding hole of the tail-less crocodile that was the lead character in village folklore. He showed me the fish he caught that fed his family and provided him with an income and how his father had taught him to catch them, like he too had taught his children.
In South Tarawa, life takes place along a road.
It is Kiribati’s capital and main atoll, made up of several small islands connected by a string of causeways. The atoll is about three meters above sea level—roughly the height of a bus—and has an average width of just 450 meters.
It is also one of the most densely populated places in the Pacific: this narrow stretch of land encompasses about half of the country’s population of 110,000 people.
Just one road runs through it all, connecting Betio in the west to Bonriki in the east. People live beside it, it takes people from village to village, to schools and hospitals, people sell their goods by the roadside, and the flow of vehicles and people is constant.
|The soon to be completed women's meeting hall will house various activities to help women develop themselves.|
While leaving leaving the LoLoMo eco-resort, the rain seemed to carefully time its return for our last leg of the trip. We were heading back towards Munda, and then turned to yet another island to visit the Buni Village Women’s Project. This was project was in its first year of implementation. A large hall, together with rooms for guests, toilets (not standard in the rural Solomons), benches and a large blackboard was almost complete. The local carpenter was busy there in the building, planing wood for tables and benches.
|The garden behind the LoLoMo Resort, where hundreds of flowering wild orchids thrive.|
We walked down through mud and coral as we headed back to our boat. This marked the end of the first part of our trip – visiting health posts in Temarae and Baeroko. Our boat now went back through the narrow channel leading towards Munda, and then turned again into a series of spectacular lagoons. Several simple tourist resorts had been built on the islands here and one of these was our next destination.
The rain stopped as we approached LoLoMo eco-resort. “Idyllic” is an over-used word in the Pacific, but this resort, with eight rooms built from local materials on stilts at the edge of a sheltered channel between two islands, with hundreds of fish easily visible in the clear emerald blue water, an extraordinary “garden” of hundreds of flowering wild orchids behind the huts, oaths into the thick forest for bird-watchers to explore and a restaurant area where we were served a magnificent spread of lobster, shellfish and sea-fish really was something out of a tourist brochure's dream world. (and for me the kittens running around were yet another attraction).