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East Asia and Pacific

Civil Society and Climate Change: Some Ill Winds

Tom Grubisich's picture

Will civil societies be real as opposed to figurehead partners in what are sure to be numerous climate-adaptation projects in developing countries in the decade of the 2010s?  Accumulating comments from DM2009 finalists who have had experiences dealing with governments in their countries suggest the question is, at the very least, an open one.

Ann Kendall, whose Cusichaca Trust project in Peru was a winning DM entry, had this to say: "Currently NGOs [in Peru] are undervalued, with exclusion from paid participation in government programs because of the support of some activists to communities in some notably conflictive situations."

To be eligible for international donor-country funding that's beginning to gather momentum post-Copenhagen, Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are mandated to give highest priority to partnering with civil society in developing their National Adaptation Plans of Action (NAPAs).  Completed country plans generally pledge there will be such partnering, but here's what DM2009 finalist Nazrul Islam, Country Director in Bangladesh for the finalist project of RELIEF International, said: "Certainly we would love to be part of the [Bangladesh] NAPA since my project perfectly fits into the government's current agenda to educate people about climate change. Since the government agencies themselves will implement most of the projects, I am afraid it would be a little challenging for civil society organizations to join directly in this NAPA."

From Brian Peniston of the finalist project in Nepal developed by the Mountain Institute: "My experience is that host governments will only share resources with NGOs under duress."

In this mini-interview, Carlos Daniel Vecco Giove, whose Native Community Kechwa Copal Sacha project in Peru was a winner at DM2009, offers further corroboration that there are problems, but holds out some hope:

Q. Is your country in its adaptation program doing enough to develop capacity -- knowledge and learning -- among government and civil society organizations?

A. Definitely it isn't doing enough. The level of knowledge is very low among politicians and they aren´t able to design adequate politics to adaptation.

Q. Is the national government really listening to local communities in preparing adaptation plans and strategies?

A. Definitely it isn't. The government imposes programs and it usually doesn´t listen to local communities.

Q. Since you returned to Peru from DM2009, do you plan to work with government so that your project might be incorporated in national adaptation efforts?

A. Yes, we will do so. We hope to improve knowledge and sensitize politicians and urban people. We have good relations with technical units within regional and local governments and we are sure they will participate actively in our project.

Cambodia's economy in 2010: After unusual year, is recovery on its way for workers and entrepreneurs?

Stéphane Guimbert's picture

When I was asked to look back at Cambodia's economy in 2009 and ahead to 2010, I began to wish I had some magic tools such as this ox (although in that case, the ox was not that magical, since the 2009 harvest turned out to be quite good).

Thailand's economy in 2010: Growth in balance

Frederico Gil Sander's picture

In the years since the 1997/1998 Asian financial crisis, the Bank of Thailand (BoT) worked hard to build a heavy fortress around the nation’s financial sector. As a result, at a time when credit markets froze in developed countries and investors “fled to quality,” large amounts of capital still flowed into Thailand, where banks remained solid and well capitalized. Despite the financial strength brought by prudent policies, for the first time since the financial crisis, Thailand will see GDP and household consumption drop, and poverty could even increase in 2009. It is clear that the financial armor was insufficient to protect the economy from another crisis.

The culprit has been identified as Thailand’s excessive reliance on external demand, and talk of “rebalancing” growth towards domestic consumption and investment has become quite common (pdf). The idea of rebalancing makes some sense – but it can also be misleading. Let me explain.

Fragile States Are Hard to Lump Together

Tom Grubisich's picture

"Fragile states" -- the subject of the next Global Development Marketplace competition -- can't be put in one box.  Or two or even three boxes (i.e. in conflict, post-conflict, or threatened by conflict or political unrest).  The World Bank chart below shows how fragile states that aren't "Heavily Indebted Poor Countries" (HIPCs) can compare favorably to non-fragile HIPCs based on key indicators such as poverty, school enrollment, and mortality rates for children under five years of age.  The exception is in the poverty category in the "last available year" section of the chart where non-fragile HIPCs reverse the 1990-2006 average and perform better. (Some HIPCs have had their debt forgiven wholly or partially, while others have not yet advanced to either stage.)

The World Bank Data Visualization chart (below) in general mirrors the first chart's findings.  It ranks a mix of fragile and non-fragile states by per-capita gross national income (horizontal axis) and per-capita gross domestic product (vertical axis).  The highest-performing countries (green balls) are, right to left, upper-middle-income Gabon, South Africa, Mauritius, and Botswana, all of which are non-fragile and not heavily indebted.  The next highest-performing countries (the cluster of blue [poorest countries] and red balls [lower-middle income countries]) include Côte d'Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Nigeria (biggest blue ball), and Liberia, all of which have been designated fragile but are not heavily indebted.  (Nigeria is a special case.  It was on the World Bank's and other fragile lists as recently as 2008, but off the World Bank's new "interim" "Harmonized List of Fragile Situations" published Nov. 17, 2009.  But the World Bank's 2009 Worldwide Governance Indicators rank Nigeria as the third worst state for "political stability and lack of violence/terrorism," just below Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of the Congo.) Many of the blue balls at the lower ends of the two scales represent non-fragile but heavily indebted states.


 

Path to Innovation Success Is No Straight Line

Tom Grubisich's picture

Need drives innovation.  But even when the need is life-and-death, innovation often follows a path that is crooked and sometimes comes to a (temporary) dead end.  "Eureka" moments may prove to be just that -- momentary.

Consider the cooking stoves used by more than 2.4 billion poor people in developing countries.  The stoves -- fueled mostly by kerosene or biomass (e.g., wood, charcoal, dung) -- kill an estimated 1.5 million people annually because of indoor pollution that causes pneumonia and other diseases (photo from U.N. WHO report "Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health").

There have been numerous attempts to develop a less dangerous stove, but success has been, at best, only marginal.  Innovative stoves often proved inferior to open fires in cooking local foods, and in other cases they actually turned out to be inefficient energy users.

The 30-year struggle by a group of altruistic American inventors/tinkerers, scientists, and other amateur and professional experts to design a stove that was safe, efficient, inexpensive, and met local cooking requirements and tastes across the globe is described in a fascinating article in the New Yorker magazine, "Hearth Surgery."  (The link requires a subscription; to read the abstract, go here.  Author Burkhard Bilger's blog is here.)

For all their altruism and expertise, not to mention innovation, the designers met setback after setback.  One big obstacle was getting international donor funding.  "For groups like the Gates Foundation and USAID, the metric is cost-effectiveness," said team member Jacob Moss.  "How many people are you going to save with a hundred million dollars?"

Five years after the tsunami: recollections from my work on ground zero in Aceh, Indonesia

Geumala Yatim's picture
Explaining the housing program admistered by the Multi-Donor Fund to a group of residents.

(Geumala Yatim, who started working with communities in Aceh soon after the 2004 tsunami hit, is writing a book about her experiences there. This is adapted from one of its chapters).

At the time, I was at my friend Oscar’s house, getting ready to attend a Christmas party at another friend’s house. Oscar asked me to turn the TV on to CNN or BBC. “I heard there’s a big natural disaster somewhere on the tip of Sumatra. Aceh probably. Not sure,” he said. Up until we left the house, both channels were relaying non-stop reports on natural disasters in Thailand and Sri Lanka. No reports on what was happening on the tip of Sumatra thus far.

DM2009 Finalists Could Be Models for Climate Adaptation

Tom Grubisich's picture

The big question of whether developed nations will get serious about funding climate adaptation in developing countries was at least partially answered by the "Accord" at the recently concluded U.N. negotiations in Copenhagen.  Big global warmers -- the U.S. and the OECD nations primarily -- will pony up billions.  Exactly how much money and how it will be divided between mitigation (measures to hold  temperatures increases to under 2 degrees Celsius) and adaptation (proofing people, ecoysystems, and economies against the destructive impacts of worse weather) is not detailed.  But the developing world seems sure to get major help.

There's another big question that doesn't have even that half-answer: Will the unspecified billions that go to adaptation be effectively spent to do their intended work?  With adverse weather trends intensifying flooding, drought, and rising sea levels, especially in poor and other developing countries within the equatorial belt, adaptation is urgent -- particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, low-lying parts of South Asia, and among the Pacific island states.  Much of the adaptation will require capacity development -- learning and knowledge that must reach broadly through the organizational fabric of government and civil society and foster innovative adaptation.  But developing nations and donors alike are having a hard time doing that. The World Bank Institute's new "Capacity Development Results Framework" (published in draft form in June 2009), says bluntly: " ...the results of efforts to develop capacity have persistently fallen short of expectations."

At a June 2009 forum co-sponsored by the WBI, consultant Robert Theisohn said: “You cannot do capacity development for others. Learning is voluntary and capacity development must be home-grown so we need to move from supply to demand, from delivery to acquisition.”

Interestingly, the projects of the 100 finalists at DM2009 were very focused on active as opposed to passive learning -- where participants don't just sit and take notes but become players in change that aims to protect people and natural resources and energize often faltering rural economies.  The DM projects would be great models for developing countries that want to start implementing their adaptation plans -- once those pledged funds from developed nations start to materialize.

Aceh five years after the tsunami: where have all the customers gone?

Harry Masyrafah's picture

It surprised me a little bit when I was driving my family along the west coast of Aceh a couple of weeks ago. Not too far from Banda Aceh, the capital city of Aceh’s province, a 15 meters wide- fresh-paved asphalt road built by the US absolutely has framed Aceh into another window of opportunity. This strategic road will connect Banda Aceh and some other districts in the west coast, which was washed away by the tsunami. Before the disaster, it was narrow and poorly maintained.

DM2009 Finalists Collaborate to Make Innovation Succeed

Tom Grubisich's picture

Successful innovation in development often begins with one person's passionate belief in an idea that may exist only on a piece of paper.  But for an idea to make successive leaps to funding to implementation and, finally, scaling up invariably requires extensive networking and the forging of strategic, sometimes multiple, partnerships.  That's the story of Development Marketplace successes like 2006 winner PumpAid (photo) from Sub-Saharan Africa, 2006 winner Self-Sustainable Rainwater Harvesting from India, and 2003 winner Ha-Tien-Habitats-Handbags from Vietnam.

Beginning with a US$120,000 DM grant, PumpAid brought its clean-water project to early-stage development in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and went on to get financing of US$25 million to reach an additional eight million people in those two countries.  PumpAid has two partners. 

Ha-Tien-Habitats-Handbags, which has partnered with the International Finance Corp. (the commercial arm of the World Bank Group) and Kien Giang Province's Department of Science and Technology, was a 2007 winner of the US$30,000 UN-Habitat/Dubai Municipality International Award for Best Praces to Improve the Living Environment.

Self-Sustainable Rainwater Harvesting went through a series of expansions aided by the nonprofit Aakash Ganga that was financially seeded by Rajasthan Association of North America (RANA).  That led to a US$50,000 grant from the Asian Development Bank, and U.N. Development Programs (UNDP) has given Aakash Ganga a grant to expand to several hundred villages.


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