Over the past decade, Africa has been experiencing tremendous economic dynamism and growth: seven of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries are in Africa; the continent’s economic output has more than tripled; and average economic growth is expected to be 4.8 percent in 2013.
In the corridors of Oxfam and beyond, ‘convening and brokering’ has become a new development fuzzword. I talked about it in my recent review of the Africa Power and Politics Programme, and APPP promptly got back to me and suggested a discussion on how convening and brokering is the same/different to the APPP’s proposals that aid agencies should abandon misguided attempts to impose ‘best practice’ solutions and instead seek ‘best fit’ approaches that ‘go with the grain’ of existing institutions in Africa. That discussion took place yesterday, and it was excellent, but that’s the subject of next week's blog. First I wanted to summarize the case study I took to the meeting.
The best example I’ve found in Oxfam’s work is actually from Tajikistan, rather than Africa, but it’s so interesting that I wrote it up anyway. Here’s a summary of a four page case study. Text in italics is from an interview with Ghazi Kelani, a charismatic ex-government water engineer who led Oxfam’s initial work on water and is undoubtedly an important factor in the programme’s success to date. Ghazi is currently Oxfam’s Tajikistan country director.
While consensus in the COP18 negotiations has yet to be reached, most can agree that national governments cannot be solely responsible for addressing climate change. Local governments, the private sector and individuals must each play a part in supporting and growing the green economy. However, one way national governments can easily step up to the plate is to remove policy barriers for subnational actions on climate change.
“What attributes do you want your city to possess in 2025?”
As the share of the global population living in cities soars beyond 50%, answering this question is central for sustainable development. It is also central to Warren Evans, Senior Advisor at the World Bank, who is leading a study on what role the World Bank should play in sustainable development in 2025. But he agreed with us that it’s a question too often posed to senior decision makers. To instead find out what youth want their cities to look like – after all, they will be the ones in charge by then – Julianne and I ran a series of participatory workshops with professional and low-income youth, aged 15 to 30, to solicit their responses. We held at least three workshops in each of the four cities we visited – Tokyo, Manila, Bangkok, and Washington DC – with 10-20 participants per session. The workshops were comprised of three activities:
- Describe your city: in a word. Participants shared a word or a phrase defining where they were from.
While green buildings, by their most obvious definition, address environmental impacts, they also have wide implications for human health, safety and productivity. Well-ventilated green schools can reduce instances of asthma in students. Green offices with day lit spaces boost employee productivity and attendance. Patients heal faster in green hospitals with views to nature.
Almost two weeks ago, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the United States, the importance of sustainable transport--which is the field I work in--really came home to me. I was in New York for a UN Working Group meeting on transport’s contribution to sustainable development—one of the priorities for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s second term.
I have a love-hate relationship with Earth Day (April 22nd) . The concept and enthusiasm are great; but the faux commercial interests and token personal efforts make me uneasy. True, every little bit helps, but the ‘lots of little efforts’ are still way too little, and may actually distract us from the big changes needed.
All good ideas usually come from several sources; and once they get going, often head off in several directions. Earth Day is no exception. The first Earth Day had two sources. San Francisco, again showing that cities lead, first observed Earth Day on March 21, 1970. The idea was to help celebrate the Equinox (first day of spring in northern hemisphere). A few weeks later, a US Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, called for an environmental teach-in arguing:
“I am convinced that all we need to do to bring an overwhelming insistence of the new generation that we stem the tide of environmental disaster is to present the facts clearly and dramatically.”
This is where I disagree. The facts are clear - and have been for a long time. The problem is we just don’t want to do the hard work that’s needed for any semblance of sustainability. We are very powerful procrastinators. So a few of us might as well turn off a light, or forgo the car while we wait to generate sufficient political and personal will to get on with the heavy lifting. But surely getting all these people thinking about, and working for, the environment can’t be a bad thing. Maybe it will help us act on the bigger stuff sooner.
In 2009, an EU-based chemical manufacturer opened a plant inside one of FYR Macedonia’s recently-established special economic zones. The plant began production of catalysts, a type of emissions-control component used in automobiles. Two years later, this investment drove chemical products to the third-highest spot on Macedonia’s export list, lessening the country’s reliance on metals and textiles.
In Nicaragua, low labor costs and high security compared to its neighbors have led zonas francas to expand dramatically, attracting producers of electronic wires and medical devices and expanding the country’s exports beyond an already-strong apparel sector. Between 2006 and 2008, for example, ignition wiring sets for vehicles were the country’s fourth biggest export.
These two examples demonstrate a new trend in small economies. Increasingly, as global value chains grow in importance,
Earlier this month, the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability released a report of recommended outcomes for the Rio+20 conference in June. The report, Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing, outlines both long- and short-term goals for governments, civil society and the private sector. These recommendations address all facets of resiliency, including climatic, economic and social. Below are a few of the UN Panel’s key recommendations that align with the goals of sustainable communities, many of which are already being addressed by the green building industry.
“Cities and local communities have a major role to play in advancing a real sustainable development agenda on the ground.”
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“Ethical business practices are a critical aspect of sustainability, yet progress towards eliminating bribery and corruption appears to be elusive in the face of persistent headlines such as the recent forced resignation of Avon CEO Andrea Jung, the IKEA incident in Russia and the conviction of former French president Jacques Chirac.
Corruption continues to have a dire effect on the global economy. In fact, The World Bank and the World Economic Forum estimate that corruption costs more than 5% of global GDP ($2.6tn) annually, and estimate that more than $1tn is paid in bribes annually. These organisations suggest that corruption adds 10% to the total cost of doing business globally, and a staggering 25% to the cost of procurement contracts in developing countries.” READ MORE
World Water Day was one of the more exciting days I've had since I started working at the World Bank. We had a very special guest, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, come by to talk about water.
The World Bank employs a variety of specialists in different disciplines, often with abstract and hard to understand titles. Not me. When people ask what I do for the Bank I say “I build roads”. This often brings laughs from other Bank staff, but it’s true.
We're hearing more and more about the "social entrepreneur" as the development community looks for new ways to achieve better results, especially with many developing countries struggling to meet their 2015 Millennium Development Goals and at the same time cope with destructive climate change.
Ashoka, itself a pioneer in social entrepreneurship, has a pretty good definition:
"Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change."
But maybe the definition should also emphasize a special breed of social entrepreneurs -- those who tackle major social issues by launching projects that seek to be profitable.
When Fast Company magazine in 2008 honored 45 nonprofit social entrepreneurs "who are changing the world," it also tipped its hat to 10 for-profit companies with social missions.
Trying to change the world with a project funded by development donors can be maddeningly frustrating. Even with a successful pilot, a nonprofit company is likely to encounter repeated funding snags and gaps in its quest for sustainability and replication.
Joel Selanikio was a Marketplace 2003 winner with the innovative idea to collect health-care data with hand-held computers. DataDyne, the company that pediatrician Selanikio and his partner, technologist Rose Donna, co-founded, is a not-for-profit limited liability corporation (LLC). Its personal digital assistant -- EpiSurveyor -- was an immediate success in health care in Sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries. But Selanikio had to keep making the rounds of donors for each step of his growth. He was the model of the "ambitious and persistent" social entrepreneur -- but: "I got tired wearing out the knees of my trousers" making successive proposals to development donors, he said in an interview.
- South Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Europe and Central Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Financial Sector
- Culture and Development
- Communities and Human Settlements
- Agriculture and Rural Development
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
In September, a diverse group of scientists—among them the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen—presented in the journal Nature a new framework to analyze sustainable development at a global scale. This framework recognizes that humans have now become the main driver of global environmental change, and that our impact on the planet is growing stronger.
We are affecting every one of the major natural processes which are important for our own welfare, wrecking the ability of earth systems to regulate themselves, and buffer disturbances. In fact, our actions may be shifting earth processes to a completely new state that is a far cry from the extraordinarily stable conditions (in the entire history of planet earth) that allowed the development of human civilization since 10,000 BC. In the words of Paul Crutzen and colleagues, we have entered a new geologic era, the “Anthropocene”.
Our pressure on the planet appears more and more troubling as our understanding of earth processes improves. There is increasing evidence that many earth systems and biophysical phenomena do not change in a linear fashion, but rather experience abrupt changes when thresholds are crossed.