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Public Sector and Governance

Innovation: An Un-Level Playing Field for Developing Countries

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Innovation has always been crucial to economic growth, and never more so than in this era of globalisation.  But globalisation can create innovation winners and losers.  The new book Innovation and Growth: Chasing a Moving Frontier, published jointly by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank, describes how innovation -- not principally from newer science but the penetration of older, infrastructure-intensive technologies like improved water source and sanitation -- puts developing countries on an un-level playing field compared to developed countries.

A book launch and seminar are being held today from 9:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the World Bank Main Complex (Room MC2-800).  It will feature the book's editors -- Pier Carlo Padoan, Secretary-General and Chief Economist, OECD; Carlos A. Primo Braga, Director, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PREM), World Bank; Vandana Chandra, Senior Economist, PREM and Development Economics (DEC), World Bank; and Deniz Eröcal, Coordinator, Enhanced Engagement with Non-Member Economies, OECD.

This blog will have more on this event, but here's an excerpt from the book's Introduction summarizing the innovation dilemma:

"In the past few decades, as the international flows of trade, capital and labour have expanded across the global marketplace, the competitiveness and prosperity of high-income economies has come to rely increasingly on their innovative capability. Unlike OECD countries, developing countries’ competitiveness and prosperity remains largely tied to their endowments of natural resources. Their governments have been less successful in fostering technological innovation. Moreover, low productivity levels continue to constrain their competitiveness in the global market.

 "The unique nature of innovative activity and the growing interconnectedness of the world economy call, however, for greater attention to the interplay of openness and technological innovation not only in OECD countries, but also in developing economies.  Innovation systems increasingly rely on 'open' platforms and collaboration side by side with competition. At the same time, the geography of innovation is being redrawn as economic interdependence grows, emerging economies accumulate immaterial assets, and modern communication networks redefine opportunities for 'leapfrogging.' The experience of the so-called 'BRICs' (Brazil, Russia, India and China) is illustrative in this context.

How DM2009 Can Be Better -- From 5 Finalists

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From DM2009 finalists, here is a sampling of suggestions for how future Global Development Marketplaces could be improved:

  • Sonia Gabriela Ortiz Maciel, Mexico: "More workshops on funding, reporting, finance, accounting -- and in the morning, when we're not tired."
  • Carlo Vecco Biove, winner, Peru: "DM could fund an additional phase for those projects that demonstrate proven success, or could help organize events (such as business conferences) to support the attainment of financing for longer-term results.  Two years is short."
  • Laurie Navarro, Philippines: "DM should have a network of other sources of funding for those projects that do not qualify for DM support."
  • Benedict Bijoy Baroi, Bangladesh: "DM should provide feedback on the weaknesses of finalist projects or lack in improvement.
  • Tom Okumu, Kenya: "DM should award at least one finalist from each participating country as a way of balancing the competition participation and equal distribution of development in these countries of representation."

     

After Copenhagen: DM2009 Winner Has a Message for World Leaders

Leonardo Rosario (beneath banner in photo) of the Philippines was a winner at DM2009 with his Trowel Development Foundation's project to protect subsistence fishing communities from climate change, while also improving their production and marketing and restoring mangrove forests.  Here's his message for leaders at the international climate talks in Copenhagen.

How I wish the finalists of DM 2009 could have presented their “100 Ideas to Save the Planet” to international leaders gathered at the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

What those leaders would have seen would have been not only passion and commitment but also solutions that were innovative, pragmatic, and cost-efficient.

It’s too late to go to Copenhagen.  But Copenhagen is only the beginning of the search by world leaders for climate adaptation solutions that are worthy of their support. 

The DM2009 finalists’ projects meet all the objectives of that search.  They enhance and strengthen people’s capacity to manage climate risks and adapt to changing climate patterns, and even to build community resiliency among the most vulnerable – Indigenous Peoples, women and children, marginalized farmers, and small-scale fishers.

Building disaster-resilient communities may seem far-fetched to skeptics, but it is do-able.  With innovative, community-based management of natural resources as well as the synergy of ancient and traditional knowledge systems combined with modern technology, a quarter of the DM finalists showed how it can be done.  The main objective of the projects was to show how food, which is most important in times of disaster, can be secured.  The techniques included climate-adapted production systems, participatory plant breeding, introduction of “Family EarthBox,” bioculture systems, cultivation of drought-resistant rainforest tree food, and merging traditional indigenous production practices with environment-friendly modern farming technologies.

DM2009 as 'One of Washington's Best-Kept Secrets'

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We've been exchanging emails with many of the hundred DM2009 finalists to get their collected thoughts on the competition.  Many of them had good things to say about the event and its programs, and how Development Marketplace could better their projects' chances, even if they weren't among the 26 winners.  But sprinkled among the positive assessments was some criticism.

Ben Stein, who heads a reverse-osmosis desalinization project to provide drinking water for 48 households on Rah Island in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu, praised Development Marketplace for "starting to understand what social entrepreneurship is," and singled out the knowledge exchange sessions.  But Stein says something important was missing: "People.  The World Bank is not a very 'people-friendly' or public place.  As there are no more Peoples' Choice awards [given in previous years' competitions], it appears that most Bank employees aren't willing to spend the time to look at the DM.  Perhaps future DMs should be held at a more public venue and really marketed to the interested public, or find some way to make the Bank a more accessible place and really market the event to the interested public.  Also, there was so much talk about social media, social marketing, and networking one would think that everyone in DC knew about DM, but in fact it seems to have been one of DC's best-kept secrets."

Copenhagen Climate Talks -- Viewed From Nigeria

What do the international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen mean to the many millions of people who will be most affected by global warming?  DM2009 winner Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu (with microphone in photo below) has some on-the-ground answers from Nigeria.  Ikegwuonu's novel radio drama project will help educate up to 15 million small farmers in southeastern Nigeria whose livelihoods are affected by torrential, soil-eroding rains aggravated by climate change.

1.    Given an opportunity to address world leaders in Copenhagen, I would tell them that climate change is global but the solutions are local. To this end education is the key to long-term climate adaptation. While education on climate change mitigation and adaptation is well advanced in developed nations of the world, it is relatively unknown among billions of people at the base of the pyramid in developing countries who ironically have the least means to cope in the event of climate change- induced disaster.  I would tell world leaders that efforts to tackle climate change must first dwell on education because it breaks all forms of barrier, poverty included.  Education opens the mind and motivates the quest for results. An educated person is empowered to make better choices.  Furthermore, people cannot be developed but can only be given options through a system of education to develop themselves.

2.    Climate change is relatively unknown in Nigeria. This is because people have not been properly educated or informed.  Rural people consider climate change to be a short-term weather change but fail to realize that the change is not short term but long term. Indeed some conversations centered on mitigation and adaptation are being taken at Federal government level in Nigeria, but the outcome of these conversations is still relatively unknown to Nigerians. However, the present Copenhagen COP 15 has drawn small media attention to climate change, but this has not sparked up a debate which Nigerians are used to on such an important issue.  More media attention is desired.

 

How One Finalist Views DM2009

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What did the DM2009 finalists think about the competition and how it might be improved?  Here's a mini-interview with Andrew Reitz, who was a DM2009 finalist from Ecuador.  Reitz is a rural enterprise specialist with Conservacion y Desarollo, whose project is a combination market/conservation approach to community agriculture that would help 100 indigenous and mestizo rural households in the Andes commercialize a native blueberry while reforesting the local ecosystem.   Reitz describes his project in this YouTube clip from the Development Markektplace Channel.
 
Q. What most impressed you about your week at the competition?

A. I was most impressed that the World Bank took the opportunity to reach out to the participants with some of the curriculum from the World Bank Institute.  These sessions touched base on some of the fundamentals to project management that, if applied correctly, will surely help participants achieve higher levels of success in future projects.   I also particularly enjoyed the panel discussion of past DM winners.
 
Q. What would you like to see added to future competition programs to help ensure that all finalists have the richest possible experience from their week?

A. I don't believe finalists were given enough time to properly present their projects to the jurors.   A half hour would have allowed for a proper question and answer period.  In addition, finalists need to be better prepped on the types of questions that jurists will ask.   The session on "selling your project/idea" was interesting; however, it would have been more beneficial if past jurors were involved.
 
Q. Should there be a bigger money pool so there can be more winners among the 100 finalists?

DM2009 Adaptation Theme Catches On Worldwide

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The theme of DM2009 -- "Climate Adaptation" -- is looking very timely.  Today in the Washington Post there's a revealing Page One feature on how adaptation is catching on in countries around the world, with a special focus on what the Dutch, who have had centuries of experience coping with flooding, are doing to manage perhaps worse threats coming from climate change.

Most adaptation strategies assume the Earth will get hotter -- by at least 2 degrees C. no matter what countries do to mitigate the buildup of greenhouse gases.  Adaptation doesn't try to control climate, but to adjust to its destructive impacts, like flooding and drought.  The goals are to protect people and their community, including natural resources.

The frustration with DM2009 wasn't its mission, but that there wasn't enough money to fund all the worthwhile adaptation projects that made it to the finals.  The nearly US$5 million pool funded 26 projects.  But at least some jurors thought there were many more worthy projects.  After all, the 100 finalists had survived a screeening that eliminated 94 percent of applicant projects.

The post-competition challenge is how non-winners can stay alive.  Twenty-two of the projects aim to bring help to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), those which stand to be the biggest losers from climate change, like Bangladesh in South Asia, Nepal (photo of Nepalese villager by Simone D. McCourtie, World Bank) in East Asia and the Pacific, and Mozambique and many other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.  To improve their chances, LDC project sponsors should make an all-out effort to be included in their countries' National Adaptation Programs of Action.  Most of the world's 49 LDCs have produced NAPAs as a key step toward getting funding for their adaptation efforts from developed countries.  While the LDC Fund contains only US$172 million -- hardly enough for adaptation projects in 49 countries -- the amount is likely to be increased as a result the U.N.-sponsored climate change negotiations that begin in Copenhagen on Monday.  Furthermore, the World Bank's Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) has US$546 million to help finance NAPA adaptation projects of LDCs that are in the pilot.  So far, PPCR includes six LDCs.  Thirteen of the non-winning DM2009 finalists come from four of those six pilot countries (Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mozambique, and Nepal). 

The 22 non-winning DM2009 finalists from LDC countries can make strong cases for inclusion in NAPAs.  First, they have already been closely scrutinized by evaluators.  Second, these early-stage projects are minimally expensive -- none would cost more than US$200,000.  Third, they meet the top NAPA "guiding element" of local focus because they're strongly community-based.  Fourth, they were designed to be replicated.  And fifth, their specific objectives dovetail with the more general ones of their countries' NAPAs.

There's a common message for all those finalists: Go for it.

DM2009 Finalist and Government: A Disconnect?

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In the quickly evolving world of adaptation to climate change in developing countries, staying connected is critically important to the DM2009 finalists, both winners and non-winners.  As Aleem Walji, the new Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, said in a recent mini-interview on this blog: "What can we do to connect these hundred finalists to everyone who we know who can help them go forward -- funders, capacitybuilders, past DM winners, each other. The real power is in networks and linking communities of practice. Our comparative advantage at the Bank is our ability to convene people and create connections between the DM community, other parts of the Bank (lending operations, for example), jurors, winners, and finalists, past and present. The power of that community could be muchgreater than any prize we can award."

It is very likely that funding for climate adaptation funding in developing countries -- particularly the 49 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) -- will increase significantly in the wake of the U.N.-sponsored international climate change negotiations that begin next week in Copenhagen.  One impetus will be new documentation of the need in coming decades -- US$100 billion annually, according to a new World Bank analysis.  Another is that the National Adaptation Programs of Action that have been produced by most of the LDCs are moving to the implementation stage. 

Can the DM2009 finalists who didn't win connect with their countries' NAPAs?  In many cases, the fit would seem to be perfect -- the big picture provided by the national government and all-important community focus by (mostly) community-based NGOs and entrepreneurs.   But government bureaucracies can put up walls that prevent that from happening.  The predicament was detailed in a 2008 World Bank report, which looked at the situation in rural communities, where most adaptation in developing communities has to take place, almost everyone agrees: "Despite the critical role of local informal institutions in rural communities' adaptation, they are rarely supported by government and external intervention."

I received this email today from Nazrul Islam (photo at left), Country Director in Bangladesh for RELIEF International, who was one of the five finalists -- all non-winners -- from Bangladesh:

"Since I came back to Bangladesh from the DM, I have been finding ways to locate resources and partners to continue this project. I am also trying to get in touch with the relevant agencies with the govt of Bangladesh dealing with the NAPA. Certainly we would love to be part of the NAPA since my project perfectly fits into the government's current agenda to educate people about the climate change. Since the government agencies themselves will implement most of the projects, I am afraid it would be little challenging for civil society organizations to join directly in this NAPA . Nonetheless, we can continue to interact with the government agencies and encourage them to take benefits of the expertise many CSOs have developed over the years to tackle the climate change. I also thought the World Bank's country office in Bangladesh could possibly join us in advocating for these five finalist projects and help us motivate the government to integrate these projects into the NAPA."

The RELIEF International project would help local media publish news that educates millions of their readers, listeners, and viewers in low-lying areas about flooding and other risks that climate change brings and how they can better protect themselves when disaster strikes.  Project details are specific in contrast to the more general language of the US$7,050,000 education project that Bangladesh has included in its NAPA.

Let's see what the World Bank can do about creating productive connections between RELIEF Interntional and the Bangladesh government, and, maybe other finalists and governments.

Second Chance for Bangladesh DM2009 Finalists?

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Bangladesh, the most populous Least Developed Country (160 million people), was represented by five finalists at DM2009.  That's not surprising, because Bangladesh, with its heavily populated and low-lying coastal region, is especially vulnerable to climate change in the form of more frequent and intense cyclones that cause widespread flooding (photo).  However, none of the five Bangladesh adaptation projects won. But there may yet be some hope for them.  The objectives of all five appear to dovetail with much bigger adaptation projects that the Bangladesh government has identified as high priority and is seeking to fund through its National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA).  Perhaps more significant, the DM2009 finalist projects provide specific details that aren't in the general projects of the Bangladesh NAPA.

The projects that made it to the DM2009 finals would:

 

The total cost of these early-stage projects is under US$940,000 -- a fraction of the nearly US$20 million estimated cost of five similar high-priority adaptation projects identified by the Bangladesh government in its National Adaptation Program of Action. Those more general projects would provide for:

  •  Purification of contaminated drinking water.
  •  Emergency shelter, information, and assistance, mainstreaming adaptation in agriculture, and
  •  Development of eco-specific adaptive knowledge.

 

Bangladesh is seeking at least partial funding of those projects through the Least Developed Countries Fund administered by the Global Environment Facility.  But another Bangladesh adaptation project -- coastal afforestation -- has completed almost all steps for approval.  That US$23 million project would get LDCF funding of US$3.72 million -- about as much as Bangladesh could expect to receive in toto, considering the Fund's present limited resources of US$150 million which have to be spread among 48 other LDCs. But LDCs will be lobbying for the developed countries to contribute more to the Fund at the U.N.-sponsored climate change negotiations that begin next week in Copenhagen.  A recently published World Bank analysis says all developing nations, including LDCs, would have to spend US$100 billion annually on climate change adaptation for decades to come to avoid falling behind in their economic growth.

The Bangladesh finalists were not the only ones who didn't win at DM2009.  But Bangladesh is, by far, the biggest member of the LDCs.  Furthermore, Bangladesh is one of the six countries that are being studied for funding under the World Bank's Pilot Program for Climate Resilience.  Funding, which includes pledges from developed nations totaling US$546 million, is earmarked for projects that are part of each recipient country's NAPA.   Those five DM2009 finalists should go all out to get themselves included in Bangladesh's NAPA.  They would fit perfectly.

Indigenous Knowledge +Science and Technology = DM2009 Winners

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Nine DM2009 winners will use the centuries-old knowledge of Indigenous Peoples to adapt to destructive climate change -- but often leveraged with modern science and technology.

Here's how old and new will be joined in several winning projects in Latin America:

  • Peru -- Agricultural production in four communities in the Amazonian Basin (total population: 1,500) will be better managed through a combination of ancestral knowledge of the Basin and biomathematical computer simulation model and geographic information system (GIS)-based "micro-zoning" of the communities' ecology and economics. 
  • Colombia -- Traditional knowledge, aided by GIS and the sciences of ecology and biology, will be used to protect 207,000 hectares of native forest for a combination of conservation, housing, hunting, fishing, and gathering, traditional farming, and preservation of sacred places for community rituals. 
  • Costa Rica -- Ancient knowledge of adjacent valley and mountain ecosystems will be rescued and melded with mapping and other technology to help valley inhabitants of Bajo Chirripo to better cope with flooding caused by storms whose frequency and intensity are expected to increase with climate change, and to improve their present subsistence income. 
  • Peru -- Indigenous knowledge systems on how to adapt the native potato to changing climate will be combined with modern plant breeding to help communities in Potato Park in the High Andes to adapt to rapid climate change with weather-resilient plantings. 

 

Most of the finalist and winning projects that would help Indigenous Peoples were based in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the intellectual property rights of indigenous communities against "biopiracy" and related theft have won more legal protection -- a clear signal for what needs to be done in other regions to protect indigenous rights.

Poor People's Knowledge: Promoting Intellectual Property in Developing Countries
, edited by J. Michael Finger and Philip Schuler (2004, World Bank and Oxford University Press), is a detailed primer on the issue, including an examination of the controversial World Trade Organization (WTO)-administered Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement), which indigenous communities say is unfair to them.

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