Every place where I travel in Africa and Asia I hear stories about the dramatic loss of wildlife and the destruction of ecosystems and habitats. Most recently, while attending the third high-level Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade in Hanoi that was attended by heads of states and delegates from 54 countries and international organizations, the World Bank’s Vietnam Country Director Ousmane Dione shared his own personal story on the disappearance of wildlife.
In Ousmane’s home country of Senegal, the lion is a national symbol, displayed on the coat of arms, the President’s exclusive seal, and is even the namesake of the national soccer team: The Lions. However, in the past 20 years, 80% of the lions in West Africa have been lost and in Senegal a mere 16 lions remain relegated to the Niokolo Koba National Park where their prey is diminishing as a result of the bush meat trade and competing resources with grazing livestock. Ousmane fears his children will never see a lion in their native country.
Last year, over 100 countries included actions related to land-use change and forests in their nationally determined contributions to fight climate change.
At the World Bank, we’re excited to be part of this next phase of forest action. In April 2016, we launched both a Forest Action Plan and Climate Change Action Plan which take a more holistic and ambitious approach to forests. We proposed to focus on investments in sustainable forest management and forest restoration to enhance economic opportunities for people living in and near forests, but also to help countries plan their investments in sectors such as agriculture, energy and transport in a more thoughtful, ‘forest-smart’ manner – to maximize the benefits of their forest assets.
On September 22, 2016, we launched the World Bank Big Data Innovation Challenge – a .
As the world grows more connected--through mobile phones, social media, internet, satellites, ground sensors and machines—governments and economies need better ways to harness these data flows for insights toward targeted policies and actions that boost climate resilience, especially amongst the most vulnerable. To make this data more useful for development, we need more data innovations and innovative public-private arrangements for data collaboration.
The World Bank Big Data Innovation Challenge invites innovators across the world to reimagine climate resilience through big data solutions that address the nexus areas of food security and nutrition, and forests and watersheds – high priority areas of the World Bank’s Climate and Forest Action Plans and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Recently, the IUCN World Conservation Union announced that the Giant Panda is no longer globally endangered with extinction, but has been “down-listed” to globally vulnerable. The Fourth National Survey (2011-2014) in China estimated the range-wide population as 1,864 adult Giant Pandas, and that at least one distinct population, in the Minshan Mountains, includes more than 400 mature individuals. National surveys indicate that the past trend of decline has stopped, and the panda population has started to increase. Forest protection and reforestation in China has increased forest cover over the past decade, leading to an 11.8% increase in forest occupied by pandas and a 6.3% increase in suitable forests that are not occupied, yet.
Ending poverty is within our reach. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved since 1990, thanks to the sustained efforts of countless individuals, organizations and nations.
African coastal countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) rely heavily on fishing and related employment, yet these livelihoods are all under threat due to declining fish stocks. Coastal erosion and shoreline habitat loss have taken a toll on poor coastal communities that are the most vulnerable to climate change while having contributed to the climate change problem the least. There are more storms, more floods and more droughts than ever previously recorded.
In many African countries, the ocean economy contributes one-quarter of all revenues and one-third of export revenues. And as coastal populations grow, overfishing, illegal fishing, pollution and unsustainable tourism degrade marine and coastal biodiversity and worsen poverty.
With the adoption of a universal development agenda and growing commitments to fight climate change from all corners, 2015 will be remembered as a high water mark for international cooperation. Almost a year later, when the news is dominated by violence and nationalism, it’s tempting to give in to pessimism about global trends. But I find reason to hope when I see the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gaining traction.
The SDGs were the result of the most collaborative and inclusive process in UN history and signal a very real shift in the way people think about tackling development challenges to deliver a viable future for both the planet and its people. There is growing understanding that the two are indelibly linked.
“In a time when gods walked the earth, an epic battle rages between the encroaching civilization of man and the gods of the forest…” That’s the opening line of the official movie trailer for Princess Mononoke.
I’ve always been a fan of Studio Ghibli, but among their films, Princess Mononoke was one that inspired me most. If you don’t know the story, there’s a prince that gets involved in a war between mankind and gods. The fate of the world rests on a forest princess! Yes, there’s a fearless forest princess in this movie. With its strong plot, interesting characters and fantasy elements, it became one of the highest-grossing films in Japan. Sure enough, Mononoke led me to a path of believing in heroes and saving the world.
If I ask you what movie changed your life or inspired you to action, I’m guessing that you would tell me about a blockbuster, or maybe, a cause-related documentary. Stories speak to us differently and individually. The bigger question is, where can these stories take us?
As a young scientist, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to research forest fires. After weeks of talking to rural producers, rubber tappers, indigenous peoples and cattle ranchers, I realized that I had to think beyond conservation science and climate change implications to understand the Amazonian landscape. The nexus between people and the rainforest was also important. I came away wanting to help ensure that the value of forests to people, and the value of people to forests remained closely linked and well-recognized.
The loss of biodiversity—which is driven by rapid conversion of habitats and landscapes, the depletion of ocean fisheries, and climate change—is not new. But concern for how to decrease the loss of biodiversity is. We are no longer just scientists and conservationists. The international community now makes the loss of biodiversity central to the global political debate: nations have the responsibility to protect natural assets.
Too many times after a natural hazard strikes, public outcries follow once the level of devastation becomes clear. People wonder – and often rightly so – if the disaster could have been prevented. After the 2015 Nepal earthquake for example, years of investment in school buildings was wiped away in seconds because schools were not built to withstand earthquakes – often because people were not aware of the earthquake risk. Fortunately, it was a Saturday so the schools that collapsed did not also result in unimaginable human tragedy.