“If we don’t take action now…the city of Nouakchott will soon be underwater.” These words, spoken by Mauritania’s Minister on Environment and Sustainable Development Amedi Camara, during a recent workshop in the country’s capital city, echoed a recurrent theme during our visits with Mauritanian authorities and local communities alike. They have stuck with me since.
Floods are not a new phenomenon for Nouakchott. A busy port city on Africa’s west coast, Nouakchott is mostly below sea level and is particularly vulnerable to rising groundwater levels, seawater intrusions, porous soils, sand extractions, and heavy rains in low-lying areas. Poorly planned port infrastructure has dramatically altered the dynamic and flow of sediments along the coast leading to substantial erosion in the city’s south (up to 25 meters annually in some years).
To make matters worse, severe and sometimes deadly floods have struck the city in recent decades. Extreme weather and human interventions have played a significant role in making the capital, with one-third of the population, or 1 million people, increasingly vulnerable to floods.
Imagine if you could know where your steak was born, and all of the details about its life until it reached your plate. Since 2011, this has been possible with Uruguay’s national system for livestock information or Sistema Nacional de Información Ganadera (SNIG).
Why 100% traceability of cattle matters
The World Bank aided the development of SNIG, which became fully operational in 2004, as part of its support for Uruguay’s recovery from the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic. The SNIG, which is a livestock registration system with more than 75,000 participants in the agricultural and industrial sectors, paved the way for Uruguay’s mandatory individual cattle traceability program. All animals born in September 2006 or later are required to be tagged with one visual ear tag and one radio frequency identification tag, both for traceability purposes. The novel system allowed Uruguay to become the only country in the Americas (and one of only a few in the world) with 100% traceability of cattle and allowed consumers, mainly in China, Europe and NAFTA areas to know the origin of the beef for health (fewer diseases with full tractability), social (ability to know that the cows were grass-fed) and environmental (sustainability of natural resources) reasons.
In just six weeks, world leaders will meet in Paris to negotiate a new global climate-change agreement. To date, 150 countries have submitted plans detailing how they will move their economies along a more resilient low-carbon trajectory. These plans represent the first generation of investments to be made in order to build a competitive future without the dangerous levels of carbon-dioxide emissions that are now driving global warming.
The transition to a cleaner future will require both government action and the right incentives for the private sector. At the center should be a strong public policy that puts a price on carbon pollution. Placing a higher price on carbon-based fuels, electricity, and industrial activities will create incentives for the use of cleaner fuels, save energy, and promote a shift to greener investments. Measures such as carbon taxes and fees, emissions-trading programs and other pricing mechanisms, and removal of inefficient subsidies can give businesses and households the certainty and predictability they need to make long-term investments in climate-smart development.
- Are culturally distinct societies and communities – the land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, and economies;
- Are among the most disadvantaged populations in the world, representing roughly 4.5 percent of the global population but more than 10 percent of the poor; and
- Even within their own traditional territories – which hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity – they legally own less than 11 percent of the land.
It should be recognized, however, that improving the conditions for Indigenous Peoples is not an easy task. Indigenous Peoples are often found in remote and isolated regions with poor access to social services and economic infrastructure. They also often suffer from multiple dimensions of exclusion. Furthermore, standard development projects have shown limitations in areas with Indigenous Peoples, particularly if they are not designed and implemented with the active participation of the indigenous communities.
The festival criteria read that “by screening a diverse selection of high quality films that deal with pressing issues, and by organizing discussion panels with environmental experts, filmmakers and other stakeholders, the Festival seeks to promote dialogue and inspire Dominican viewers to adopt practices that will ensure the country’s environmental sustainability and health.” For a small Caribbean nation to take these issues seriously and attempt to educate its people using cinema was indeed commendable.
What I witnessed on landing in Santo Domingo was truly remarkable. There were filmmakers from all over the world, but also organizers of similar festivals from other countries. That is when I realized that environmental film festivals have now become a global movement with the intention of informing, influencing, and galvanizing people on critical environmental issues. While the first “environmental” films were produced back in the 1960s when the global environmental movement was in its infancy, there are now 30 or more international environmental film festivals held all over the world attracting hundreds of films and thousands of people. They cover issues such as clean water, sanitation, forests, biodiversity, sustainable consumption and climate change. Even more remarkable, most of these short films or documentaries are often produced on a shoe-string budget, but with an enormous degree of passion and perseverance to get the message across. What really impressed me was that although they dealt with critical issues facing us today, in most cases the messages were of hope and optimism!
I want to share with you some of the films that I watched:
It is often said that we live in a new data age. Institutions such as the Bank, UN agencies, NASA, ESA, universities and others have deluged us with an overwhelming amount of new data obtained painstakingly from countries and surveys or observed by the increasing number of eyes in the sky. We have modern tools such as mobile phones that are more powerful than old mainframes I used to use in my university days. You can be in rural Malawi and still have access to decent 3G data networks.
Launching on September 25, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will call for no less than an end to poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 2030. This is welcome news--and for the nearly 800 million people worldwide who will go to bed hungry-- long overdue.
To get there, it’s not just about raising yields. It’s also about managing risks to protect the most vulnerable. Along with gains in productivity, we also need more resilient agricultural systems. Failing this, unmanaged risks will upend the road to 2030. Climate change only ups the ante with promise of increasing weather extremes and new and more virulent pest and disease outbreaks.
At this week's UN Sustainable Development Summit, the world's oceans will be getting the attention they have long deserved -- but not always received. They are the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 14: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development."
The inclusion of oceans for the first time in the international-development agenda illustrates the ambitious and holistic view of challenges and solutions that nations are embracing. With the SDGs, nations are calling for a future in which nature is managed to drive economies, enhance well-being and sustain lives -- whether in Washington or Nairobi, on land or sea.
Fifteen years ago, nations convened at the UN and created an unprecedented set of guideposts, the Millennium Development Goals. In that timespan, the number of people living in extreme poverty was more than halved. But the oceans were not part of those goals. We now have the opportunity to focus minds globally on restoring healthy oceans for resilient economies and thriving communities.
This attention comes not a moment too soon.
- What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals
- disaster risk management
- coral reef
- food security
- marine resources
- ocean health
- sustainable development goals
- Sustainable Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- East Asia and Pacific
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Sierra Leone