The media have recently been going ga-ga over what many consider to be appalling public statements made by prominent figures in various fields --music, sports, domestic politics, and just today, international diplomacy. From the U.S. Open to the U.S. Congress, to the august halls of the United Nations, public figures have said some terribly inappropriate things and, come the very next news cycle, have suffered sharp rebuke by pundits in the mainstream media. Some have even claimed that these events portend the end of civilized society. I think they exaggerate.
|Pig farmers in Nias pull a 'waste disappearing act' by converting manure into useable energy.|
The clean pig pen I saw was in the village of Tetehosi, Idanagawo sub-district owned by a farm group with the name Ternak Harapan Maju which means, “Farm Hopes to Progress.” The pen is managed by priest Sabar Markus Lase, not only because he knows about pig farming, but also because the pig pen is in the backyard of the church.
A little more than a month ago, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) introduced a database tool and a press release highlighting a rather disconcerting trend. As the global economic crisis worsened, food prices have fallen at an international level. But, surprisingly, the cost of food has not dropped at the same rate, or at all, in poor developing countries, according the FAO.
The new online tool allows for anyone to easily keep track of food prices in 55 developing countries, comparing the data on both domestic and international levels and tracking change over time. In East Asia, the tool includes data from China, Mongolia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
I am struck that the release of this data seems to be the first time I’ve heard of this trend. And apparently, even the experts aren't sure what is causing food prices to stay high for those who can least afford it. On his blog, Oxfam’s Duncan Green quoted FAO's Henri Josserand:
"The reasons for this 'stickiness' are not fully understood at this time. We hypothesize that there are several factors, possibly interacting in complex way. So far, we have not found any set of explanatory variables that apply to the whole sample. Actually, we are pretty sure that understanding the reasons will require in-depth analysis at the national or regional levels."
FAO says it hopes the database will provide information for "policy and decision-makers in agricultural production and trade, development and also humanitarian work." Hopefully, this database will help bring attention to high prices and food shortages in the places that can least afford them.
A few days before the 2008 Olympic Games began last August, China blogger David Dollar noticed that Beijing's efforts to clean up its air seemed to be paying off.
Just before the holidays I participated in a UN conference on the role of the public sphere in post-conflict societies. The one-day event, titled “Media and Communication in Peacebuilding” was organized by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) in collaboration with the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office.
|Image credit: simonpocock at Flickr under a Creative Commons license.|
I have been in China for the past few weeks supporting the country team to appraise a package of support to China for recovery efforts following the May 12, 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. One colleague participated in the recent Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery Consultative Group meetings in Copenhagen, Denmark and is now in Jakarta, Indonesia working with field staff, the country’s government, and partners on mainstreaming risk reduction into development programs. Another colleague of mine just returned from the Philippines and Vietnam, where she was stranded by flooding in Hanoi. In fact, she had to wade through knee-deep water when leaving a meeting at the Ministry of Finance. Of course, this represents just part of the team, since we work with a broader network of staff based in country offices who manage country-level programs and projects.
The Government of Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations have released the first comprehensive report covering the impact of Cyclone Nargis on the people in the Ayeyarwady Delta and Yangon. Among the highlights: