Inter Press ServiceEconomy & Trade – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:36:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Investors Turn Kenya’s Troublesome Invasive Water Hyacinth into Cheap Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 Benson Rioba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159315 Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area. But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it. The presence […]

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Water hyacinth is a weed and if not controlled on Lake Victoria, experts are concerned that the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent. Courtesy: CC by 2.0/Madeira Botanic Garden

By Benson Rioba
KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area.

But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it.

The presence of water hyacinth on the lake is concerning. Late last year, Margaret Kidany, one of the people involved in conserving Lake Victoria’s beaches, said the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent if the weed is not controlled. If it is not eliminated, it will kill the livelihoods of thousands of households that rely on the lake for an income.

However, the Centre for Innovation Science and Technology in Africa, founded by former chemistry teacher Richard Arwa, is making the best out of the invasive water hyacinth.

Funded in its start-up stages by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the innovation company, which employs six people and serves 560 households, manufactures ethanol from the weed. This is proving a cheaper source of clean fuel for many of the locals while at the same time preserving the lake.

The process they use is a simple one.

The centre hires locals to harvest the hyacinth from Lake Victoria before transporting it to their workshop for processing. Once at the workshop, the hyacinth is pretreated to remove microorganisms that might compete with the enzymes during processing.

The hyacinth is then dried and chopped into smaller pieces to reduce the surface area for efficient processing. The dried hyacinth is then mixed with water, acids and enzymes in tight closed tanks for fermentation.

After fermentation the mixture is subjected to high temperatures (80 degrees Celsius), producing ethanol and carbon dioxide and methane as final products.

“This was part of a science congress project for secondary schools and it won accolades throughout the country and we, together with my students, decided to actualise the project,” says Arwa.

Arwa is still a chemistry teacher even though he started the institution in 2016.

He adds that they initially tried to produce beverage alcohol from the hyacinth but the project was not viable. According to Arwa, alcohol requires numerous purification processes to make it consumable. In addition the taxes on the product are high.

So it is less costly to make ethanol. Arwa says the company produces 100 litres daily.

The amount is considerable for their factory, and it is sold to 560 households in Yala in Kisumu city. Arwa tells IPS that they always run out of stock.

Lyne Ondula, a mother from Yala, in Kisumu county, is a happy customer.

“Hyacinth fuel burns slower than the usual kerosene I use and doesn’t produce smoke and soot while cooking like firewood or kerosene. To me it’s much cheaper and cleaner to use, no more coughing in my kitchen when preparing food,” she tells IPS.

Ondula says a litre of ethanol retails at 70 Kenyan shillings and lasts four days. That is in marked contrast to the higher cost of kerosene, which currently retails at a national average of 100 Kenyan shillings, and lasts only two days. She says she also used to buy charcoal which was quite expensive, retailing at 100 Kenyan shilling per a 15-kilogram tin, which only lasted hours. So now she only uses ethanol, which she pre-orders.

It is a cleaner option for this East African nation that is still heavily reliant on charcoal, kerosene and firewood as a source of energy. According to a market and policy analysis by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, while “LPG has penetrated Nairobi and higher-income households; bio-ethanol can be an attractive clean fuel for lower income households.”

Ondula’s sentiments were echoed by Sylvester Oduor, another resident from Yala in Kisumu County. He adds that ethanol fuel also produces more heat compared to charcoal when cooking.

Philip Odhiambo, energy and climate change coordinator at the WWF, says such innovations are key in harnessing the untapped opportunities of water bodies.

“There is a need to turn environmental challenges to create wealth and opportunities especially in creating jobs for our many unemployed youth,” says Odhiambo. He adds that the ethanol processing project is a viable way of managing green waste that has been a challenge in the country for a long time.

Odhiambo adds that the world is shifting towards clean, cheap energy and says there is a need to embrace creativity and tap into the energy potential of water bodies, besides the traditional sources of energy.

In addition, unlike other clean fuels, bio-ethanol can be produced domestically over time and could spur industrial growth in the sector “while delivering positive social and economic benefits,” says the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety report.

However, Arwa says accessing the initial capital of 50,000 dollars was a challenge as many financial institutions turned him away for lack of collateral. In the end he had to rely on donors like WWF to finance the project. The chemistry teacher adds that financial institutions did not have faith in the venture and were not ready to invest in the idea.

The immediate goal for the company is to expand production to 600 litres per day.

But Arwa has a five-year expansion plan that includes moving the small factory, which is about 40 kilometres away from Lake Victoria, closer to the lake to reduce costs. He hopes that once relocated, and with the support of partners, they will eventually be able to produce 10,000- 25,000 litres per day.

Arwa adds that he is looking for strategic investment partners to help in scaling up the ethanol project, reiterating that there is a huge untapped market for the product. “I usually feel bad when customers come to purchase ethanol but we turn them away. At the moment we cannot satisfy the demand,” he says.

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Global Anti-Human Trafficking Coalitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/global-anti-human-trafficking-coalition/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 18:27:12 +0000 Vladimir Bozovic http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159316 Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Child labourers rescued in Delhi waiting to be sent back to their villages. Credit: Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

By Vladimir Bozovic
BELGRADE, Serbia, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Entire human history is one great struggle for freedom. To many, slavery is a synonym for something in the past, for transatlantic slave trade, but, unfortunately, slavery still exists in many different forms.

Records show that over twenty seven million men, women and children still live today in conditions that characterized social form of the slave ownership. They are trapped in forced labor and debt bondage, in domicile work and forced marriages, or they are being exploited by the human traffickers. We can easily speak of slavery as of great tragedy, and the fact that in this day and age still exists, is a downfall of human kind.

Modern slavery is a challenge for every democratic country. Suffering is the same as in the past, but methods are more sophisticated and perfidious, and most of those who suffer are the ones that should be protected the most – poor and socially excluded groups, who often live on the margins of our society, and young women and children. This is not an imaginary problem, it does not happen only to someone else and somewhere else; rather, it is a real threat and anyone can fall victim to.

The very first challenge in fight against slavery must be a cognizance: we must confess a bitter truth that slavery has been weakened, but still exists. Human trafficking is one of the growing forms of transnational crime, characterized by high profit and low risk, and it is followed by a grave statistics. It is crime of economic nature, and most efficiently organized, and we are currently fighting it on inconsistent and fragmented way. That is the dark side of globalization.

The issue of modern slavery is globally recognized by the UN in its millennium goals. Goal 8 is dedicated to increasing labor productivity, reducing the unemployment rate, especially for young people, improving access to financial services and benefits, fight against modern slavery and child labor. So many activities around this particular global goal prove that we don’t live anymore in a selfish world where we don’t consider other nations and their problems. No, the world of todays opens up to the misery of others, and everybody everywhere has to be good, for us to feel good. Employed, productive populations, sustainable economic growth, decent jobs with equal opportunities for fair salaries, safe working environments, social protection, these are all values that will ensure the progress of the entire world, and the whole world will benefit from the creativity, business and innovation of the free people.

Plenty has been done in delivering the Goal 8. UN reports that the average annual growth rate of real GDP per capita worldwide increased, the number of children from 5 to 17 years of age who are working has declined, access to financial services through automated teller machines increased… Plenty has been done, but also plenty has to be done. Child labor remains a serious concern with more than half of child laborers participate in dangerous work and 59% of them work in the agricultural sector; labor productivity has slowed down, the global unemployment rate hasn’t changed from 2016, with women more likely to be unemployed than men across all age groups. Youth were almost three times as likely as adults to be unemployed… It is clear that efforts provide results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

There was a time we thought that the slavery is forever beaten, only to come back to us in new forms and shapes. That is why the solution must be fresh and brave. The only final answer to this problem is for every country, every government, every agency to work together, to unite and create an Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition that will engage entire society in fight against this crime, and combine all our efforts in protecting our citizens. It should be understood that eradicating the human trafficking is not solely a mission for the police or law enforcement agencies, this is a fight at all levels of society. We should campaign through media with the message that will define the problem, and develop the clear strategy that will unite countries and governments, churches and religious organizations, NGOs, youth, academic communities, media and all other important representatives of the society in one efficient and effective action with clear mechanisms of measuring the results. Everything should be designed in the way that those results are realistic and visible to the present victims, and to provide prevention and protection for potential victims. Time has clearly shown us, that this is one thing we can’t beat alone, nationally, rather, it’s a nick of time to do it globally.

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Excerpt:

Vladimir Bozovic is Advisor of Government of the Republic of Serbia

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Taking Away the Ladderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/taking-away-ladder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=taking-away-ladder http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/taking-away-ladder/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 13:18:36 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159312 The notion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later, South Africa) was concocted by Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill. His 2001 acronym was initially seen as a timely, if not belated acknowledgement of the rise of the South. But if one takes China out of the BRICS, one is left with little more than […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR & SYDNEY, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

The notion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and later, South Africa) was concocted by Goldman Sachs’ Jim O’Neill. His 2001 acronym was initially seen as a timely, if not belated acknowledgement of the rise of the South.

But if one takes China out of the BRICS, one is left with little more than RIBS. While the RIBS have undoubtedly grown in recent decades, their expansion has been quite uneven and much more modest than China’s, while the post-Soviet Russian economy contracted by half during Boris Yeltsin’s first three years of ‘shock therapy’ during 1992-1994.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Unsurprisingly, Goldman Sachs quietly shut down its BRICS investment fund in October 2015 after years of losses, marking “the end of an era”, according to Bloomberg.

Growth spurts in South America’s southern cone and sub-Saharan Africa lasted over a decade until the Saudi-induced commodity price collapse from 2014. But the recently celebrated rise of the South and developing country convergence with the OECD has largely remained an East Asian story.

Preventing emulation
Increasingly, that has involved China’s and South Korea’s continued ascendance after Japan’s financial ‘big bang’ and ensuing stagnation three decades ago. They have progressed and grown rapidly for extended periods precisely because they have not followed rules set by the advanced economies.

Industrial policy — involving state owned enterprises (SOEs), technology transfer agreements, government procurement, strict terms for foreign direct investment and other developmental interventions — was condemned by the Washington Consensus, promoting liberalization, privatization and deregulation favouring large transnational corporations.

Anis Chowdhury

Well-managed SOEs, government procurement practices and effective protection conditional on export promotion accelerated structural transformation. When foreign corporations were allowed to invest, they were typically required to transfer technology to the host economy.

Countries have only progressed by using industrial policy judiciously when sufficient policy space was available, as was the norm in most developed countries. But such successful development practices have been denied to most developing countries in recent decades. Instead, the North now emphasizes the dangers of industrial policy, subsidies, SOEs and technology transfer agreements, to justify precluding their use by others.

Blocking the alternative
Instead, corporate-led globalization continues to be sold as the way to develop and progress.
Some advocates insist that global value chain participation will provide handsome opportunities for sustained economic development despite the evidence to the contrary.

Major OECD economies appear intent on tightening international rules to further reduce developing countries’ policy space under the pretext of reforming the multilateral trading system in order to save it.

Trump and other challenges to this neoliberal narrative do not offer any better options for the South. Nevertheless, their nationalist and chauvinist rhetoric has undermined the pious claims and very legitimacy of their neoliberal ‘globalist’ rivals on the Right.

Infrastructure finance
UNCTAD’s 2018 Trade and Development Report emphasizes the link between infrastructure and industrialization. It argues that successful industrialization since 19th century England has crucially depended on public infrastructure. Infrastructure investment is thus considered crucial for economic growth and structural transformation.

The ascendance of the neoliberal Washington Consensus agenda has not only undermined public interventions generally, but also state revenue and spending in particular, especially in the developing world. But even the World Bank now admits that it had wrongly discouraged infrastructure financing, which it now advocates.

Most Western controlled international financial institutions have recently advocated public-private partnerships to finance, manage and implement infrastructure projects. The presumption is that only the private sector has the expertise and capacity to be efficient and profitable. In practice, states borrowed and bore most of the risk, e.g., of contingent liabilities, while private partners reaped much profit, often with state guaranteed revenues.

Unexpected policy space
Infrastructure, including both its construction and financing, has been central, not only to China’s own progress, but also to its international development cooperation. China’s financial redeployment of its massive current account surplus has created an alternative to traditional sources of investment finance, both private and public.

The availability of Chinese infrastructure finance on preferential or concessionary terms has been enthusiastically taken up, not least by countries long starved of investible resources. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in over-investments in some infrastructure, resulting in underutilization and poor returns to investment.

The resulting debt burdens and related problems have been well publicized, if not exaggerated by critics with different motivations. Now threatened by China’s rise, Western governments and Japan have suddenly found additional resources to offer similar concessionary financing for their own infrastructure firms.

Thus, not unlike the US-Soviet Cold War, the perceived new threat from China has created a new bipolar rivalry. That has inadvertently created policy space and concessions reminiscent of the post-Second World War ‘Golden Age’ for Keynesian and development economics.

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Q&A: For Vietnam, the Quality of Economic Growth is Starting to Matterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/vietnam-quality-economic-growth-starting-matter/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 13:02:25 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159305 Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country. And while it is now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in Southeast Asia, this has sometimes been at the expense of the environment. But the country has begun to prioritise green growth. Vietnam’s economic growth has been accompanied […]

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City view of Hanoi, Vietnam. Vietnam is prioritising green growth. Credit: Adam Bray/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
PHNOM PENH, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Vietnam’s shift from a centrally planned to a market economy has transformed the country. And while it is now is one of the most dynamic emerging countries in Southeast Asia, this has sometimes been at the expense of the environment. But the country has begun to prioritise green growth.

Vietnam’s economic growth has been accompanied by significant rural to urban migration, which has led to increased social and environmental challenges. Over the past decade, 700 square kilometres of land has been converted into urban areas. Vietnam’s emissions per unit of GDP are surpassing all other Asia-Pacific developing countries, except for China. This is fuelled by domestic coal consumption, which currently accounts for 36 percent of electricity supply and is projected to increase 56 percent by 2030.

But recently the concept of an inclusive green economy has emerged as a strategic priority in the country. A green growth economy is one that improves human well-being and builds social equity while reducing environmental risks.

The intergovernmental organisation, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), is trying to promote just that. GGGI is working to increase green energy production and reduce greenhouse gases emissions and has been assisting with the development of green master plans, strategies for renewable energy and bankable projects for Vietnam’s cities.

IPS spoke to Adam Ward, the Country Representative of GGGI for Vietnam. Excerpts of the interview follow.

Adam Ward, the Country Representative of Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) for Vietnam says that his organisation is working on policies for the growth of green cities. Courtesy: Adam Ward

Inter Press Service (IPS): GGGI does not donate funds. So how can you develop green growth?

Adam Ward (AW): We support planning for projects like solar power and electric buses. We also seek finance for the government and the private sector at accessible rates so these projects can get implemented.

We have worked with the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) to develop guidelines for prioritisation and allocation of funding to public infrastructure. We have also worked on a process to solicit projects from small and medium enterprises and appraise them. We helped them to understand how to submit projects and access financing.

The government sees the value in our work. With MPI, we developed a handbook for the appraisal of public investment projects, [which is] becoming government policy. Projects worth over four billion dollars have been appraised under this inclusive framework. Like components of the airport, metro lines in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It is really great to see that our guidelines are being used for sustainable growth.

IPS: Economic growth needs energy. How do you keep it sustainable?

AW: For example, we advised the government on generating energy from bagasse (the dry pulpy residue that remains after sugarcane is crushed to extract the juice). And how much can they potentially generate, how much investment is required and how to sell it to the grid. This makes sense, both economically and environmentally. It is clean energy that can be sold. Then we presented our advice to the government on better tariffs to stimulate the production of this green energy.

IPS: Does GGGI advise on national policies. How does it affect local decision making?

AW: We are also working on policies for the growth of green cities. The Ministry of Construction has already approved one of our suggestions, which has been incorporated into an Urban Green Growth Development Plan. Another one is the set-up of green growth indicators. Cities are now legally required to report the implementation of green growth. We also worked on waste water treatment and city planning. And we are kicking off a project on generating energy with municipal waste.

IPS: Vietnam has only recently risen out of poverty. Is green growth a real concern?

AW: There is definitely openness for green growth. Vietnam wants their development to be inclusive, sustainable and as green as possible. However, what we have seen is that growth has taken an upper hand on the environment. What we really want to tell the government is that the quality of growth matters for the future. [Especially] in Vietnam, a country that is very vulnerable to climate change.

Emissions are increasing rapidly. There are challenges with air quality in cities. Growth is important, we recognise that Vietnam wants to develop. But our message is that the quality of growth matters too. By embracing green growth there will be no downsides in terms of economic development.

IPS: What are the challenges facing GGGI?

AW: Vietnam has a high energy demand. And given the GDP growth, it will increase dramatically. They want to meet a large part of that via coal, which will have a serious impact on carbon emissions. But it will also pollute the surrounding cities and the agricultural lands surrounding coal plants. That’s going to be a massive challenge.

The second challenge facing Vietnam is climate change. The Mekong Delta is one of the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change. Sea level rise and droughts are more common. Typhoons are more extreme.

The third area is the cities. Around 30 percent of the population lives in or around cities. This is set to increase to over 50 percent by 2050.
This brings a lot of benefits in terms of economic development, however, this mass influx of people brings challenges in terms of infrastructure in a way to support transport, housing, etc. This is exactly why GGGI is working on renewable energy, sustainable waste management, providing guidance on increasing investment into green projects and also specifically working with cities to make them cleaner.

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Digital Crusaders: Technology Offers Weapons for the Battle Against Corruptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/digital-crusaders-technology-offers-weapons-battle-corruption/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=digital-crusaders-technology-offers-weapons-battle-corruption http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/digital-crusaders-technology-offers-weapons-battle-corruption/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 09:34:32 +0000 Chris Wellisz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159307 Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance and Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) *

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Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance and Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) *

By Chris Wellisz
WASHINGTON DC, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

Oleksii Sobolev was a fund manager by day and a pro-democracy protester by night. After work, he would leave his office at Dragon Asset Management in Kiev to join the crowds camped out in Independence Square demanding the resignation of a president they viewed as corrupt.

Sobolev handed out food and helped clean up the square. When police started firing at the so-called Maidan protesters, he brought tires that were burned to create a protective curtain of smoke.

“The saying was, ‘Fires save lives,’” Sobolev recalls.

Ukraine’s president ended up in exile, and Sobolev gave up managing money to take an unpaid advisory post helping to restructure state-owned enterprises. Four years later, he has put his business skills to work fighting corruption, a problem that continues to bedevil the eastern European country of 44 million people.

Ukraine ranked 131st among 176 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.

Sobolev’s team of activists created an electronic auction system that brought transparency to notoriously murky sales of public assets ranging from bank loans to scrap metal.

In its first 13 months, the system, ProZorro.Sale, handled $210 million, almost as much as the money raised from conventional privatization sales in the past five years, says Max Nefyodov, Ukraine’s first deputy economy minister. That’s a significant boost for the cash-strapped Ukrainian government.

Sobolev belongs to a new breed of idealistic young people who are using digital technologies to promote transparency and integrity. Just as smartphones and social media helped empower popular uprisings from Ukraine to Tunisia, 21st century technologies such as blockchain and big data offer powerful new weapons against corruption, a phenomenon that dates back at least as far as the first century BC, when Julius Caesar secured the office of Pontifex Maximus by greasing voters’ palms.

Corruption’s toll
Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to cost as much as $2 trillion a year, about equal to the GDP of Italy and many times the $142 billion in global development aid. But corruption takes a much bigger toll, according to a 2016 IMF study “Corruption: Costs and Mitigating Strategies.” It discourages private investment, curbing economic growth.

Corrupt officials channel public funds to wasteful projects that generate bribes, depleting funds that could be spent on health, education, and other services that benefit the poor. And young people have little incentive to acquire new skills in societies where who they know is more important than what they know.

“Countries that are less corrupt have higher growth rates, have higher levels of GDP, and have higher levels on the Human Development Index of the United Nations,” which measures things like life expectancy and years of schooling, says Susan Rose-Ackerman, a Yale University law professor who studies the political economy of corruption.

That explains why international financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank, are helping governments fight corruption through improved transparency, accountability, and institution building.

The anti-corruption drive is providing opportunities for private technology companies like the Bitfury Group, which signed a contract with the Republic of Georgia to register land titles using blockchain technology. Blockchain serves simultaneously as a means of exchange—of money or information—and a database that automatically registers transactions.

Records are encrypted and stored across a network of computers, rather than in a central location, so they cannot be altered or stolen.

Some start-ups are offering their services to charitable organizations as well as governments. Among them is Dublin-based AID:Tech, which created a platform that ensures the integrity of charitable contributions and social welfare payments.

“I know a lot of people who would love to give money but don’t because they don’t know where it goes,” says AID:Tech’s CEO and cofounder, Joseph Thompson.

AID:Tech was inspired by a charity event in 2009. Thompson ran 152 miles across the Sahara Desert to raise money for children who needed reconstructive surgery. When he asked for evidence that the aid had been delivered to the intended recipients, the charity couldn’t provide it.

Thompson, who has master’s degrees in business, digital currencies, and computer science, set out to find a way to make sure that charitable donations don’t go astray. He found it in blockchain, also known as distributed ledger technology.

Originally developed to store and exchange Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, it has since been adapted for a variety of uses.

“If you can get an end-beneficiary on the blockchain, that’s their bank account,” Thompson says. Donations go straight to the beneficiary, without intermediaries; the company provides the technology but doesn’t handle any money.

“There’s no more fraud, no more people claiming benefits for dead parents or brothers and sisters who have emigrated.”

The Irish Red Cross agreed to test Thompson’s solution with a program to distribute aid to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Each recipient was given a small plastic card stamped with a QR code—a type of machine-readable optical label.

Money was deducted when the cards were scanned at supermarket checkout counters. Five hundred electronic vouchers worth $20 apiece were redeemed in Lebanon, and not a penny went astray.

“The results were fantastic,’’ says Daniel Curran, head of fundraising for the Irish Red Cross. Using a dashboard Thompson set up, he tracked spending by recipients in real time, gleaning valuable insights into their needs. (He was surprised to learn that refugees bound for resettlement in Ireland bought dental products rather than winter clothes.)

The technology also allows charities to appeal to a younger class of smartphone-wielding donors, and it reduces their reliance on expensive direct-marketing campaigns. That means more money will flow to the people who need it.

“This is a cheaper, more transparent, faster, and efficient way of not just obtaining the donation, but actually getting the donation to the beneficiary in the end,” Curran says.

Doing well by doing good
AID:Tech is expanding rapidly, with contracts to provide software for the delivery of remittances to Serbia, social welfare payments in Jordan, and aid to homeless women in Ireland. It is raising between $3 million and $5 million from investors and plans to open offices in Singapore and Dubai. The goal is to have at least 100,000 people on the platform by June.

Thompson doesn’t hesitate to say he aims to do well by doing good. “We are a for-profit, but we’re using technology to solve some of the world’s biggest problems,’’ he says. The platform, he says, can be used by governments and social welfare agencies around the globe, with a potential customer base in the billions.

Another promising use for blockchain: secure digital storage of documents.

“Blockchain is so powerful because it gives us something we didn’t have in the digital world,” says Gonzalo Blousson, cofounder and CEO of Signatura, a platform that can be used to sign and notarize documents among multiple people. “Digital information is easy to modify. Blockchain gives us immutability.”

Blousson is working with Argentina’s second-largest city, Córdoba, which recently passed a law requiring public officials to file financial disclosure forms. Blockchain ensures that the forms are both visible to the public and cannot be altered.

Blousson and his team also used the technology to build a procurement platform, called Teneris, which companies and governments can use to solicit bids from suppliers of goods and services, a process that is often rife with opportunities for bribery and bid rigging.

Still, blockchain has its limitations, says Beth Noveck, a New York University (NYU) professor who specializes in the use of technology to bring transparency to government. Corruption also occurs after bids are awarded—when a building contractor uses shoddy materials to cut corners, for example.

That’s where big data offers a promising investigatory tool, Noveck says. The technology makes it possible to aggregate data on government spending and contracting and to analyze it for signs of waste, fraud, and corruption. As Noveck puts it, “You can spot the patterns of whose brother-in-law got too many contracts.”

Mobilizing citizen involvement also makes a difference, says Noveck, a lawyer by training who heads NYU’s Governance Lab. People like Diego Mendiburu are doing just that. A former journalist and technology buff, he put together a team of programmers to develop a mobile app that allows Mexicans to report substandard public services.

Users with smartphones can capture and share short videos of potholes that go unfilled or trees that are cut down illegally as a way of shaming public officials and pressuring them to act.

The app, Supercivicos, uses GPS technology to pinpoint the date and location of the videos, then builds a database of reports that can be used by civic groups and government agencies to identify problem services and find solutions.

Mendiburu wants users to become engaged citizen-journalists. “It’s not only about pointing out what’s wrong, it’s about telling stories,” he says. “We believe that this project can be exported to other countries in Latin America.”

In Ukraine, there are similar ambitions for ProZorro.Sale (the name combines the Ukrainian word for transparency with Zorro, the fictional Mexican who defended the poor against corrupt officials). As of December, Transparency International Ukraine was in talks with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to adapt the system for use elsewhere in Europe.

Of course, digital technology, while effective, can be stymied by governments, whose support is needed in the fight against official corruption. Late last year, the IMF and World Bank criticized Ukraine for undermining its recently established National Anti-Corruption Bureau and for failing to make good on promises to create an independent anti-corruption court.

“E-tools are important, but institutions are far more important,” says Viktor Nestulia, director of the Innovation Projects Program at Transparency International Ukraine.

*https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/03/pdf/wellisz.pdf

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Excerpt:

Chris Wellisz is on the staff of Finance and Development at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) *

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United Towards Achieving Health For All in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-towards-achieving-health-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/united-towards-achieving-health-kenya/#respond Tue, 18 Dec 2018 08:45:34 +0000 Sicily Kariuki3 and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159303 Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta signs the Universal Health Coverage charter during the launch of the UHC pilot programme in Kisumu on 13 December 2018. Photo courtesy: PSCU

By Sicily Kariuki and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 2018 (IPS)

According to Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the implementation of UHC is “more a political than an economic challenge”.

Of all the Sustainable Development Goals, few would rival good health as the definition of a country that has a sustainable, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous future, and the launch this week of the pilot phase of Kenya’s journey towards Universal Health Coverage heralds a major step towards that future.

It was a fitting statement of national intent and unity to make UHC a success in Kenya to see President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto preside over the launch of the pilot programme in Kisumu county. They were joined by erstwhile political contenders, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, united by a shared vision to improve health coverage in Kenya.

Ensuring that the pursuit of good health leaves no one in financial dire straits is a task that requires much more than good intentions. WHO estimates that to achieve SDG target 3.8 requires one billion more people to have universal health coverage by 2023.

In Kenya, health-related expenses are driving about one million into poverty every year, and health care is second only to food in family budgets. These are families that wake up every day to the reality that they could be within just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy and penury.

In demonstration of his commitment to keep health front and centre of the development agenda, President Kenyatta has identified health as one of the key pillars of his legacy.

The promise of UHC is based on real-life experiences of countries with whom we have much in common. The transformation of countries now known as Asian Tigers was largely driven by investments in the health of the citizens, with special focus on sexual and reproductive health.

When the health of the mother is provided for, the cyclical benefits in terms of physical and cognitive development of the subsequent generations is assured.

The Ministry of Health has been working with the United Nations (UN) in Kenya & various stakeholders to identify what interventions represent the most effective pathways for attaining UHC in Kenya. These partners include civil society and the private sector.

Our vision is for approaches that are not just affordable, but those that promote equity and effectiveness, ensuring that the rights of the most vulnerable are not forgotten, as the central tenet of universality.

Kenya also announced that UHC will involve scaling up immunization, prevention of water borne, vector borne, TB, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, improving maternal and child health as well as nutrition of women who conceive. Kenya will also focus on prevention of non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Our mission is to deliver a robust system that will reach out to those who have been left behind. Through community health workers and volunteers, we know that a few more vaccines will be delivered to children in a remote village; there might be new case of an infectious outbreak detected, reported and averted.

It is because of the primacy of these community volunteers as frontline workers and their role in the achievement of UHC that the Government has established a fund to provide a stipend as an incentive for the workers.

The partnership between the Ministry and the UN system in Kenya is steadily building the foundations for a responsive health system for communities, for whom health was inaccessible, unaffordable or altogether unavailable.

In the frontier counties of North-eastern Kenya, flagship programmes such as the Area-based joint programme with the county of Turkana are steadily delivering results. We are targeting not just dramatic, overnight success, but the incremental changes that for instance involve building the capacity of community health workers to deliver primary health care.

Investing in making progress towards universal health coverage, they lay the foundation for making progress towards all the other health targets and other goals – like ending poverty, improving gender equality, decent work and economic growth, and more.

With Kenya’s Vision 2030 ambition of providing a high quality of life to all its citizens, the most urgent need is to ensure that everyone stays healthy to participate in economic development.

The Government of Kenya and UN partnership is committed to make Kenya the blueprint for the rest of Africa on how Universal Health Coverage can be attained.

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Excerpt:

Sicily Kariuki is the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health in Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Tunisia – the Exceptionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/tunisia-the-exception/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tunisia-the-exception http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/tunisia-the-exception/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 16:44:11 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159283 Eight years have passed since the Arab Spring. In many countries, the uprising was crushed, but in Tunisia democracy gained a foothold. Arbetet Global travelled to the small country town Side Bouzid to find out why. Through the car window, two boys around the age of 10 can be seen pushing a hen to the […]

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Pakistan: Food Security and Reducing the Price of Wheathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/pakistan-food-security-reducing-price-wheat/#respond Mon, 17 Dec 2018 09:05:26 +0000 Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159265 Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high […]

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The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year. The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By Ahmed Raza and Daud Khan
ROME, Dec 17 2018 (IPS)

Robert W. Fogel, the 1993 Nobel Prize Laureate for Economics, through his work on “efficiency wages”, pointed out that hungry and undernourished workers are not as productive as well fed and healthy workers.   At the level of an individual firm, it would thus make sense for an employer to pay wages that are high enough to allow workers access to food and other necessities – even if such wages are higher than the going market rate.

Some iconic and highly successful firms have in fact done this. Henry Ford, in 1914, caused quite a stir when he decided to offer his workers five dollars a day – double the going market pay at the time. This allowed him to not only have a healthy and satisfied work force but also to pick and choose his employees; to ensure that they stayed with the company; did not spend time looking for other opportunities as their experience and skill levels improved; and felt a stake in the success of the firm.

Other companies such as Guiness, Cadbury’s and Tata’s followed the same route providing not only good salaries but also housing, medical services and schools, as well as scholarship for the brightest children of their employees.

A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

In Karachi, a friend runs one of the most successful engineering companies in the country. He tells of how two fresh graduate engineers came looking for a job and asking for a salary of Rupees 10,000/month (about US$75 at today’s exchange rate).

My friend told them that this was “a ridiculous demand” and that as qualified engineers from a reputable university he was not prepared to pay a penny less than Rupees 20,000. This was 20 years back and much of the success of the firm was the result of the dedication and hard work on these two “overpaid” engineers.

For countries, the same principles and practices hold. A food-secure, well-nourished, well-housed and educated labor force can enable countries to spur and sustain economic growth and foster shared prosperity.

This was one of the key principles underlying the creation of the welfare state. Unfortunately, in Pakistan, the rates of food insecurity and malnutrition are extremely high with approximately 60 percent of the population vulnerable to food insecurity.  Moreover, nearly half of children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth, which implies that their will most likely not reach their full physical and mental potential.

Prime Minister Imran Khan highlighted this issue in his inaugural speech and committed his Government to addressing the country’s nutrition emergency.  However, given the Government’s generally weak implementation capacity and tight fiscal situation there is a need to find suitable low cost means to achieve this goal. On such means is by reducing the price of food.

The staple food of Pakistan is wheat with an annual per capita consumption of 124 kgs/head/year.  The world price of wheat currently hovers around US$ 234 per tonne (as of 01 November 2018). In Pakistan, the Government, during the last wheat harvest in May/June 2018, paid farmers Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms.

This was a price approaching US$ 300/tonne (US Dollar to Pakistan Rupee exchange rate of Rupees 110 which was the rate prevailing at the time of the last wheat harvest) paid at farm-gate.  This is a price well above what farmers in most countries get.

To keep the price of wheat at Rupees 1,300 per 40 kilograms, the Government imposes import tariffs which currently stand at 60%. In addition huge outlays are incurred to buy, store and then dispose of this wheat. As wheat production has increased beyond domestic need and there is a subsidy given to exporters.

The impact of high wheat prices on consumers, particularly the poor, is very significant. Often it is argued that high prices for wheat and other food items help reduce poverty in rural areas.   This is simply not correct as the bulk of Pakistan’s poor rural population comprises of small scale farmers and landless who are net buyers of food.

High prices favor large farmers who have surpluses to sell; the big flour millers who get subsidized wheat from the Government; the large bureaucracy that has been created to run the wheat procurement system; and the banks, who lend to the Government for the purchase of wheat.  Direct budgetary costs of administering the system, according to the Government’s own estimates, amount to Rupees 200 billion (US$1.5 billion)/annum.

If the import restrictions on wheat are removed, domestic prices could fall considerably. In big centers such as Lahore and Karachi, where prices are 11% to 21% higher compared to international prices, a family of six people, consuming about 744 kilograms of wheat per year would save around Rupees 5,000 (almost US$40) per year.

In addition, the Government would save the costs incurred in running the system would amount to another Rupees 6,000 (over US$45) per family. This money could be used to fund targeted food assistance to the poorest and most vulnerable.

It would take some political courage to take on the lobbies of those who benefit from the current system of wheat procurement.  But if this can be done it would make a huge dent in addressing a fundamental problem without any extra outlay of public funds.

Ahmed Raza Gorsi works in international development specializing in food, agriculture and nutrition. Views expressed here are his own.

Daud Khan has more than 30 years of experience on global food security and rural development issues. Until recently, he was a staff member at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He has degrees in economics from the LSE and Oxford – where he was a Rhodes Scholar; and a degree in Environmental Management from the Imperial College of Science and Technology.  

 

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Decoding Article 6 of the COP24 Climate Negotiationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 07:11:02 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159242 It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the […]

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The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) side event at COP24 that discussed transparency and NDC implementation. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the agreement, which focuses on the country plans for climate action.

While the world has been having climate conferences since 1992, the tide turned with the Paris Agreement when all countries agreed to play their part to undertake climate action.

“Developing countries now have a strong political will to contribute to the greenhouse gas reduction,” said Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General at the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international organisation that promotes balancing economic growth without harming the environment. This political will was manifested in Paris with countries voluntarily submitting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for reducing carbon emissions and building climate resilience, taking into account their respective circumstances.

“But at the same time, they need support to affectively implement their NDCs,” Kim said, at a side event at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which was organised by GGGI and focused on transparency and NDC implementation.

In order to get support from outside, Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of a country’s carbon emissions reduction is almost a precondition as many donor agencies and even private sector organisations want to know how much greenhouse gases a developing country is emitting before they make a decision to support it.

“MRV is key for developing countries to get access to financial, technical and capacity building support, and that’s why we are supporting developing countries to set up more proper and internationally acceptable MRV scheme,” Kim said.

GGGI’s interventions in this area include preparing a low emissions development strategy for Fiji, Colombia’s national green growth strategy and Mongolia’s national energy efficiency plan. The organisation is also working on building capacity to implement MRVs in various countries around the globe, including, Mozambique, Senegal, Nepal and Laos.

“We will continue to support our members and partners in their efforts of effectively implementing NDCs with robust MRVs, so they can access more finance,” Kim said.

“We are committed to reminding countries that green growth can happen.”

One of the speakers at the panel was Ariyaratne Hewage, Special Envoy of the President on Climate Change, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, in Sri Lanka, which is on track to become a member of the GGGI. He said Sri Lanka anticipates extensive support from GGGI in the years to come for its preparation of various project proposals to fight climate change.

“The present situation in Sri Lanka is severe droughts in one part of the country and heavy floods in another,” Hewage said. During a 2016 survey conducted by the Bonn-based NGO Germanwatch, Sri Lanka was awarded the fourth place in terms of climate vulnerability.

“We are severely affected by climate change, so we are very keen in developing climate change programs to ensure these problems are properly addressed,” Hewage said.

The proposed emission reduction i.e. mitigation targets of Sri Lanka’s NDCs include 30 percent reduction in the energy sector and 10 percent reduction in transport, industry and waste by 2030.

“For energy and transport sector we already have developed MRV systems, but for the other sectors – industry, waste, agriculture, livestock, forestry – we need help,” he added.

The need for support was also stressed by Ziaul Haque who leads the Bangladesh delegation’s COP24 negotiations on Article 6.

“Our main issue is lack of capacity to address this enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement at both the institutional level and the individual level,” said Haque, highlighting the need for accurate data.

“We need to bring data on green house gas emissions from different institutions and whether they are collecting and archiving the data in the right manner is an issue that needs to be looked at. In this regard our institutional arrangement is not very strong at the national level,” he said, stating that strengthening the capacity of institutions and individuals who will be dealing with the transparency issue is crucial.

Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and former Special Secretary of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said at the side event that one of the fundamental issues to deciding a transparency framework is that of flexibility.

“Developing countries should be able to make gradual progression on the quality of data,” he said. “We have so far not been able to agree in the discussions on this level of flexibility.”

Moreover, whether the same guidelines regarding MRV of greenhouse gases should be applied to all countries is also an issue of contention at COP24, he added.

Jae Jung, Deputy Director of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Center (GIR), another panelist at the side event, said having common metrics and structured summary is crucial.

“At this moment we don’t have the final text of the Paris rulebook, but we do have a very clean text of the common metric with no bracket, so there might be agreement on that,” Jung said.

“In terms of global stock take of emissions we don’t have to have a common metric in our inventory. But when we do the global stock take every five years there has to be someone doing the conversion applying the same common metric to all countries’ inventories,” he added.

He also stressed the importance of “structured summary” – a form of presentation of aggregated presentation of data that makes it possible to see the level of carbon emissions of one country – stating that helps to avoid double counting issue.

“There is opposition to structured summary because some parties want to use qualitative indicators and narrative descriptions of their NDCs,” he said, “But how does it make sense logically to have qualitative results when you have a quantitative target?”

One way to address the multifaceted challenges to NDC implementation would be through engagement of the private sector, according to experts.

“Many people think Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is about the market itself, but it is about increasing cooperation,” said Dr. Suh-Young Chung, Director of Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP).

“If you look at the Paris landscape to meet the 2-degree Celsius temperature target, you realise it is not enough and you need to bring in private sector investment. And countries need to work together on this,” he said, adding that Article 6 eventually needs to promote cooperation with the private sector, via incentive mechanism to engage businesses and addressing the risks they face.

“Article 6 is about bringing more opportunities for developing countries, but to do so, you need MRVs first,” he said.

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Costa Rica: First Country to Protect Sustainable Fisheries of Large Pelagics Specieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/costa-rica-first-country-protect-sustainable-fisheries-large-pelagics-species/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 12:31:47 +0000 Kifah Sasa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159227 Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

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Credit: UNDP

By Kifah Sasa
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

Twelve years ago, in a restaurant in Puntarenas on the pacific coast of Costa Rica, a group of long line fishermen met with three UNDP conservation specialists.

The conservationists wanted to understand how best to avoid illegal fishing inside Cocos Island Marine Protected Area, located off the shore of Costa Rica and now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

As part of their stakeholder engagement strategy, they decided to meet longline fishermen for dinner. It didn’t turn out quite as they had hoped – not many hands were shaken after dessert.

There was one table but two very different perspectives. The UNDP personnel were working on a project which saw illegal fishing on Cocos Island as a conservation issue.

On the other hand, the group of local entrepreneurs from Puntarenas were challenged by depleted resources and closed markets. Though some of them were indeed responsible for illegal fishing, none were big businessmen with major ambitions, but rather owners of a couple of long line vessels trying to make a living — with little access to credit and paying the highest social security costs in the region for every member of their expeditions.

The prospect of UNDP supporting the government to further restrictions on their livelihoods, was not taken lightly. A lot of mistrust turned the food, and the mood, sour.

According to data estimated by the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA), the country’s fishing sector is made up of around 400 boats with each boat carrying between five and eight people, forming a working population of around 2,000 to 3,200 directly linked to the sector.

Together with the families that depend on this activity, the affected population reaches between 10 to 16 million people and this is without including those indirectly linked through the thousands of other indirect jobs which ensure fishing activity such as transportation, fishing supplies, food, mechanics, and others.

Credit: UNDP

Fast forward to the present day and twelve years later, the perspectives of both the conservationists and the fishermen have changed. Last November, not far from that restaurant in Puntarenas, Costa Rica was the first country in the world to launch a National Action Plan for sustainable fisheries of large pelagic species, using UNDP’s methodology.

Through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), the Costa Rican Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INCOPESCA) and the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the country officially presented a plan with three main areas of work: improving the fisheries of large pelagic species in Costa Rica such as tuna, swordfish and mahi mahi; increasing the supply of seafood from sustainable sources and ensuring the social welfare of the people linked to the fishing activity.

During the presentation of the plan, one of those same sector leaders from the restaurant took the opportunity to approach the same UNDP staff member he met all those years ago and said to him, “I wanted to thank UNDP for the trust it has given us and for helping us build a formal plan with institutions”.

A clear victory for UNDP’s firm confidence and strong commitment to multi-stakeholder dialogue as the key element to achieve systemic change for sustainable commodity production.

The National Action Plan for Large Pelagic Fisheries will run for ten years and will directly contribute to the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Costa Rica.

Credit: UNDP

A model case study of successful convening and collaboration between different stakeholders, it is the result of a process of dialogue lasting twelve months and involving more than one hundred representatives of government, academia, civil society, international cooperation, fishermen, exporters, restaurants and supermarkets.

A group of people who were not likely to be happy in same room a few years ago but are now committed to working together towards a more sustainable, inclusive and promising future for Costa Rican fisheries.

Through 2019, we celebrate ten years of UNDP supporting multi-stakeholder approaches to the sustainability challenges of highly-traded commodities around the world.

Through the Green Commodities Programme, UNDP’s approach has been to build trust among stakeholders by facilitating neutral spaces where they can collaborate on a shared vision and agenda for action, coming to a collective agreement on the root of the sustainability problems of key commodities and on how they will work together to resolve them.

Through its multi-stakeholder National Commodity Platforms, the programme is currently working on palm oil, cocoa, coffee, beef, soy, pineapple and fisheries in Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

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Excerpt:

Kifah Sasa is Sustainable Development Officer at UNDP Costa Rica

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Q&A: Making Green Growth a Success Across the Globehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 09:08:01 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159218 IPS Correspondent Sohara Mehroze Shachi interviews DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, Director General of the Global Green Growth Institute at COP24

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Global Green Growth Institute’s Director General Frank Rijsberman at COP24. GGGI is organising over 15 events at the conference focused on low carbon development, green finance, transparency, capacity development of countries to address climate change etc. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

When the Global Green Growth Institute’s (GGGI) Director General Frank Rijsberman’s son was looking for a job following graduation, he saw that oil companies were paying the highest salaries. But Rijsberman, who has been working in the sustainable development sector for decades, knew better. He told his son that those very same oil companies would soon go broke. And instead advised him to seek employment with renewable energy companies as they would soon be the ones making money.

As head of GGGI, it is undoubtable that Rijsberman has expert insight into the future of the renewable energy sector. GGGI supports governments around the world transition to environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth by helping them mobilise finance for climate action and implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) i.e. country commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change.

With a career spanning over 30 years, Rijsberman is one of the strongest advocates of green growth attending the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland. His organisation is organising over 15 events at the conference that are focused on, among other things, how low carbon development, green finance, transparency and capacity development of countries can address climate change.

Amidst his packed COP24 schedule, Rijsberman sat down with IPS for a brief interview on the state of global climate action, COP24 and the work of GGGI in attaining green growth.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Climate finance has been one of the sticking points at COP24 so far. Developing countries are concerned that the developed world is shifting the role of financial contributions to the private sector. What are your thoughts on this?

Dr. Frank Rijsberman (FR): Firstly, there needs to be a clean definition of the 100 billion dollars climate finance pledged to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This 100 billion shouldn’t be diluted. We need this 100 billion to be clean and green. But at the same time, this is only a small part of what we need to fight climate change. We need trillions, and for that public finance is not enough. This will only come about if we get the institutional investors off the sideline and get the pension funds, the private sector to engage.

IPS: What are some of the challenges that now exist with regards to engaging the private sector in funding green growth and how can they be engaged more effectively?

FR: It starts with many of the governments not even realising that renewable energy has become commercially viable. They still think green growth is nice but it is expensive and [they] can’t afford it. It is already commercially viable to use solar-based batteries for instance, so there is a business case there. So convincing people that these are commercially attractive investments is the first thing that needs to be done. If structured well enough, [as in the case of] Bangladesh offering 20-year power purchase agreement at a reasonable price, then we can attract private investors.

Governments also must create an enabling environment for the private sector to engage and have a level playing field for renewables to attract those investments. If there are barriers, such as fossil fuel subsidies, it becomes very hard for private businesses to make a living out of renewables. In Fiji, for instance, the government subsidises dirty electricity for poor households. Stopping that subsidy and turning it into a subsidy for solar power on the roofs of low income houses is one of our projects.

IPS: Two months ago, the IPCC released a report that confirmed that accepting increased global warming of 2 degrees Celsius will impact severely lives, livelihoods and natural ecosystems. This means drastic changes are needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Is it achievable here?

FR: It has to be finance first. Then we need to agree on transparency. We also need to ramp up ambition and rather than to waver from their NDCs countries need to step up their commitments, but that is for next year. We need to agree on the rulebook and get over the hurdle of finance at this COP then everybody’s attention will focus on more ambition, which is what we need. If we get stuck on the Paris rulebook or finance then we also don’t get to the 1.5 degrees, so it is like a house of cards.

IPS: Transparency is one of the key issues being debated at COP24. What are your thoughts on it?

FR: Transparency is the code word for Article 6. Part of it means developed countries reporting in a credible way. And for developing countries it also means to save their rainforests, to restore their mangrove areas – can they get money to pay for that? There are countries like Korea or Australia that can’t reduce their emissions fast enough, but they are willing to buy carbon credits. But then we need to agree on a rulebook for transparency – how are we going to report, what kind of Monitoring Reporting and Verification Systems (MRVS) are necessary, and those MRVS shouldn’t overly burden countries like Myanmar.

We can’t have the same kind of rulebook for Myanmar and Germany [and] shouldn’t make the barriers to access very high. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) felt they were excluded because [these processes] were too complicated. So, this time around transparency needs to allow the Least Developed Countries and SIDS to really access that. That is the critical sticking point.

IPS: Your organisation assists member states, which include developing nations, access funding from the GCF. It has also assisted member countries in developing green growth models to great success. Are you seeing an increased commitment from governments, in both developing and developed nations, to embrace green growth? What is your vision for GGGI going ahead from COP24?

FR: We are very proud that we supported Fiji in developing one of the first low emission development scenarios, which they are presenting here at COP. Last year we worked with Fiji to have their NDC roadmap. This is just an example of the kind of things we do. We also work with many developing countries in getting more concrete action plan for NDCs. We are growing very rapidly.

We only started six years ago with 12 countries and now 30 countries have ratified our treaty and another 30 are in the queue to become members. When our President Ban Ki-moon meets ministers he encourages them to take green growth more seriously, then those ministers contact us about how they can do so.

We also see a lot of good opportunities from the SIDS.

In South East Asia – Vietnam, Indonesia – there is a large portfolio of planned new coal fired power plants. So, these are the hotspots and we need to convince those governments that green growth is commercially attractive and feasible. We are very happy with Indonesia’s commitment for green growth and we are strongly supporting Vietnam’s government to convert their intent to climate action.

I have worked on sustainable development forever, and for the longest time Ministries of Finance had no time for us, saying ‘Sorry we are poor, we need to grow and we will worry about the environment later’. Even INDCs were owned by the Ministries of Environment and the Ministries of Finance didn’t know about them.

Now the Finance Ministers who want growth are interested in green growth, integrating these ideas into mainstream national development planning. For instance, we helped Uganda develop the green growth development strategy which the ministry of finance is leading. That is what I am most excited about. We have finally convinced ministries of finance to take green growth seriously.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Sohara Mehroze Shachi interviews DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, Director General of the Global Green Growth Institute at COP24

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New Science Shows Climate-Smart Farming is Within Reachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/new-science-shows-climate-smart-farming-within-reach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-science-shows-climate-smart-farming-within-reach http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/new-science-shows-climate-smart-farming-within-reach/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 14:34:59 +0000 Godefroy Grosjean http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159203 Godefroy Grosjean is Asia Climate Policy Hub Leader, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

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Godefroy Grosjean is Asia Climate Policy Hub Leader, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

By Godefroy Grosjean
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

Until the United Nations climate talks in Bonn last year, no clear plan to include agriculture in climate negotiations existed.

This was troubling, considering agriculture contributes 19-29% of global greenhouse gases, and changing temperatures are making it harder to farm. This is having an increasingly prominent effect on food security — hunger levels have now risen for the third year in a row.

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, which was agreed this time last year, paves the way for two technical bodies to work together to identify solutions on how the agriculture sector can be part of the solution to climate change.

The question is where to begin.

This week at COP 24 in Katowice, Poland, an international team of researchers laid out a climate-friendly blueprint for agriculture’s future.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture and the World Bank launched a global synthesis of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices, which provides our clearest view yet as to how the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers can reduce their carbon footprint, increase yields and adapt to climate change.

Built from the on-the-ground observations of 1,500 scientists and experts in 33 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, the report outlines which site-specific interventions work under which circumstances.

This enables governments, development agencies, private investors – and, crucially, individual farmers and producers’ organizations – to tailor CSA practices to their specific goals and challenges.

Identifying “best-bet” CSA approaches

Our study shows that half of the 1,700 CSA we evaluated fall into just five categories: water management, crop tolerance to stress, intercropping, organic fertilization and pest control, and conservation agriculture. This demonstrates that stakeholders are beginning to find consensus on what they consider climate-smart agriculture.

The study also reveals that many climate-smart agriculture techniques can deliver on all three pillars of CSA: adaptation, mitigation and productivity.

Five technology clusters were ranked in the top 10 for climate-smartness in all three categories: tree management, improved pastures, silvopasture, conservation agriculture and water management.

No one-size-fits-all solutions

The report provides crucial insights when faced with the reality that the majority of smallholders do not yet practice CSA: while interventions are generally similar, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A technique considered climate-smart in one context is not necessarily climate-smart in another.

The top climate-smart agriculture practices are different in the three continents. In Latin America and the Caribbean smartest technique was silvopasture, whereas intercropping ranked top in Africa. In Asia, biogas harnessing was considered to be the most climate-smart intervention.

Efforts to step up extension are required

While finance is still a barrier to investment in CSA, it is not necessarily the biggest obstacle. The report shows that training and information are actually bigger barriers to CSA implementation. Efforts to scale up CSA interventions, therefore, should focus on delivering expert know-how to farmers that are likely to adopt new practices.

The CSA profiles are an effective entry point to unlock discussions and actions on CSA. They should, however, be embedded within a broader suite of prioritization approaches for CSA interventions.

To support this, CIAT has prepared sub-national climate risks profiles and economic assessments to develop climate smart investment plans (CSIPs). Plans should look beyond on-farm practices and develop strategies that increase the resilience of the whole agricultural value chain, while reducing emissions and improving livelihoods.

CIAT, CCAFS and its partners such as the World Bank are particularly committed to providing support to decision-making to make this agricultural transformation a success.

CSIPs and our better understanding of site-specific CSA interventions will help re-shape the landscape, quite literally. If the future of the world is going to be carbon neutral, nothing less than a large-scale transformation of farming is needed.

For the vast majority of the world’s farmers, this means adopting climate-smart strategies. And for those who have yet start – or those seeking to help them begin – they now have a clearer set of guidelines than ever before.

The post New Science Shows Climate-Smart Farming is Within Reach appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Godefroy Grosjean is Asia Climate Policy Hub Leader, International Center for Tropical Agriculture

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Political Commitment Key to Health for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=political-commitment-key-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/political-commitment-key-health/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Ban Ki-moon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159198 One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs […]

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Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi, October 30, 2014. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

By Ban Ki-moon
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

One of my proudest accomplishments as the former UN secretary-general was playing a part in the ambitious global agenda for sustainable development (SDGs), including the goal of universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030.

Kenya’s leadership was key. To give momentum to the SDGs an Open Working Group was established in 2013. One of the co-chairs of the working group was Ambassador Macharia Kamau, who was the Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN.

As the world celebrates UHC Day on 12 December 2018, more and more countries across Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal, are taking up the mantle of health for all and providing strong leadership to make the vision a reality.

Health is a fundamental human right. Good health helps people escape poverty, and provides the basis for long-term economic development.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres has said, “When we invest in health – particularly of women and adolescents – we build more inclusive and resilient societies.”

With 11 million Africans being pushed into extreme poverty each year because of high out-of-pocket expenses on health, there is an urgent need to explore innovative models that provide adequate care alongside financial protection.

One country which could provide a blueprint for others to follow is Kenya, where the president is personally invested in delivering UHC.

I forged a strong connection with President Uhuru Kenyatta over our shared commitment to maternal and child health. In 2015, at the UN General Assembly in our presence, a public-private partnership to improve the health of over 3.5 million women, newborns and children in Kenya was announced. Led by the Government of Kenya, it brought together the UN, the private sector and civil society to leapfrog improvements in maternal and child health.

We found a strong advocate in First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, whose Beyond Zero Campaign ensured the scale-up of proven interventions to improve maternal and child health. The government also moved to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities.

These were important first steps.

Now I am heartened by Kenya’s remarkable political commitment to expand UHC to include every man, women and child. Affordable health care is one of the top priorities of President Kenyatta’s “Big Four” development agenda for his second term in office.

To achieve progress at such a rapid pace, Kenya plans to increase health spending by nearly 20% between 2018 and 2021 and strengthen primary health care. The country has set out to design a model that provides quality health care while ensuring it remains affordable.

Approaches are being tested over one year in four counties – each with its particular health challenges. These pilots aim to identify gaps in delivering UHC before nationwide rollout so that lessons can be learned. The acid test will be how quickly the country can go to scale and ensure no one is left behind.

Big data, technology and innovation will be critical to achieve progress at scale. Eight countries in Africa, including Kenya, have committed to use data to identify priority areas for health systems improvement, track and trend progress over time, and enhance accountability by using a new Primary Health Care Performance Initiative tool.

According to a forthcoming analysis by McKinsey, Kenya will need an investment of US$6 billion over and above government resources and individual subscriptions in the next decade to reach government targets for primary health care.

The Government of Kenya and the UN family in Kenya have come together to form the Kenya Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Partnership Platform, which is bringing together civil society and the private sector to catalyze new models for quality, affordable health care delivery. They are seeking new ways to unlock health care financing, which has been identified by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation as a best practice.

The reforms Kenya is pursuing will have a major impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and help stem poverty. Nearly 1 million Kenyans are being pushed below the poverty line every year as a result of catastrophic out-of-pocket expenses.

With such high-level political commitment, I am confident that Kenya will forge its own way with courage and resolve by ensuring the health and well-being of all its citizens.

Ban Ki-moon is a former UN Secretary General, and former South Korean Foreign Minister. He is the co-chair of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens. The Centre was founded in 2017 and is co-chaired by Ban Ki-moon and by Heinz Fischer, President of the Republic of Austria from 2004 – 2016.

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Bamboo — the Magic Bullet to Rapid Carbon Sequestration?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 06:58:20 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159177 As thousands of environmental technocrats, policy makers and academics work round the clock to come up with strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at the United Nations’ conference in Katowice, Poland, one scientist is asking Parties to consider massive bamboo farming as a simple but rapid way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. […]

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Dr. Hans Friederich, the Director General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is calling on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators to acknowledge bamboo as an important crop that can rapidly sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

As thousands of environmental technocrats, policy makers and academics work round the clock to come up with strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at the United Nations’ conference in Katowice, Poland, one scientist is asking Parties to consider massive bamboo farming as a simple but rapid way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

“According to the Guinness Book of Records, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world,” said Dr. Hans Friederich, the Director General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

Bamboo is actually a giant grass plant in the family of Poaceae. Some species grow tall and many people refer to them as bamboo trees.

And because it is a grass, if you cut it, it grows back so quickly, making it one of the most the ideal crop for rapid actions in terms of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, according to Friederich, who has a PhD in groundwater hydrochemistry.

Depending on the species, bamboo can reach full maturity in one to five years, making it perhaps the only tree-like plant that can keep up with the rate of human consumption in terms of fuel, timber and deforestation, according to experts. This is unlike hardwood trees, which can take up to 40 years to grow to maturity.

The latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report points out that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.

That calls for mitigation measures. And currently many countries prefer investment in forestry and reforestation mitigation.

Under normal circumstances, trees absorb carbon, and therefore it forms part of the weight of its biomass, but they take several years to do so. But when they are cut down and burned for fuel, the carbon escapes back into the atmosphere.

But now, Friederich believes that with bamboos in place people will not need to cut down trees for charcoal production because despite of it being a grass, it produces excellent charcoal that has been equated to charcoal from trees such as the acacia, eucalyptus and Chinese Fir.

“Apart from charcoal, there are many other long-lasting products that can be made from bamboo, and while they remain intact, they hold onto carbon the giant grass sequestered while still on the farm,” he told IPS in an interview at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). Today on Dec. 12 INBAR hosted a side event at COP24 titled “Bamboo and Rattan for Greening the Belt and Road where the organisation shared its successful experiences and Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Representative on Climate Change, said that bamboo could become part of China’s new Emissions Trading Scheme.

At the event, Director of Policy and Programme at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Martin Frick, said that bamboo and the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change agenda went hand in hand. He also emphasised the importance of bamboo as a source of income: 10 million people in China alone are employed in the bamboo sector. 

In China, bamboo is used for making drainage pipes, shells for transport vehicles, wind turbine blades, and shipping containers, among other things. It can also be used for making long-lasting furniture, parquet tiles, door and window frames and can even be used in the textile industry, among many other things.

Already, bamboo is slowly gaining popularity in some parts of the world due to its fast growth, and ability to produce long-lasting products.

Victor Mwanga retired from Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi in 2007 where he was a transport manager for a private company. He decided to start a bamboo seed production business which he called Tiriki Tropical Farms and Gardens. He is currently based in Tiriki, Vihiga County in Kenya’s Western Province.

“I receive customers from different parts of the county,” he told IPS in a telephone interview. “This thing [bamboo] has really gained popularity to a point that we are not able to satisfy the market,” said the farmer who sells each bamboo seedling for two to three dollars, depending on the size.

Wilbur Ottichilo, the Governor of Vihiga County, told IPS that his government is already investing in bamboo production. “We have started by training communities in various parts of the county on the importance of growing bamboo, and how they can make easy money from the crop,” he said.

And now, because of its fast growth and ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, Friederich is calling on theUNFCCC negotiators to acknowledge bamboo as an important crop that can rapidly sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

“We are already discussing with the secretariat of the UNFCCC and the IPCC to include bamboo into the language,” he said. In some cases, he added, countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana have included bamboo in their environment, climate change and renewable energy strategies.

However, said the scientist, this calls for governments to develop policy frameworks that will allow things to happen, looking at incentives to support the private sector, build capacity – train people so they know better how to make bamboo products and roll out small and medium enterprises.

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Time to Follow EU’s Lead & Step Up Climate Action with 2050 Planshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/time-follow-eus-lead-step-climate-action-2050-plans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-follow-eus-lead-step-climate-action-2050-plans http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/time-follow-eus-lead-step-climate-action-2050-plans/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 06:53:27 +0000 Manish Bapna and Stephen Gold http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159191 Manish Bapna is Executive Vice President and Managing Director at the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Stephen Gold is the Global Lead, Climate Change, at UN Development Programme (UNDP)

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Since 2009, the Ministry of Railways has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to adopt a range of energy efficient technologies that can support the vision of an environment-friendly rail network for India. The partnership is supported by the Global Environment Facility. Credit: Dhiraj Singh/UNDP India

By Manish Bapna and Stephen Gold
NEW YORK, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

As climate negotiators, experts and activists are gathering in Katowice, Poland, for the international climate talks, much of the focus will be on immediate issues. Laying down the ground rules of the 2015 Paris Agreement and wrapping up the first global review of countries’ progress to date are high on the agenda.

But increasingly countries are also looking to set long-term climate goals to achieve the deep emissions reductions needed by mid-century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Last week, the European Commission unveiled an ambitious plan to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. The European Commission set a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, while putting forward a detailed vision to achieve a prosperous, modern and competitive economy.

Given the EU’s leading role in the global economy and the fact that it’s the world’s third-largest emitter—this represents one of the most important long-term climate strategies released thus far.

The 28-nation European Union bloc joins Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom and United States among G20 governments which have unveiled long-term low-emission development strategies.

In addition, the Marshall Islands, Ukraine and Czech Republic recently committed to long-term decarbonization plans. Despite this progress, most countries have yet to develop long-term strategies, which are a critical step that should be taken by 2020 to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

The case for shifting to a low-carbon economy is strong and growing stronger. Smart expenditures in low-carbon infrastructure, energy, urban development and land could generate economic gains in the range of $26 trillion through 2030, compared with business-as-usual, according to The New Climate Economy. And this is a conservative estimate.

The world is projected to invest $90 trillion in infrastructure between 2010 and 2030, so governments use-it-or-lose-it moment to capitalize on these low-carbon opportunities.

Why do long-term strategies matter?

First, long-term strategies can guide policymakers toward smarter short-term decisions—such as around energy subsidies, infrastructure spending and urban planning– and avoid locking-in investments in infrastructure and technologies that could become stranded assets.

Consider an example where a government invests in natural gas infrastructure as a bridge solution to reduce carbon emissions, only to find the plummeting costs of solar panels and battery storage make renewable energy a more cost-effective investment.

Second, long-term strategies provide a platform for governments to engage citizens on what a long term, low-emission and high-growth trajectory could look like and build public support to realize these goals.

Third, long-term strategies can help countries to set ambitious greenhouse gas mitigation targets that reflect the latest science. Just as every tenth of a degree of warming matters to human health, incremental warming will also have a tremendous impact on the planet’s health– leading to more severe wildfires, heat waves, crop failure and sea level rise, according to the recent special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

The new Emissions Gap report, from the UN Environment Programme, assesses the current national mitigation efforts of the G20 countries, and finds they are far off-track from the temperature goals set out under the Paris Agreement. Clearly much more ambition is needed.

Responsible for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the G20 countries have a special duty to show the world that the goals of the Paris Agreement can be achieved.

At this year’s G20 Summit led by Argentina, long term strategies were noted in the final communique. These should be taken forward by Japan, which will take on the leadership of the G20 next year.

The U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change Summit in September will be another key moment when countries can signal their commitment to the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

The scientific case and the economic benefits of action are clear, yet the world is still looking for far more leaders to step forward on climate change. All countries, especially the largest emitters, should follow the EU’s example by establishing ambitious mid-century goals and a clear path to achieve them.

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Excerpt:

Manish Bapna is Executive Vice President and Managing Director at the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Stephen Gold is the Global Lead, Climate Change, at UN Development Programme (UNDP)

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Lives of the poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/lives-of-the-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lives-of-the-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/lives-of-the-poor/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 20:07:15 +0000 Noman Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159186 The past few weeks in Karachi have seen an anti-encroachment drive that has affected livelihoods and living. Those spearheading the drive justify their actions, saying they are legal, and those using the spaces are painted as land grabbers. Meanwhile, another cause for concern is the intended clearing of land along the route of the moribund […]

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By Noman Ahmed
Dec 11 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The past few weeks in Karachi have seen an anti-encroachment drive that has affected livelihoods and living. Those spearheading the drive justify their actions, saying they are legal, and those using the spaces are painted as land grabbers. Meanwhile, another cause for concern is the intended clearing of land along the route of the moribund Karachi Circular Railways.

Noman Ahmed

The underprivileged in Karachi require a comprehensive plan so that they can have a legal right to exist and operate, with the city benefiting from their services.

The foremost issue is land for housing. About half a century ago, land was distributed by city authorities to various categories of urban dwellers according to their need. Land use was determined on the basis of individual and collective social requirements. Today, land is acquired through clout, capital and clandestine coercion of the institutions concerned.

The poor cannot acquire land through purchase or force as they possess neither surplus capital nor political influence. The state institutions have a responsibility to ensure the poor can access the land market. Existing legal instruments such as the fair implementation of Sindh Katchi Abadis Authority (SKAA) Act, 1987, is an option.

Karachi’s poor must have the legal right to live and operate.

This law was promulgated during the tenure of prime minister Mohammad Khan Junejo. The objective of the law was to regularise those squatter settlements which had come up and evolved till March 1985 (revised to June 1997), that existed in ecologically safe locations, had acquired the approval of the land-owning agency/ department concerned, and comprised over 40 households. By implementing the law, more than 300 squatter settlements were regularised. The past few years have seen the work of regularisation slowing down due administrative reasons.

As migrations to the city have continued unabated, survey and subsequent regularisation of squatter settlements must be undertaken along scientific lines. With advanced digital mapping tools available, the exercise can be done with greater accuracy.

In the absence of an institutionalised option of accessing shelter, Karachi’s poor developed settlements on left-over and marginal land. An elitist view of such neighbourhoods — referred to as katchi abadis — is that they are breeding grounds and safe havens for criminals and the inhabitants are not deserving of social interaction with the rest. In other words, katchi abadis are looked upon with contempt and as an eyesore. They are viewed as a part of the problem, not the solution.

In fact, katchi abadis are not built with criminal intent, isolated cases notwithstanding. They emerge from unusual sites as there are no alternative locations. When the residents of settlements along the KCR were interviewed recently, they said as much.

The right to run hawker stalls, small- to medium-sized shops and other services also require serious review. The poor do not have the means to purchase or rent shops and commercial spaces that are formally available. But their services and merchandise are needed in shopping areas, transport terminals, business districts, railway stations and traffic junctions.

In many parts of the world, open public spaces are made available to hawkers according to land-utilisation plans. These plans demarcate the limits and conditions within which vending activity is allowed. In India, the Street Vendors Act, 2014, is an important legislative tool that regulates this activity in urban areas. A town-vending committee, with representatives of street hawkers, is constituted to oversee the management of vending activity. Matters relating to space adjustments, vending licences and extortion and bribery are dealt with by the committee. Similar laws and provisions exist in the UK, the US and many other countries.

Sindh can consider introducing an amendment in the existing local government laws to make provisions for vending activity to exist on formal and legal grounds. The affectees of various anti-encroachment operations should be documented and accommodated in formally created places to save them from financial destruction.

The provincial government and KMC must identify locations for setting up temporary bazaars to facilitate vendors and retailers in areas where a greater number of shops and stalls have been razed. The design and construction of stalls should ensure both functionality and aesthetics. Women entrepreneurs and sales staff must be encouraged. The same support should be extended to the disabled.

Image lifting and communication is another strategy that can help in scaling up the operations of such bazaars. Innovative ads and campaigns can be designed to boost commercial potential. Introduction of banking kiosks and provision of credit card facility can enhance the performance of bazaars. Similarly bazaars can also become tools for stretching target subsidies in underprivileged localities.

The writer is chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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The merry mix of economic indicators in Decemberhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/merry-mix-economic-indicators-december/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=merry-mix-economic-indicators-december http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/merry-mix-economic-indicators-december/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 19:55:41 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159185 So far, December has been a month of mixed messages in terms of economic indicators here in the Philippines. While the seemingly contradictory data might be taken as a sign of a weakening economy, we believe that a closer look shows there are positive portents for the beginning of the new year. On the negative […]

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By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
Dec 11 2018 (Manila Times)

So far, December has been a month of mixed messages in terms of economic indicators here in the Philippines. While the seemingly contradictory data might be taken as a sign of a weakening economy, we believe that a closer look shows there are positive portents for the beginning of the new year.

On the negative side, there is a somewhat wider trade deficit for the month of October (with official data due out today, Tuesday), a peso that has weakened slightly after earlier gaining strength, signs of slower credit growth, and less business and consumer optimism for this quarter and next.

On the positive side, gross international reserves (GIR) for November marked a three-month high. Central bank data released on Friday showed that gross reserves rose to $75.486 billion in November, representing a 1.03-percent increase from October and the biggest since August, when the GIR stood at $77.933 billion.

Although the reserves figure for November was only slightly higher than the preceding month, what the central bank mentioned as partially tempering the rise were payments made by the national government for its foreign exchange obligations, which should also be viewed positively for the economy from a longer-term perspective.

The economy also showed other favorable factors, such as the savings rates among Filipino households being higher, and of course, inflation seems to have turned a corner, easing slightly to 6 percent in November from a nine-year high of 6.7 percent the previous two months.

All of this is happening against a backdrop of a global economy that seems increasingly unstable. Given the fact the Philippines is so reliant on external resources — such as remittances and BPO revenues — concerns that external turmoil will affect us here are not completely unjustified.

Things are not quite what they seem, however. As a recent report by HSBC explained, the higher trade deficit can be attributed to capital imports needed for infrastructure development; this will have a significant multiplier effect.

Slowing credit growth, in the context of concerns about debt bubbles, reflects the conservative approach of the country’s stable banking system. Add to these factors the near-certainty of higher remittances in this holiday month, not to mention the recent declines in oil prices, prospects for at least the first part of 2019 are looking bright.

The lesson in all of this is that the most accurate picture of the economy is the biggest one, and taking precipitous action on the face value of a few indicators is unwise.

In other words, don’t panic. The world may not be in the best shape, but we are well-equipped to weather any coming storms.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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“No to the pact of Marrakech!”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-pact-marrakech/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-pact-marrakech http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/no-pact-marrakech/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 15:50:56 +0000 Houda Hasswane http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159173 At the same time more than 160 countries adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), on the streets of Marrakech pro-migration groups and activists gathered in the city centre to chant: “No to the pact of Marrakech!” The historic Compact has found itself caught between a rock and a hard place: […]

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By Houda Hasswane
MARRAKECH, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

At the same time more than 160 countries adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), on the streets of Marrakech pro-migration groups and activists gathered in the city centre to chant: “No to the pact of Marrakech!”

The historic Compact has found itself caught between a rock and a hard place: It has been criticised by nationalists and those arguing for stronger borders on one side, and by human rights and migrant activists on the other.

The protest in Marrakech brought together people from the National Federation of the Agricultural Sector, the Moroccan Association of Human Rights, the Maghreb Coordination of Human Rights Organisations and the Platform of Associations and sub-Saharan communities in Morocco among other movements and communities.

 

 

The Compact, protestors say, does not represent a change in anti-migration policies, or in the current offensive against migrants and refugees by many countries in the northern hemisphere.

“The pact is a setback in terms of human rights, protection of migrants and their families as provided for in international conventions already approved by the United Nations and other institutions,” says Camara Alpha, general secretary of Platform of Associations and Sub-Saharan Communities in Morocco.

Protestors say they want to see a new global pact of solidarity for the rights of migrants, one which will guarantee the inalienable right to free movement of all people, by promoting regional and international cooperation, and public policies protecting migrants.

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AI to map Chinese strikeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ai-map-chinese-strikes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/ai-map-chinese-strikes/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:38:41 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159166 29 years ago, Han Dongfang survived the hail of bullets at Tiananmen Square. Now, he lives in Hong Kong and maps Chinese labour market strikes. Arbetet Global caught up with him at the ITUC World Congress in Copenhagen. Between meetings at Bella Center in Copenhagen, Arbetet Global gets a chat with the man who’s been […]

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Migration and the Economy—an Inseparable Pairinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migration-economy-inseparable-pairing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migration-economy-inseparable-pairing http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migration-economy-inseparable-pairing/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:35:07 +0000 Alie Dior Ndour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159165 On the streets of Casablanca there is only one thought on the mind of Ibrahima, a young Senegalese migrant. “I want to go to Europe to give meaning to my life and to help my family back in my home country live a better life,” Ibrahima says. This is the most familiar answer that most […]

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Migrants on a street in Casablanca, Morocco. Courtesy: Alié Dior Ndour

By Alie Dior Ndour
MARRAKECH, Morocco, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

On the streets of Casablanca there is only one thought on the mind of Ibrahima, a young Senegalese migrant.

“I want to go to Europe to give meaning to my life and to help my family back in my home country live a better life,” Ibrahima says.

This is the most familiar answer that most young and energetic migrants give when asked about the reasons for leaving their countries, as they often are part of a constant flow northward from the Global South (although migration between countries of the South actually far outweighs this South to North flow).

While many migrants flee wars and political persecutions, economic causes are often a major influence too. In poor countries where unemployment is sky high, all too often people, especially the poorest, have no choice but to go elsewhere in search of economic opportunities.

To achieve this they are ready to risk lives by getting on shaky and unreliable boats run by unscrupulous operators making a living out of ferrying people across dangerous waters to the fabled other side where, it is believed, a better life awaits.

It is this relentless trend that propelled global leaders to come up with the first ever intergovernmental Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). During the Dec. 10 to 11 gathering of leaders and representatives from more than 160 countries in Marrakesh—about 250 kilometres south of Casablanca—to adopt the Compact, the economic factors triggering migration dominated the discourse.

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations discussed how migrant remittances reached 650 billion dollars in 2017, representing three times the official development aid that developing countries receive from the developed community.

Guterres pointed out that this amount, as important as it is, represents only 15 percent of migrants’ revenues. Hence 75 percent of their money stays in the countries in which they work through taxes and consumption—a sizeable contribution to the prosperity of their host country.

“The countries of the North need migrants,” Guterres said.  “They occupy jobs abandoned by nationals and help offset the demographic decline observed in most Western countries.”

This point was echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who stressed that “migration for work creates prosperity for all,” adding how Europe “needs a lot of manpower.”

Erol Kiresepi, CEO of Santa Farma Pharmaceuticals and a representative of the private sector at the GCM, said companies around the world are facing a lack of talent, hence they are paying particular attention to migrants with the skills to meet the surfeit in skilled labour.

Against the narrative of Africans racing to escape the continent, people point out how, as with everywhere in the world, people prefer to live and work in their home environment if conditions permit.

“We want partnership, exchange and investment and not aid,” said Julius Maada Bio, president of Sierra Leone, while emphasising the importance of partnerships and investments in the Global South.

But when preoccupied with economic survival, the likes of Ibrahima, the young Senegalese, often do not know or care that the leaders of the world appear to be on their side in Marrakech.

Those global representatives have, in theory, adopted what could provide an economic lifeline to Ibrahima and millions of other young Africans trekking the dangerous journey across deserts and oceans in search of economic success.

For now, though, until the economic factors pushing people away from their countries are tangibly addressed—read changed—migration and economics will remain an inseparable pair.

“We do not have the choice,” Ibrahima says. “Either we stay in the country to do nothing because politicians think only of themselves, or we take the risk of leaving.”

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