IK Notes is a publication that periodically documents development issues that can be effectively dealt with through the application of indigenous knowledge and practices. These are published electronically and in print in three languages, reaching over 25,000 readers. Each IK Note explores in some detail sensitive issues such as female circumcision and describes locally driven solutions.
Sunday, 31 October 2010
Abstract. We selected three case studies to illustrate environmental injustice issues in the South. These examples relate to migrant agricultural workers, the maquiladora industry and artisanal mining, while reviewing some of the major mechanisms involved, e.g. multinational corporations, the development of free trade zones, multilateral free trade agreements and the export of hazards.
A series of strategies are discussed in order to address environmental injustice and health disparities that exist on a global scale. Some of the recommendations involve policy initiatives; others, such as research and mentorship, fall within the traditional domain of public health practice. In this paper, special attention is given to concerned environmental and occupational health professionals using evidence-based data for advocacy. For lasting changes to be made, however, stronger institutions and legislation are required. Those who have the `right to know' about environmental injustice issues include communities of concern, workers' representatives and lawyers. Government officials and company officials may eventually work on the basis of conflict resolution, compensation and remediation, to quote some examples. Systematic approaches to protect both the environment and public health must be updated.
Keywords: environmental justice, health disparities, human rights, policy, Latin America
The shortage of engineers is a central theme of the first international report on engineering just published by UNESCO, entitled “Engineering: Issues, challenges and opportunities for development”. Based on contributions by more than 120 experts around the world, the Report is intended as a platform for better understanding of engineering, an extraordinarily diverse and pervasive activity that has been central to human progress since the invention of the wheel.
“In the past 150 years in particular, engineering and technology have transformed the world we live in,” notes UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in the Report’s foreword. But the benefits they have brought are unevenly distributed throughout the world – nearly three billion people, for instance, do not have safe water, and nearly two billion people are without electricity.
As the 2015 deadline for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, Ms Bokova continues, “it is vital that we take the full measure of engineering’s capacity to make a difference in the developing world.”
The escalating demand for engineering talent is highlighted throughout the Report. It is estimated, for instance, that some 2.5 million new engineers and technicians will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa alone if the region is to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of improved access to clean water and sanitation. Meanwhile experts predict the global market for climate change solutions – such as low carbon products and renewable energy systems - will rapidly reach US$1 trillion dollars and continue to grow.
At the same time, the shortage of engineers is marked in many countries. Germany reports a serious shortage of engineers in most sectors, and in Denmark, a study showed that by 2020 the labour market will be lacking 14,000 engineers. And although in absolute numbers the population of engineering students is multiplying world-wide, percentages are dropping compared to enrolment in other disciplines. In Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and the Republic of Korea, for example, enrolment decreases of 5 to 10% have been recorded since the late 1990s.
“The decline in engineering’s popularity among students is apparently due to a perception that the subject is boring and hard work, jobs are badly paid considering the responsibilities involved, and engineering has a negative environmental impact, and may be seen as part of the problem rather than the solution,” explains Tony Marjoram, the Report’s editor.
Regarding gender parity and promoting capacity in engineering, efforts to boost women’s participation in many countries had increased enrolment in the 1980s and 1990s from 10-15% to 20% and even above, but since 2000 the numbers have been sliding back down. In some countries the percentage of women in engineering is below 10%, and in a few countries there are virtually none at all. A recent two-year study in the United Kingdom of why engineering does not attract more women pointed to persistent stereotypes that identified it as a strictly technical, masculine occupation.
Not only students have misconceptions about engineering – it is “routinely overlooked in the context of development policy and planning,” says Mr Marjoram, and in addressing the MDGs, for example. The Report points to an overall need for better public and policy-level understanding of engineering and how it drives development. This is particularly crucial in the aftermath of the global financial crisis; the Report underlines the importance of investing in infrastructure and innovation in times of economic downturn.
To generate more interest and enrolment, engineering itself requires innovation and transformation, and the Report makes a number of suggestions. New approaches must be developed in education and training, notably hands-on, problem-based learning that reflects engineering’s problem-solving nature. Another major area of growth relates to sustainable or “green” engineering. “Engineering needs to promote itself as relevant to solving contemporary problems, to become more socially responsible and to link to ethical issues related to development,” explains Mr Marjoram. “This will also help attract young people.”
The Report also emphasizes the urgent need for improved statistics and indicators on engineering. It is not possible at present, for instance, to compare the numbers or types of engineers per capita around the world, because such data at the international level aggregate scientists and engineers. Refining indicators would drastically improve the information available to policy-makers and planners.
The Report identifies more than 50 fields of engineering and looks at engineering around the world, giving regional and country perspectives. Focused on engineering’s contributions to sustainable human, social and economic development, it discusses issues, applications and innovation, infrastructure, capacity-building and education, illustrated through case studies and examples of good practice.
This first UNESCO Report on engineering grew out of informal discussions in 2005 with members of the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO), the International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS), the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC), Engineers Without Borders and related professional and non-governmental engineering organizations.
Printed copies of the report are available on demand. It is also available in PDF format
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Talk point: Have your say on environmental sustainability
We'll be looking at each of the millennium development goals in turn, starting this week with MDG 7
A scene outside the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. How have things progressed since then? Photograph: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP
Over the next couple of months, we'd like to use our Talk point to discuss with you each of the millennium development goals (MDGs) in turn, to make sure we're covering the right topics, that we're not missing any key resources or debates, and that we're connected to the right people on Twitter, and in our blogosphere.
We'll be working through them in no particular order, so the goal we're going to focus on for the next 10 days is:
The goal: To ensure government policies include sustainable development, reverse the loss of environmental resources and biodiversity, halve the number of people with no access to clean water and sanitation and improve the lives of slum dwellers.
Progress so far: The vast majority of countries have improved access to clean water. India and China have already met the target. The rate of deforestation is declining, but levels are still high. CO2 emissions have dipped in recent years, but they are projected to rise again. Governments have talked about their commitment to tackling climate change, but the 2009 Copenhagen conference failed to produce a significant agreement to move forward. While the share of the urban population living in slums has reduced, in absolute terms the number of slum dwellers has grown.
Read John Vidal's feature on how Afghanistan is fairing on this goal, and our MDG 7 resources page to see what we have so far. And have a look at some of our recent articles related to the environment:
We'll be monitoring and responding to your comments here at the Talk point, and while we can't promise to use everything, we will endeavour to update our resource pages with your suggestions. We may also follow up any story ideas you may have.
Chair of the UN biodiversity talks gavelled into effect a set of targets for 2020 to at least halve the loss of natural habitats
Environment ministers from almost 200 nations agreed late tonight to adopt a new United Nations strategy that aims to stem the worst loss of life on earth since the demise of the dinosaurs.
With a typhoon looming outside and cheering inside the Nagoya conference hall, the Japanese chair of the UN biodiversity talks gavelled into effect the Aichi Targets, set to at least halve the loss of natural habitats and expand nature reserves to 17% of the world's land area by 2020 up from less than 10% today.
Fish and other aquatic life should be provided with greater refuge, under the Aichi Targets — as the plan is named, after the region around Nagoya — which including a widening of marine protected zones to 10 per cent of the world's seas, an increase from barely 1 per cent today.
Frantic late-night negotiations also saw the UN's COP10 biodiversity conference adopt a new treaty, the Nagoya Protocol, to manage the world's genetic resources and share the multibillion-dollar benefits with developing nations and indigenous communities.
Despite concerns that targets are inadequately funded and not sufficiently ambitiousto reverse the decline of habitats and species, most organisers, delegates and NGOs expressed there was relief that negotiations had avoided the friction and fracture of last year's climate talks in Copenhagen. "This is a day to celebrate in terms of a new and innovative response to the alarming loss of biodiversity and ecosystems," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme.
"It is an important moment for the United Nations and the ability of countries to put aside the narrow differences that all too often divide in favour of the broader, shared issues that can united peoples and nations."
Under the Aichi Targets, all signatories to the UN Convention on Biodiversity,are supposed to draw up national biodiversity plans. Together, their voluntary actions are supposed to halt over-fishing, control invasive species, reduce pollution minimise the pressure on coral reefs from ocean acidification, and halt the loss of genetic diversity in agricultural ecosystems.
Perhaps the most remarkable breakthrough, was the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol which lays down ground rules on how nations should cooperate in accessing and sharing the benefits of genetic resources — including plants, fungi and pathogens.
Governments have been discussing this subject for 18 years, but it has been held up until now because it ran across issues of trade, health, traditional medicine and science and pitted multinational pharmaceutical companies against indigenous communities.
Tthe Nagoya Protocol, will see governments considering ways to provide recompense for genetic material and traditional medical knowledge collected in the past that is now being used, patented and sold. This is likely to be done through a special fund for developing nations that could be used for conservation or scientific research centres.
The protocol will come into effect in 2020 and needs to be ratified by signatory nations. Several delegates, including those from Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela, expressed unease that the protocol inadequately safeguarded the benefits due to developing nations, but said they would not stand in the way of a consensus.
Another area of frustration was financing. The conference did not specify how much money would be provided to achieve its goals to save habitats and species. Instead governments agreed to draw up a funding plan, with sums, baselines and other details, by 2012.
The host country, Japan, has pledged $2bn this week for biodiversity while the UK and France have earmarked smaller sums for related projects. However, most developed countries were unable to pledge major funding. Conservation groups said it was vital that significant extra finance was put in place to halt the demise of nature.
"We were disappointed that most rich countries came to Nagoya with empty pockets — unable or unwilling to provide the resources that will make it possible for the developing world to implement their ambitious targets." said Jim Leape, director general of WWF International.
But Leape welcomed the overall deal. "This agreement reaffirms the fundamental need to conserve nature as the very foundation of our economy and our society. Governments have sent a strong message that protecting the health of the planet has a place in international politics and countries are ready to join forces to save life on Earth."
Other groups emphasized that implementation was the key. "Participants may be leaving Nagoya this Friday but they still need to be working to save life on this planet from Monday morning," said IUCN's Director of Conservation Policy, Jane Smart. "There is a momentum here which we cannot afford to lose — in fact we have to build on it if we stand any chance of success in halting the extinction crisis." In earlier reports the IUCN noted that a fifth of the world's vertebrates are under threat and the die-off of all species is at a level not seen in 65 million years.
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
FAO releases Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010. The final report of
FRA 2010 was published at the start of the latest biennial meeting of the
FAO' Committee on Forestry and World Forest Week, in Rome.
The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FRA 2010) is the most
comprehensive assessment of forests and forestry to date - not only in terms
of the number of countries and people involved - but also in terms of scope.
It examines the current status and recent trends for about 90 variables
covering the extent, condition, uses and values of forests and other wooded
land, with the aim of assessing all benefits from forest resources.
Information has been collated from 233 countries and territories for four
points in time: 1990, 2000, 2005 and 2010. The results are presented
according to the seven thematic elements of sustainable forest management.
FAO worked closely with countries and specialists in the design and
implementation of FRA 2010 - through regular contact, expert consultations,
training for national correspondents and ten regional and subregional
workshops. More than 900 contributors were involved, including 178
officially nominated national correspondents and their teams. The outcome is
better data, a transparent reporting process and enhanced national capacity
in developing countries for data analysis and reporting.
Global climate models predict a rise in extreme weather in the next century.
To better understand future interactions among adaptation costs,
socioeconomic development, and climate change in developing countries,
observed losses of life from floods and droughts during 1960-2003 are
modeled using three determinants: weather events, income per capita, and
female education. The analysis reveals countries with high female education
weathered extreme weather events better than countries with equivalent
income and weather conditions. In that case, one would expect resilience to
increase with economic growth and improvements in education.
The relationship between resilience in the face of extreme weather events
and increases in female education expenditure holds when socioeconomic
development continues but the climate does not change, and socioeconomic
development continues with weather paths driven by "wet" and "dry" Global
Climate Models. Educating young women may be one of the best climate change
disaster prevention investments in addition to high social rates of return
in overall sustainable development goals.
Global climate models predict a rise in extreme weather in the next century. To better understand future interactions among adaptation costs, socioeconomic development, and climate change in developing countries, observed losses of life from floods and droughts during 1960-2003 are modeled using three determinants: weather events, income per capita, and female education. The analysis reveals countries with high female education weathered extreme weather events better than countries with equivalent income and weather conditions. In that case, one would expect resilience to increase with economic growth and improvements in education.
The relationship between resilience in the face of extreme weather events and increases in female education expenditure holds when socioeconomic development continues but the climate does not change, and socioeconomic development continues with weather paths driven by "wet" and "dry" Global Climate Models. Educating young women may be one of the best climate change disaster prevention investments in addition to high social rates of return in overall sustainable development goals.
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