Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Africa’s Climate Roadmap: From Johannesburg through Africa to Copenhagen

“Africa’s Climate Roadmap, from Johannesburg through Africa to Copenhagen” was adopted at the twelfth session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN-12), which took place from 7-12 June 2008, in Johannesburg, South Africa. In our climate change discussions we highlighted the urgency for Africa to articulate a common position during the ongoing climate change negotiations for a strengthened international agreement beyond 2012, and to exploit the opportunity to build consensus on the complex issues of climate change and sustainable development for the benefit of the continent. Africa agreed to put forward a shared vision based on scientific evidence and broad political consensus. That shared vision would have several key elements: the future climate change regime should accommodate the priorities for Africa of sustainable development, poverty reduction and attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); increased support should be provided under the regime for capacity-building, financing and technology development and transfer for adaptation and mitigation in Africa (the means of implementation); and the agreement should result in the stabilization of emissions in the atmosphere. A deal on climate change requires a deal on development, including Africa.
African Ministers of Environment have repeatedly stressed the importance of giving adaptation a higher priority in order to balance it with mitigation on the international negotiating agenda. Africa will remain vulnerable even if, globally, emissions peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years. African countries are taking action to address the impacts of climate change. However, our efforts will not be effective without international support. The longer the international community delays in providing support for adaptation programmes in Africa, the more costly it is going to be in the future. No agreement on the strengthening of the international climate architecture, when we meet in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, will be considered balanced if adaptation is not accorded much higher priority. Our deliberations in Johannesburg stressed that a future agreement should emphasize the importance of providing assistance to developing countries with adaptation technologies, finance and capacity building. In particular there is an urgent need to upscale adaptation financing that is new and additional and that does not divert existing official development assistance away from poverty eradication and other development priorities. It is our firm belief that these new sources of finance must be channeled through the Kyoto Protocol’s Adaptation Fund. Political conditionalities on funding African development are unacceptable. In our decisions we have requested the UN agencies, Bretton Woods Institutions, African Development Bank (AfDB) and other development partners to support African countries in taking measures to build economic and ecosystem resilience against climatic variability and change, and to effectively implement the Bali Action Plan.
At the regional and national levels, African ministers have committed to integrate climate change adaptation measures into national and, where appropriate, regional development plans, policies and strategies, with a view to ensuring adequate adaptation to climate change in such areas as water resources, food and energy security, and management of coastal and marine resources. The framework will also include stand-alone adaptation activities, building African capacity to respond to extreme events and changes in the short, medium and long-term. At AMCEN-12, we adopted a wide ranging decision regarding the development of a Comprehensive Framework of African Climate Change Programmes. This Framework will address the critical need to integrate existing and future climate change initiatives and programmes under a consolidated agenda, thereby ensuring greater coordination and coherence in the implementation and review of climate change initiatives and sustainable development plans in Africa. This Framework should be ready for adoption when African Environment Ministers meet next year at a Special AMCEN Session.
In this regard, several important events have recently taken place to solidify an integrated African climate and development agenda.
Africa’s Ministers of Environment and Health took strides toward integrating climate and development when they adopted the Libreville Declaration at the Inter-ministerial Conference for Health and Environment in Africa, held from 26-29 August 2008, in Libreville, Gabon. The Declaration will be submitted to the African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit for consideration and adoption.At AMCEN-12, we launched a call for the modification of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), to enhance its contribution to sustainable development efforts on the continent and to provide increased support for the introduction of climate change mitigation measures and technologies in African countries. African governments, the private sector, civil society and the UN system have gathered in Dakar, Senegal, from 3-5 September 2008, at the first African Carbon Forum to address these concerns. The inequitable geographic distribution of CDM projects must be addressed in the second review of the Kyoto Protocol to be undertaken in Poznań, Poland, in December 2008.
With the window for CDM projects under the first commitment period rapidly closing, African governments and our development partners need to scale-up efforts to maximize the development potentials of the CDM. During the next commitment periods under the Kyoto Protocol, the potential of the carbon market to contribute to low carbon growth and sustainable development will grow by orders of magnitude. If all developed countries took on much more stringent emissions reduction targets, aiming for cuts of 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050, and if they purchased half of their reductions in the developing world at a carbon price of at least US$10 per ton, then financial flows to developing countries could gradually grow beyond US$100 billion per year by mid-century. Capturing even a modest share of these financial opportunities could make part of the difference in the choice between fossil-fuel energy and more expensive renewable energy sources. But then the international conditions must be in place. And we must also mobilize public funding leveraging private investment beyond carbon markets. More ambitious mid-term targets for emission cuts by all developed countries, towards the upper end of the range of 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, would be critical to stimulate demand in the carbon market. The need to develop large scale CDM projects in Africa is also important. However, many economies in Africa, where the energy, transport, construction or industrial sectors are in early stages of development, have relatively small mitigation potentials. We must therefore also find ways to seize the opportunities that exist by developing methodologies for appropriate small scale mitigation projects, simple in structure and finance, but with high contributions to sustainable development. The mitigation challenge for most of Africa is about avoiding emissions (rather than emission reductions) – not to follow the dirty development path of the North in order to get cleaner later, but to develop in a more sustainable manner in the first place.
To read the rest portion click:

Monday, September 29, 2008

World Vision: Global Leaders ‘Dismally Off-Track’ for Reaching their Own Goals Addressing Poverty

‘Governments Lack Political Will to Implement Programs Preventing Millions of Child Deaths Each Year’. Humanitarian Agency Rededicating Efforts; Earmarking $450 Million for Maternal and Child Health Programs

New York, United States and Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India, Thursday, September 25, 2008 -- (Business Wire India) As the world’s leaders convene at the United Nations this week, one leading international humanitarian organization contends progress is “dismally off-track” for meeting 2015 goals for helping address poverty and injustice.“If the heads of state, business and financial leaders and others ignore our call and fail to act, the Millennium Development Goals will, quite simply, be unattainable,” says Dean R. Hirsch, president of World Vision International. “This month’s meeting is the last chance for the international community to demonstrate its resolve and honour its commitment to the world’s poorest people.”Hirsch noted that among all eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), reaching numbers four, five and six – reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating AIDS, malaria and other diseases - is foundational to addressing severe poverty in the developing world. Moreover, he noted nations have the resources, including food and medicine.“We have the solutions to implement and thereby prevent the deaths of millions of children each year,” says Hirsch, who is addressing world leaders and UN officials September 25 in a series of meetings on the MDGs. “But governments lack the political will.”The goals were established in 2000. Meetings this week at the UN are a reminder that world leaders are halfway to the date they set to accomplish the goals. For more information on each of the goals, visit, http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/.

“Recognising that good health is fundamental to breaking the cycle of poverty, and is foundational to a child’s well being, World Vision has placed community-based maternal and child health at the core of our global health strategy, and we are investing heavily in efforts to help achieve MDGs 4, 5 and 6,” Hirsch said. That investment currently totals about $450 million on health. “World Vision is increasing it commitment with more money and more staff to more effectively target community-based maternal and child health and promote access to primary care,” Hirsch says. “We believe that in three years we can significantly reduce malnutrition for children under five and improve the health of up to five million children.”

Chennai, September 24, 2008: Speaking on the event from Chennai the National Director of World Vision India, Dr. Jayakumar Christian says, “In India, the situation is concerning.” The United Nations Children’s Fund has said that it is a “fundamental truth” that unless India and China achieve major improvements in health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education, gender equality and child protection, global efforts to reach the MDGs will fail.“We strongly urge the Prime Minister, who is attending the event to increase investment in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) – the largest programme in the world focused on child survival and maternal health to move towards achievement of MDGs 4 and 5,” says Dr. Jayakumar, “All we are asking for is the promise of ‘universalisation of ICDS with quality’ made in the National Common Minimum Programme of the ruling coalition be kept – for the sake of India’s children.”Speaking at various forums on the MDGs, Hirsch notes that if national leaders accept responsibility for the inadequate progress towards the MDGs, and agree to replicate and scale up successes, there is “a genuine possibility of fulfilling the promises made to the world’s poorest people in 2000,” Hirsch says. “This is a moral imperative. Every child who dies in extreme poverty represents an unacceptable loss of human potential.”

Editor’s Note:For greater insight into progress – and lack thereof – in reaching the MDGs, see “Last Chance – Child Health and the Millennium Development Goals,” a report published this month by World Vision at http://www.globalempowerment.org/PolicyAdvocacy/pahome2.5.nsf/alleports/1979C3016C3D6DEF882574CD0021444D/$file/LastChance_WEB.pdf

For press backgrounder on World Vision India click here
Media contact detailsDean R. Owen- New York,World Vision,+1253.906.8645, dowen@worldvision.org
Joy Christina- Chennai,World Vision India,+91 98400 64165,

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Climate Change and India

New Delhi: Climate change is likely to have a much greater impact onIndia than other countries in similar positions, according to anassessment by the South Asia regional office of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido).
A Unido spokesperson said here on Wednesday the extra impact on Indiawas due to a unique combination of its geography, diverse populationcharacteristics and extremely high dependence on fossil fuels.
India's dependence on fossil fuels such as coal and oil for energygeneration and transport could lead to heavy environmental, social andregulatory costs, causing a drain on the nation's resources as adirect impact of Climate Change over the next century, says theassessment report.
The assessment is based on the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) 2007 ofBritain, reports IANS.
According to calculations done by the CDP, cost of climate changecould have a major impact on the Indian economy by causing a 9-13 percent loss in the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in real termsby the year 2100.
The report noted that increase in temperature in India could be higherthan the global average, as predicted by the United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
It said that the country was witnessing rapidly changing andincreasingly unpredictable patterns of monsoon and rainfall andpredicted that a decline in crop yields of up to 30 per cent will benoticed in India and other South Asian countries by 2080.
India would see a rise in sea levels which could submerge coastalareas and also infuse salt water into fresh water sources. This inturn could create a large number of so-called climate change refugeesnot only in India but also from across the borders into the country,thereby leading to further strain on resources, the report pointedout.
It further said that the increased pace of retreating of the Himalayanglaciers would reduce India's fresh water sources in the future.
India will witness an increased incidence of more severe vector-bornediseases such as dengue, bacterial and arboviral diseases andincreased frequency of extreme weather conditions such as droughts andfloods, the report said.
According to the IPCC, India will experience the greatest increase inenergy and greenhouse gas emissions in the world if it sustains eightper cent annual economic growth or more as its primary energy demandwill then multiply at least three to four times its present levels.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not playing God in mission

A great interview in Christianity Today with Jayakumar Christian, head of World Vision India (a Christian humanitarian organization, as its website puts it. Interesting to see they have Rajdeep Sardesai's endorsement prominently flashing across the homepage! He's a famous journalist and founder of the 24/7 TV channel CNN-IBN.), on mission, focusing on the work they've done in one district (I suspect it's in Tamil Nadu. I've never heard of Gudiyatham district) in reducing bonded labor by children. He seems very level-headed, humble, deeply committed to the Gospel, and respectful of India's religious heritage as well, including the deep religiosity of India, at a level that most Westerners simply cannot appreciate until they've witnessed it firsthand. Here's some bits that really caught my attention.
But was seeing God in their liberation a theological shift for these Hindus?I don't think it's a theological shift for the average Hindu Indian. For Indians, God is more involved in day-to-day life than most Western Christians' theology would allow. The average Hindu need not be introduced to God in that sense. They need to be introduced to the name of that God—Jesus. I've said many times that we do not need to break our heads in India convincing any Indian about the existence of God. The challenge is, "What is the name of this God who is involved with the poor?" That's where Christian distinctiveness—and divisiveness—is felt. Our privilege in World Vision is being able to call attention to the name of God as Jesus through our lives, relationships, and actions, not in a divisive manner, but in a distinctive manner.Is there suspicion that your development work is a subtext for proselytizing?There is suspicion in certain quarters. But we insist that in World Vision India, we do not trade our God for development. We do not trade our God to buy relationships. He is too precious for us to be bargaining with, too precious to be bargained for. He is not for sale.So proselytizing, conversion through coercive means, is a non-issue for us. Not just because we respect the people we serve. That's one part of the story. But also because we value the God we worship.And here's another part -- about access and linkages. One doesn't think about these things, especially not India's privileged, or even middle classes -- we take it for granted. For instance, the fact that I can speak English -- a sign of education, access, power and status -- opens doors automatically. In the stratified and inherently inegalitarian mileu of India, walking into a bank or talking to an official is a hugely intimidating experience for the poor.
You seem to think about poverty less in terms of prosperity and more in terms of access.The word we use is linkages. Poverty is the absence of linkages, the absence of connections with others. So we look for opportunities to link powerless communities with people with good intentions, people with good hearts—government officials, health officials, panchayat presidents, headmasters in schools—who have an influence in the local area and who mean good. We work closely with them.We also work hard on our own linkages. Here in India, there are government officials in very senior positions who are most willing to design programs that serve poor communities—if we can link with them and help them understand the needs and opportunities there.The next part flows from this -- cultivating the powerful (and the wealthy) as partners in development. Most importantly, I find this attitude absolutely admirable -- to constantly beware of playing God.
The truth is that both the powerful and agents of transformation need to transform our understanding of power. It is not enough to simply play the power game better or more humbly. We need to come deeply to believe that our basis of power is not our professionalism or connections or resources. Those are only tools to be used. The basis for our power is our dependence on God. If we do not remember these fundamentals, it is so easy for us in World Vision to play God in the lives of the poor.What form does 'playing God' take in mission?You have to understand that my assumption is that the poor are poor because someone else is trying to play God in their lives. Human beings were designed to submit their spirit only to the Creator. Any attempt to take the place of the Creator leads to poverty. I talked about this with the community yesterday several times, and you could see heads nodding. Only God can direct how I should live my life, when my child should go to work, what my child should be doing. But others had taken that role of control in the lives of men, women, and children in that community.In the very process of breaking the human tendency to play God, though, I can begin to play God. Because I have similar power. I have the power to approve or not approve development programs; I have the power of connections; I know people in high places. For the agent of transformation to refuse to play God requires great strength of character.So how does one use one's power without playing God?We constantly remind ourselves that our organization is dependent on God. We might have budgets, strategies, professionalism, and sophistication in organizational practices, but those do not explain our effectiveness. Our effectiveness is explained by our dependence on God.I remember talking to one of my colleagues just three weeks ago. An elderly Hindu lady in his community came and handed a small wooden cross to him. She said, "I have figured out that this is the secret of your success." She said she had kept another cross for herself. I thought to myself, Who told her this? She must have observed his life. I was so grateful to God when I heard that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adapting to Climate Change: Can We Do It Again?

Dangerous climate change will not be prevented by reduced emissions. The damage is already done. For many vulnerable societies, the priority must be adaptation.
About 15 million years ago, dense African forests began drying up to be replaced by open savannah. Tree-dwelling primates eventually descended and found that the new environment suited walking.

Humanity has been adapting more or less successfully to climate changes ever since. After the last ice age ended between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago, agriculture and urban settlements developed and humans gradually colonized all but the most hostile environments. But our transformation of the environment is now coming back to haunt us. Man-made climate change is rapidly increasing temperatures and sea levels, altering rainfall patterns, and producing more violent storms.

“People and species have always adapted to changing climates,” say Kit Vaughan, a WWF advisor on climate change adaptation. “What is different is the speed and the scale of the change we are facing.”

The areas most at risk are small islands, dry areas in Africa, large river deltas in Asia, and polar regions. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) identified 100 countries most vulnerable to climate change. The vast majority are poor countries, many crowded with people living on vulnerable floodplains or drought-prone badlands. Whether an individual, an economy, or a society can deal with the impacts of climate change depends on its adaptive capacity.

“Take Holland, it has a very strong economy, but is very low lying,” says Vaughan. “So it has high risks, but a very high adaptive capacity. They can build dikes and pumps. Bangladesh has an equally high level of risk, but a very small adaptive capacity.”

Adaptive capacity involves a complex combination of knowledge, institutions, technology, and money – ingredients that are scarce in poor countries. The IIED says these countries will need billions of dollars a year to adapt.

Without successful adaptation, however, the World Bank projects, the costs of climate change could be up to 100 billion dollars a year, pushing poor countries further into poverty. And the poorer they become, the less they can adapt. The IIED warns of “chronic famine or forced migration of tens of millions of people,” citing the example of Africa and Asia’s coastal areas and river deltas. (knowledge.allianz.com)

Climate change could devastate Philippines: NASA scientist

MANILA (AFP) — Climate change could have a devastating impact on the Philippines, leading to widespread destruction of the country's flora and fauna and flooding the capital Manila, a NASA scientist warned here Friday.
The continued melting of Arctic ice caps, brought on by climate change, could cause sea levels to rise by seven metres (23 feet), said National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) physicist Josefino Comiso.
He said the country's fish stocks would be depleted and many species of plant and animal life would die because of the change in ocean temperatures caused by climate change.
Comiso said the slow melting of the ice caps should be more than "just an item of curiosity" for Filipinos.
"The Philippines is a country that is among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change," Comiso said.
"Slight changes in ocean temperature will lead to coral bleaching which will impact on the coral reefs on which the country's fishes feed."
Fish species are already starting to disappear from Philippine waters as delicate coral reefs, some of the biggest in the world, are destroyed in the archipelago, according to the international marine watchdog group Reef Check.
In a report last year the group said coral reefs were already suffering from severe bleaching.
Only five percent of the world's reefs -- which shelter and provide food for a vast number of marine species -- are still in pristine condition, according to Reef Check.
Comiso said the melting of the polar ice caps meant the sun's rays were no longer being reflected, but instead going into the Arctic waters and warming them up.
"Currents from the Arctic waters travel around the world to all the other oceans, including the waters surrounding the Philippines.
"Such warming would encourage the growth of algae in the world's oceans, which would gravely affect the world's food chain," he said.
He also noted that rising temperatures could reach a point where "various living creatures" would start to die in large numbers.
"Such temperatures would vary from species to species," he said.
"But the deaths of these creatures would gravely affect the food supply chain."
Comiso, a senior research scientist at a NASA centre that monitors the effects of global warming, made the warning after attending a conference of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration.
He said he was working on a project, to be funded by the Manila government weather station, to monitor the effects of global warming in the Philippines.
The project, which will be based in a state university outside Manila, will coordinate its research with NASA.
Comiso was part of the United States Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former US vice president Al Gore.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Progress in achieving UN anti-poverty goals for 2015 under threat, new report finds

By: UN Department of Public Information
NITED NATIONS, NEW YORK, 11 September - The world has made strong and sustained progress in reducing extreme poverty, the United Nations reports today, but this is now being undercut by higher prices, particularly of food and oil, and the global economic slowdown.Since 2002, rising prices for minerals and agricultural raw materials have contributed to the remarkable run of economic growth in all developing regions, according to the UN's Millennium Development Goals Report 2008. However, many developing countries are now facing higher import bills for food and fuel, jeopardizing their growth.Improved estimates of poverty from the World Bank show that the number of poor in the developing world is larger than previously thought, at 1.4 billion people. But the new estimates confirm that between 1990 and 2005, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen - from 1.8 to 1.4 billion - and that the 1990 global poverty rate is likely to be halved by 2015. However, these aggregates mask large disparities among regions. Most of the decline occurred in Eastern Asia, particularly China. Other regions have seen much smaller decreases in the poverty rate and only modest falls in the number of poor. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Commonwealth of Independent States, the number of poor increased between 1990 and 2005.In a reversal of this previous global downward trend, the prevailing higher food prices are expected to push many people into poverty, the report says, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, already the regions with the largest numbers of people living in extreme poverty."The largely benign development environment that has prevailed since the early years of this decade, and that has contributed to the successes to date, is now threatened," Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon declares in the foreword to the report. "The economic slowdown will diminish the incomes of the poor; the food crisis will raise the number of hungry people in the world and push millions more into poverty; climate change will have a disproportionate impact on the poor," the Secretary-General said. "The need to address these concerns, pressing as they are, must not be allowed to detract from our long-term efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. On the contrary, our strategy must be to keep the focus on the MDGs as we confront these new challenges."Action on the UN agendaGiven the nexus between poverty, climate change, food and fuel costs, these issues will be taken up as a group as the General Assembly re-convenes at the UN this month.Secretary-General Ban has called for a special high-level event to boost global action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, on 25 September. Nearly 100 Heads of State and Government are expected to participate, as well as many leaders from the private sector, foundations and civil society organizations. They are expected to announce a number of new initiatives and broaden coalitions to address health, poverty, food and climate change issues, at the meeting itself or during its many side events. The incoming President of the General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua, has cited action on the food crisis as a major theme for the new session that kicks off on 16 September. On 22 September, the Assembly holds a high-level meeting on the development needs of Africa, a region facing severe challenges in terms of climate change, agriculture and poverty reduction.Progress and challengesFirst agreed at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, the MDGs set worldwide objectives for reducing extreme poverty and deprivation, empowering women and ensuring environmental sustainability by 2015. The Millennium Development Goals Report, now in its fourth year, assembles statistics from 25 UN and international agencies, and is produced by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA). "Looking ahead to 2015 and beyond, there is no question that we can achieve the overarching goal: we can put an end to poverty," Secretary-General Ban states in the foreword to the report. "But it requires an unswerving, collective, long-term effort." Among the MDG gains noted in the report released today:· Primary school enrolment has reached 90 per cent, and is in striking distance of the 2015 goal of 100 per cent, in all but two out of 10 regions of the world.· Within primary schools, gender parity (share of girls' enrolment as compared to boys') is at 95 per cent in six out of 10 regions.· Deaths from measles have been cut in one third between 2000 and 2006, and the vaccination rate among developing world children has reached 80 per cent.· More than one and a half billion people have gained access to clean drinking water since 1990 - but due to stress on freshwater resources nearly three billion people now live in regions facing water scarcity. · With help from the private sector, mobile phone technology and access to essential medicines are spreading in the poorest countries.· Thanks in part to debt write-offs from international lenders, spending on social services in developing countries is up: the share of developing countries' export earnings spent on external debt servicing fell from 12.5 per cent in 2000 to 6.6 per cent in 2006, freeing up resources that can be devoted to meeting the health and educational needs of the poor.But many of the eight Millennium Development Goals and linked targets are in danger of going unmet by the deadline year of 2015 without redoubled efforts in developing countries, a sustained favourable international environment for development and increased donor support. Among the remaining challenges: · More than half a million mothers in developing countries die in childbirth or from pregnancy complications every year.· About one quarter of developing world children are undernourished.· Almost half of the developing world population still lack improved sanitation facilities.· More than one third of the growing urban population in the developing world are living in slums.· Almost two thirds of employed women in developing countries hold vulnerable jobs as self-employed or unpaid family workers.Achieving the Goals is feasible, the report says, but it will require a greater financial commitment, including delivery by the developed countries of the increased foreign aid that they have promised in the past few years. For more information, please see www.un.org/millenniumgoals.

Asia poverty level down, child health poor - U.N. report

By Melanie Lee
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Asia is making progress in reducing extreme poverty but faces an uphill battle to improve child nutrition and lower child mortality rates, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The U.N.'s annual Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report, released on Thursday in New Delhi, showed East Asia and Southeast Asia making the most progress in reducing poverty levels, although South Asia lagged behind.
In South Asia, progress was slow in India, with the number of people living in extreme poverty rising by 20 million between 1990 and 2005, the report said. But it did manage to lower its poverty levels to 41 percent from 52 percent in the same period, officials said.
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living with less than $1.25 a day and poverty as living on less than $2 a day.
The MDGs are eight social and economic development benchmarks set by the world body for nations to accomplish by 2015. They include reducing poverty levels, increasing universal education and fighting the spread of AIDS.
India is not on track to meet half its MDGs by 2015, experts presenting the report said. More political will is required to reduce extreme poverty and hunger, improve maternal health and combat diseases.
"Policies are not the issues, there are very many good policies, it's all about the implementation," Maxine Olson, the U.N. resident coordinator, said in New Delhi during the launch.
Olson said India also needed to bring down child mortality rates.
In 2006, 2.1 million children under five years of age died in India, the biggest number after China.
India is the world's second most populous nation and UNICEF said global efforts to improve child survival would fail unless it did better.
In East Asia and Southeast Asia, the number of people living under the extreme poverty line dropped to 18 percent in 2005 from 56 percent in 1990.
Overall, child malnutrition remained high in Asia, especially in South Asia, home to half of the world's underweight children. East Asia, by contrast, faired better, with only seven percent of all children malnourished in 2005.
Child malnutrition accounts for more than one third of all deaths of children under five, the report said.

UN chief unveils report on flagging world fight against poverty

UNITED NATIONS: UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday unveiled a report warning that poverty reduction goals agreed by world leaders eight years ago may not be met by the 2015 target date, particularly in Africa. The UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report 2008 was released ahead of a summit meeting on the MDGs, scheduled for September 25 on the margins of the UN General Assembly session. It noted that improved data from the World Bank confirmed that between 1990 and 2005, the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 1.8 to 1.4 billion and that the 1990 global poverty rate was likely to be halved by 2015. "But while most of this decline occurred in East Asia, particularly China, other regions had much smaller decreases in the poverty rate and only modest falls in the number of poor," it said. "Sub-Saharan Africa and the former Soviet republics actually saw the number of poor increase between 1990 and 2005." The September 25 gathering, which will be held three days after a high-level meeting here focused on Africa's development, will be the first summit on the MDGs since 2000. Ban told a press conference that 150 countries, including more than 90 heads of state or government, would be represented at the two gatherings which he said were aimed at really working "more for the poorest of the poor, the bottom billion trapped in poverty." Turning to the MDGs, the UN secretary general told a press conference that "despite the challenges, there are enough successes to prove that most of the poor are reachable in most countries." "We must really galvanize political will and mobilize necessary resources," he added. "I expect all participants (at the upcoming meetings) to announce specific initiatives or commitments and lay out plans to realize them." In 2000, world leaders gathered at a UN summit here agreed on eight development goals to be implemented by all countries by 2015, including halving the number of people living below the poverty line - now set at $ 1.25 a day - between 1990 and 2015. Other MDGs focus on achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability and creating global partnerships for development. (Economics Times)

Asian poverty fell to 18pc, UN report F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The percentage of people living below the newly redefined poverty line of $1.25 a day in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia fell from 56 per cent in 1990 to 18 per cent only fifteen years later, according to a United Nations progress report released Thursday. These two regions have already met the Millennium Development Goals target of reducing 1990 levels of extreme poverty by half. Progress in reducing extreme poverty was slower in Southern Asia, where the pace will need to accelerate for the region to be able to meet the target. In India, for example, poverty decreased from 52 to 41 per cent between 1990 and 2005. Because of population growth, however, the number of people living in extreme poverty rose by 20 million during this period. Poverty reduction will not be achieved without full and productive employment and decent work for all. But in Southern Asia, 83 per cent of employed women and 73 per cent of employed men are classified as “vulnerable” – working as self-employed or unpaid family workers. As the Millennium Development Goals Report 2008 noted, even in South-Eastern and Eastern Asia almost two-thirds of women and over half of men hold insecure jobs.Strikingly, although progress was made in reducing extreme poverty, child malnutrition –a key indicator of hunger and poverty – remains remarkably high in many parts of Asia, the report finds. Southern Asia has a larger proportion of underweight children than any other developing region – with 46 per cent of children under five severely or moderately underweight in 2006, down from 54 per cent in 1990. Child malnutrition also remains high in South-Eastern Asia, at 25 per cent. The exception is represented by Eastern Asia, which managed to bring malnutrition levels down to 7 per cent in 2005 – the second best performance among all developing regions, after Northern Africa. Success in primary education: A different picture emerges from looking at access to primary education. Progress was remarkable in Southern Asia. The region reached 90 per cent enrolment in 2006, up from only 72 per cent in 1991. And as part of its success in raising total primary enrolment, Southern Asia has made the most progress among all regions in gender parity – from 77 girls per 100 boys enrolled in 1991 to 95 girls per 100 boys enrolled in 2006. Similarly, over the same period, the ratio of girls to boys improved in secondary education from 60 to 85. The pattern for primary education in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia is different, the report notes. Here, there were already very high levels of enrolment in the 1990s, but recent progress has been patchy. Rates have actually deteriorated recently in Eastern Asia, and an initial decrease over the 1990s was followed by only a marginal upsurge in South-Eastern Asia. Progress was also uneven with regard to gender equality. Southern Asia emerges as the sub-region where the percentage issued by the UN Department of Public Information of paid jobs held by women is the lowest among all developing regions, only 19 per cent in 2006. But Eastern Asia is rapidly moving towards parity, reaching a 2006 rate of 41 per cent. In South-Eastern Asia, the situation has remained static, although starting from a relatively high level.In terms of political decision-making, the report found that Southern Asian women made wide gains, with their proportion of parliamentary seats almost doubling between 2000 and 2008 (from 6.7 to 12.9 per cent) and in South-Eastern Asia, women’s participation rose from 9.7 to 17.4. In Eastern Asia, on the other hand, there has been no progress, and the percentage of seats held by women has actually dropped slightly since 1990. Poor record on reproductive health: Southern Asia has the poorest performance among all developing regions in providing adequate reproductive health services to women, the report found. Although there has been progress since 1990, this is the region with the lowest percentage of births attended by health personnel (only 40 per cent in 2006) and the lowest proportion of women attended during pregnancy (65 per cent in 2005). Poor attention to women’s reproductive health is reflected in the high number of maternal deaths, and its ranking as second only to sub-Saharan Africa in high maternal mortality ratios. Despite some progress, child mortality remains unacceptably high in Southern Asia. Greater gains were recorded in South-Eastern Asia. The number of child deaths per 1000 live births in 2006 was less than half its level in 1990, putting the region on track to meet the target of reducing child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. The Asian region also has a poor environmental record. Economic growth brought a rapid increase in carbon dioxide emissions in Eastern Asia, from 2.9 billion metric tons in 1990 to 6.1 billion in 2005. Eastern Asia now has the largest CO2 emissions among all regions of the world, and the largest emissions per unit of gross domestic product. Over the same period, emissions doubled in Southern Asia – from 1 to 2 billion metric tons – and tripled in South-Eastern Asia, from 0.4 to 1.2 billion metric tons. In addition, Southern Asia and South-Eastern Asia hold the second and third lowest proportion of environmentally protected land and marine areas among all regions. In adopting the Millennium Declaration in the year 2000, the international community pledged to “spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty.” The MDGs encapsulate the development aspirations of the world as a whole. But they are not only development objectives; they encompass universally accepted human values and rights such as freedom from hunger, the right to basic education, the right to health and a responsibility to future generations. (The Frontier Post)

India far from poverty goals: Report

NEW DELHI: The United Nations Development Programme’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) report for 2008 is a cocktail of contradictions.
Poverty levels in India, it says, have gone down from 52% to 41% from 1990 to 2005. But population growth coupled with runaway inflation has led to a huge increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty in the country — 20 million —during the 15-year-period.
Moreover, the report adds, the overall economic slowdown and increased food and oil prices are expected to further push more people into absolute poverty.
It was at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 when 189 world leaders made a historic promise to end poverty by 2015 and agreed to achieve the eight MDGs - reduce poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child and maternal mortality, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensure access to water and sanitation and provide access to affordable and essential drugs.
Seven years to go for the deadline, India’s chances of achieving these goals appear quite bleak with about 46 million malnourished children and huge gaps in literacy and employment among men and women.
While on one side increasing enrolment in primary classes has been substantial due to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the lack of water and sanitation for girls and high drop-out rate at the secondary level remains an area of concern, the report states. Another prime area for worry is the high infant and maternal mortality rates (MMR).
“Going by the current trend it is unlikely India will achieve its target of reducing MMR unless all states make substantial progress like Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” said Maxine Olson, resident co-ordinator of UNDP in India. With regard to combating malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs, though access to anti-retroviral therapy is increasing for the latter, much remains to be done.
Releasing the report, Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee said India has made sustained progress but much has to be achieved.
The UN will hold a meeting in New York later this year where all country heads are expected to reveal plans to meet the MDGs. Prime minister Manmohan Singh is expected to attend the event.p_vineeta@dnaindia.net

Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) Report 2008

Today, the United Nations issued the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs) Report 2008, summarizing progress towards the MDGs. Some of the highlights of the report include:
*Deaths from measles fell from over 750,000 in 2000 to less than250,000 in 2006, and about 80% of children in developing countries nowreceive a measles vaccine;
*Malaria prevention is expanding with increases in the use ofinsecticide-treated bed nets among children under five in sub-SaharanAfrica and 16 out of 20 countries at least tripling use since 2000;
*Some 1.6 billion people have gained access to safe drinkingwater since 1990.
In 2008, at the midpoint to achieving the MDGs by 2015, we'vemade unprecedented accomplishments. Yet, many challenges remain. At this critical time, we must all redouble our efforts to ensure theMDGs are achieved. Together, our generation can end extreme poverty,hunger and preventable disease.

Millennium Promisehttp://www.millenniumpromise.org/site/R?i=0JKppX2pJbcFhik7-pfs-w..

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ethiopia Facing World's 'Most Urgent' Food Crisis

Nicholas Benequista, OneWorld US
ADDIS ABABA, Sep 3 (OneWorld) - The most pressing food crisis in the world at present is in Ethiopia, according to John Holmes, the United Nations' under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs.
Holmes is on a three-day visit to Ethiopia to witness the efforts by the Ethiopian government, UN agencies, and international aid organizations to attend to the needs of more than 10 million people facing food shortages in the Horn of Africa country.
"In terms of the urgency of the food crisis and in terms of the immediate risk of children dying, I don't think there's another crisis like this one," Holmes said during a flight to the southern epicenter of Ethiopia’s crisis.
Ethiopian farmers and livestock herders are being hit with both a drought and skyrocketing food prices; in some areas, food prices have quintupled in just a year. At the same time, the global spike in food and fuel prices has hampered relief efforts by cutting the purchasing power of the World Food Program in half. With scarce resources to attend to the emergency in Ethiopia, families rescued from hunger often fall back into crisis.
On the first day of his trip to Ethiopia, Holmes visited a feeding center where dozens of women waited to have their children weighed -- a chance for free life-saving rations of a nutrient rich peanut paste, but only for those sick enough. Many return week after week. In all, the United Nations estimates that 75,000 children are at risk of starving to death in Ethiopia.
Though Ethiopia has posted double-digit economic growth over the last five years, most of its farmers remain dependant on rainfall. The country's pastoralists, who migrate with their animals to find verdant pasture, are also at the mercy of weather. In some parts of the country, three consecutive rainy seasons have failed.
"There are these problems arising all over the world. Donors' pockets are not bottomless."- John HolmesEarlier in the day, one farmer, standing in a field of stunted maize, told Holmes he had planted seeds four times this year in hope of rain. Each time, the rains never came.
Until they do, international donors will have to provide support, said Holmes. Yet Ethiopia is still asking countries like the United States and United Kingdom for an extra $140 million, and that figure is likely to rise this month when the government releases revised estimates of its humanitarian needs.
"One of the problems is that there are these problems arising all over the world," Holmes said. "Donors' pockets are not bottomless and therefore the resources are more limited than they would be in other circumstances."
The global rise in food prices may force more than 100 million people back into extreme poverty worldwide, according to reports by the World Bank and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Food Security

Ten million hunger-related deaths every year, half of them children, testify to our failure to achieve global food security. Over 850 million people remain trapped in the spiral of hardship that hunger imposes, a figure which continues to rise even amidst the riches of the 21st century. The recent escalation of world food prices has transformed food insecurity from a difficult development problem into an emergency. Having recently mobilised vast financial resources to rescue the discredited international banking sector, rich country governments are now under pressure to achieve similar coordination in dealing with a crisis which hits hardest at the poor.

Millennium Development Goals and Hunger
Food security is the condition in which everyone has access to sufficient and affordable food; it can relate to a single household or to the global population. The first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) falls short of food security aspirations in seeking only to reduce by half the proportion of the world’s population experiencing hunger. Furthermore, governments signing the Millennium Declaration were overriding a commitment made just 4 years earlier at the World Food Summit of 1996 which applied the same target to the number of people. Rising population figures mean that 170 million fewer will be targeted by the MDG programme than would otherwise have been the case.
The first of two benchmarks for measuring progress is the “minimum dietary energy requirement” for each person as stipulated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This naturally varies by age and sex so that a weighted average is calculated for each country based on its population profile; typically this average is just below 2,000 kilocalories per day. Despite the promises of the MDGs, over 50 million people have been added to the 800 million falling below this benchmark in 2000. Malnutrition impairs the ability to learn or to work and reduces resistance to disease, these problems increasing in severity with the shortfall from the minimum dietary requirement. Hunger is therefore a cause as well as a consequence of poverty. Children’s health and cognitive development is especially sensitive, to the extent that the majority of child mortality is attributed to malnutrition. The second MDG indicator is therefore the proportion of children under age 5 who are underweight in relation to their age. This figure has reduced only from 32% to 27% in the period 1990-2006. Unicef says that 51 countries are unlikely to reach this MDG target by 2015. Moreover, these progress assessments predate the explosion in world food prices that has rocked global development agencies in 2008. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has warned that “high food prices threaten to undo the gains achieved so far in fighting hunger and malnutrition”.

Climate Change and Food Security

As recently as 2006, progress reports on malnutrition published by UN agencies made no reference to climate change. Yet it was no surprise when, in preparation for the Bali Climate Change Conference in 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) painted an almost cataclysmic picture for Africa in which “for even small temperature increases of 1-2 degrees….. yields for rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020”. In addition, the predicted increase in drought and floods will aggravate what is already a serious short term cause of food insecurity. In South and East Asia climate change threatens to upset the stable monsoon pattern around which rice production in particular has evolved. The UN supports the 50 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in preparation of National Adaptation Programmes of Actions (NAPAs) and the Bali Conference launched an Adaptation Fund which may in time support these programmes. Recognising that funding is likely to be scarce, NAPAs limit their scope to community-based low-cost options for dealing with climate variability. Adaptation of agriculture will include the use of alternative seed varieties, improved soil management, maintenance of water management systems and reforestation. These NAPA reports convey universal concern for the sensitivity of food security to a less predictable climate and for the very limited capacity of poor communities to respond. Seed scientists acknowledge the extreme difficulty of climate adaptation even where research funding is available.

Biofuels and Food Security
Under pressure to take action on climate change in the run up to the Bali Conference, politicians resorted to knee-jerk policymaking, seduced by the claims of the biofuel industry. Petrol additives such as ethanol and biodiesel are manufactured from plant crops as a means of reducing dependence on fossil fuels and cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Apparently oblivious to the mathematics that one tank of ethanol for a Sports Utility Vehicle consumes corn that could feed a man for a year, the EU announced that these biofuels will contribute 10% of transport fuels by 2020 whilst the US plans to quadruple output in that period. Quite apart from the flawed assumption that these products create a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the use of land and food crops to cater for rich motorists at a time of global food insecurity has provoked outrage amongst groups campaigning for poverty reduction. Oxfam predicts that biofuel targets could create 600 million additional hungry people by 2025. In 2008, one third of the US maize crop will be diverted to biofuel production, showering corn farmers with subsidies of far greater value than US food aid. As these realities sink in, there are initial signs of back-pedalling on biofuel targets and subsidies amongst EU and US officials.

The Right to Food Promotion of biofuels has been cited as a breach of the right to sufficient food enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international treaty commitments. The UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, has urged the UN to respond to the food crisis as a human rights emergency and called for a freeze on new investment in converting food into fuel. In contrast to the half-speed MDG vision, a human rights approach to food security places immediate and inclusive obligations on governments to create capacity for their people to feed themselves. Ideally the right to food should take its place in national laws or constitutions, with guarantees of non-discriminatory and non-political strategies. Many of the world’s food security problems stem from the absence of an overriding goal to honour the right to food. A set of world trade rules might look very different if governed by such an objective rather than the focus on absolute volumes of trade.
Causes of Food Insecurity
The aftermath of the Second World War saw strategies which did indeed award priority to food security. The European Common Agricultural Policy and the US Farm Bill combined subsidies and tariffs to support the pattern of small family farms which were dominant at that time. These policies proved successful, generating colossal internal food surpluses. Not surprisingly, the poorer countries of the modern world are keen to copy this successful protectionist model, not least because of their similar profile of agriculture - there are 500 million farms of less than 2 hectares in developing countries. Such ambitions remain unfulfilled largely because in 1995 the richer countries were successful in their efforts to include agriculture in the system of open market rules governed by the World Trade Organisation, whilst simultaneously refusing to unravel their own protectionist model. Attempts by developing countries to build their agriculture sectors have been undermined, both in domestic markets undercut by cheap imports from rich countries and in exports which encounter trade barriers erected in Europe and US. Countries in Africa and South Asia are also to blame for their prolonged lack of investment in rural economies which account for about 75% of world hunger. For example, African governments are yet to meet their 2003 Maputo Declaration commitment which called for 10% of national budgets to be dedicated to agriculture by 2008. Rural economies have therefore failed to grow. Poor farmers, often holding uncertain land tenure and lacking capital, plant for a mix of subsistence and surplus for market, a model chronically vulnerable to fluctuating prices or unfavourable weather. The majority of developing countries have food deficits, a serious problem for those lacking foreign currency to purchase expensive imports.
Whilst overall population growth creates pressure on food security, it is a relatively minor factor. Since 1961 world production of food has trebled whilst the population has doubled. Feeding more than half of the world’s grain production to animals is the more significant indicator. As 7kg of grain is required to produce 1kg of beef, there is an argument that meat production on this scale impedes the goal of global food security. Another human weakness - for violent conflict - invariably leads to extreme food insecurity. The 2007 Global Hunger Index reports that “almost all” of its worst ranking countries have been involved in violent conflict in the last decade. Collapsed economies such as North Korea and Zimbabwe also generate food crises. (Oneworlduk)

Solution to food crisis must address inequalities – UN human rights chief

A wide-ranging approach addressing inequalities and the rights of marginalized groups is essential in tackling the current global food crisis, the top United Nations human rights official said in Geneva today.
While it is crucial to respond with humanitarian support in the short term, a medium- and longer-term plan must centre on human rights, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour told a special session on the food crisis at the Human Rights Council.
“Such focus helps to analyze and confront the differing impact of the crisis on people,” she noted. “It contributes to clarify the imbalances in a society that trigger or exacerbate the food crisis.”
Mr. Arbour added that a rights-based approach will also take into account the voices of marginalized groups, along with human rights institutions, civil society organizations and others.
Such a solution could also help to defuse tensions and prevent civil unrest, as well as avert violations of civil and political rights in response to protests.
The current food emergency, she observed, was triggered by the confluence of several factors, including imbalances in supply and demand, unfair trade practices and distorted incentives and subsidies.
“Yet at its core and in its punitive effects, this crisis boils down to a lack of access to adequate food,” the High Commissioner told the Council at the start of the day-long event, adding that this access is a right protected by international law.
Not only must the impact of the crisis on marginalized people must be studied, but the root causes of such discrimination – such as exclusion from access to land, productive resources and decent work – must be eliminated, she said.
If such comprehensive action is not taken, a “domino effect” which affects other rights, including the right to health or to education, could result, Ms. Arbour cautioned.
She emphasized the key role of States, which by human rights law must resolve such situations. “States’ obligations regarding the right to food and freedom from hunger also entail the adoption of national strategies to ensure food and nutrition security for all.”
The current crisis “transcends national boundaries,” the High Commissioner said, calling for cooperation among States in addressing the problem.
In his address to the Council, Olivier De Schutter, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, underscored how the crisis should not be viewed as one that is solely humanitarian or macro-economic in nature, but as one that is focused on the right to food.
“What distinguishes a natural disaster from a violation from human rights is that, in the latter situation, we are capable of moving along the chain of causation, from the situation of the malnourished of the hungry to specific acts or abstentions by duty-holders,” he said.
It is up to individual countries to outline their plans regarding the right to food, the independent expert said. “At the same time, the international community must ensure that an enabling environment is created, allowing such national strategies to flourish, and providing financial and technical assistance where needed.”
The independent expert also called for stepped-up efforts to assist the agriculture sector in developing nations, in the face of soaring input prices.
“We must feed the hungry now, but we must also prevent famines from occurring tomorrow,” he pointed out.
The Council later adopted a resolution by consensus expressing its grave concern at the worsening global crisis.
It called on States – both individually and though cooperation and assistance – and others to make every effort to ensure the realization of the right to food as an essential human rights objective.
In a related development, poor countries relying on food imports are expected to spend 40 per cent more on food this year than they did last year, according to a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
According to the latest Food Outlook, this year’s food import bill for the Low Income Food Deficit Countries (LIFDSs) is forecast to reach $169 billion this year.
FAO characterized this as a “worrying development,” noting that by the end of this year imports could cost four times as much as they did in 2000.
“Food is no longer the cheap commodity that it once was,” said the agency’s Assistant Director-General Hafez Ghanem, stressing that soaring food prices will likely exacerbate the food deprivation suffered by 854 million people. “We are facing the risk that the number of hungry will increase by many more millions of people.”
Although the global production outlook is favourable, this is unlikely to translate into the decline of many agriculture commodities because of the need to replenish stocks and rising utilization.
FAO predicts record cereal production this year, but tight markets will result in continued price volatility. (UN News Centre)

Skyrocketing prices continue to threaten the right to food, UN expert says

10 September 2008 – The global food crisis caused by soaring prices is jeopardizing the right to food, and any potential solution to the problem must be viewed through the lens of human rights, an independent United Nations expert said today.
Presenting his latest report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Olivier De Schutter, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said that international assistance and cooperation are key to achieving that right under international human rights law.
Speculation in the futures market of primary agricultural commodities is one of the factors responsible for driving up the cost of food, he said.
The expert pointed out the role of agrofuel production in food price volatility. But discussions of whether production of the fuels should be halted or promoted in the best interests of farmers should be guided by the consideration of human rights, he added.
Mr. De Schutter stressed that the Council must ensure that acting in the interests of tackling climate change does not impede food protection and protecting human rights.
To date, with the exception of Brazil, production of biofuels has not proven to be a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, given the use of fertile land, water and energy necessary. Mr. De Schutter called on the 47-member Council to quickly adopt global agreements and guidelines to scrutinize agrofuel production.
Although the surge in food prices caught people around the world off guard, the poor are hungry because they cannot afford to eat, not because of a lack of food, he said.
In a related development, three UN agencies are scheduled to brief a special meeting of the Development Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels today on the current food crisis.
Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Kanayo F. Nwanze, Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), told participants how they are jointly responding to surging food prices.
The WFP has already announced a package of more than $200 million to help ease hunger in 16 hotspots.
“With poor farmers unable to feed their own families, we are in the danger zone,” Ms. Sheeran said, calling for “extraordinary action” to address the threat of unrest due to lower food stocks.
FAO is helping boost food production in 78 countries, providing seeds, fertilizer, animal feed and other farming tools, in addition to the nearly $1 billion it spends on field activities.
IFAD, meanwhile, has provided some $200 million in loans and grants to help farmers in the developing world, and continues to call for longer-term investment to allow the almost half a billion planters in these nations to increase their incomes and resilience against price fluctuations. (UN News Center)

CBPM: What's the solution to global food crisis?#links

CBPM: What's the solution to global food crisis?#links

What's the solution to global food crisis?

By Subir Gokarn
Monetary policy actions are relatively easy to specify when the growth rate and the inflation rate are both moving in the same direction. If, with reference to a "neutral" or "comfort" zone for the two indicators, implying a sustainable balance between the two, both are to move up, this constitutes overheating and the unexceptionable response by the central bank is to increase interest rates, reduce liquidity or do both. If, relative to the same reference zone, both are to move down, the appropriate response would be just the opposite -- enhance liquidity, decrease interest rates or do both.
It is when both these indicators move in opposite directions from the reference zone that complications arise. Obviously, a situation in which the inflation rate declines while growth accelerates will not be perceived as a problem warranting any kind of monetary policy response. But let's turn to the contrary situation, in which inflation is accelerating while the growth rate declines. This is what India -- for that matter, the rest of the world -- appears to be in at the moment. What should a central bank do? Address inflation and risk growth slowing down even more? Or, try and sustain growth but risk unleashing inflationary forces that might prove to be extremely difficult to rein in later on?
The choice depends entirely on the context. However, some general principles that should guide the choice can be laid down. Two principles provide a foundation for deciding on an appropriate response. First, the response should be based on the significance of the risks to the two indicators. If the risk that inflation will accelerate in the absence of appropriate monetary actions outweighs the risk that growth will decelerate if those actions are taken, they should be taken.
Second, the response should be sensitive to the probability of success. If potentially anti-inflationary measures are highly likely to reduce the growth rate while not very likely to have an impact on the inflation rate, they should not be implemented. Conversely, if potentially pro-growth measures are highly likely to exacerbate inflation while not having a very significant impact on growth, they should be resisted.
Let's now consider the three choices that confront the Reserve Bank of India -- tighten liquidity, ease liquidity or hold steady -- with reference to these principles. Tightening liquidity is being both recommended and widely anticipated as the likely outcome in the next policy announcement. In terms of the first principle, relative risks, while the risk that growth will decelerate even more is very much there, inaction by the central bank now could cause inflation to accelerate, requiring a much more heavy-handed response in the not too distant future. Gradual, calibrated steps are far more palatable.
However, on the second principle, the probability of success, the evidence appears to go against tightening for the moment. The dominant contributors to the recent inflationary surge are food items and minerals, especially iron ore. Both these categories are being significantly driven by global demand-supply mismatches, something which domestic monetary policy actions will not have much of an influence over. As far as minerals and metals are concerned, the global slowdown may have a favourable impact on prices in the coming weeks; more importantly, slower growth in China will almost certainly contribute to softening prices over the next year or so. In other words, if a tight monetary policy cannot have much impact on circumstances that are, in any case, likely to be transitory in nature, why do it when it will almost certainly exacerbate the growth slowdown?
Turning to the second option, easing liquidity, at this point, it is widely believed to be impossible. However, it is worth examining the case for and against, particularly because it would have been seen as a legitimate course of action had the inflation numbers been less intimidating. With reference to the principle of relative risks, the growth slowdown is real and, more importantly, the sectoral pattern is closely related to the interest rate cycle.
On the other hand, it could stimulate domestic demand pressure prices, reinforcing the global forces that are already so malignant. In terms of the principle of probability of success, the issue is essentially one of timing. Going by our understanding of response lags, an easy liquidity stance will probably have a quicker impact on inflation, through its influence on expectations, than it will have on growth.
So, if tightening liquidity does not convincingly satisfy the tests of appropriateness while easing liquidity somewhat more convincingly fails them, at least for the moment, the status quo emerges as a default option. However, this is not entirely satisfactory. If there is a concrete case for the holding course, even as the clamour to tighten liquidity, it must be brought into the discussion.
In terms of the principle of relative risks, non-intervention will very likely allow the growth deceleration to consolidate and widen across sectors through linkages and multipliers.
This will, in turn, ease pressure on prices of various products and services, offsetting the global inflationary forces to some extent. On top of this, if at least some of the commodity price patterns are transitory, as suggested above, the inflationary pattern should become more tolerable in a few months. With reference to the principle of probability of success, the eventual objective is to stabilise the economy in the zone around 8.5 per cent growth and 4.5 per cent inflation. Given this, if the current inflation surge is transitory, a status quo policy today provides a little more room to manoeuvre in the next couple of quarters as far as the growth slowdown is concerned.
The critical question, therefore, is whether the recent inflationary pattern is more likely to be transitory or persistent. With respect to minerals and their downstream products, global business conditions will eventually dictate prices. However, energy and food prices are being driven by factors other than purely cyclical. There are some important linkages between them, notably through the diversion of food crops to bio-fuels and the rising prices of fertilisers, which are contributing to lower yields globally. The point, however, is that if these are structural problems with long-term implications, how much impact can a short-term policy instrument, which is essentially what monetary policy is, have?
This leads us to a third guiding principle, perhaps the most important, appropriateness: understand the cause of the problem and make sure that the policy instrument being contemplated can deal with that cause. Unfortunately, the roots of the global food situation lie far beyond the scope of interest rates and cash reserves.
The writer is Chief Economist, Standard & Poor's Asia-Pacific. The views are personal.
(Business standard)

Somalia: Food Security Alert 10 Sep 2008 - Decreasing humanitarian access exacerbates already extreme food insecurity

Conflict and civil insecurity continue to escalate in Somalia, and increased attacks against humanitarian workers in the last three months have hampered response activities at a time of sharply increased needs. In the southern and central regions, where about 78 percent of the 3.25 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance are located, militia groups have targeted aid workers, severely limiting the size and scope of humanitarian services provided. Urban and rural households in these areas have already exhausted most coping mechanisms to respond to the current crisis, the result of below–normal April–June rains, crop failure, high food and fuel prices, and continued unrest. As a result, the country is facing an extreme humanitarian crisis, and indications are that the situation will continue to deteriorate with increasing rapidity through the end of 2008, and into 2009. Urgent food and non–food assistance is needed to respond to the crisis. Increased attacks targeting humanitarians and general civil insecurity have made it difficult for aid organizations to respond to the country's increasing needs. As of July 2008, at least 23 aid workers had been killed, 18 abducted, and countless others injured, including staff from the United Nations and World Food Program.

Violence is worst in and around Mogadishu, through which 80 percent of humanitarian supplies for the country pass. Piracy along Somalia's coastline has also led to delays in commercial and food aid shipments, as cargo ship operators fear the loss of their vessels and lives following hijackings over the past two years. As a result of the increased violence, various organizations have scaled back the number and/or size of their activities, or have pulled out of the country altogether. For example, Doctors Without Borders this month ceased operations at one of its clinics in Mogadishu due to increased threats to its staff.
While the ability of aid agencies and international donors to respond to the humanitarian crisis has been limited, the severity of the crisis continues to increase in severity. In southern and central regions, an estimated 180,000 children are acutely malnourished – of which 26,000 are severely malnourished – marking an 11 percent increase from January 2008. In addition, new areas of the country are now facing high levels of food insecurity, including key pastoral regions of the north (Sool, Nugaal, and Togdheer) (Figure 1). While usually low and stable compared to the rest of the country, nutrition indicators are now also deteriorating in these areas. In the meantime, local and imported food prices have increased by 700 percent in the last year, leading to increased urban and rural vulnerability, and new waves of population movement towards refugee camps in neighboring countries. While secondary rains are expected in mid–October, they will not alleviate the severity of the current crisis. Access to food, shelter, income, water, and basic services remains severely limited, and food and non–food assistance is needed until at least the end of the year. Stabilizing the security situation is a priority to ensure such needs are met. (reliefweb)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Looking for dry ground and a better life: Bihar Flood drives migration in India

Source: World Vision - Asia Pacific
By Kitkupar Shangpliang, World Vision India
Website: http://www.wvasiapacific.org

Born 20 days before floods ravaged the eastern Indian state of Bihar, baby Sabrun is already an object of migration and so also, are thousands of others trying to escape poverty and the floods. Her family travelled 20 kilometers on foot for two hours to reach the nearest relief camp in Madhepura district.
Sabrun's father is a *rickshaw puller, landless and earning a mere Rs.40 a day, equivalent to a dollar. "I don't want to leave my village", said this worried father. But he may not have a choice. Without job and food security back home, families such as this may be forced to move elsewhere in this migration prone zone.
Even in times when there is no flood, migration is a grave concern in this poverty stricken state of India. New-Delhi bound trains are always packed with migrant laborers from the villages of rural Bihar. And when they reach the towns and cities - they end up as daily laborers who are forced to live a tougher life in the city.
"All the trains were running fully packed and railway stations were overcrowded, indicating that people were migrating on a mass scale", said a government official from the Additional Disaster Management Cell. Official sources in the three districts said, that thousands of people, mostly poor landless labourers, were migrating by train as far as Mumbai and other major cities in southern India.
World Vision Relief staff of the first assessment team, J.L Franco observed, "People are rushing to board any vehicle - from bicycles, rickshaws, carts and trains - to escape to safer places".
For now, baby Sabrun and her family are taking shelter in a relief camp run by the DL College Authorities and assisted by World Vision. They are getting three square meals a day, they have a class room-turned dormitory for shelter but they are running short of clothing. Somehow, the situation is under control but for how long? As the families go back to their village or decide to detour - real agony will begin.
There will be no crops left, land owners and farmers will not be able to offer jobs in the fields for the next six months and women who typically cut the crops in exchange for a share of food , will be left hungry and without work. "Then people will be forced to send their children as young as ten or eleven to work in the towns as domestic help or in tea shops", said Kaushal Kishore, Secretary of DL College governing body.
Kishore has been instrumental in setting up the relief camp and allowed the usage of space at his college in the midst of opposition from his other colleagues. "We have used this college campus as the camp during the flood in 1984, but that flood is nothing compared to this one", said this soft spoken but determined middle aged man.
Kishore and his other active colleagues, at their capacity, have done their best to educate people not to fall into the force or temptation of migration. While migration looks like the better option, people face dire consequences when they leave their village and live in foreign lands, "Some of them cannot come home even if they want to, because they have nothing back home", Kishore said.
The solution: Proper housing for the poor
Digging deeper into the matter, Kishore's colleague Divender explained: The State's Housing Scheme is not working here as it should. Before the government would channel housing money through the village committee, which monitors how people use the money for housing. Now that money goes straight to the family. Most of the families then end up spending the money repaying debts or spending it on a marriage celebration. Had people used the money for building concrete homes, they could have minimized their loss during this flood.
"As you can see, all homes are thatch-made, so the water destroyed everything. If concrete homes had been built, the structures would have survived, lessening the chance for migration because families would have had their houses even after they have lost everything else", said Divender. The Bihar context is not something any one can understand easily. The State and NGOs are attempting to do their best but the gaps are huge and the problem big.
History of Migration
Historically, people left Bihar due to the loss of land, recurrent famines, and land infertility. Now they leave because of flooding. There were about 195 million migrants in India according to the 1981 census, and a large portion of that number comes from Bihar migrants.
In the past, most migration was short-distance, from one rural district to another, female-dominated, or for marriage reasons. When rural-to-urban migration trends increased, it was primarily within one's own district, male-dominated, and employment driven. The last ten years have seen a completely different pattern: people of both sexes are now going away to other states and cities across the country to find work.
Human Trafficking another possible consequence:
The issue of people being trafficked, especially children, is of great concern in this disastrous situation. Bihar stands at the helm of India's human trafficking zone. Economic poverty, food insecurity and now flooding will push more people from rural to urban areas, complicating the already complex Indian urban problem.
Civil society and media reports indicate that a large number of cases like this explained how girls and women are being promised a better job in the cities but finally end up as daily laborers, domestic help and even forced to prostitution.
Could this flood add to the human trafficking problem that already exists in east India? Village leader Murli Yadav fears, "In the past only men or women left their homes, today the entire family is moving along".
*rickshaw: two wheeler cart pulled by one personaidnews

'Administration has to be more sensitive'

We hope to see better results in retrofitting schools, VC Menon, member, National Disaster Management Authority, tells SREELATHA MENON.

Did the floods in the Kosi river take the authorities by surprise? For no one had any clue they were coming. There were no boats for days. What authority does the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has in such a situation?We have all the powers required to face any disaster. The NDMA was formed under the National Disaster Management Act of 2005 and is headed by the prime minister. Former Army chief Gen NC Vij (retd) is the authority’s vice-chairman and all its eight members are experts in fields related to disaster management.
Why was everyone clueless about the condition of the Kosi embankment? Is the security of millions in the hands of a lone engineer in Biratnagar whose faxes no one reads in New Delhi, Patna or Kathmandu, as media reports have been revealed?The embankment is in another country which was in turmoil for some time. So that has to be taken into account.
So people kept quiet because it was diplomatic to do so?I can’t comment on that.
How does the NDMA work with other arms of the government?There is a National Crisis Management Committee, headed by the Cabinet secretary, with all Union secretaries as members. It is like a committee of secretaries and it meets daily and takes decisions. It looks at all the crises that are beyond the capacity of the state governments to handle. The executive committee of the NDMA is headed by the home secretary and the secretary of the NDMA is a member of this committee.
Why is it that in Bihar, for days together there were insufficient boats to ferry people out of danger?We have 2,600 boats there now and 11 helicopters. We are getting these from various agencies. There are 18 teams of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) with 733 people dealing with the rescue operations. These are people trained to deal with floods and are part of the eight battalion force of the NDRF (of roughly 10,000 men).
Was there a shortage of choppers? Can you summon private aircraft to deal with large-scale evacuation?We can take over any hospital or private establishment in such a situation. But in Bihar, the only airstrip nearby was in Purnea. It is not possible to have more choppers there. Having more boats was also not safe as we would not have been able to control the safety of the people. There are already stories of private boatmen looting people in distress. We have to be very cautious. We are dealing with 34,28,000 people in 1,914 villages. We have boats which can carry 10 people as well as those which can carry 20-30. Even operating these boats has been a challenge because they have been hitting railway tracks as water is eight feet deep all over.
What about the government in Bihar? The state has been facing floods every year. Why was it not able to mobilise sufficient supplies and rescue people for days together in districts like Araria?Look at their website and you will find that each district has the power to procure boats for floods. We are there to facilitate this. Bihar has had worse floods. In the 1987 floods, 28.6 million people were affected and in the 2004 floods, 220 million people were affected. So far 3.4 million have been affected and we have evacuated over 600,000. We are running 285 camps with 25,000 people each. Do you know what it costs to run a camp of that size? It is not easy given the fact that the entire area is under water.
Some government officials are dismissive of these efforts even now. They say Bihar has three kinds of crops: Kharif, rabi and relief. What do you say?It is true that people there are used to relief and disaster. It is a way of life in Bihar. All that can be said is that the local administration has to learn to be more sensitive.
How is it that a fortnight after the floods, industry was nowhere in the picture? Doesn’t the NDMA have any link with industry?We have a corporate task force with the CII, the Ficci, major companies as well as an NGO taskforce with 20 organisations. We have given them a list of things needed and they are supplying them. For instance, every day, one lakh steel sheets are being sent from steel factories, including that of Tata Steel, which has its own relief department. We let companies take credit for this. We are just links. NGOs like World Vision, Caritas, Oxfam and Vani are among the 20 organisations which are in the NGO taskforce. They are adopting camps.
You were a part of the UN relief operation for tsunami and it was counted as one of the best. Can that be replicated ?Of course . That is why the NDMA was formed with professional expertise. Our mission is zero tolerance to avoidable deaths. We are creating early warning systems and rescue systems.
You have been periodically issuing guidelines on flood management and quake resistance. What is the compliance?We have issued guidelines on management of floods, earthquakes, and now on biological disaster. Our national executive committee, headed by the home secretary, monitors their implementation. Our guidelines on earthquakes mooted that all home loans should have a component on quake-proofing houses. It is already in place for zone 4 and zone 5 houses. For the rest, the emphasis is on strengthening the lifeline structures like schools and hospitals. Do you know 33,000 children died in China’s schools in the recent earthquake and many of the 88,000 victims of the Muzaffarabad quake died in classrooms. We have to prevent that here.
Are we expecting any disaster now?Yes, a devastating earthquake near Uttarakhand. It can happen anytime.
How many schools have we retrofitted?Just one in Delhi and we will do eight more, besides one each in a district of Zone 4 and 5.
You have retrofitted just one school in four years. Doesn’t that reflect poorly on the NDMA?We are launching a school safety project this year and we hope to see better results in retrofitting schools. (Business Standard)

World Vision commits Rs. 8 Crore for Bihar flood survivors

Chennai, Sept 4 (ANI/Business Wire India): World Vision India today committed Rs. eight crores to respond to the mounting challenges facing the survivors of Bihar floods. This will respond to the immediate relief, recovery and rehabilitation needs of 125,000 people (around 25,000 families) in the Madhepura district, one of the worst affected by the floods. Over the last three days around 10,000 people (2000 families) have been served with immediate food relief."Initially, we were looking at close to Rs.4 crores to reach the people on the ground with the most essential needs- cooked food, dry rations, family kits and shelter material," says Franklin Joseph, Director- Humanitarian Emergency Affairs, World Vision India, "but by looking at the number of the people in the camps and needs that would arise, we have added temporary shelter material, hygiene kits and water containers to the survival kits."World Vision is providing chuda (flat rice), sathu (lentil meal) and jaggery (country sugar), candles and match boxes as survival kits to people who are coming into the camps around the town of Saharsa, a neighbouring district. People in the camps are also being provided with cooked food for lunch and dinner. Reports say that the water is slowly starting to recede. But the challenges for the people who are in the camps are many. Two boys, Pappu, 14 and Deepak, 10 have been missing for a week now and their parents have started to lose hope. Their neighbors suspect that the raging waters have washed both of them away to the unknown, something the parents are not willing to accept. But witnesses said, they found no trace of the two boys. Several families are looking for members they have lost as they fled the waters.In one of the relief camps, ten-month old Priyansu with boils all over her body is sleeping on her mother's lap. As she hold her baby close, says her mother Rina, "She doesn't cry much and sleeps well at night and I breastfeed her." Finding medical help for this condition in the relief camp would be a challenge.The urgent needs are for health care, clean drinking water and protection for children. We are assessing the needs as quickly as possible so that we can put in place additional programmes to respond to the health needs of the people in the camps," says Franklin Joseph, adding that "Protection of children will be another major focus."World Vision has responded to every major disaster in India in the last few decades including the tsunami, Kashmir earthquake and the recent floods in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Orissa and Assam. World Vision India is also member of the NGO steering committee of the National Disaster Management Authority.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

42 kids die of malnutrition in Madhya Pradesh

Thu-Sep 04, 2008

Bhopal / Indo-Asian News Service

People from 150 villages of Madhya Pradesh's Satna district, where malnutrition has led to 42 deaths in the last three months, have decided to boycott elections if the women and children continue to suffer for want of food.

Madhya Pradesh's drive - involving the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the World Food Programme (WFP) - against malnutrition among children notwithstanding, 42 child deaths have occurred in the past three months in Satna district. 

"It is symbolic of a deep-rooted problem afflicting over 80,000 underprivileged children in this state," child rights activists said.

"Children in Satna district villages are dying of malnutrition but the authorities are reluctant to accept the fact and say that the deaths have been caused by various diseases," Prashant Dubey of MP Right to Food campaign (MPRTFC) said.

The state has with the assistance of Unicef and the WFP unveiled several special schemes like the Bal Shakti Yojana, the Shaktimaan and the Bal Sanjeevani Abhiyan which seek to treat severely malnourished children. It includes medical services necessary for such kids.

Still, there are 33,000 malnourished children in Madhya Pradesh in the 0-5 years age group, according to National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data. That is about 60 per cent of the total child population in the state.

The recent deaths have come soon after the twelfth phase of the Bal Sanjivani Abhiyan (campaign to bring down level of malnutrition among children) - conducted by the state's Women and Child Development (WCD) Department across the state from May 15. The campaign was carried out in cooperation with Unicef.

"The government claims to have made efforts to curb malnutrition for which it has spent millions of rupees in the past three years. But one can make out the level of nourishment provided to children from the state of Anganwadis (government-run creches) in the district. They lack even basic facilities like seats, drinking water, separate toilets or space to cook," said Dubey.

"Anganwadis remain closed. Foodgrains are never available at fair price shops. How do we feed our children in such a case?" asked Bandelal Kol, a resident of one of the affected villages. He had come to the Majhgawan block headquarters of Satna district during a meeting called by the Adivasi Adhikar Manch.

Residents of 150 villages participated in the meeting which resolved to boycott the polls if the government fails to secure the health of their women and children.

Meanwhile, Director of Women and Child Welfare Department (WCD) Kalpana Shrivastava said, “The main problem is that whatever the state provides under schemes to curb malnutrition can only be supplementary nutrition, whether it is through ICDS (the Integrated Child Development Scheme) or mid-day meals. It is hard to tackle malnutrition if non-availability of food and livelihood is the problem.”
The state's budget for the development of women and children went up to Rs 5.9 billion in 2008. Of this, Rs 3 billion was earmarked for providing nutritious food to undernourished women and children. This was Rs 1.9 billion more than 2007.

"However, the per centage of underweight children in Madhya Pradesh increased from 54 in 1998-99 to 60.3 now and the per centage of wasted (extremely malnourished) children has gone up from 20 to 33, according to NFHS, despite Unicef involvement,” a WCD official said on condition of anonymity.

The NFHS report says that only 14 per cent children breastfeed within one hour of birth and 82.6 per cent of children between the six and 35 months (the most critical period of life for mental and physical development) are anaemic. (News X)

Resources on Disaster Risk Reduction

Resources on Disaster Risk Reduction

  1. 1.       Relief Web
  2. 2.       Millennium Development Goals
  3. 3.       National Disaster Management India
  4. 4.       Disaster Management Information System
  5. 5.       Community Based Disaster Management Resources
  6. 6.       UN International Strategy For Disaster Reduction
  7. 7.       Monitoring and Evaluation

a.       http://www.mande.co.uk/  Portal with news and information about monitoring and evaluation in development organisations. Includes online forum and links to evaluation societies.

b.      http://www.internationalevaluation.com/  a loose coalition of regional and national evaluation organizations from around the world that is dedicated to building leadership and capacity in developing countries, fostering the cross-fertilization of evaluation theory and practice around the world, and assisting the evaluation profession to take a more global approach to contributing to the identification and solution of world problems.

c.     Humanitarian Distance Learning Centre - HDLC Discussion Forum
The HDLC discussion forum is a resource for relief and development professionals to communicate ideas, request advice and advocate for various issues within multi-sectoral relief and development environment.
It is a creative mechanism for participants to directly influence the scope and dynamic of vocational training within their particular field or sector of specialty.
Periodically, the HDLC Discussion forum host polls and surveys on behalf of the community for research purposes and conducts "virtual" round table discussions monthly.
It is free to register, so sign up.

d.    XCeval
Discussion list for persons interested in issues associated with international and cross-cultural evaluation.

e.     ALNAP: Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance
Network of NGOs, UN agencies, Donors, academics and consultants interested to promote better practices in monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian projects. Members meet twice per year.

f.     UN Evaluation Forum
A knowledge network with moderated discussions, digests and news postings to disseminate good practices and lessons learned on measuring, monitoring and evaluation.

g.    International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS)
A membership organisation to advance and extend the practice of development evaluation by refining methods, strengthening capacity and expanding ownership. Listserv and discussion forum open to members only.