>> Watch interview with Ginka Chavdarova, Executive Director of the National Association of Municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria
Ultimately, sustainable, green development will save our planet because it’s a local solution; but high-level climate change negotiations may carry on without results or with slow progress because it’s a global challenge. Why?
Perhaps it’s because people can feel the positive effects of concrete actions taken in their local communities in their everyday life, and that’s a strong incentive.
While climate change is about saving the planet, sustainable development is about saving our local forests and fisheries, using renewable resources to provide energy to remote communities or increase energy security by reducing imports of fossil fuels.
Sustainable development is about using resources to promote economic development for the current generation while leaving resources intact for future generations.
What we need to achieve sustainability is for local leaders (formal and informal) to be convinced that it’s the best way to improve the quality of life in their territories. Then they will take it upon themselves to convince members of their communities and local businesses to jump on board.
Despite rises in human development levels across Eastern Europe and Central Asia in recent years, countries of this region face a host of challenges, from ensuring the inclusion of those who are left out of society, to promoting more responsive governance, to addressing the effects of climate change.
As development practitioners, here is our challenge: How to assimilate the best approaches to these problems from the on-going discussion on development, most of which takes place out of our earshot. How can we benefit from the myriad of interactions to create the most innovative projects, to provide the most targeted policy advice, to ensure that beneficiaries truly gain from our efforts?
Bringing the discussion online
To provide a platform for this conversation, we recently started a new LinkedIn Group, Development in Europe and Central Asia for development professionals focusing on the Europe and Central Asia region. So far, hundreds of practitioners have joined the group. Some 29 percent are senior managers, based in at least 25 countries, and from 30 different organizations.
All eyes are on Rio de Janeiro these days. But do people on the street really care about it?
My four year old daughter certainly couldn’t care less, when we got on our bikes some ten days ago for a demo fun ride through the heart of Belgrade. All she was excited about was that we just pedaled in the middle of Branko bridge together with hundreds of bicyclists, that same bridge over the Sava that we often take – by car. And, as kids in this age do, she asked the essential question:
“Why don’t the police close the bridge every day, so we can always bike over the Sava?”
I basically had to agree with her: Why not, actually? The answer isn’t as obvious as it may seem: Of course, I could have made a point about closing this bridge would lead to congestion on another one. She could have replied:
“So what? Why do people take the car when they can have more fun taking the bike anyway?”
Right now, presidents, prime ministers, scientists and civil society leaders are meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to assess progress since a previous landmark gathering in the same place 20 years ago and to try to put the World on a sustainable path. A green economy is one of two key topics to be discussed.
What are the messages we believe leaders should not lose sight of during the lengthy Rio discussions?
Message 1: There is no green versus growth, but green and growth
For the last several decades this myth has been very prevalent: You have to give up green if you want to grow, green is for the good times, and in times of the recession, environmental concerns take a back seat. One major reason this claim is no longer an option is the upward pattern of resource prices.
Social inequality, conflict, climate change, poverty, drug abuse – all of these are emergent problems resulting from a million very contextual, small-scale decisions and events that add up to some of the most destructive issues we face today.
Who would have thought that one of the greatest advancements in human history – the Industrial Revolution – today directly contributes to the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events? As these surprises keep coming at us faster and faster, how do we manage our response?
We recently had complexity whiz Dave Snowden talk with us (UNDP staff from the region) about complexity theory and development. It turns out that certain lessons and patterns are beginning to emerge that are helping reframe the way we look at problems. I will try to summarize and share some thoughts. (Also see what Dave is thinking about on the Cognitive Edge blog)
“The State is, unfortunately, not analyzing the causes which led to the drastic fall in the field of human rights (during the 1990s).”
“I am of opinion that we, as a society, do not act responsibly towards certain categories of people who are the most vulnerable (women, children, elderly, Roma, homosexuals…). This leads to general economic and social poverty.”
Question: Why are ecovillages important for sustainable development?
KJ: Ecovillages promote a supportive and inclusive social environment and a way of life that has a low environmental impact. This means that communities have the potential to address environmental protection, social justice, and economic viability and prosperity.
Ecovillages are demonstration sites of sustainability in practice, showcasing that human beings are capable, and have the knowledge to consciously restore depleted natural and social environments. Members of the Global Ecovillage Network have among the lowest per capita carbon footprints in the industrialized world. (>>Measure your own carbon footprint)
Live-tweeting from a conference several weeks ago, we realized first hand that this wasn’t just an exercise in opening up a dialogue to all who weren’t in the room with the help of the internet, but it was a useful way to get more input and great ideas. We are currently following up on a specific idea to address low capacities to monitor illegal waste dumps, deforestation and excess noise in national parks – through designing a crowdsourcing platform that will allow every citizen, park ranger and tourist to report incidents they encounter in the park.
So this got us thinking. How can governments leverage proliferation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and growing connected societies for real social change?
Would opening up its data, promoting collaborative decision making and turning its development and planning processes more participatory help governments become more effective and efficient in providing services?
Governments are the single largest data producers and collectors – citizens give them the rights and resources to collect and produce this data, so they are entitled to access this data. (There are exceptions, but it is important for citizens to be aware of what data exist that is not released into public domain and why).
Can opening up pave the way for new businesses and more efficient decision making?
This week (13 and 14 June), together with the World Bank Institute and the European Commission, we will be meeting with emerging European donors to discuss the support they have received so far to develop their capacities for development cooperation, and plans for future support.
What are our thoughts going into this discussion? UNDP has been working with new partners in development cooperation in Europe for the past ten years, and it has been a fascinating learning experience. One that we think matters for the future of development cooperation globally.
About 925 million people are undernourished(pdf) in the world and Central Asia is no exception. People living in Central Asia are severely impacted by fluctuations in food prices. The primary concern related to food security in the region is the relatively high level of poverty faced by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (47.2 percent and 31.7 percent, respectively), and to a lesser extent Uzbekistan.
The region is also vulnerable to natural hazards including earthquakes, floods, land degradation and scarcity of water. Partly because of these hazards, Central Asia suffers from low agricultural productivity, which is one of the main causes of food insecurity.
Temporary food shortages can be due to natural causes, such as earthquakes or floods. For example, the energy crises in the winter of 2007 and 2008 in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan resulted in shortages of food, a peak in prices and aggravated food insecurity in both countries.