SOURCE: Asian Development Blog

By: Dagmar Zwebe

Two years into an ADB technical assistance project funded by the Nordic Development Fund for women to benefit from climate change mitigation efforts in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam, the importance of gender sensitization becomes clearer by the day. Below are three reasons why.

1. There’s a big knowledge gap

While climate change specialists are experts at quantifying impacts, identifying adaptation and mitigation opportunities, and championing strategies to address mitigation challenges, they are not fully aware of how to reach men and women equally with those strategies. Their exposure to the importance of gender equality has unfortunately been limited, so it is often not a matter of unwillingness, but of not fully understanding the opportunity of including half of the population so economic growth and poverty reduction can move ahead as fast as it can.

In some cases there is fear of change. During a recent high-level climate change meeting, the chairman expressed his fear that if women were “too empowered” family life would go out of balance and local culture would be disrupted, a situation he did not wish upon his country. On the other hand, women’s agencies can tell you all about the current situation of women in their country, women’s livelihoods and their roles in households and society. These agencies can detail gender imbalances, the impacts on communities, and how they have developed gender strategies and action plans to make a difference and try to lift women out of poverty. However when analyzing these strategies, it’s clear that climate change is not yet high on the agenda for women’s agencies, even if women possess extraordinary potential to contribute to climate change mitigation and natural resources management.

We are aiming to not only bring climate and gender specialists together, but also facilitate real interaction to close the gap. Just sitting at each other’s tables talking about our own interests is not going to make a difference; the goal is to understand each other’s language and goals, and create a common vision. Without showing both sides we fail to notice the difference gender-responsive mitigation initiatives can make for each of their causes. An example of this is the value chain for improved cook stoves that involves women and men as suppliers, producers, sellers and end-users so policy-makers can clearly see the social and economic benefits of gender inclusiveness.

2. Timing is everything

When working with governments on a policy/strategy/planning level, it’s important to understand the review and renewal cycles that determine the schedule for decision-making and possible intervention. Since these cycles are typically quite long (5-10 years) we must identify possible entry points that fit with project timeframes to get traction and have real opportunities to propose the integration of new approaches. Examples of this are Cambodia’s 2016-2020 Gender Mainstreaming Policy and Strategic Framework, which did not initially address climate change but now includes a range of climate-related issues and indicators.

3. Money talks

Partners countries continue to be strapped for cash and need to make difficult choices on how to spend available funds, so raising gender equality coupled with climate change higher on the agenda remains challenging. During the project, policy-makers confirmed that having available funds would make a difference. This is a task not only for national governments, but also for the whole development community. Gender inclusion should be a prerequisite to obtain climate financing in all forms and shapes, and the organizations such as the Green Climate Fund, the Climate Investment Funds or the Global Environment Facility have all taken this step. If not, half of the world’s population will benefit less—or not at all—from climate change mitigation initiatives that inadvertently widen the inequality gap.


Support team helping with Komnas HAM National Inquiry
Support team helping with Komnas HAM National Inquiry 

The release of a new series of reports in March by the Indonesian National Commission On Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the government’s human rights agency, marks the first official process to examine the human rights impacts of land rights conflicts on Indigenous Peoples throughout Indonesia’s forest areas. The state-led “Inquiry,” which looks at 40 case studies of land conflicts across the country, is the result of a yearlong process which included public hearings, ethnographic studies, and discussions on the non-recognition of local communities’ customary land rights. According to RRI Collaborator AMAN (Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago), resolution of some of these 40 conflicts is just a matter of law enforcement. Following the National Inquiry, the situation has improved for Indigenous Peoples in some cases; however, violence has increased in others.

Forest zone determination started during the colonial reign of the Dutch East Indies, but 70% of Indonesia’s land was declared as “forests” during the Suharto Regime — without recognizing the rights of the thousands of indigenous communities who live in them. Vast areas of these forests have also been handed over to private companies as logging, plantation, and mining concessions, or declared as protected areas. The dispossession and exclusion of Indigenous Peoples from their own customary territories has led to an increasing number of conflicts; Komnas HAM estimates that as much as 20 percent of all complaints received by the agency relate to land disputes.

The Inquiry found that communities involved in these land disputes experience numerous abuses — including displacement, intimidation, violence, and takeover of traditional indigenous forests. Report findings also show that conflicts result from an array of factors: lack of legal certainty in recognition of indigenous territories; lack of standard police guidelines in handling natural resource conflict; and a state development agenda that is strongly biased toward protecting corporations over community rights.

The report was officially launched in mid-March in Jakarta, in the presence of state representatives from the Office of the President, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, and the Anti-Corruption Commission. Teten Masduki, Chief of Staff of the Office of the President, welcomed the publication of the report results and reaffirmed President Joko Widodo’s commitment to respecting, protecting, and recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Despite this commitment, contradicting legal interpretations of a Constitutional Court decision that says adat forests are to be excluded from State forests has proved to be a major blockage to increasing protection for Indigenous Peoples’ territories.

The report’s concrete policy recommendations—including passage of the Law on Recognition and Protection of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and the establishment of an independent Task Force on Indigenous Peoples—have prompted calls for the government to enact needed reforms. RRI Partners and Collaborators continue to advocate for effective implementation of Komnas HAM recommendations across Indonesia and encourage prompt government action to recognize community rights.

The Komnas HAM report is composed of five books on the “National Inquiry on the Rights of Customary Law-Abiding Communities Over Their Land in Forest Areas”:

  • Book One: Provides an overview about the National Inquiry process, main findings and recommendations
  • Book Two: Addresses specifically the situation of Adat Women
  • Book Three: Goes deeper into each of the conflict cases, providing ethnographic information and testimonies
  • Book Four: Describes main lessons learnt from this National Inquiry approach
  • Booklet: A policy brief summarizing key findings and recommendations of this inquiry to improve laws and policies

The full reports are available in English and Bahasa Indonesia.

– See more at: http://rightsandresources.org/en/news/landmark-report-investigates-human-rights-abuses-suffered-indigenous-communities-affected-land-conflicts-indonesia/#.VylH54RcSkr


A Climate Disaster in Mongolia

Photo Essay | 14 April 2016

Mongolia is being hit by a serious livelihood and food crisis arising from a slow-burning but deadly climate disaster unique to the country known as a “dzud.” The dzud consists of a summer drought followed by a heavy winter snow and especially cold temperatures during winter and spring.

According to the National Emergency Management Authority, snow this winter covered 90% of the country, while temperatures plummeted to -50°C. This created devastating grazing conditions for herders and their livestock, already reeling from a summer drought in 2015 that resulted in a 40% reduction in wheat harvests and grazing pasture in some areas.

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A government public relations office in Mangalore, India.

A government public relations office in Mangalore, India

In recent years there has been one critical instrument to making governments more responsive to citizens in how they provide services – the right to information. Applying this requires governments to either volunteer information or provide it when demanded. This is a significant step toward good governance.

More than 100 countries have right to information laws. However, experiences in Asia show that mere enactment is hardly sufficient to change the ways of governments. What is critical is the active role of the relevant agency tasked with ensuring that the law is fully operational. For instance, India shows that this leadership role is for the right to information to yield positive outcomes. There are two key lessons in the application of the right to information law.

Appropriate information management is critical. The onus is on the public authority concerned to provide reliable and consistent data. In India, the chief information commissioner solicits reports from all public authorities in a prescribed pro forma and posts reports online. Every public authority is required to submit four quarterly returns per year for assessment of its performance, and those who fail to do so even for a single quarter are treated as defaulters. Public authorities should have in place—and properly maintain—an updated system of maintenance and reporting of the relevant data.

This system has not generally received much attention in the discussion on right to information laws. While awareness raising and capacity building activities continue on the demand and supply sides, there is very little support for back-end operations such as preparation for generation, storage, and retrieval of information. Information management is a major concern and, unless prioritized, it will create implementation delays, especially when the demand pattern matures and people start to seek very specific information.

Record-keeping procedures need revamping to respond swiftly to requests for information from the public. In developing countries, most public information officers struggle to do so within the stipulated time period due poor training and inadequate record management procedures. This situation may be further aggravated by the lack of enabling infrastructure like computers, scanners, Internet connectivity, photocopiers, etc.  Isolated information technology solutions are available in many Asian countries, but these systems are generally restricted to tracking the status of pending applications.

It pays to invest in raising long-term awareness. Information laws have empowered citizens to seek information from public authorities, making the government more accountable and responsible. Unlike some non-regional countries which took several years to operationalize the law, it took many Asian countries only a few months. This is not enough time to change the mindset of the people in government, create the necessary infrastructure, develop new processes, and build capacity to deliver information as now mandated by law, leading to several implementation issues that need to be properly addressed.

Publicity about information laws and their provisions is critical. Generally, in poor countries, awareness is still low, especially among women, the rural population, and marginalized groups. Interestingly enough, citizens and disadvantaged communities tend to be significantly more aware of government schemes focused on socioeconomic development than their own right to information. In a 2011 study by an NGO in Bangladesh, more than 75% of respondents identified inadequate publicity of the law as the biggest challenge in accessing information. Indeed, a clear indication of the slow progress of the law in Bangladesh is the fact that by 2014 the Information Commission only received about 700 complaints, an insignificant number given it was over 5 years since the law was passed. By any account, this number is very small in a country with a population of over 150 million.

One possible explanation is that most government organizations—and sometimes NGOs too—are used to doing things in a secretive way, which leads to concentration of power and widening of discretion, both ingredients of poor and unaccountable governance. For example, the 1923 Official Secrets Act in Bangladesh effectively constrains the bureaucracy from sharing information freely. NGOs and civil society, though, are crucial to publicizing the usage of the law. The Bangladesh government, in collaboration with the Manusher Jonno Foundation, has incorporated the right to information in the civil service training course.

Other constraints are exemptions and harassment. In many Asian countries there are exemptions to the law, and in the case of Bangladesh the Right to Information Forum reported in 2012 that almost 3 out of 10 information requests were not honored due to exemptions. Likewise, citizens are often subject to harassment when seeking information they are entitled to by having to visit the information provider’s office multiple times due to failure by the designated officers to produce information within the stipulated time. Most information seekers are professionals like journalists, lawyers, environmentalists, NGO workers, retired government officials, or businessmen, which demonstrates that simple enactment of information laws is not enough to empower marginalized people. There is a need for more proactive measures to help reap the benefits of their right to information.

Although many countries have incorporated the right to information into their domestic legislation, the free flow of information is still restricted. Enactment is not enough, as we need a strong civil society to create effective demand for information as well as a change in the culture and attitude of the government. Seeking information through the law is just the beginning of a journey to establish truth and/or justice for citizens. From a marginalized individual’s deprivation of an entitlement to corruption allegations in major national infrastructural projects, the right to information can produce results, and help establish good governance.

Land Watch Asia

We are posting this news shared by Solidarity Towards Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (KAISAHAN).

photo by KAISAHAN Photo by KAISAHAN.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Office of Leyte announced postponement of land installations in Barangays Valencia and Sumanga in Ormoc, Leyte on 9 February 2016 affecting around 30 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).

DAR recalled its own writ of installation allegedly due to a filed case of cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership and Acquisition (CLOA) over the land by other farmers. Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) II Renato Badilla sent orders stating that previous landowners, Tan Landholdings and the Potenciano & Anecita Larrazabal Enterprises Corporation (PALEC) opposed the installations in the 30 and 35 hectares of land in the two barangays due to the alleged erroneous coverage of the subject landholdings.

Together with the farmers, KAISAHAN expressed their frustration to the non-installment. Atty. Claire Demaisip of KAISAHAN pointed out that…

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  • Cattle struggle to graze amid the dzud-like conditions of rural Mongolia
MANILA, PHILIPPINES  – Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director Robert Schoellhammer and the Minister of Finance of Mongolia Bolor Bayarbaatar today signed a $2 million grant agreement as part of a United Nations-led emergency response for herders and their families afflicted by a protracted climate disaster in Mongolia, known as a “dzud.”“A livelihood and food crisis has been evolving in many parts of the country due to the dzud, under which an unusually dry summer is followed by a heavy winter snow and plummeting temperatures,” said Robert Schoellhammer, ADB Country Director in Mongolia. “Millions of animals that are unable to graze properly face starvation, jeopardizing the livelihoods and even lives of the herders who depend on them for income and food.”

According to the National Emergency Management Authority, snow this winter covered 90% of Mongolia’s total territory. The government said that at the end of March, about one third of Mongolia’s 339 districts were still in severe dzud or near-dzud conditions.

The number of animals that died as a result of the heavy snow and cold weather reached 669,000 by the end of March, the government said. The UN feared the number of dead animals could reach 1.2 million during the spring, when—on past experience—weak and starved animals could die in large numbers. From 1999, Mongolia was hit by dzuds for 3 years in a row, resulting in a reported loss of 11 million animals. This year, herders are culling their livestock, rather than letting them die of starvation, leading to an oversupply of meat and skins on the market and sending prices plummeting.

The UN estimates that more than 225,000 people or 41% of the total herder population are now feeling the impact of adverse weather conditions, including more than 28,000 children under the age of 5. It has indicated that $14.3 million is required for immediate assistance for the most vulnerable herder households.

Under these circumstances, the government requested the grant assistance from ADB’s Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, which was established in 2009 to provide resources to developing member countries for the restoration of life-preserving services to communities affected by a natural disaster.

ADB’s grant complements some $2.4 million being provided by the UN and will help address the most urgent needs of the vulnerable and affected populations, including food, hay, forage, medical supplies, and fuel.

In Mongolia, ADB approvals amounted to $297.5 million in 2015, including 4 sovereign loans for $275 million, 2 project grants for 6 million, and 17 technical assistance grants for $16.5 million.

By Caitlin Pierce