Archive for the ‘Newsletter’ Category

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.


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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

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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.

See the photo story

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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.

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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.

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By Nita Bhalla

New Delhi : For as long as she can remember, Panchi Sahariya and those in her tribal community in central India have been threatened, harassed, beaten and even arrested for living on land which does not legally belong to them. But there is nowhere else to go, she says. For over 40 years, the forest village of Nibheri in Madhya Pradesh state has been home to 150 families of the Sahariya tribe and their children have been born and brought up there.

“We have no land of our own. We had no choice but to live in the jungle. We survive from the little farming we do there. But there is no comfort, there is no security,” she said. “The forest department guards come and threaten us and tell us to move. Sometimes they have even beaten us and taken our people to jail for protesting over the land.”

Sahariya is one of more than 5,000 people from India’s most impoverished communities who gathered in the capital this week to demand Prime Minister Narendra Modi bring in a law guaranteeing the rural poor the right to shelter. Despite wide recognition of the link between poverty and landlessness in India, and a slew of policies over the years aimed at helping the people secure housing, more than half of rural Indians do not have a permanent homestead.

Data from India’s 2011 Socio Economic and Caste census released last year showed that 100 million families, that is 56 percent of all rural households, were landless. Most are from low caste or indigenous communities, who have faced decades of neglect and social discrimination, and continue to live on the margins of society – partly due to a failure to enforce laws aimed at their uplift.

Social indicators such as infant and maternal mortality rates, literacy and monthly income are worse than national averages and their access to quality services such as good hospitals and schools remains a serious challenge. Homestead bill neglected After years of campaigning for land rights by the social movement Ekta Parishad which has organised multiple rallies involving thousands of homeless rural poor the government drafted legislation in 2013.

The National Rural Homestead Bill calls for a democratic and market-friendly land reform programme, providing landless families with plots of land the size of small football fields. The bill provides that titles for the land, which would be around 4,400 square metres, be registered in the name of the woman, rather than jointly by the male and female head of the household.

To ensure accountability of the local authorities, it also stipulates a time frame of five years for India’s 29 states and seven union territories to enforce the law. But the draft bill has never been presented before parliament, despite repeated promises by both the previous and current government to introduce it to lawmakers.

Activists acknowledge that land reform, like in many other countries, is a highly political issue but argue that securing tenure for the landless will help stem the rapid and uncontrolled urbanisation India currently faces. India’s towns and cities are projected to swell by an additional 404 million people by 2050, as villagers migrate to urban areas in search of opportunities and better standard of living, says the United Nations.

More significantly, experts say, land in India is the biggest predictor of poverty. Insecurity traps people in extreme impoverishment, restricts economic growth, and sparks conflict. “When women and men gain secure rights to land, they can begin investing in their land to improve their harvests and their lives,” says the land rights group, Landesa. “Further, land rights in India act as a gateway right.

When women and men gain secure rights to land, they can access a host of government services from work and nutrition programmes to agricultural extension services.” Research by Landesa suggests clarifying and strengthening land rights could increase India’s GDP by as much as 476 billion rupees  ($7 billion).

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Written by: Jeffrey Gerobin

Fresh produce at a market in Thailand.
Fresh produce at a market in Thailand.

In our February blog poll about inclusive business, we asked readers where they believe there is the most opportunity for commercially viable solutions to the poor’s problems ahead of the 2nd Inclusive Business Forum for Asia.

Over 400 representatives of companies, social enterprises, investors, banks, business associations, and governments gathered last month at the forum, organized by ADB and 8 development partners, to discuss how private sector firms can create profitable businesses that make an impact on poor and low-income people. Inclusive business models target the market at the base of the income pyramid through affordable goods and services and decent jobs; this doesn’t mean, however, that these companies don’t turn a profit. Inclusive business is highly profitable, as inclusive business firms embrace innovation to reduce costs and enlarge their reach. Inclusive business is also part of the overall market for impact investing, estimated at over $10 billion worldwide.

The majority (37%) of our readers picked agribusiness as the sector with most potential to create inclusive business opportunities. That’s no surprise, as the majority of the low-income population live in rural areas, where poverty incidence is high and jobs are badly needed. To reduce poverty and create employment, though, inclusive business companies must operate on a large scale, so business models must be scalable and capable of providing income higher than the market rate.

Likewise, agribusiness is crucial to food security in Asia and the Pacific, which will need to boost its food production systems by 70% to feed 5.2 billion people by 2030. In particular, inclusive business firms engaging smallholder farmers are making waves. A 2015 report from Hystra noted how inclusive business firms that work with smallholders help increase the income and livelihoods of farmers through sourcing produce from them or selling products to them. These companies share technology to boost yields, make smallholders less risk-averse in terms of new business models, reward ‘early adopters,’ and integrate farmers them into the value chain.

Governments are also becoming increasingly aware of the importance of enabling the environment for inclusive business companies, especially in agribusiness. ADB has assisted the Government of the Philippines in piloting an inclusive business accreditation system where most of the companies assessed were agribusiness firms. Governments should realign their policies to encourage more companies willing to adopt inclusive business models.

28% of poll respondents encouraged inclusive business companies in Asia to focus on renewable energy. Simpa Networks, which provides affordable pay-as-you-go solar energy solutions for poor consumers in India, benefited from early ADB support to scale up its operations, and last year secured a $6 million loan from the Clean Technology Fund to expand its off-grid solar home system service to underserved markets in rural areas.

In our survey, 20% of participants noted that businesses can provide solutions to the poor’s problems and make a profit in education. An example of this is Hippocampus Learning Centers, which employs unqualified women from Indian villages and trains them to teach pre-school children and manage its learning centers. Hippocampus’ business model enables low-income consumers to receive education hitherto reserved for the urban middle classes, while low-income employees to get a new source of income. The firm in turn benefits from a low-cost workforce culturally attuned to caring for small children.

Finally, 15% of respondents chose water and sanitation as an interesting sector to do inclusive business with. ADB is currently discussing with several microfinance institutions and banks ways to provide toilets for the rural poor in India.

This blog is part of a series of blogs about inclusive business in Asia written by a wide range of experts following ADB’s 2nd Inclusive Business Forum for Asia in Manila. Visit the new Inclusive Business in Asia site here.

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