Posts Tagged ‘Asia’

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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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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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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SOURCE: Asian Development Blog

The number of women involved in agriculture can no longer be ignored – on average 43% of Asian farmers are women. This varies from South Asia, where about  35 % of women work in farms, to East and South East Asia, where over 46% of farmers are women.

An organic vegetable farmer in the Lao PDR.An organic vegetable farmer in the Lao PDR.

In most cases, though, women work as free or poorly paid labor, working hard to transplant rice, harvest crops and in post-harvest support jobs like drying and storage. In many Asian countries, the number of women farmers is growing, as more men leave the farm for better job opportunities in the city.

The link between equal chances for men and women and food security is not often made. Women farmers do not have the same access as men to resources like land, water and fertilizers. Research by the Food and Agriculture Organization shows that this inequality affects the region’s potential for food and nutrition security. If women farmers were better supported to reach their full potential, the FAO estimates they could produce 20-30% more food. This could be a significant contribution to efforts needed to increase food production by an overall 60 % to meet global demand by 2050.

Worldwide, women and girls face unequal opportunities, and Asia is no exception – especially in countries where deep cultural traditions influence the role and mobility of women in society. Improving agriculture production requires access to land, access to knowledge, and access to markets. This is not so easy for women in some Asian countries where men are traditionally or even legally entitled to inherit land or receive a larger share of it as inheritance than women. These customs increase the dependency of women on men, and limit them from owning land which to generate income for themselves and their families.

Knowledge is power, but rural women have little access to education. In times of (economic) crises, girls are the first to be kept at home. This hampers opportunities for women and girls to develop outside of their households, and for instance to support innovation on their farms. It also prevents them from learning how to access agriculture advice, such as improving cultivation techniques, land and water management, and pest and disease control. This has a direct effect on how women grow crops, and limits the production levels that could be achieved.

Women also balance the burdens of household chores with agricultural activities. Limited mobility outside the home, poor education and little or no ownership of resources means finding markets to sell agriculture produce at competitive prices is even more difficult.

Climate change and increasing demand for water will affect irrigated agriculture in Asia and the Pacific. And as this will be exacerbated by Asian men moving from rural areas to cities to look for better jobs, it will be women farmers who will grow tomorrow’s food in the region.

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SOURCE: Asian Development Blog

In our October blog poll, we asked readers what they believed was the biggest climate change threat to people in Asia and the Pacific, the world’s most vulnerable region to the effects of climate change.
Just a few weeks before the crucial COP21 climate talks are scheduled to begin in Paris, much of the global attention is focused on Asia, home to the world’s top polluter (People’s Republic of China); the disaster-prone archipelagos of Indonesia and the Philippines; low-lying nations threatened by sea-level rise such as Bangladesh, the Maldives, and several Pacific island nations; and arid states suffering periodic droughts like parts of India and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The GermanWatch Global Climate Risk Index 2015 notes that 6 of the 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change—Cambodia, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam—are in Asia, which by 2030 will also account for 20 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or 46% of the world’s total.
Devastation caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana (Ondoy) in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Jundio Salvador for ADB’s #Click4Climate contest.
Devastation caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana (Ondoy) in Manila, Philippines. Photo by Jundio Salvador for ADB’s #Click4Climate contest.
To mitigate the effects of climate change warming and help developing Asia adapt to the effects of climate change, ADB recently announced that it would double its annual climate financing to $6 billion by 2020. Needs remain huge, though, with adaptation costs alone estimated at $40 billion per year. On top of that, natural hazards inflict heavy losses on Asian countries, averaging $63.1 billion each year, according to the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database.
It is therefore no surprise that 44% of our readers see natural hazards as the top climate-induced threat in the region. In the past decade alone, the region has suffered calamities of biblical proportions like Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever to hit land, which killed over 6,000 people in the Philippines in late 2013.
The death toll, though, is just the tip of the iceberg of the impact of climate extreme events on developing Asia. Between 1975 and 2014, calamities cost Asia and the Pacific over $1.5 trillion in economic losses, 44% of the world’s total and far higher than the region’s share in global gross domestic product. These costs make it harder for government to finance preparation against the impacts of future natural hazards, which are expected to become even more frequent and intense as weather becomes more unpredictable.
Indeed, 33% of respondents to the poll said changing weather patterns were the biggest threat climate change poses to Asia and the Pacific. This year is already the hottest on record thanks to the current El Niño event, which has sparked deadly heat waves in India and Pakistan, widespread drought in several countries in Southeast Asia, and could lead to a food security crisis in Papua New Guinea and Pacific island nations if warming ocean temperatures don’t start subsiding by next year.
During the last El Niño in 2010, prices of staple foodstuffs like rice rose by as much as 45%. And today, many poor people continue to suffer food and water shortages – even in upper middle-income economies such as Thailand. With over 60% of the region’s population working in agriculture, fisheries, and forestry, unpredictable weather patterns are a very serious concern.
For 12% of our readers, sea level rise is the most serious climate concern, and this is certainly the major preoccupation in low-lying islands like the Maldives and Tuvalu, or in the low-lying areas of countries like Bangladesh and Viet Nam. Rapidly increasing water salinity is destroying crops in coastal areas and increasingly encroaching farther inland. A further 6% of respondents said higher temperatures were the main threat, while another 5% pointed to acidic oceans, which damage corals and precious fish stocks that depend on them.
Clearly the impacts of climate change are both widespread and vary country by country and community by community. We need urgent action in Paris on a legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions but also adequate financing to ensure developing countries in Asia and beyond can adapt in the way that best suits them.

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  • From left to right: ADB Vice-President Stephen P. Groff; Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon; and Shamshad Akhtar, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP.
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES – Implementation of the newly agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, inclusive of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will be supported in Asia and the Pacific by a renewed partnership forged on Tuesday by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), on the sidelines of the 70th United Nations General Assembly in New York.Heads of state and ministers, private sector and civil society representatives, as well as senior officials of international organizations from Asia and the Pacific shared perspectives on addressing key implementation challenges for sustainable development in the region and supported the partnership at a joint side event on the theme Making it Happen: Transitioning from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to SDGs in Asia and the Pacific.

At a signing ceremony ahead of the high-level forum, ESCAP, UNDP and ADB announced that they will deepen their existing collaboration to advance regional action to end poverty and inequality, support better environmental stewardship, and promote shared prosperity and well-being for all. This will be achieved by facilitating high-level policy dialogues and capacity building services, delivering quality knowledge products and promoting strategic development cooperation in the region.

Shamshad Akhtar, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, emphasized that a different approach to inclusive growth and sustainable development is urgently needed to ensure the success of the 2030 Agenda in the countries of Asia and the Pacific. “Our regional experience, and relative success in MDG achievement, has set the stage for implementation of the SDGs,” said Ms. Akhtar. “What we need now is a focus on areas such as financing, science, technology and innovation – and in this context we have to lead on policy consistency and coherence.”

“Building the future we want requires mainstreaming sustainable development in national plans and budgets, and backing them with strong follow-up and review at the regional level.”

Stephen P. Groff, Vice-President of ADB pointed out that how the region balances economic prosperity, social equity and environmental responsibility will matter not just to Asia and the Pacific, but to the world. “ADB applauds the increased ambition of the SDGs and will support these in Asia through increased investments in human needs, infrastructure, and cross-border public goods. This renewed tripartite collaboration around the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs will contribute to regional policy dialogue and knowledge services, complementing national actions,” said Mr. Groff.

“In financing sustainable development, ADB will increase its overall lending by up to 50% from 2017 to around $20 billion a year and double its climate financing to $6 billion a year by 2020.”

On the occasion of signing the tripartite agreement, Haoliang Xu, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP, underscored the importance of technology and innovation in helping achieve the lofty goals. “The bold global goals agreed to by the world leaders last week will require innovation and extensive action to deliver widespread prosperity in Asia and the Pacific, and to meet the ambitions for people and the planet,” said Mr. Xu. “UNDP stands ready to support countries in the region to help quickly integrate the 2030 agenda into national plans, so that aspirations can be fast-tracked into development results.”

Welcoming the new partnership at the high-level forum, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon said: “We attach importance to the harmonization of the previous strategies with the new agenda for sustainable development for the post 2015 period, and we attach special importance to regional cooperation in development of infrastructure, including realization of projects on construction of railroads and highways, transmission lines and gas pipelines.”

The Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, added: “Pacific small island developing states need, more than ever, to work with a coordinated United Nations system because we need to move quickly to identify and implement programs which will help our nations deal immediately with the needs of our people and region.”

The original partnership between UNDP and ESCAP dates from 2001, with ADB having joined in 2004. The three partners embarked on a regional MDGs project to monitor development progress in Asia and the Pacific in a unified way. Over the last decade, the partnership has evolved into a significant regional platform for policy dialogue, with the Regional MDG Report series contributing to higher visibility of MDGs issues and strengthening cross-country exchange of ideas for MDG achievement. The new agreement will build on this partnership to support the efforts of member States to ensure effective implementation of the SDGs.

For further information, contact:

Katie Elles
Public Information Officer, Strategic Communications and Advocacy Section, ESCAP
T: (66) 2 288 1865 M: (66) 9481 525 36
E: elles@un.org

Stanislav Saling
Media Relations & Public Affairs, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, UNDP
T: (1) 212 906 6575, M: (1) 917 346 1955
E: stanislavsaling@undp.org

Harumi Kodama
Team Leader, Media Relations, Department of External Relations, ADB
T: +63 2 632 5291, M: +63 908 888 6701
E: hkodama@adb.org

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Global Witness has been documenting the Papua New Guinea government’s failed response to one of the largest land grabs in modern history. In recent years roughly 12 per cent of the country has been annexed to timber and palm oil companies using a leasing system intended for small-scale agriculture. Three years after a national inquiry was launched into allegations of widespread fraud and illegality surrounding the acquisition of this land, the government has taken no meaningful action to defend its citizen’s rights to their land and halt the wholesale destruction of rainforests of global importance.

Our briefing paper documents:

  • Government inaction – The government has failed to stop any logging operations under Special Agriculture & Business Leases, even where an official investigation recommended they be cancelled.
  • Breakdown in law and order – Logging and exports continue unabated and with the support of local police and forest authorities in the one operational Special Agriculture & Business Lease the government has cancelled.
  • Failure to complete review of leases – More than three years after committing to review the legality of these leases, around 40% have not been reviewed, including the three largest timber exporting operations.
  • More logging authorized – The National Forest Board continues to issue and renew permits to log and clear rainforest under this leasing system, ignoring community complaints and the government’s own decision to repeal it.
  • Timber grabbing – Many Special Agriculture & Business Leases have been used for industrial logging rather than their intended purpose to promote agricultural development. These leases now account for nearly a third of the country’s total log exports, with an export value of roughly US$100 million a year.
  • Total impunity – No government officials or companies involved in the abuse of these leases have been prosecuted or sanctioned where evidence of criminality or negligence was uncovered by an official investigation.

Briefing paper available here: https://www.globalwitness.org/documents/10526/png_brief.pdf

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