Archive for August 16, 2011

PHILIPPINE PEPPER UNDERCUTS DENGUE

August 16, 2011

PHILIPPINE PEPPER UNDERCUTS DENGUE
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A very good news had sprouted from out of my beloved country the Philippines, concerning the cure to dengue. Among the perennial epidemics in the country, dengue had killed too many to count for nigh centuries already, and continues to make sweeping attacks in both urban and rural areas.
The pepper variety is no other than the black pepper that we commonly use as condiment. Extracts of the black pepper can kill larvae according to scientists, though the exact information cannot be divulged as a matter of protecting intellectual property.
Below is the wonderful report on undercutting dengue.
[Philippines, 20 July 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/pepper-traps-cut-dengue-fever-in-the-philippines.html
Pepper traps cut dengue fever in the Philippines
Joel D. Adriano
11 July 2011
[MANILA] A trap that uses an extract from black pepper to kill mosquito eggs and larvae has dramatically cut rates of dengue fever in areas of the Philippines where it has been tested, say its developers.
Scientists have known that extracts of black pepper (Piper nigrum) kill larvae, and chemicals similar to those found in black peppercorns have been suggested as mosquito repellents.
Now Nuna Almanzor, director of the Industrial Technology Development Institute, at the Philippine Department of Health, says researchers at this institute have developed a special formula with an additional ingredient that boosts peppercorn’s anti-mosquito activity.
But she declined to give the exact details of the mechanism for intellectual property reasons, while the institute waits for a patent approval.
Female mosquitoes are attracted to the black colour of a trap container, where they lay eggs on a wooden stick submerged under the water solution containing peppercorn.
Only two per cent of these eggs hatch and mature into adults, and the solution also kills adult mosquitoes by interfering with their feeding ability, said Almanzor.
In two provinces south of Manila, where the trap was launched in February, dengue cases dropped sharply in the first six months of 2011 compared with the same period in 2010.
In Northern Samar, dengue cases dropped from 74 to zero, and in Leyte from 190 down to three. Dengue cases in areas without the traps have remained high.
Almanzor said they have agreements with two firms to produce commercially a pellet containing the pepper. The traps could be made at home or purchased for less than ten Philippine peso (around 20 US cents) and a pack of five-to-ten pellets will cost just two US cents. One pellet will be enough to trap mosquitoes for a week and an average household may need up to four traps.
The Department of Health will be promoting the traps in places of high dengue incidence.
Dengue fever, spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is common in Asia and Latin America, but there is no cure or vaccine yet. Last year there were 120,000 dengue fever cases in the Philippines
Almanzor said that the traps could be useful in other countries and for curbing other diseases, such as malaria, since they work with any mosquito species.
Nelia Salazar, a consultant for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, at the Philippine Department of Science and Technology, said that the technology could be the best so far in the array of strategies against dengue. These include the traditional drive to remove water that mosquitoes lay their eggs in, insecticide spraying and the releasing of genetically modified insects, which could have unintended consequences.
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MALARIA D’APES & MONKEYS

August 16, 2011

MALARIA D’APES & MONKEYS
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We have a new alarming development concerning malaria spread. Gorillas and monkeys might just happen to be the dreaded carriers of the disease, a news that could cause chagrin on the legendary Tarzan.
This analyst has no fondness for Tarzan philosophy, but is more focused on highlighting risks to communities caused by a diversity of factors such as diseases. Being a development worker for long, I contracted malaria while doing field work and almost died of the falciparum disease in 1982.
We have no evidence yet of malaria being transmitted to humans by monkeys even though we do have species of monkeys among our diverse fauna. But Africa has shown less resiliency to that possibility, as shown in the report below.
[Philippines, 18 July 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/primate-malaria-in-africa-may-be-jumping-species.html
Primate malaria in Africa may be jumping species
Rachel Mundy
7 July 2011
A malaria parasite from gorillas has been found in an African monkey, suggesting it has jumped species and may be able to transfer to humans.
The finding has led some malaria experts to suggest that if transfer between monkeys and apes has occurred then monkey-to-human malaria transmission may already be happening. They have called for more research to quantify the risks.
“The evidence is sufficient to warrant further investigation into the possibility that these parasites may also jump to humans,” said Beatrice Hahn, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, United States. “We need to screen humans who live in flying range of mosquitoes that also bite primates, to establish whether they are susceptible to the primate parasites.”
Wild forest-living gorilla populations are known to harbour a parasite strain that is closely related to the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. And macaque monkeys in South-East Asia carry another malaria parasite, Plasmodium knowlesi — a potential threat to humans.
But this is the first time that a P. falciparum strain similar to the one that causes human malaria has been found in an African monkey — the spot-nosed guenon from Gabon (Cercopithecus nictitans).
The fact that “the genetic differences from the human strain are so slight” raises the possibility that monkey and ape malaria may be transmitted to humans, said François Renaud, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research, in Montpelier, and co-author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (5 July).
As humans come into closer contact with apes and monkeys as a result of deforestation, commercial hunting and population growth, the opportunity for the parasites to be transmitted to humans will increase.
“One single successful cross-species transmission event has the potential to result in a major human pandemic,” Hahn, who was not involved in the study, told SciDev.Net. 

But David Conway, professor of biology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, said the reservoir of malaria in African monkeys must be very small, given the low prevalence found in this study.
“Hopefully, monkey malaria will start to be recognised as an important area of research, but when examining the public health significance for humans, it is important to put the risk into context. Normal human malaria has a much higher prevalence, except in parts of South-East Asia where this has been reduced and the importance of malaria from monkeys has become more noticeable,” Conway said.
Looking for human infections with monkey malaria is “like looking for a needle in a haystack”, he said, adding that “there is every chance that human infections are occurring occasionally in the forest”.
“In this particular case, the vector of malaria is the key determinant in determining any public-health risk,” Conway said. “Identifying which species of mosquitoes transmits each parasite strain is a neglected area of research that needs additional funding.”
Link to abstract in PNAS
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SCIENCE JOURNALISTS PRESS FREEDOM

August 16, 2011

SCIENCE JOURNALISTS PRESS FREEDOM
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Assessing the link between science and journalism is an emerging concern across the globe. There may be rampant incidences of journalists being denied access to scientists, incidences that feed into the fertile mindsets of conspiracy theorists.
Let us take the case of astronomers in the USA for instance. Astronomers have stumbled upon the fact that all the planets of our solar system are undergoing radical changes in their polar regions, a fact that tend to undercut the ecofascist contention that climate change is solely localized to Earth. Accordingly, astronomers in the know are being exterminated in America, a silent decimation aimed to keep the information classified.
Ecofascist circles are being primed to replace old-fogey communism as an ideological weapon of the global oligarchy to heap up anti-human hysteria. That is, blame humanity for the ecological woes of Earth, thus rationalizing the mad agenda to depopulate Earth down to a manageable level of 2 Billion by 2050.
Below is a report on the state of science-journalism link.
[Philippines, 18 July 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/editorials/press-freedom-the-next-challenge-for-science-journalists-1.html
Press freedom: the next challenge for science journalists
David Dickson
8 July 2011
Government attempts to control science communication clash with public demands for accountability, and journalists must resist this trend.
Until recently, distrust has been the biggest obstacle preventing scientists interacting with journalists in the developing world. Scientists have feared — often with justification — that they will be misquoted and their work misrepresented by journalists who do not understand the technical details.
This has resulted in a frequent reluctance even to grant interviews. “Go away and read my paper” has too often been scientists’ response to journalists seeking information about their work.
Fortunately, this is now changing. Scientists are becoming more willing to come out of their ivory towers. In Malaysia, for example, researchers are encouraged to be more open about their research and its implications as part of their funding contract.
Journalists, in turn, are becoming more professional in their approach, supported by initiatives such as the SjCOOP training programme of the World Federation of Science Journalists.
But the old barriers to communication are being replaced by a new one: efforts by governments and institutions to control the content of the communication process. This was one of the key messages of the highly successful World Conference of Science Journalists held in Doha, Qatar, last week.
As journalists increase their skills in seeking out ‘the news behind the news’, governments and research institutions are responding by placing obstacles in the way of reporters who, correctly, see their role as more than reproducing press releases or official statements.
The challenge ahead for science journalists is to contest this trend, which conflicts directly with public demands for transparency and accountability — demands fuelled by the growing popularity of social media.
Access denied
Transparency and accountability in the way that scientific knowledge is generated, used and distributed is essential at a time when tackling so many of the world’s problems, from climate change to food security, requires decisions made on robust evidence.
Science journalists have a key role in ensuring that this happens. They can also help remove obstacles that prevent the transparent use of scientific information, for example by highlighting occasions when their access to information has been blocked, or by pushing for legislation that makes transparency a requirement for public funding.
Sadly, participants in last week’s meeting heard of several instances in which journalists were denied access to scientists in the course of their work.
Richard Stone, for example, the Asia news editor of the journal Science, told delegates how local government officials in the Chinese province of Yunnan barred him from speaking to researchers studying an unexplained disease — known as Yunnan Unknown Cause Sudden Death — even though he had been granted permission by the national government in Beijing.
There were more stories from journalists working in other countries. In Egypt, journalists have been told not to make direct contact with scientists despite having a proven track record of accurate reporting.
The problem is not restricted to developing countries. Several science journalists reported difficulties in getting technical information from the Japanese government about the damage to the nuclear plant at Fukushima after the tsunami hit the country’s northeast coast.
And in Canada, new rules have been introduced restricting the access of journalists to government scientists. Journalist Margaret Munro said that climate change scientists can no longer speak freely to the media, and gave examples of cases where journalists had their interviews recorded by press officers, after obtaining their consent.
Press freedom
Restrictions imposed for credible reasons of national security are clearly appropriate. The same is true when commercial confidentiality is at stake.
But attempting to gag scientists who may be critical of government policy or report findings that may prove embarrassing to government officials is a different issue.
Some speakers at the Doha meeting, including Stone, suggested that journalists counter these restrictions by avoiding official channels of communication, such as press officers, and contact scientists directly. This is now easier than ever before, with email and mobile telephones.
This is, however, an extreme solution. It may provide the information that a journalist is seeking, but it puts scientists at risk, particularly when they are being officially discouraged from talking to the media. And it can only exacerbate tensions between research institutions, government agencies and the science journalists who cover their activities.
A long-term solution requires governments to accept that transparency in all their affairs — including the work of their scientists — is essential for the effective functioning of a modern democracy. The press must also accept that it has a responsibility to use this transparency wisely.
And scientists can add their weight to journalists seeking the lifting of excessive restrictions, both within their institutions and at a political level.
Last week’s meeting was moved from Cairo to Doha because of continuing uncertainties over the recent unrest in Egypt. And delegates were constantly reminded that what united the protesters in Tahrir Square was a common commitment to greater accountability by the Egyptian government.
There were also reminders that developed and developing countries alike have had to fight, over many centuries, for the prized commitment to the freedom of the press that helps to make this greater accountability possible.
The next conference, to take place in Helsinki, Finland, in two years’ time, will, in the words of its organisers, include an exploration of the work of science journalists around the world “in the light of the Enlightenment-period notions of critical questioning and the public sphere”.
This will be an excellent opportunity to explore in greater detail how vital it is for science journalism that governments respect the free flow of scientific information. It will also be an opportunity to take stock of the pressures that prevent this from happening, and the steps that are needed to resist them.
David Dickson
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VACCINE FEARS

August 16, 2011

VACCINE FEARS
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

How far do vaccines work? Is vaccination an opportunity or a threat to communities suffering from epidemic and pandemic outbursts?
Vaccination has generated its own level of fear responses, as cases of vaccination failures have led to fatalities on the parts of poor patients. Let it be stressed that pandemics, such as those that struck Africa, often than not strike down the poor classes, thus generating toxic fears that the vaccines coming from the West are meant as genocide bacteriological warfare weaponry.
Devising ways & means to track vaccine fears is a challenge to healthcare stakeholders across the globe. Below is one reportorial discussion on the subject.
[Philippines, 17 July 2011]
Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/system-tracks-vaccine-fears-around-the-globe.html
System tracks vaccine fears around the globe
Smriti Mallapaty
4 July 2011
[LONDON] Fears of a growing mistrust of vaccinations in developing countries have led academics to set up a ‘listening station’ that monitors local responses to new immunisation campaigns.
Researchers at the UK-based London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are hoping their system will alert them when concerns have passed thresholds beyond which there may be a risk to the smooth implementation of a programme.
“I have been seeing an increasing number of episodes of communities, governments and individuals questioning vaccines and refusing them, even in some of the poorest countries,” said Heidi Larson, senior lecturer at LSHTM and principal investigator for the project.
“After several years of fire-fighting, I started to see patterns where early intervention could have prevented boycotts,” she said.
The project started in November 2009. Data are collected from local media, official and local observer reports and categorised by country, source, type of disease, vaccine and issue raised.
Risk is allocated to three categories, ranging from a potential problem requiring more data-gathering, to immediate action being needed to prevent vaccine refusal.
In Kenya, the researchers are piloting a ‘listening system’ model that documents local opinion as it emerges following the launch of the pneumococcal vaccine last February.
Today, mobile phones, the Internet and social media are providing new methods of self-organisation for those on all sides of vaccine debates.
Larson and colleagues recently published a case study in The Lancet examining the suggested link between the tetanus vaccine and sterility that disrupted immunisation campaigns across the world and led to a 45 per cent drop in coverage in the Philippines between 1994 and 1995.
They found that the Internet had been crucial in allowing the pro-life Catholic group Human Life International to communicate these fears to its members in over 60 countries, including Mexico, Nicaragua and the Philippines.
The eruption of fear usually results from underlying social and political issues, said the researchers. When fears arose in Uttar Pradesh in India that the polio vaccine might induce sterility, analysts found that mistrust revolved around the person administering the vaccine — often non-local men.
“When you have a group that is marginalised and is very conscious of its marginalisation, it is not a surprise that they would be more suspicious of government-driven initiatives,” said Larson.
Thomas Abraham, director of the public health communication programme at the University of Hong Kong, said: “I think that any tool that tells you that there is a problem is useful”.
“The question then becomes, what are you going to do about these rumours?”
He said that communication needed to be the starting point for any public health programme. “Health communication, especially around vaccines, is still very much in the dark ages.”
Link to case study in The Lancet (free registration required)
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COMMERCIALIZING BIODIVERSITY IN COLOMBIA

August 16, 2011

COMMERCIALIZING BIODIVERSITY IN COLOMBIA
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Should biodiversity be commercialized? What are the stakes in commercialization? What are the costs, and who pay for them?
Colombia is home to 10% of the world’s biodiversity, a resource that its stakeholders wish to leverage in the market. Such an option comes at a time when biotechnology had grown to such a level that can aid biodiversity in sustaining itself.
Below is a summary report on the recent updates in Colombia’s biodiversity initiatives.
[Philippines, 16 July 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/colombia-to-commercialise-its-biodiversity.html
Colombia to commercialise its biodiversity
Lisbeth Fog
6 July 2011
[BOGOTÁ] Colombia has approved a policy that will map out plans for sustainable commercial use of its rich biodiversity resources, mainly through the development of biotechnology research.

The policy, approved by the government last month (14 June), includes plans to set up a national company for bioprospecting to link up with the commercial sector. It will be backed with US$14 million in government funds over the next four years.
Colombia’s goal is to enable the development of industries and products based on the sustainable use of its biodiversity. The country is home to ten per cent of the world’s known biodiversity.
The new policy should reduce the bottleneck created by the current regulations on access to genetic resources, Mauricio Rodríguez, manager of the biotechnology programme at the National Department for Science, Technology and Innovation and co-author of the document, told SciDev.Net. He said that new, more efficient regulations based on the policy will be ready in a month.
Juan Lucas Restrepo, director of the Colombian Corporation of Agricultural Research, a public research institute, welcomed the policy. He said the current legislation on access and benefit-sharing is not working adequately.
But Fernando Casas, a Colombian economist and a co-chair of the Intergovernmental Committee of the Nagoya Protocol, said it would be difficult to adapt this policy to the existing Andean Community of Nations agreement to which Colombia is a signatory.
The Andean agreement stresses sustainable conservation and the importance of recognising benefit-sharing with indigenous and local people, while the Colombian one stresses the importance of commercialising biodiversity through biotechnology research.
Some Colombian scientists have also said that the main obstacles in research on biodiversity resources are bureaucracy and lack of expertise within the Ministry of Environment — which are not addressed in this policy. This leads to delayed decisions in approval of licenses to get access to genetic resources.
Casas welcomed the policy as overdue but said it does not advance the three goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity — conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components and fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from using genetic resources.
He also warned that the document does not analyse the policy’s possible effects on Colombia’s Free Trade Agreement with United States, which has been in negotiation for years, especially with regards to its impact on intellectual property.

Link to full policy document (in Spanish)

INDEXING AFRICA-SPECIFIC SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS

August 16, 2011

INDEXING AFRICA-SPECIFIC SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

There seems to have been an abusive employment of universalistic yardsticks to measure scientific innovations across diverse countries. For instance, the preponderance on formalistic institutional developments have tended to favor Northern economies that have built universities and think-tanks across the centuries.

Such cross-cultural indices have incidentally overshadowed equally significant developments that could serve as yardsticks for innovations in any given Southern country. Therefore, the move towards idiographic assessments of innovations—based on culturally-specific indices—is novel an approach to unearthing those informal, primary sector engagements that were overlooked using Northern-biased yardsticks.

The case for Africa is shown in a report below.

[Philippines, 16 July 2011]

Source: http://www.scidev.net/en/opinions/africa-needs-its-own-indicators-of-scientific-innovation.html
Africa needs its own indicators of scientific innovation
Watu Wamae
6 July 2011 | EN
Policies to stimulate African development require evidence that is difficult to obtain using existing indicators, says policy analyst Watu Wamae.
Evidence-based indicators in science, technology and innovation (STI) help governments across the world to formulate policies and identify opportunities for development. The second round of a survey designed to capture such indicators across Africa, a project sponsored by SIDA, was recently launched in Ethiopia.
But if STI indicators are to contribute effectively to a sustainable path towards social and technological transformation, they need to be sensitive to the African context. Comparisons of indicators such as research and development (R&D) expenditure between African countries must not dominate policy discussions.
Besides, Africa is not well served by borrowing indicators from other regions. There is no point simply reinventing the wheel, but Africa must develop measures of STI activity that accurately reflect African economies and experiences that are likely to be neglected because existing methods to capture them are lacking.
In particular, we need to understand how to convert beneficial technologies into tangible benefits in Africa, and how to capture traditional as well as modern knowledge.
Collecting the right data
To develop effective indicators, African nations must first establish what resources they have and how to make the most of them.
Most African economies are dominated by agriculture, although some resource-rich countries have industries such as petroleum exploration or mining of minerals. In the current context of rapidly emerging economies such as China, the demand for natural resources will continue to grow, and these industries will continue to expand.
This demand is closely connected to the boom in the development of infrastructure across Africa, such as roads and ports, providing opportunities not only for economic activity, but also for learning about technology and applying scientific knowledge.
Ensuring that this development benefits people requires STI indicators that can help policymakers stimulate innovation in these sectors.
Existing methods of data collection provide neat and tidy indicators for manufacturing, among other sectors, but this is clearly not the main driver of most economies in Africa.
And although it is important to strengthen manufacturing, this must not come at the expense of other key sectors, such as agriculture, health, extractive industries and infrastructure development, even though these areas lag behind in useful methods for data collection and analysis.
Capturing complexity
Across Sub-Saharan Africa, the contribution of manufacturing to national income has not risen since the 1960s when it stood at 15 per cent. In Kenya, for example, manufacturing accounts for 12 per cent of national income, roughly half the contribution from agriculture (25 per cent) – and Kenya has one of the strongest manufacturing sectors on the continent.
Agriculture can involve the use of sophisticated technologies. And vegetables such as French beans and snow peas grown in Kenya are on supermarket shelves across Europe within 24 hours of being harvested.
But like other sectors, agriculture straddles the formal and informal economies. It also draws on both modern and traditional knowledge. The STI indicators used must capture this duality of knowledge systems, as well as the informality of the economic activity.
Agricultural innovation often results from work in research institutes — but also from the ingenuity of farmers, including those in remote areas, who use and adapt new ideas to suit their needs. These innovators are often part of informal networks that pool ideas and expertise, using them in novel ways to meet specific challenges.
This complexity raises the question of how STI indicators should be developed to capture innovative activity that is highly fragmented and informal, and that often goes undetected by existing processes.
I am not suggesting that those responsible for collecting STI data should single-handedly deal with these issues. There must be broader national ownership of processes to develop such indicators in a systemic, strategic way. People need to understand that, like a national census, the collection of STI data is useful, meaningful and deserving of their cooperation.
Beneficial technologies
Another major gap in Africa’s STI system is the lack of specialised capabilities for innovation — the process of converting knowledge to tangible benefits for people and communities.
This transformation depends on human capabilities or skills that can connect scientific output to local demand for solutions to existing problems. Without these capabilities, the products of scientific research will just gather dust.
Policymakers have tended to focus on capabilities for R&D to promote STI. But we need to give serious attention to the capabilities needed to translate the outputs from R&D into usable and accessible solutions to existing problems challenges — such as technical, engineering and managerial skills.
Producing STI indicators that overlook these capabilities is not likely to lead to evidence-based policies that can effectively leverage innovation for development.
Innovation is not just a technical process, but also a social and economic process of introducing beneficial technologies and helping countries achieve development. This is important for the shift from R&D as a determinant of progress to the broader perspective of innovation as a process of social transformation.
STI indicators must provide policymakers with the means to formulate evidence-based policy that is effective in mobilising innovation for development.
Watu Wamae is innovation and technology policy analyst for the non-profit research institute RAND Europe.
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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!

Social Blogs:
IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com
UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com

Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:
COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com
BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

Poetry & Art Blogs:
ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com
ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com

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@MULTIPLY: http://efdargon.multiply.com
@SOULCAST: http://www.soulcast.com/efdargon

Website:
PROF. ERLE FRAYNE ARGONZA: http://erleargonza.com

INCLUSIONARY POLITICS & GOVERNANCE AFTER ‘ARAB SPRING’

August 16, 2011

INCLUSIONARY POLITICS & GOVERNANCE AFTER ‘ARAB SPRING’
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Arab societies have been very exclusionary as regards politics & governance. The post-colonial era had long commenced and celebrated nascent nation-states after World War II, yet Arab political societies remain relatively ‘closed societies’.
The ‘Arab Spring’, a broad regional turmoil that has affected the entire Arab world, seems to offer a new opportunity to retool and re-engineer politics and governance. Those sectors or groups marginalized along religious sects, gender, generations, ethnicity, and class are challenging ossified structures and political cultures, thus creating windows of opportunities for grand re-engineering works.
This analyst had openly opined for an ‘open political society’ for the entire Arab world, even as he gave his moral support to youth revolutionists who have been spearheading the meltdown of tyrannical regimes in the region. My position hasn’t changed, though I am critical of world powers’ bombing addiction in Libya that has resulted to enormous ‘collateral damage’.
Below is a reportage about the UNDP’s efforts to change the frames of governance in the region after the Arab Spring.
[Philippines, 10 July 2011]
Source: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/presscenter/media_contacts.html
Clark: After the Arab spring, toward political and economic inclusion
22 June 2011
Speech by Helen Clark
“After the Arab Spring: Toward Political & Economic Inclusion in the Arab World”
At the Academy for Educational Development
Washington, D.C.
22 June 2011
My thanks go to Ambassador Chamberlin and the Middle East Institute for co-hosting this event with UNDP today focusing on events in the Arab States region.
Nearly ten years ago, UNDP began commissioning Arab Human Development Reports. The first four Reports drew attention to deficits in freedoms and governance, in education and the production and use of knowledge, and in women’s empowerment in the region.
The most recent report, in 2009, highlighted widespread challenges in the area of human security, including the high rates of youth unemployment throughout the region.
In recent months, the Arab Human Development Reports have been taken off the shelves again, dusted off, and quoted widely around the world. The credit for them, and for the salience of their findings, must go to the authors. They were writing and speaking from within the region, and not to the region from afar.
While covering different topics in depth, the central message of the reports has been clear – that in the interests of human development in the broad sense, change was needed in the region.
Those who have filled the streets and squares of the Arab States at great personal risk in recent months have called for that change to take place now.
They have braved batons and bullets to express their deep desire for dignity, opportunity, and the protection of their human rights.
They have called for a meaningful say in the decisions which shape their lives, and for an end to corruption, injustice, and repression.
A number of factors have contributed to the groundswell of anger against both economic and political exclusion and the denial of basic freedoms.
First, times became even tougher for many people in the region as growth rates declined with the global recession. As it was, even before the recession, according to the 2009 Arab Human Development Report the proportion of those in the Arab States living on under $2 a day is estimated to have declined only from about 22.5 per cent in 1990 to a little over twenty per cent in 2005, the most recent year for which this data is available.
In Egypt, the World Bank estimates that around nineteen per cent of people lived under $2 per day in 2005. Using a $3 a day poverty line, over fifty per cent of the population was poor. By this measure, around half of all Egyptians are particularly vulnerable to any income or price shocks – as there have been with the recession and with food and fuel price volatility. In a number of other countries in the region people suffer from similar vulnerabilities.
Unemployment has been a major challenge in the region, especially for young people. The under-25s make up over fifty per cent of the population, and they suffer rates of unemployment which are nearly twice the global average for youth.
There is also a mismatch between the supply of university graduates and the type of jobs available in this region. In Egypt, over twenty five per cent of young people with university degrees are unemployed. In Tunisia, that figure stands at around forty per cent.
It’s also worth noting that the unemployment rate counts only those in the job market – not those who are out of work but not job seekers. According to the ILO, Arab labour markets have the lowest labour force participation rates in the world. The female participation rate is especially low, at 27 per cent.
Many developed societies have also been deeply shaken by the global recession, food and fuel price volatility, and high rates of unemployment.
But the impacts tend to be cushioned there by social protection systems, and democracy has its own built-in safety valves for expression of discontent and for peaceful transfers of power.
In countries in the Arab States region with significant numbers of people under or close to the breadline, with large youth populations, without the democratic safety valve, and in many cases with outright repression of human rights, resentment boiled over into uprisings aimed at systemic change. That now opens up the prospect of building more inclusive economies, societies, and political systems and guaranteeing basic rights previously denied.
In order for the reform processes now underway to succeed and be sustainable, they have to be led and driven by national actors. Yet the international community can support the process. Let me mention some of the ways in which UNDP is doing just that.
A core part of our mandate is to support countries’ efforts to build democratic governance. In that work, we draw on the wide experience we have gained from our experience around the world, and the fact that we are a trusted partner and able to work in sensitive areas.
While in Cairo recently, I took part, together with the Egyptian Prime Minister, in an event UNDP organized for a broad cross-section of Egyptians and others from the region. The aim was to share experiences with those who had helped lead transitions to democracy in other parts of the world, including Latin America, South Africa, and Indonesia.
Beyond that event, we are supporting the formal multi-party national dialogue process in Egypt, and helping to identify ways to encourage young people to participate in the processes which will shape the future of this nation.

We are mobilising support for the development of the human rights architecture, anti-corruption mechanisms, and the decentralisation and local governance agendas. We are fielding experts to provide advice on asset recovery and security sector reform.

In Tunisia, UNDP is giving support to the new electoral commission and to the development of political parties. Work is also being done to help develop policy options for a strategy against corruption; to support an inclusive national dialogue; and to help strengthen civil society, including by supporting work on the new NGO regulatory framework. UNDP has also been asked to assist with security sector reform.
In all this work, I do believe it is essential to protect the rights of women and girls, to ensure that their voices too are heard, and that they are represented at the decision making tables.
We know, however, that building democratic governance alone is not enough. It has to be supplemented by supporting more inclusive economic growth which will reach young people and marginalized groups in general.
While longer term strategies are put in place, quick-win job creation is needed – an area in which UNDP has experience which can be drawn on by policymakers.

In Egypt, UNDP has been promoting job creation through small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro-credit schemes. We are also helping to design a public works programme to address short-term economic recovery challenges.

In Tunisia, we are designing coaching programmes for young people, and supporting labour intensive public works in a province whose economy has been badly affected by the Libyan crisis.
Country by country in the region, we are reviewing our programmes so that we can respond effectively to changing circumstances.
The full outcome of the events unfolding in the region is as yet unknown. Where regimes have fallen and transitions are under way, hopes are riding high, but there will be bumps along the way. Rapid transitions bring not only new opportunities, but also new lines of division and tension. The decline in economic growth in countries undergoing transitions has also created more hardship.
In conclusion, we have seen the success of popular movements in forcing political change in key Arab States.
That now needs to be followed by the difficult and detailed work of building more inclusive societies, economies, and governance systems.
That will take perseverance, patience, and partnerships, but it is essential if the legitimate aspirations of those who have already brought about change and those who continue to struggle for it are to be met.
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DON’T COUNT OUT BIOMASS YET AS CLEAN ENERGY, INDOCHINA DEMONSTRATES HOW

August 16, 2011

DON’T COUNT OUT BIOMASS YET AS CLEAN ENERGY, INDOCHINA DEMONSTRATES HOW

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Renewable Energy or RE is the wave of the present-to-future as energy source. RE represents clean energy, even as it had presented itself as the most potent entry point to efficient, clean, cheap energy in the long run.

With RE’s jettison to public awareness, biomass as clean energy seemed to have been relegated to the sidelights in the search for a way to ‘energy for all’. Save for a few enterprising groups in the North, who have dared to package biomass as large-scale energy source that can supply the needs of energy-intensive technologies, biomass seemed to have disappeared in the public awareness altogether.

The message is this: don’t ever count out biomass yet. People excrete fecals; animals & pets, manure; plants, many tons of leaves, twigs, and branches—all convertible to clean energy source. Don’t forget those biodegradable home wastes too that churn out tons of wastes within a given year.

Below are initiatives of stakeholders in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos to boost energy production via the biomass track.

[Philippines, 16 July 2011]

Source: http://beta.adb.org/news/adb-help-gms-boost-biomass-use-clean-energy-food-needs
ADB to Help GMS Boost Biomass Use for Clean Energy, Food Needs
11 Jul 2011
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is to help the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) scale up the use of biomass waste in the agriculture sector to meet its growing need for clean energy and food security for poor rural households.
The ADB Board of Directors has approved a regional technical assistance project that will be funded by a $4 million grant from the Nordic Development Fund along with counterpart financing of $600,000 from the governments of Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam. ADB will administer the grant and carry out the project in the three countries. Biomass waste―such as rice husks and animal manure―is abundant in GMS countries but is not efficiently used as a source of clean energy or as fertilizer. At the same time, the growing practice of large-scale crop production for biofuel poses a threat to food security by reducing food production and forest land.
“Promoting more efficient use of biomass can simultaneously address the goals of fighting climate change and improving the well-being of the rural poor, which are often seen as competing priorities,” said Sununtar Setboonsarng, Principal Natural Resources and Agriculture Economist, in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department.
The project will fund pilot investment projects to scale up biomass technologies such as household biogas systems, biochar kilns, and improved cooking stoves. The project will also conduct studies, build human and institutional capacity on biomass investment, and promote regional exchange among the GMS countries.
“This project will also help strengthen regional cooperation as it will harmonize bioenergy and biomass standards and regulations in the GMS to bring them into line with global standards,” said Ms. Setboonsarng.
The project is due to begin in July 2011 and will be completed by December 2014. The Nordic Development Fund is the joint multilateral development institution of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, providing grant finance for climate change interventions in developing countries. The project is part of ADB’s Energy for All Initiative, which increases access to clean, modern energy for inclusive growth and sustainable human development.
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CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY

August 16, 2011

CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

‘Smoke stack’ industries have to a great extent factored into the climate change patterns, with dire consequences of more erratic weather patterns that we experience today. ‘Smoke stack’ industries—those utilizing ‘hot process’ technologies—have for so long employed fossil fuels as energy sources, thus compounding the pollution arising from the manufacturing sector.

The tall order is for manufacturing to eventually shift to ‘cold process’ technologies and the utilization of renewable energy or RE sources. Scale wise, the days of very large-scale, energy-intensive production, e.g. plant churning out over a million tons per annum of steel, should be scaled down to more manageable levels, which hopefully will utilize RE.

A long-term total shift to RE must be envisioned and put into action, with the additional consequence of reversing the climate change patterns of the day. It isn’t too late yet for such a reversal job to undertake, so let’s see what is in store in the UNIDO that resonates with the overall vision.

[Philippines, 14 July 2011]
Source: http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=1001541
Energy and Climate change
Issue

Energy is closely linked with key contemporary global challenges the world faces – social development and poverty alleviation, environmental degradation and climate change and food security – and is therefore a defining issue of our time. Industry needs reliable and affordable energy. At the same time, there has to be an appropriate balance between growing demand for energy and the urgent need to protect environment and climate.

Objective

UNIDO seeks to tackle these challenges. Indeed, climate change and energy policies are inextricably linked – two thirds of our emissions come from the energy we use. Decisions in one field cannot be made without considering the impacts in the other. Thus, UNIDO’s Energy Strategy aims at helping developing countries and countries in transition to achieve the following objectives:
• Increase the competitiveness of their industries by reducing industrial energy intensity
• Reduce their impact on climate change by decreasing the carbon emissions of their industries and by promoting renewable energy technologies
• Increase the viability of their enterprises, particularly in rural areas, by augmenting the use of renewable energy sources
Activities

The responsibility of UNIDO is to promote access to energy for productive uses while at the same time supporting patterns of energy use by industry that mitigate climate change and are otherwise environmentally sustainable. More broadly, UNIDO’s services can be categorized as follows:
• Renewable and Rural Energy
• Industrial Energy Efficiency and Climate Change
• Energy Policy and Partnership
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FOOD SECURITY FROM FARM TO INDUSTRY

August 16, 2011

FOOD SECURITY FROM FARM TO INDUSTRY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

‘Food security’ as a theme has been reverberating the planet for over two (2) decades now. I still recall, upon my return to graduate school in 1997 to take up development studies (w/ global political economy foundation), that food security was already a wave in terms of advocacy clamors.

Since 1998, I was involved in couples of projects about food production, which includes a 550-hectare farm systems development for a sugarworkers’ cooperative (they wished to shift to diverse crops) and a public policy project on fair trade and food security. That, on top of earlier efforts on food enterprise development and financing (1980s).

The most shocking truth about food production is when you, as specialist and expert, would find out first hand that the food producers you deal with are themselves malnourished, low-income earning, and could nil afford to send their kids to school. That is, the food producers themselves are the most food insecure, which is a paradox of capitalist development.

After long engagement on the food sector (among other sectors I got involved in), I am very highly convinced that interventions in the value chain are key to boosting productivity, increasing income, and improving the quality of life of food producers. Value chain should mean up to downstream industrial processing of food to make them more elastic.

Let us take a glimpse at the efforts of the international organization UNIDO in regard to enabling country stakeholders take the road from food production to agro-industries. The efforts do dovetail into interventions on the value-chain.

[Philippines, 14 July 2011]
Source: http://www.unido,org, http://www.3adi.org/
Africa’s Agro-industry and Agribusiness Development Initiative (3ADI)

Our goal
The goal of the 3ADI is to have an agriculture sector in Africa which, by the year 2020, is made up of highly productive and profitable agricultural value chains. The initiative aims at accelerating the development of agribusiness and agro-industries sectors that ensure value-addition to Africa’s agricultural products.

The leading agencies: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), join forces to support a well-coordinated effort to enhance development impacts. The cooperation builds on sharing knowledge and harmonizing programmes in ways that capture synergies, avoid fragmented efforts, and enhance developmental impacts.

For the 3ADI concept note: click here
Our vision
Food security in developing countries begins with better, more humane and more honest governance; with fair access to land for the most vulnerable populations; with small farmers association, provided with real bargaining power; with technological development for a more productive agricultural sector, that are also in environmentally friendly.
The solution can be found in collective action and resources undertaken by a variety of actors otherwise independent. For the past three years, UNIDO, FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have been working on the ground in least developed countries to promote the expansion of local and international value chains that benefit the small producers and entrepreneurs, who create jobs and income, and who gradually transform the rural world to turn it into an attractive career proposition to the eyes of the youth in search of a better future.
The resources exist, the will is evident; the question is how to catalyze the convergence of the value chain components in a situation that provides attractive returns to all stakeholders, while addressing at the same time the most necessary of the Millennium Development Goals, reducing poverty and hunger worldwide.
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UNIVERSAL ENERGY, GROWTH & FREEDOM

August 16, 2011

UNIVERSAL ENERGY, GROWTH & FREEDOM

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

‘Energy for all’ is among the great global campaigns of the decade. The campaign is making ripples for now, but hopefully the ripples will turn into gigantic waves in the years ahead.

Universal energy is envisioned to be among the human capacitators that can finally close the chapter on poverty and hunger. Universal energy as enabler of economic democracy, so much as to build greater trust (social capital), reduce unemployment to negligible levels, and eliminate pauperization, needs more framework refinements from stakeholders.

The United Nations is incidentally spearheading the campaign, which seems to boost the Millenial Development Goal campaign launched earlier. Below is another update about UN attached agencies’ efforts to drumbeat the campaign, showcasing the UNIDO and partner stakeholders.

[Philippines, 13 July 2011]

Source: http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=7881&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=911&cHash=9d28c078da675dccbfe6101c7275bdd5

Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Universal energy access can secure growth and freedom, say Vienna Energy Forum participants
VIENNA, 21 June 2011 – Participants at a major international event on energy that opened in the Austrian capital today called for bold steps and strategic public-private partnerships to guarantee universal energy access by 2030, including by expanding the use of renewable energy sources.
The three-day Vienna Energy Forum in the Hofburg Palace is organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). It brings together over 1,000 participants, including heads of State, ministers, energy experts, representatives of international and non-governmental organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector.
The UN General Assembly named 2012 as the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All. The UN Foundation has launched a website for the Year: http://www.SEFA2012.org
Speaking at the Forum, former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger said that universal energy access was not “just about lighting a dark room, or cooking on a better stove. It’s about the freedom that energy – and especially renewable energy – gives us”.
To watch Schwarzenegger’s full speech, click here
To download Schwarzenegger’s full speech, click here
“We don’t have to be slaves to faulty grids. We don’t have to watch our citizens get sick and die from pollution. We don’t have to worry about a corrupt dictator waking up on the wrong side of the bed and deciding to shut off power to our country,” he said.
Schwarzenegger gave the example of the Austrian city of Güssing, which 15 years ago “couldn’t pay its power bill”, had insufficient jobs, and locals had to rely on outside sources for all of their energy.
“Just 15 years later, their addiction to fossil fuels is completely gone, replaced by clean, renewable energy. There now is a booming economy that’s created more than 50 companies and 1,000 jobs. The government made the first push, but academics, non-profits, and businesses all worked together, and today, they don’t import a single megawatt of energy. Can you imagine that kind of freedom? That freedom is what this conference is all about,” said Schwarzenegger.
Last year, with the encouragement of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Schwarzenegger launched R20, which brings together regional governments, NGOs, corporations and educational institutions to create strong green economies around the world, new green jobs and build commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Director-General of UNIDO, Kandeh K. Yumkella, who also chairs UN-Energy, a United Nations system-wide coordinating mechanism on energy issues, said that the lack of access to affordable, reliable energy services was a fundamental hindrance to human, social, and economic development, adding that “without access to modern forms of energy it is highly unlikely that any of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals will be achieved”.
This was echoed in the speech of former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who stressed the importance of energy in Africa’s fight against poverty and in attaining the MDGs.
To watch Obasanjo’s full speech,click here
To read Obasanjo’s speech, click here
Participants pointed to a deep inequity that exists between the rich and poor, saying that, roughly, the poorer three-quarters of the world’s population use only 10 per cent of the world’s energy. About 1.5 billion people still don’t have access to electricity, and around 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass and coal as their primary source of energy. The demand for energy in developing countries is expected to grow dramatically, and the increases in population and improvements in living standards are adding to the scale of the challenges.

Success stories in increasing access to modern and reliable forms of energy exist. According to Yumkella, in the last decades, China, Peru and Viet Nam have improved access for their citizens substantially, but across sub-Saharan Africa, and in parts of Asia, people are still living without basic energy services.

In April 2010, the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change (AGECC), chaired by Yumkella, called for the adoption of a target to achieve universal access to modern energy services and for a 40 per cent reduction in energy intensity by 2030.

The Forum coincided with the pre-launch of the Global Energy Assessment (GEA), the most comprehensive and integrated analysis of the global energy system ever undertaken. Coordinated by IIASA, the GEA involved over 500 energy experts from around the world and uniquely addresses the issues of energy access, equity, climate change, health and gender issues and security and investment simultaneously.
“Close to 3 billion people are without access to modern energy services and by providing universal access up to 2 million lives could be saved annually,” said IIASA Director, Detlof von Winterfeldt. He added that according to the GEA the cost of providing modern energy access for all was not only achievable but affordable in the medium term: “This access will achieve enormous co-benefits in terms of air quality and related health issues, climate change, and gender equity, to name just a few.”
The GEA estimates that the global investments required are about USD 40 billion annually, a relatively small fraction of the total energy infrastructure investment required by 2030. The magnitude of the resources required makes it evident that the solution is for major public–private partnerships being nurtured by innovative policies such as feed-in-tariffs and other innovative mechanisms.
Johannes Kyrle, Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs said that the Energy Forum was special to Austria because it could draw on the wealth of knowledge and connections of eight international organizations headquartered in and around Vienna who have significant or exclusive energy mandates. “I expect the Vienna Energy Forum to mobilize political support for the energy access agenda, underscoring that energy access is necessary for poverty reduction and that access and climate stabilization can be pursued in mutually re-enforcing ways,” he said.
Suleiman J. Al-Herbish, Director-General, OPEC Fund for International Development, said there was a need for “enhanced willingness and a genuine political will from developed countries to help developing countries” based on a better recognition of what is called the “climate debt”. “That is the massive compensation owed to the poor for suffering from the damage of climate change they have not caused. There is no shortage of good intentions or promises such as the ones made in Cancun in December 2010, however the issue is the implementation on the ground,” he said.
The Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, said that energy interlinked with “climate change, the future of the energy mix, the problems of energy security, security of supply and security of demand and transportation,” adding that energy was “quite possibly the main problem for our generation to resolve”. He called upon all countries to work together “in order to maximize our impact in the area of energy, and do this in a way which will pool our expertise; since we all approach energy issues from slightly different perspectives”.
To read the opening remarks of Monique Barbut, CEO and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility, gohere
To see the full programme of VEF 2011, please go here:
http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=1001185
For more information about UNIDO, please contact:
Mikhail Evstafyev
UNIDO Advocacy and Communication Coordinator
Telephone: (+43-1)-26026-5021
Mobile: +43-699-1459-7329
E-mail: M.Evstafyev@unido.org
Ravindra Wickremasinghe
Advocacy and Communications Assistant
Tel. (+43-1)-26026-5022
Mobile +43-699-1112-3504
E-mail R.Wickremasinghe@unido.org
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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!

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TEXTILE IN AFRICA: TAKING STOCK OF DEVELOPMENT TAKE-OFF

August 16, 2011

TEXTILE IN AFRICA: TAKING STOCK OF DEVELOPMENT TAKE-OFF

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

As in any enterprise, the industrial sector of any developing country begins with a ‘take off’ stage. In that stage or phase, capital goods industries considered as sine qua non for take-off are textiles, steel, and coal/energy.

Such a phase was well optimized in Western and Asian countries that are way past their own ‘infantile’ stage of industries. Textiles often go along with furniture, steel is representative for a much broader base of capital goods (including shipbuilding, railway, metal alloys, pulp & paper), and coal represents a broader mix of energy sources.

African countries are largely taking stock of their own industrialization take-off, and so it is appropriate that they conduct studies of diverse capital goods, taking Asia as instances of successful development country cases.

Below is a summary of the efforts of some African countries along that line of development tasks.

[Philippines, 12 July 2011]

Source: http://www.unido.org/index.php?id=7881&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=916&cHash=c3b043cbeb67bcf8c4985eaac40b1fa1

Monday, 04 July 2011
New study examines cotton yarn spinning in 11 African countries
VIENNA, 28 June 2011 – In an effort to further support the African cotton industry, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Gherzi Textil Organisation AG, a consultancy specialized in the textile industry, have released a study that looks at ways to build productive capacities in the cotton, textile and garment value chain.

The study will also help policymakers in Africa learn from the experiences gained by cotton and textile-producing Asian countries in strengthening the value chain.

The publication, “Feasibility study for a cotton yarn spinning mill in 11 sub-Saharan African countries”, includes a techno-economic feasibility study for setting up a cotton yarn spinning mill based on the factor costs prevailing in 11 sub-Saharan African countries.

“A comparative analysis of economic returns has revealed that because energy is scarce and expensive, only a few African countries meet the investment criteria. A strategic research finding was that Government support in the form of policies and incentives is essential for attracting foreign direct investment to the capital-intensive spinning industry, especially in Africa. It is, as a matter of fact, Government support that drove the expansion of cotton value chains in Asia,” said Philipp Scholtes, Director of UNIDO’s Agribusiness Development Branch.

Cotton plays a significant role in the economy of sub-Saharan Africa, yet hardly 15 per cent of the cotton grown in the region is processed locally – the bulk of it is exported as a basic commodity. The spinning of cotton yarn represents the first stage in the industrial transformation of raw cotton into an intermediate textile product (yarn), and results in significant value addition.

World trade in cotton yarn is estimated at eight billion US dollars, so the market represents an attractive option for cotton-producing African countries. From a development perspective, promoting the spinning industry helps integrate the African cotton economy into global value chains.

The release of the study was linked to the Pan-African Cotton Meeting (PACM) organized by UNCTAD in Cotonou from 27 to 29 June.

For further information on the study, please contact:
Philippe Scholtes
Director, UNIDO Agribusiness Development Branch
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SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FOR ALL: FAST-TRACKING CLEAN ENERGY

August 16, 2011

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FOR ALL: FAST-TRACKING CLEAN ENERGY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Green energy is making waves across the globe today. Diverse technologies that redound to sustainable energy are being developed at very dizzying paces.

Such developments are most welcome, given that the fossil fuel reserves of the planet are running out fast. Depletion could be experienced in just five (5) decades’ time. So far, the environment had already suffered miserably from the pollution by fossil fuels’ persistent utilization, while certain communities suffered from health and degradation hazards posed by the said energy sources.

A ‘sustainable energy for all’ campaign has been going on across the globe, with many countries participating. International organizations have been collaborating in support of the campaign. My own country had already prepared the policy environment for green energy, and the shift to renewable energy or RE sources could see a 90% RE usage even before 2030.

2012 has been designated by the UN General Assembly as the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All. Let us hope all countries and domestic stakeholders will resonate highly with the campaign theme, and accelerate the pace of the journey to RE/ sustainable energy.

[Philippines, 10 July 2011]

Source: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2011/06/21/undp-joins-the-sustainable-energy-for-all-campaign.html
UNDP joins the sustainable energy for all campaign
21 June 2011
Vienna, Austria – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has joined other UN agencies and partners in a call to provide every human on earth with access to modern energy services within the next 20 years.
Meeting at an international energy forum in Vienna, 21-23 June, UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan said: “Achieving universal access to modern energy by 2030 is possible and can lift more than a billion people out of extreme energy poverty. The additional investment required is about $40 billion per year until 2030, less than three percent of total global energy investment,” citing the findings of a joint analysis by the International Energy Agency, UNDP and United Nations Industrial Development Organization, “Energy Poverty: How to make modern energy access universal?”
Today, 1.4 billion people are still without electricity access, and three billion use firewood and other biomass and coal as fuel for cooking and heat, causing indoor pollution and leading to diseases that kill two million people every year.
Some 1,000 participants at the Vienna Energy Forum are discussing how to create momentum for universal energy access while also reducing the amount of carbon produced through energy supply and consumption.
“We have to build a momentum for a global movement for universal energy access,” said Grynspan. “We need to invest in capacity development to create enabling policy, regulatory frameworks and effective institutions and we must partner with the private sector and civil society that drives innovation, brings investments and creates jobs.”
The UN General Assembly has designated 2012 “International Year for Sustainable Energy for All”. Universal access is one of the key focus areas for a high level summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June next year.
UNDP has assisted countries in investing more than US$2.5 billion over the last decade in projects that have brought sustainable energy to 10 million poor around the world. For example, in Nepal , more than 100,000 people benefited from an off-grid network of micro-hydropower systems set up with UNDP and the World Bank support. This is one of many UNDP local initiatives which are being carried out as fully fledged, expanded programmes.
In an effort to support governments in setting their countries on low-emission, climate resilient development paths, UNDP recently launched “Catalysing Climate Finance”, a step-by-step guide enabling governments attract clean energy investments by identifying and implementing an optimal mix of public policies, public funding and national and international legislation.
“Achieving universal energy access is a top priority for UNDP,” concluded Grynspan. “The three goals being proposed towards 2030: universal energy access, 40 percent energy intensity reduction and achieving 30 percent renewable energy in the global energy mix, provide an important starting point for the discussions in the global policy processes such as Rio+20, UNFCCC and the post 2015 Millennium Development Goals agenda. With our presence in 176 countries and territories, we’re ready to support countries achieve universal energy access and sustainable energy transitions.”
Contact Information
Stanislav Saling:
Tel.: +1 212 906 5296;
stanislav.saling@undp.org
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BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION INITIATIVES

August 16, 2011

BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION INITIATIVES

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

11 developing countries, including emerging markets, have just taken off with their respective programs as impetus for biodiversity conservation.

It has been a daunting task, since the advent of modernity, to return to biodiversity in farming practices. Modern food production celebrated the specialized land-use and high-yield mono-crop varieties at the expense of natural soil fertility offered by biodiversity.

A return to time-honored traditional practices in farming and eco-management is today’s sine qua non to effective environmental balancing acts. Incidentally, there are models around the world to emulate concerning biodiversity in food production.

Below is a report on the joint initiative of Japan and the UNDP concerning biodiversity conservation.

[Philippines, 10 July 2011]

http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2011/06/27/japan-undp-team-up-for-local-biodiversity-conservation.html
Japan, UNDP team up for local biodiversity conservation
27 June 2011
Communities in 11 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe are to receive small grants to put into practice biodiversity-friendly natural resource management and farming systems.

Rural communities in Brazil, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Fiji, India, Malawi, Nepal, Slovakia and Turkey will recapture and apply time-honoured agro-ecological practices, learn new techniques and exchange knowledge on traditional farming systems and the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources.

The Satoyama Initiative, adopted at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), is named after the traditional landscape resulting from application of a suite of traditional, sustainable resource management practices perfected over centuries by communities in Japan. This mosaic of mixed forests, rice paddies, upland rice fields, grasslands, streams and ponds is called “satoyama”. The variety of habitats ensures higher numbers of species, and the farming systems themselves conserve crop diversity, water and soil fertility, while stabilizing income and food security.

Today, the Government of Japan and UNDP launched the partnership agreement to promote the Satoyama vision and practices in selected countries.

“Working in 176 countries and territories, we learned that local communities have developed often unique ways of farming and use of resources that provide food and livelihood without damaging the environment,” said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator.

“We’re grateful to the Government of Japan for their continued support to the interlinked challenges of poverty, biodiversity, and climate change at the time of their own recovery from the devastating tsunami.”

This five-year partnership programme for Satoyama Initiative provides US$2 million through the Convention’s Japan Biodiversity Fund to support communities during the first year to implement best practices and share knowledge.

“Japan recognizes the significance of local knowledge for resource management and farming in the international effort to ensure environmental sustainability. This collaboration is the flagship programme of the International Partnership for the Satoyama Initiative,” said Ryu Matsumoto, Minister of Environment of Japan.

Small grants for community-based projects will be disbursed through the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and other UNDP-supported small grants schemes.

The CBD Secretariat will work with UNDP to analyze the impacts of Satoyama activities and use this knowledge to feed the current international policy debate with respect to the Biodiversity Convention. UNDP, with the United Nations University, will use the lessons from this programme to replicate and upscale successful experiences to other communities around the world.

Prior to collaborating on the Satoyama Initiative, Japan and UNDP have partnered on a number of initiatives, for example, the Africa Adaptation Programme, which supports 20 African countries to adapt to climate change and embark on low-emission, climate-resilient development paths.

UNDP will continue to advocate the use of sustainability strategies in the fight against biodiversity loss, climate change and poverty at next year’s major international conferences, including Rio+20, to be held in Brazil in June and Biodiversity COP11 in India.

Contact Information
Stanislav Saling
stanislav.saling@undp.org
+1 212 9065296
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HIV LEGISLATION IN LATIN AMERICA: BAMBOOZLING HIV CARRIERS WON’T WORK!

August 16, 2011

HIV LEGISLATION IN LATIN AMERICA: BAMBOOZLING HIV CARRIERS WON’T WORK!
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good day from the Pearl of the Orient!
Officials from 18 Latin American countries recently convened in Brazil to tackle HIV legislation. The Latin countries seem to have arrived at a consensus regarding HIV and how it should be managed.
Such a move is surely a most welcome one. Given the divergent perceptions about HIV, regional-to-continental consensus could somehow help country stakeholders in reshaping their frameworks, understanding HIV, and addressing the problems more equitably and judiciously.
Latin America is surely a continent that is worth watching in regard to concrete intervention measures on HIV with the proper legislative frameworks and public policies in place. There is yet a gestation period to wait till the consensus will take off as concrete interventions, though so far the consensus-building exercise is already a very productive one worth other regions’ emulation.
Below is a UNDP report on the HIV convention in Brazil.
[Philippines, 10 July 2011]
Source: http://www.beta.undp.org/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2011/06/29/officials-experts-call-for-better-hiv-law-action-in-latin-america.html
Officials, experts call for better HIV law, action in Latin America
29 June 2011
Sao Paolo, Brazil — Eighty-nine officials and experts from 18 Latin American countries concluded two days of talks here Monday calling for an end to violence and discrimination against people living with HIV and better access to potentially life-saving HIV treatments.
“It is no coincidence that the Global Commission on HIV & the Law is convening its regional dialogue in Brazil,” Heraldo Munoz, Director of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Latin America & the Caribbean, told a Global Commission on HIV & the Law Regional Dialogue here June 26-27.
“Brazil’s commitment to respecting human rights and addressing the underlying inequalities that fuel the epidemic has set their HIV prevention and treatment efforts apart from those of many other countries and, most importantly, have led to tangible reductions in infection rates.”
Representatives from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela all took part in the fourth of seven regional dialogues convened by UNDP on behalf of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
The discussions, moderated by former CNN Español journalist Jorge Gestoso, will inform deliberations by the Global Commission on HIV & the Law. A town hall-style format aims to foster genuine dialogue in which all participants may share experiences, views, and concerns and identify innovative ways in which law and policy can effectively contribute to achieving better HIV, health, and development outcomes.
“If we don’t confront the uncomfortable inequalities, injustices, and stigmatizing norms of our societies and institutions which have been long denied, our fragile HIV and development gains will be lost and the cost—human and financial—will exact a terrible toll, which could have been prevented,” Commissioner Ana Elena Chacon Ecchevaria of Costa Rica said.
Participants concluded that:
• Countries must invest in implementing laws to protect people who are stigmatized, discriminated against, and criminalized
• Criminalization of people living with HIV—including women, youths, male, female, and transgender sex workers, and gay and transgender people—remains a barrier to effective HIV responses and is linked to increased violence experienced by these groups
• Violence against people living with HIV—including women, youths, male, female, and transgender sex workers, and gay and transgender people—remains a major barrier to effective HIV responses and must be stopped, with zero tolerance for police violence
• Where laws are causing harm and legal contradictions result in increased vulnerability and human rights violations, these laws must be changed
• Religious and cultural influences on laws and law enforcement that result in greater HIV vulnerability and risk must stop
• Intellectual property law and policy must not impede universal access to life-saving anti-retroviral treatment
Although UNAIDS says that HIV is a relatively stable epidemic in Latin America, the number of people living with HIV increased from 1.1 million to 1.4 million, from 2001 to 2009. Key populations such as men who have sex with men, trans people, sex workers, and drug users continue to experience much higher rates of HIV than the general population. One-third of all HIV-positive people in the region live in Brazil, and an estimated 550,000 women are living with HIV in Latin America.
“If laws are not able to express a modern thought, that is humane, a thought that takes into account human rights and eliminates repressive policies and practices, we will not see progress in HIV and development,” former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, chair of the Global Commission on HIV & the Law, noted in his remarks.
Contact Information
Sarah Jackson-Han
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Washington
+1 202 331 9130 tel.
+1 202 674 7442 mobile
+1 202 907 4613 mobile #2
sarah.jackson-han@undp.org
http://www.us.undp.org/
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