Archive for September 2011


September 30, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The sordid, abominable bombing of a UN office in Nigeria by demonic jihadists claimed the lives of truly ennobled souls who were doing their sterling missions in Africa. A very shocking news indeed, as the jihadists have shown their total numbness and lack of compunction in killing their perceived enemies.

Only those possessed of the Demonic Mind will support terror groups and their abominable attacks on helpless people anywhere in our planet. The jihadists’ latest cruelty in Nigeria has all the more driven the global citizens to declare the ‘handwriting on the wall’ of religious fanaticism and intolerance.

Below is a list of names of the said bombing victims as released by the United Nations.

[Philippines, 28 September 2011]
UN releases names of Abuja bomb attack casualties
13 September 2011
Abuja, Nigeria – The United Nations in Nigeria today announced the complete list of names of 11 UN staff members among the 23 people who lost their lives in the 26 August bomb attack on the UN House in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.
Those killed in the attack were: Ms. Rahmat Abdullahi, UNDevelopment Programme (UNDP); Mr. Musa Ali, World Health Organization (WHO);Mr. Johnson Awotunde, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); Dr. Edward Dede, WHO; Mr.Elisha Enaburekhan, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); Mr.Ahmed Abiodun Adewale Kareem, UNICEF; Ms. Ingrid Midtgaard, UN Office on Drugsand Crime; Mr. Iliya David Musa, UNDP; Mrs. Felicia Nkwuokwu, UNDP; Mr. StephenObamoh, UNDP; Mr. Abraham A. Osunsaya, WHO.
“These men and women devoted their lives to improving the living conditions of ordinary Nigerians across the country,” said Mr. Daouda Touré, UN Resident Coordinator. “We will never forget them. Nor will we forge tthe passion and courage with which they proudly served the mission and ideals of the United Nations.”
An additional 116 people were injured in the Abuja explosion, including 64 UN staff members, 36 non-UN staff and 16 who currently remain unidentified.
Since 26 August, the UN has focused attention on securingmedical care, counselling and other essential needs for staff members and theirrelatives. The Nigerian government has been ensuring medical coverage forinjured non-UN staff.
UN work in the country continues with a business-continuity plan and ongoing delivery of the organization’s 2011 programme focused on improving the lives of the poor, addressing hunger, disease and illiteracy, and promoting respect for civil rights and freedoms.
Contact Information
For more information, please contact:
• Charles Nosa Osazuwa, Officer-in-Charge, United Nations Information Center (UNIC):; +234.803.402.2085
• Kelechi Onyemaobi, Communication Specialist, UNDP, +234.705.296.5692, ;
• Seyi Soremekun, Communication and Information Officer, UNESCO: ; +234.803.303.0002


September 30, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Where has the world gone to after the concurrence of the Kyoto Protocol? We can still recall how, after all the wrangling and quizzing for a ‘final solution’ to the global warming problem, when the USA as the expected leading nation to support the protocol behaved instead on the contrary!

The Northern powers who did so much of the backdoor squeeze to bamboozle developing countries into supporting the protocol, ended up being cold to their respective countries’ commitment to the Protocol’s jack-rabbit start. Look at all the stubborn resort to fossil fuel including nukes that have demonstrated their destructive powers when unleashed upon nature without control.

As of this writing, financial institutions across the globe have expressed grave concern over the post-Kyoto wrangling and lackadaisical commitments of the North to the full protocol execution. So much of forest reserves were already destroyed across the globe by the greed of market players, so the big challenged posed unto the market stakeholders and states is the stronger implementation of forestry-based carbon markets. Will the challenge ‘bite the dust’?

Below is a report from the UNDP about the latest developments on the subject.

[Philippines, 27 September 2011]
Financiers call for forestry-based carbon markets & warn of huge cost of failure
13 September 2011
Geneva – A coalition of the world’s foremost financial institutions brought together by the United Nations warns in a report released Tuesday against the huge financial and environmental losses that could stem from a post-Kyoto climate change deal that fails to spur private sector investment into deforestation and forest degradation reduction efforts.
With the new report, REDDy-Set-Grow Part II: Recommendations for international climate change negotiators, over 200 leading actors of the financial sector united under a partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) call on country negotiators at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to follow through with their previous commitment, incorporated into the 2010 Cancun Agreements, to an international policy architecture for deforestation and forest degradation reduction in developing countries (a scheme known as REDD+).
The new study asserts that any post-Kyoto climate convention negotiated in Durban and beyond must include text that clarifies the fundamental role of private engagement and investment in funding REDD+, as well as effective measures to tackle the fundamental drivers of deforestation by shifting behavior in the private sector towards sustainable land-use. A positive outcome in Durban would also send an encouraging signal to Rio+20 in June next year with one of its two key themes being the Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
The report highlights the huge costs for the world economy and the global environment of policy-makers coming short of fulfilling these criteria.
An ineffective climate change regime on forests would entail losses in the global economy of $1 trillion per year by 2100, and affect a good portion of the estimated 1 billion people who rely on forests for their livelihood, according to previous research (Eliasch Review, 2008).
In contrast, a healthy forestry-based carbon market could achieve to mobilise investment for the protection and rehabilitation of natural forests in the order of $10+ billion by 2020 (The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity – TEEB, 2010).
“The fundamental reason for current levels of deforestation worldwide is that cleared forests translate into economic opportunity for farmers, local communities and governments while standing forests do not. There is a price for soybeans, palm oil, beef and other products grown on deforested lands, but not for the many critically important services provided by healthy forests, including the sequestration and storing of carbon,” said BNP Paribas’ Director – Environmental Markets & Forestry, Christian del Valle.
“With the possibility of a global funding mechanism for REDD+ we now have, at the global level, the unprecedented opportunity to address this imbalance. I hope we do not miss it so that natural forests are given the value they deserve,” he added.
Sufficient funding of REDD+ mechanisms, if achieved, could be a key boost to efforts to hold the global temperature rise below 2 Degrees Celsius – a target previously agreed by governments – by scaling up current efforts to protect carbon-absorbing forests.
The price tag associated with halving global deforestation and forest degradation at the required scale and speed to meet internationally agreed targets is steep, however, having previously been estimated to amount to a mammoth $17-$40 billion per year (Eliasch Review, 2008; UNEP Green Economy Report, 2010).
With total government pledges for REDD+ adding up to $7 billion, REDDy-Set-Grow Part II stresses that plugging this gaping funding hole will require the close involvement of private finance, which has so far been on the margins of the funding debate.
“The banks, insurers and investors that are members of the UNEP Finance Initiative are optimistic that governments, when meeting in Durban this December, will realise the importance of mobilising private capital to help reduce deforestation and forest degradation,” said Abyd Karmali, Managing Director and Global Head of Carbon Markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a member institution of UNEP FI.
“Without the systematic involvement of the private sector, ranging from institutional investors to local forest cooperatives, the REDD+ mechanism agreed to in Cancun risks being rendered ineffectual.”
REDDy-Set-Grow Part II further articulates the features which the private financial sector would like policy-makers to include in a new climate change treaty to summon sufficient funds.
Among the specific policy recommendations formulated in the report are the details of a policy scenario, coined as the “nested approach,” deemed most likely to close the REDD+ investment gap.
Under a nested approach, a future REDD+ funding mechanism would be:
• Inclusive: Private entities (such as forest concessionaries or forest cooperatives) as well as governments (at both the national and sub-national level; such as central governments or municipalities) would be eligible to develop and implement forest conservation, rehabilitation or reforestation activities and to receive payments based on performance for these initiatives, with the desired effects of both spurring the multiplication of REDD+ projects and reducing possible red tape and risks commonly associated with weak governments.
• Decentralised and reliable: Payments for REDD+ projects would come from the generation of REDD+ carbon credits and their trade on international carbon markets rather than from currently cash-strapped donor country budgets. In other words: the burden of reducing, halting and ultimately reversing deforestation would not be borne by tax payers in developed countries, but by carbon polluters (or emitters). In addition to increasing the reliability and potential volumes of performance-based payments, such a market-based system would provide a strong real-price signal.
• Leakage-proof: Risks that successful deforestation reduction efforts in a given region be used to justify increased deforestation in another one – a phenomenon commonly known as “leakage” – will be mitigated by the enforcement of a national baseline. The baseline will aggregate project-level performance indicators into a country-wide performance indicator.
The report also calls for reforms to forest-based projects under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which the financial sector would like to see improved – namely with the creation of permanent carbon credits – in a post-Kyoto regulatory environment.
“Our position is simple: our involvement is direly needed, and we wish to get involved. But we cannot do so unless it makes basic commercial sense to us,” said Armin Sandhövel, CEO of Allianz Climate Solutions, another member institution of UNEP FI.
“With this report, we wish to state with one voice, as an industry, that policy-makers must urgently put in place viable avenues and formats for upscaled private sector investment and involvement in REDD+ by, firstly, redoubling efforts to agree on a climate change deal that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, and secondly, making policy decisions that will make investments in the protection, rehabilitation and creation of natural forests more competitive against conventional, unsustainable options. This report says how that can be done,” he added.
Part I of REDDy-Set-Grow, released earlier this year, cast a spotlight on the abundance of untapped opportunities in current and emerging forest-carbon markets.
Further Quotes
Paul Clements-Hunt, head of UNEP Finance Initiative: “The climate-change mitigation debate has not kept apace with the finance community’s rapidly growing understanding of its critical role in enabling and driving the shift to the green and low-carbon economy, with the result that the views of one of the world’s most economically influential sectors are currently largely unaccounted for in international climate change negotiations.”
“Private banks and investment funds can contribute to the global struggle to mitigate climate change. Our detailed recommendations on financing forest-based mitigation hopefully bode the beginning of a new dialogue between the finance community and governments,” he said.
Contact Information
Nick Nuttall
Acting Director Division of Communications and Public Information/UNEP Spokesperson
+254 733 632755
Sebastien Malo
UNEP FI Communications
+41 22 917 8465 / Mobile: +41 78 686 7022
Stanislav Saling
Communications Specialist
+ 1 212 906 5296
Related Links
• UN – REDD Programme
UNDP Environment and Energy
Related News
• 14 Sep: New guide to help developing countries speed up access to climate finance
• 13 Sep: Financiers call for forestry-based carbon markets & warn of huge cost of failure
• 22 Aug: Equator Prize opens call for sustainable development award nominations


September 30, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

We have been experiencing worldwide the upswings in disaster-conflict interface. In certain areas of the Horn of Africa, for instance, where hunger now stokes millions of refugees, the relief operations are severely hampered by jihadist groups that have undercut the supply lines between aid groups and hungry refugees.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts are of the opinion that governance is the key to an appreciable management of the disaster-conflict interface. “Governance is a Key Enabler,” goes the thesis of the UNDP, which this development stakeholder agrees with.

Below is the news report coming from the UNDP about the subject.

[Philippines, 27 September 2011]
Disaster-Conflict Interface: One Abets the Other, but ‘Governance is a Key Enabler’
12 September 2011

GENEVA—Disasters and conflicts frequently occur together, often devastating countries that are least able to sustain them, but good governance can speed recovery and lessen the likelihood of recurrence, according to a new UNDP study.
“In most instances, the disaster-conflict interface increased the risk of future crises and hampered crisis recovery efforts,” says Maxx Dilley, Officer in Charge of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery (BCPR) Disaster Risk Reduction and RecoveryTeam and author of the study “Disaster-Conflict Interface.”
The report examines interactions between conflict and disasters associated with natural hazards. It presents an unprecedented survey of cases in which conflict and disaster coincide—each a complex phenomenon in its own right, as in the worsening Horn of Africa crisis.
In all case studies, conflict was found to have an adverse impact on disasters where both are present,” Dilley says. Taken together, these cases “highlight the importance of governance as a key enabler of both disaster reduction and conflict prevention.”
The study argues for developing an integrated pool of staff with expertise in conflict and disaster risk-management, but also including governance, environment, and poverty practitioners, he says.
The unfolding famine in the Horn of Africa—now facing its worst drought in 60 years—is a case in point. Long-running conflict has increased vulnerability to drought and severely hampered humanitarian access to the worst-affected areas, triggering a flood of famine refugees.
U.N. officials this week said Somalia’s famine has spread to a sixth region and warned at least 750,000 people are at risk of dying in the next four months in the absence of scaled-up aid. Tens of thousands have already died, mostly children.
“This makes the humanitarian response more complex, imposes additional stress on host communities which are themselves affected by the drought, and heightens the risk of conflict over resources,” Dilley says.“Increased inter-communal violence has been reported throughout the drought-affected rural areas due to the scarce availability of water and pastures.”
A comprehensive response must include scaled-up support for more responsive, accountable, and resilient governances, he said.
Following is an interview with Maxx Dilley, Officer in Charge of UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery (BCPR) Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery Team and author of the study “Disaster-Conflict Interface.”
What prompted this report?
“The Disaster-Conflict Interface study was undertaken as a joint effort to improve the evidence base for pursuing crisis prevention and recovery comprehensively when both disasters and conflicts, or related risks, are present. The study was intended to inform the broader practice of crisis prevention and recovery—in an environment in which disaster losses continue to rise: In 2010, 373 natural events, such as earthquakes, floods, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, and droughts, affected some 208 million people, causing 300,000 deaths, and producing economic losses estimated at US$110 billion.
“More than 80 countries are meanwhile identified as facing violent tensions, and 22 of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are in the midst of or emerging from violent conflict. As you can see right now in the Horn of Africa, many of these countries are highly exposed, and vulnerable, to natural hazards as well.
“In cases such as the Horn of Africa, where a major hazard event has occurred in a context of conflict and heightened conflict tensions, BCPR is working with UNDP Country Offices to ensure that their recovery and long-term risk reduction programmes address both conflict and disasters holistically.This includes, for example, addressing hazard-related risks through livelihood programmes that also promote conflict recovery, and addressing conflict risk factors through programmes that provide immediate drought recovery assistance.”
What do you want policy advisers to take away from this study?
“The case studies highlight the importance of governance as a key enabler of both disaster reduction and conflict prevention. Conflict-ridden countries have difficulty attaining the necessary level of social cohesion needed to address the root causes of disasters. Conflict inhibits development broadly, including increasing disaster risks and losses due to increased vulnerability to natural hazards. Conversely, reduction of disaster losses contributes to sustainable development and therefore—at least indirectly—to reduced conflict risk.
“The case studies suggest that potential exists for addressing the disaster-conflict interface more systematically. For example, the research for this study identified a significant variation in the capacities, approaches, and prioritization of these issues across the nine UNDP Country Offices. In most cases, staff were in the initial stages of learning about these issues and related programming approaches. Awareness-raising, advocacy, and capacity development must all be scaled up.”
What did you aim to achieve with this study? Has this nexus been studied at UNDP in the past?
“This bureau, BCPR, launched the study to explore the interface between conflicts and disasters through an empirical approach based on actual country cases—it’s the very first study on this topic undertaken in UNDP. BCPR is working in many developing countries that experience both disasters and conflict at the same time.
“Contexts in which conflicts and disasters overlap are daily realities for people who are affected, as well as for many humanitarian and development practitioners. Effective programmes to manage crisis interventions need to reflect conflict-disaster complexities and respond to them in a holistic and integrative manner. Experience has also shown that development interventions that fail to recognize the link between disasters and conflict in at-risk countries can worsen tensions and increase risk. While intuitively it makes sense to assume that the geographical overlap of both disaster and conflict worsens the impact of crises, evidence for this is limited. Analyses of concrete case study observations are also limited, and those that do exist come from different unconnected disciplines. In an effort to share the experience in operating in conflict-disaster interface settings, BCPR undertook this analysis in 2007.
“The study aims to achieve a comparative analysis of tendencies and experiences that stem from the relationship between disasters and conflict. It also analyses the relative success of existing relevant programming approaches adopted in-country. This will help identify practical approaches and disseminate good practice, helping to better equip UNDP Country Office staff who operate in complex environments in which disaster and conflict overlap.”
You focused on examples from nine countries. Which disaster-conflict interactions struck you most vividly? What did they have incommon?
“The study is based on experiences from nine selected case-study countries: Bolivia, Haiti, Indonesia (Aceh), Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Each case study analyses the dynamics of the interface, as well as strategies and interventions across agencies, and particularly focuses on UNDP approaches and good practices.
“A disaster-conflict interface happens when disasters (risks, events, and recovery) have a relationship with conflicts (risks, events, and recovery) and/or vice versa, beyond simple geographic/demographic co-location. Each interface is a complex phenomenon in its own right. But commonalities recur. In all case studies, conflict had a harmful impact on disasters. In most instances, the disaster-conflict interface increased the risk of future crises and hampered crisis recovery efforts. This was particularly obvious at the local level, with widespread examples of problematic interactions between disasters and conflict.
In most case studies examined, the interface of disasters and conflicts was overwhelmingly harmful, worsening the risk of future crises and hampering crisis recovery efforts. In all case studies, conflict was found to have an adverse impact on disasters.”
Related Links
• UNDP’s work in Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Risk Management
• Somalia: The Epicentre of a Crisis
• Drought in Kenya: Current Crisis Calls for Long-term Solutions
Related documents
• Disaster-Conflict Interface
More publications



September 29, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A graciously good news has been coming out lately from the enclaves of international organizations as their respective institutions have been stretching out their tentacles and logistics in aid of the famine victims in the Horn of Africa.

In my past notes, I already shared the information about the interventions done by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the hungry 11 Millions of affected Africans. As of late, the World Bank and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have entered the scene in aid of the miserable millions.

As of this writing, the World Bank and UNHCR jointly reported that their synergy will benefit approximately 550,000 famine victims. That represents 5% of the total of 11 Millions of pauperized hungry refugees, though it is already appreciable a move as other organizations, inclusive of international NGOs, are also on the move to aid others.

Below is a summary of the aid coming from the World Bank news rooms.

[Philippines, 26 September 2011]


World Bank, UNHCR Join Efforts in an Emergency Response to Malnutrition and Disease in Horn of Africa Refugee Camps

Press Release No:2012/074/AFR

Some 550,000 people, mostly women and children, expected to benefit

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – Over half a million people, mostly women and children, will be able to access nutrition, health and sanitation services in refugee settlements along the Somali border in Kenya and Ethiopia as a result of a US$30 million grant which the World Bank announced today.

The grant is drawn from the $250 million earmarked for the Horn of Africa drought through the Crisis Response Window (CRW) recently established as part of the International Development Association (IDA)—the World Bank Group’s fund for the world’s 80 poorest countries—to respond in a timely manner to emerging crises in low-income countries.

The $30 million grant will be administered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) under the Horn of Africa Emergency Health and Nutrition Project, which is one of several initiatives undertaken by the World Bank to respond to one of the worst droughts in the Horn of Africa sub-region in more than half a century.

The drought has caused deaths, widespread hunger, massive displacement, and loss of means to survive in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia, where the United Nations has declared a famine. Nearly 13.3 million people across the sub-region are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

Specifically, the grant will help reinforce ongoing UNHCR relief efforts with an emphasis on the most vulnerable, notably women and children. Targeted activities include measures to combat malnutrition (such as nutritious food and micronutrient supplements); basic health services, including pediatric and maternal care; and immunization. In addition, grant resources will be used to expand access to safe water and sanitation services, and to prevent and treat common illnesses such as diarrhea, measles, and malaria.

“When communicable diseases are addressed in densely populated environments such as refugee settlements, it is not only refugees who benefit, but also their host communities,” said António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “The funds granted today will allow us to expand coverage of essential health, nutrition, and sanitation services in the largest refugee camps in the Horn of Africa.”

Over the 18-month span of the project, it will help address the immediate needs of refugees in targeted camps, including those in the Dadaab complex in Kenya and the Dollo Ado area of Ethiopia, where there are nearly 600,000 Somali refugees.

Data collected at the camps shows alarming rates of severe acute malnutrition, especially among children under five years of age. Water shortages are also frequent. New refugees arriving at these sites are weak and prone to illness, and children are particularly at risk of dying of malnutrition and diarrheal diseases.

“The scale and severity of the Horn of Africa drought compels development agencies, governments, and NGOs to work in close collaboration in ways that maximize the comparative advantage of all partners,” said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region. “This approach ensures that we do not lose sight of the links between short-term crisis mitigation and the long term development outlook.”

The deadly nature of the drought has prompted the World Bank’s Board to allow unprecedented measures. This is the first grant through the Crisis Response Window issued directly to a UN agency. It is also the first time that the implementing entity’s procedures – not World Bank procedures – will be used through the life of this project, thus enabling an exceptional application of the 2008 Fiduciary Principles Accord signed between the Bank and the United Nations to this IDA operation.

World Bank: Kavita Watsa, (+1) 202 473 8302,
UNHCR: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, (+41) 79 249 3483,

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September 29, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The Arab Spring has revealed the chasm that divides the youth and older generations in the Middle East & North Africa or MENA. The development gains across the MENA has been very uneven to say the least, with state weaknesses singled out as the greatest bottlenecks to prosperity.

Beyond the surface however lies even greater realities about weak institutions in the MENA. Such weaknesses could have generated the disappointments and frustrations of the pan-Arab youth, frustrations that have erupted to social turmoil that called for the overthrow of established regimes.

It is even further revealing to note the weak financial institutions across the MENA, which could baffles us somehow. MENA was among those that introduced zero-interest financing in antiquity, a framework and ‘best practice’ that drove wealth generation to successes of immense proportions.

Below is a special report from the World Bank’s news rooms concerning the rather baffling financial weaknesses in the MENA. The clear challenge to Arabs of the day is: reform your financial institutions!

[Philippines, 26 September 2011]


Building Financial Institutions as Solutions to Frustration and Exclusion

Press Release No:2012/072/MENA

An agenda for the Middle East and North Africa

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – Financial systems across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) proved resilient during the global financial crisis and subsequent political shocks but have failed to provide access to finance, contributing to the region’s relatively weak growth performance and inability to generate jobs. This in turn has contributed to the deep-seated frustrations of the region’s large youth populations, say the findings of a new World Bank report.

“We began work on this report with our partners in the Arab Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank and the Union of Arab Banks, well before the Arab Spring,” says Roberto R. Rocha, Senior Adviser and principal author of Financial Access and Stability: A Road Map for the Middle East and North Africa. “Many of our findings now have even sharper relevance in the light of the protests that have reflected popular discontent with systems where opportunities are few, competition limited and access to finance constrained.”

The report describes MENA’s financial sectors as dominated by large, well-capitalized banks, but largely undiversified and uncompetitive. Essential non-banking financial institutions such as insurance companies, mutual and pension funds, leasing, and factoring, are not well developed with few exceptions. Equity markets are large in many countries, but mainly dominated by financial institutions and infrastructure companies. Private fixed-income instruments and markets remain negligible.

And notably, the region’s banking systems have failed to provide broad, sound and equitable access to finance. They have very high loan concentration ratios, reflecting the focus of banks on providing loans to large and well-connected enterprises and industrial groups while only 20 percent of MENA’s small and medium enterprises have a bank loan or a line of credit, one of the lowest shares among emerging regions. This has constrained their capacity to grow and generate jobs.

The number of deposits and loan accounts per adult are also low by international standards and microfinance penetration remains disappointing. The lack of access to finance is also reflected in the low share of mortgage loans in loan portfolios.

“We see large numbers of university graduates who don’t have access to opportunities and jobs; we see young couples who can‘t get married because the housing finance market is almost non-existent,” says Loic Chiquier, Director of Finance at the World Bank. “All this just increases the sense of economic exclusion and political discontent.”

The lack of access to finance is due to weaknesses in financial infrastructure, insufficient competition in the banking sector, and gaps in the legal framework preventing the development of alternative sources of finance. The report recognizes that the structure of MENA’s banking systems is evolving in the right direction, but that levels of competition are still weak. The reduction in the share of state banks bodes well for the future, says Rocha but banking systems remain less competitive than those in other regions, due to a massive presence of the state in some countries, stricter entry requirements, weak credit information systems preventing a level playing field between small and large banks, weak regulation of large exposures and connected lending, and lack of competition from capital markets and non-banking institutions.

“We’ve had a fantastic working relationship with our partners in building the statistical and analytical basis for these findings and conclusions and I think there is wide acceptance that while the financial sector is now part of the problem, it needs to be – and can be – part of the solution,” says Rocha.

This would mean implementing a comprehensive and integrated agenda for improving access and preserving stability, he adds. The report examines how this agenda needs to include three sets of mutually reinforcing reforms to be successful: the strengthening of financial infrastructure, improvements in bank competition, and the development of non-banking institutions and financial instruments. Critical though is complementing these reforms with a financial stability agenda ensuring that financial systems remain resilient as access is expanded and new risks emerge. Experience from elsewhere, notably central Europe, had shown the dangers of quickly improving access to finance without shoring up stability.

In Washington: Tina Taheri, (202) 725-0719,;
Esther Lee Rosen, (248) 935-0510,

For a link to the report, please click here.

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September 25, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A special report came out of the news rooms of the World Bank very recently that carries the alarming news of diseases threatening development. Necessarily, poor and middle income countries are most hardly hit, or those classified as ‘developing countries’ and ‘emerging markets’.

Obesity, diabetes and heart attacks emblazoned the title of the news report, with other ailments also on the list. The ailments situation complicates matters in the Horn of Africa where drought and famine led to hunger problems of 11 millions of poor Africans.

Below is the very alarming news coming from the World Bank.

[Philippines, 25 September 2011]


Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Attacks, and Other Chronic Diseases Threaten Health and Economies in Poor and Middle-Income Countries – World Bank Report

Press Release No:2012/071/HDN

Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, way above high-income countries

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – The World Bank warned today that heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increasingly threaten the health and economic security of many lower- and middle-income countries, and that most countries lack the money and health services to be able to ‘treat their way out’ of the NCD crisis. On the eve of a special United Nations summit on NCDs in New York, the Bank said the rise of chronic diseases, especially among young working adults in these countries, was a danger that warranted immediate global attention.

According to the new report−The Growing Danger of Non-Communicable Diseases: Acting Now to Reverse Course−Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, in excess of those in high-income countries where NCDs have long been the leading cause of death and illness.

Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, way above high-income countries

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2011 – The World Bank warned today that heart disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) increasingly threaten the health and economic security of many lower- and middle-income countries, and that most countries lack the money and health services to be able to ‘treat their way out’ of the NCD crisis. On the eve of a special United Nations summit on NCDs in New York, the Bank said the rise of chronic diseases, especially among young working adults in these countries, was a danger that warranted immediate global attention.

According to the new report−The Growing Danger of Non-Communicable Diseases: Acting Now to Reverse Course−Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia face alarming chronic disease levels, in excess of those in high-income countries where NCDs have long been the leading cause of death and illness.

For example, in South Asia, where cardiovascular disease is already a major cause of death and disability, people have their first heart attacks at an average age of 53 compared with 59 in the rest of the world. In the Middle East and North Africa, NCDs are growing among women and adolescents, driven by factors unrelated to age, such as growing rates of obesity and smoking. And ominously, one in four people in Ukraine between the ages of 18 and 65 has a chronic disease with growing numbers of young people being affected, prompting the conclusion that the country could ‘lose the next generation to chronic disease.’

If current trends persist, the new report says that Sub-Saharan Africa will be the region hardest-hit by the NCDs crisis. If left unchecked, chronic diseases will account for 46 percent of all deaths by 2030, up from 28 percent in 2008. South Asia could see the share of deaths from NCDs increase from 51 to 72 percent during the same period. More than 30 percent of these deaths will be premature and preventable. At the same time, these countries will continue to grapple with the widespread prevalence of communicable diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and mother and child conditions, thus facing a “double burden” of disease not experienced by wealthier nations.

“What makes the development impact of chronic diseases so daunting for lower and middle income countries is that they don’t have the money and the health systems to treat their way out of this crisis, and they’re facing it at far earlier stages of economic progress than their better-off OECD neighbors had to,” says Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, the Bank’s Vice President for Human Development.

Prevention is vital to stop and reverse NCDs

The Bank reports says that much of the rise in chronic diseases in developing countries can be traced to individual risk factors such as physical inactivity, malnutrition in the first thousand days of life, unhealthy diet (including excessive salt, fat, and sugar intake), tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and exposure to environmental pollution.

Country evidence suggests that more than half of the NCD burden could be avoided through effective health promotion and disease prevention programs that tackle such risk factors. Particularly effective at very low costs are measures to curb tobacco, such as taxes, as indicated in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and to reduce salt in processed and semi-processed foods.

In India this has meant, among other things, subsidizing and promoting kitchen stoves that use clean fuels and do not cause respiratory disease. In Bogotá, Colombia, the city government has built cycle paths across the city and has started a community exercise program that takes place every Sunday and now draws the active participation of more than a million pedestrians and cyclists each week.

The report notes that a compelling OECD example comes from New York City, where the mayor brought the health sector and hospitality industries together to reduce smoking and ban the use of trans-fats. The proportion of restaurants using trans-fats fell from 50 percent to less than 2 percent in two years, while the percentage of adult New Yorker smokers fell from 21.5 percent to 15.8 percent during the same period.

“The good news is that with prevention first, the reduction of risk factors such as smoking through the use of tobacco taxes, and the right political and community leadership in place, countries can stem the rise of chronic diseases and cushion their financial and social effects,” says Dr. Cristian Baeza, the Bank’s Director of Health, Nutrition, and Population, whose team produced the new report.

Baeza says it will be vital to prepare health systems in developing countries to deliver cost-effective and fiscally sustainable health NCDs care for poor people, and that comprehensive prevention programs can target a number of risk factors at the same time. For example, a prevention program in Finland’s North Karelia province, which targeted diet, exercise, and smoking, showed that between 1972 and 2006, the province’s yearly deaths from chronic heart disease fell by some 85 percent. An anti-smoking effort in Uruguay, championed by the country’s president, banned smoking in public places and workplaces and reduced air nicotine concentrations in the capital city by 91 percent over five years.

Anti-NCD measures can work quickly

On the eve of the special UN summit on NCDs in New York, the new Bank report says that the best examples of anti-NCD measures show that these can improve health faster than commonly thought—within a few years of eliminating people’s exposure to risk factors. As the report notes in conclusion, “Leaders at the national and local level have the power to save many lives, avoid widespread suffering, and forestall major human and economic cost, all within a short space of time. Now is the time to act.”

In fiscal year 2011, the Bank mobilized $2.96 billion in financing for health, nutrition, and population. The portfolio is at a historic high of $ 10.8 billion, more than half of which goes to the world’s poorest countries.

Washington Press Contacts:

Phil Hay Work (202) 473-1796; Cell (202) 409-2909;

Melanie Mayhew Work (202) 458-7891; Cell (202) 406-0504;

To read the new report, and see more of the World Bank’s work in non-communicable diseases, and its wider engagement in health, nutrition, and population, please visit:

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September 25, 2011


Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Development initiatives aimed at inducing health for the people while at the same time building a strong economy is a tough job to do. More so if the key strategy for attaining such goals is better environmental management.

Such challenges already faced the development experts and stakeholders in my own country the Philippines when I began my own profession as a development specialist in the early 80s. Environmentalism wasn’t even an in thing in my country, though the cudgels for eco-advocacy was taken by my first employer the Ministry of Human Settlements. The agency operated on a framework of ‘basic needs’ among which were health, livelihood and ecological balance.

Among continents to search for exemplars of successful integration of the key result areas—livelihood, health and environmental management—is South America. Here the humble nation of Colombia shows the positive results of such development initiatives, thus erasing the largely negative image the nation sustained due to drug cartel operations in the past.

Below is a special report from the World Bank about the Colombia experiences.

[Philippines, 25 September 2011]


Colombia: Healthier People, A Stronger Economy Through Better Environmental Management

With the support of the World Bank, Colombia introduced a number of reforms that reduced air pollution levels in large cities and introduced new instruments for improved environmental management, potentially benefitting both the health of its people and also its economy. The Government increased public participation in environmental decision-making, and prepared critical policies and laws related to sustainable development, air quality, water quality, solid waste management, and environmental licensing.

• Programmatic Development Policy Loan for Sustainable Development – P081397 (2005-2006)
• Second Programmatic Development Policy Loan for Sustainable Development – P095877 (2007-2008)
• Third Programmatic Development Policy Loan for Sustainable Development – P101301 (2008-2009)

In 2006 it was estimated that the costs of environmental degradation – such as urban air pollution, and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene – amounted to 3.7 percent of Colombia’s gross domestic product, compromising Colombia’s potential for sustainable economic growth. Outdoor air pollution, especially fine particulate matter such as sulfur in transport fuels, was recorded as an important cause of respiratory illness, especially among women and children, contributing to approximately 6,000 deaths in Colombia per year. Costs associated with intestinal morbidity from contaminated water and inadequate hygiene was high, particularly in children. The 2006 Country Environmental Analysis found that priority-setting and institutional coordination to address environmental issues was weak; there was no direct correlation between national priorities, and investments by local environmental authorities.

The Sustainable Development Policy Loan (DPL) series from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) was designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of Colombia’s National Environmental System, and to integrate principles of sustainable development into key sectors, with a particular emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable groups. Prior preparation and additional IBRD support helped the Program to both set and achieve these objectives. The policy reforms undertaken by the Government of Colombia were based on a solid analytical foundation that included a Country Environmental Analysis from 2006, which highlighted priority areas for reform in that sector. The analytical work also persuaded the Government to act as the primary force in reforming the sector, and the program was integrated in its National Development Plan for 2006-2010. Additional support, totaling US$7 million, from the IBRD’s Sustainable Development Investment Project has financed targeted actions and investments to support the development and implementation of the DPL program’s policy reforms.

Successive IDA financing of US$16 million, US$45 million, and US$20 provided vital flood control structures in the city of Taiz and its surrounding areas. By the closing of the second phase in June 2008, major parts of Taiz city, including downtown Taiz, were transformed into livable and flash flood-secure neighborhoods and the impact of the projects on the lives and livelihoods of the people in these areas is substantial. The structures built under these successive phases include:
• Colombia approved national policies for environmental health (2008), air quality (2008), and water (2010);
• It also passed a law on fuel quality in 2008 that reduced sulfur content in diesel from 1,000 parts per million to 500 ppm in Colombia’s largest cities;
• It established an air quality monitoring network for in 21 cities;
• The government created a Water Resources Group in the Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development, which is the first centralized group responsible for planning and budgeting activities related to water resources management in Colombia;
• At least 25 municipalities adopted watershed management plans in areas of water scarcity in order to better manage and monitor valuable natural resources;
• Colombia undertook a hygiene and hand-washing campaign to reduce incidence of water-related disease, especially amongst children and the poor;
• It passed an Urban Environmental Policy in 2008 that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of local environmental authorities;
• The government created a system for the regular management reporting of local environmental authorities, with reports made available to the public;
• It also established a monitoring and evaluation system for environmental policies, providing input into environmental management decisions.
Bank Contribution
IBRD provided US$300,000 for the 2006 Country Environmental Analysis that was critical in establishing an analytical framework for the Sustainable Development DPL program, which consisted of a series of three operations between 2005 and 2010. IBRD support for the program totaled US$800 million. In addition, the Sustainable Development Investment Loan for US$7 million, which became effective in 2006, has financed key activities to support implementation of the program. The World Bank is currently working toward the provision of an additional US$10 million to further support this operation.

Close coordination with other donors was an integral part of preparation of the DPL program. The program is designed to complement the Inter-American Development Bank’s Urban Social Housing and National Environmental System projects, which support strengthening of environmental institutions. The Bank also collaborated with officials from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Colombia, who have prepared an environmental program that supports institutional strengthening within Colombia’s National Environmental System and the country’s wider conservation efforts. The World Bank team worked closely with the Dutch embassy and other partners to ensure that all donor activities in this sector were complementary.

Moving Forward
The Government has requested several pieces of analytical work that build on the foundations of the DPL Program, and which will examine a range of other key issues, including: incentives to achieve reductions in emissions from mobile sources; biodiversity management; an estimation of environmental and health costs from illegal mining; an analysis of the impacts of urban air pollution; and mechanisms to incorporate environmental management into key sectors. The Government has also requested the expansion of the Sustainable Development Investment Project through an additional financing of US$10 million, currently under preparation, which will continue to provide support to the objectives of the original DPL program.

The Sustainable Development DPL program aimed to benefit not only individual communities, or even cities, but the entire Colombian population. By making improvements across the entire environmental sector, ranging from reduced air and water pollution to improved transparency and governance in environmental management, the DPL was able to benefit people across social and economic strata and has successfully improved the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people.

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