Resource scarcity in Ethiopia

Global concern is currently mounting all over again about the impacts of a more resource-scarce world, with particular attention focused at present on the risks of a renewed global food price spike following a spate of extreme weather in the US and around the world. Two weeks ago, corn and soyabean prices broke the record they had set during the 2008 food spike, while wheat prices have increased by 50% over the last five weeks.

These global trends have the potential to cause massive problems for a country like Ethiopia – where wheat is by far the country’s biggest import by value. And that’s before you take into account low agricultural yields and farm sizes, major exposure to drought, limited access to energy, and how these challenges will be magnified by high rates of population and economic growth, which will increase demand for resources – as well as intensifying climate change impacts

Against this backdrop, the NYU Center on International Cooperation has just published a new report of mine entitled Resources, Risks and Resilience: Scarcity and climate change in Ethiopia.  This is the first in a series of CIC case studies on the risks that resource scarcity and climate change pose to poor countries – and on how those countries and their international partners can build resilience to them. (A second case study, on resource scarcity in Pakistan, is currently being prepared by David Steven; plans are also in train to undertake a third study on Nigeria.)

While the report sets out a daunting set of scarcity-driven challenges for Ethiopia, it also notes that Ethiopia’s government is well aware of the challenges it faces, and has put in place a battery of policies to address them – including, notably, the breathtaking aim of becoming a middle income country by 2025 with zero net growth in greenhouse gas emissions, as well as an extremely ambitious (and controversial) program of dam-building and large scale agricultural projects.

As well as assessing these policies, the report also identifies a range of vulnerabilities, policy gaps and exogenous risks that will need to be taken account of in future planning by the government and its international partners. It concludes by setting out a ten point agenda on how Ethiopia’s government and partners can improve their performance in managing scarcity issues. Continue reading

Osborne just doesn’t make the cut

As Chancellor George Osborne thanks the London Olympics for taking him off the front pages, he might want to take advantage of the breathing space to have an image makeover.

One colleague who may be able to provide some tips is his sharp-suited Chief Secretary, Danny Alexander. The former Chief of Staff to Nick Clegg, Alexander’s distinctive style and dress sense have made him something of a fashion hero in the more unlikeliest of places – Pakistan.

Sharp-suited Danny Alexander MP adorns a store front in Islamabad

As you can see, the owner of Wazir tailors in downtown Islamabad was in no doubt that Alexander trumped Osborne in the style stakes, using this timeless image taken from the 2010 Spending Review for his store front, with Osborne sadly not making the cut.

Why Greenpeace is part of the problem on global climate policy

On Twitter a couple of days ago, Greenpeace International’s executive director Kumi Naidoo penned an appeal for people to become Greenpeace members. I threw off a series of tweets in reply saying that Greenpeace was part of the problem rather than part of the solution on global climate policy and that there was no way I would ever join Greenpeace given its current position – prompting a few people (including Kumi himself) to ask what I meant, and why I was on such a downer on Greenpeace. Here’s my answer. Continue reading

Are Language Policies Increasing Poverty and Inequality?

African Languages

Language is one of the most neglected areas in the development field. It barely registers on any agenda to help poor countries despite its importance to a number of crucial areas and it being a barrier to progress in many fragile states. Why is this? Continue reading

Let’s be Norway (part 3)

Continuing an occasional series about why the UK could take a leaf out of Norway’s foreign policy book on, well, pretty much every front (previous instalments here and here), here’s the BBC’s Richard Galpin on how Norway is dealing with terrorism a year on from Utoeya:

At the political level, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg pledged to do everything to ensure the country’s core values were not undermined.”The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation,” he said.

A year later it seems the prime minister has kept his word. There have been no changes to the law to increase the powers of the police and security services, terrorism legislation remains the same and there have been no special provisions made for the trial of suspected terrorists. On the streets of Oslo, CCTV cameras are still a comparatively rare sight and the police can only carry weapons after getting special permission.

Even the gate leading to the parliament building in the heart of Oslo remains open and unguarded. “It is still easy to get access to parliament and we hope it will stay that way, ” said Lise Christoffersen, a Labour party MP.

Via Bruce Schneier. Full disclosure: I am slightly Norwegian (and feeling more so every day…)

 

Cows versus squirrels: a mammalian metaphor gone mad

 

What on earth is all this about?

When the winter comes in the squirrel has already stored 3000 nuts in different tree holes that provide the food storage to overcome the harshest season of the year. The nuts have been collected in past months and will be shared with the other members of the community if someone is in need. The squirrel is small but has adapted to live in all sorts of environments including European capitals. It’s agile, collaborative and last but not least independent.

On the other hand, the cow needs to take shelter in the stable during winter. It would not survive without the famer taking care it of all needs. Its life is quiet and relaxed. It just needs to feed, reproduce, and produce milk. But it consumes a lot of resources and life ends always in the abattoir. Its life depends entirely on others for maintenance and aims. Cows live all together but don’t collaborate. The farmer is in charge.

That is in fact the baseline concept for a conference being organized this September by a consortium of Danish and Swedish institutes on “how the European Union can foster and support such pioneers through the new socio-economic policies, namely social business and social innovation.”  Does it all seem clearer now?  Maybe not…

This metaphorical comparison aims to help civil society leaders and social entrepreneurs picture the transformation our society is going through: less leadership and help from governments and corporations, and the need for self-organisation, funding, support and development of solutions to social problems. We have to rethink our strategy, collaborate and innovate in order to transform from the cow to the squirrel.

The traditional resources as public funding and sponsorships are shrinking but new opportunities and synergies are emerging.

Fair enough.  But where does the EU fit into this metaphor?  Is it the cow?  Or the tree the squirrels hide their nuts in?  Or the abattoir?  I’m confused…