Monthly Archives: November 2008
The UN Development Program is seeking to answer that age-old question for residents of the small nation of Comoros: how can we best use a volcano to improve our economy, provide energy, feed us, promote tourism, increase biodiversity, and, um, not cover us with liquid hot magma?
Experts in vulcanology, natural resources and disaster prevention are gathering today in the Comoros for the start of a United Nations-sponsored conference examining how the Indian Ocean archipelago can better manage and profit from the active volcano that dominates the main island in the chain.
The Karthala volcano, which covers two thirds of Grande Comore island, has erupted about 20 times over the past century and four times since 2005, displacing thousands of locals in the process.
So now, in addition to being able to brag about the coolness of living on a volcano nation,
Comorosers Comorosans people who live in the Comoros will hopefully actually be able to benefit from their geography — instead of having to flee from it in terror.
(cross-posted at On Day One)
A sneak preview of an ad, signed by dozens of Republican and Democratic foreign policy luminaries, that will run in Thursday’s New York Times.
In today’s rapidly changing world of interdependence, globalization, and transnational threats, the United States must balance a strong military with creative diplomacy to secure America’s interests. We must recognize that the United Nations is a critical platform and partner for advancing international cooperation on today’s global threats and challenges, such as poverty and disease, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and climate change.
The UN cannot succeed without strong U.S. leadership and support. The next President has a unique opportunity to revitalize the U.S.-UN relationship as a symbol of America’s commitment to constructive international cooperation. This investment will pay off substantially by helping to enhance our standing internationally and strengthen our ability to keep America safe and strong.
The letter, sponsored by the Partnership for a Secure America and the UN Foundation and spearheaded by former Democratic Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Republican National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, also includes the signatures of various high-profile Senators, Representatives, and officials from both parties. These foreign policy experts express a UNanimoUS (UN-U.S., get it yet?) consent that the incoming Obama administration should, among other important steps, pay U.S. debts to the UN on time, seek a seat on the Human Rights Council, and provide concrete support for UN peacekeeping.
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA–After an incredibly uplifting morning observing a meeting of young African social entrepreneurs, I caught up with the Danish Minister for Development Ulla Tomaes who was touring a number of innovative economic development projects here. We stopped at Muya Ethiopia, a compound of four buildings that produces high-end crafts like pottery and decorative scarves.
Potters and weavers are drawn from lower castes here in Ethiopia. They barely get by, typically earning less than $6 dollars month. But Muya Ethiopia strives to be something different. For one, the products manufactured here are high quality and sold abroad. But more importantly, Muya Ethiopia takes care of its some 150 workers, paying them a decent wage, providing meals, and offering a clean, safe work environment that celebrates the culture of a socially marginalized caste. They even have a on-site volleyball court to encourage exercise during their mandatory one hour lunch break.
Muya Ethiopia does all this while turning a nice profit. They are operating at capacity and export their products all over the world. This is the epitome of doing good by doing well. Muya wants to expand, hire more craftsmen and women but needs the capital to do so. In today’s volatile market, investors could do much worse than putting their money behind projects like this.
The UN has announced its target goal of $7 billion to fund its humanitarian projects in 2009. That seems an impressively large amount, until you consider the extent of need across the world and how little it would take for wealthy countries to make game-changing investments.
“Millions of people continue to struggle with long-running conflicts, natural disasters, the effects of climate change, and high food prices. The 2009 Appeal offers concrete help to these people in distress,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said, stressing that the $7 billion sought amounted to only a few cents for every $100 of national income in rich countries. [emphasis mine]
Responses to the “flash appeals” that the UN makes whenever particular humanitarian emergencies arise — such as the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami — are generally overwhelming. Yet last year, donor countries only provided $4.7 billion out of the combined $7 billion total UN request, from both its original target and the flash appeals for catastrophes such as the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in Pakistan.
For just a few cents off every $100, let’s hope we can get off to a better start in 2009.
by Letha Tawney
Farmers throughout the Bobo-Dioulasso region of Burkina Faso met last week to discuss the advantages of an innovative FAO project to sustainably intensify production in the moist savannah region. Pictured is the Kankota Baré Farmer Field School, meeting to report on the progress of their work. In a shared test plot, they have been growing a diversified range of crops using improved pest and soil management practices, under the guidance of an FAO trained farmer facilitator. They’re seeing improved yields with reduced inputs.
Resolving the lagging crop yields in West Africa is a complex issue, but FAO has been testing an integrated production system, based on conservation (no-till) agriculture with farmers in Burkina Faso since 2001. In their fifth season, the farmers are growing a broader range of cash and fodder crops, which stabilizes their livelihoods. The soil’s improved nutrient cycling is reducing the need for chemical fertilizer while improving yields and the soil’s improved water retention is lengthening the growing season. The long-term goal is to turn the moist savanna band across Africa into the breadbasket it has the potential to be, improving food security throughout the continent.
After a quick trip to the Ethiopian Ministry of Information, I’m pleased to report that UN Dispatch is officially a news organization in the eyes of the Ethiopian Government. Being officially, official I dropped in on the African Youth Panel, which is a meeting of about 30 young social entrepreneurs from across Africa. I met some amazing people there and heard some truly incredible stories — the kind of stories that reaffirm your faith in humanity.
I’ll share these in a later post. In the meantime, I’m off to visit some of the Danish government’s development project sites and will drop back in on the youth panel. Stay tuned.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.