Countercyclical Fiscal Policy Needed to Counter Global Economic Downturn

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Oct 1 2019 – A conjuncture of developments, short- and medium-term, have conspired to further slow the world economy. In recent months, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others, has acknowledged that global economic prospects are worsening, forcing it to make not one, but at least five consecutive growth forecast revisions, all downward.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Prevention better than cure
With most developing economies more open and unequal than ever before, due to past government policies supporting a decade of economic liberalization, globalization and strengthened property rights, near term economic prospects are bleaker than ever.

In such circumstances, it would be prudent, even necessary, and certainly not profligate, to turn to counter-cyclical, expansionary fiscal policy. To do otherwise would be like rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic as it was about to crash into the iceberg.

Conservative or ‘neoliberal’ lobbyists, including those who have ‘infiltrated’ most government administrations, and their favourite ‘consultants’ are still chanting old mantras while their own gurus, e.g., in the Economist and Wall Street Journal, have become more pragmatic by necessity.

While some gurus have revised their old dogmas to accommodate reactionary ethno-populist challenges, their typically blindly loyal followers in emerging market economies continue to insist on tired, if not thoroughly discredited old slogans, such as the analytically bogus ‘fiscal consolidation’, in the face of the looming slowdown.

Sensible spending
All over the world, more realistic and pragmatic economists, forced to deal with real world problems, now publicly recognize that fiscal positions can be improved in the medium-term with appropriate short-term deficit spending.

Such fiscal spending should not only seek to buffer the economic downturn in the short-term, but also lay the foundations for medium-term economic development, which most developing countries have desperately needed, especially since the 2008-2009 Great Recession.

Instead of simply creating yet more public sector jobs, or building infrastructure ‘white elephants’ which would burden future generations for a long time to come, developing country governments should make fiscal commitments to improve human resources and yield sustainable development dividends in the medium and long-term.

Redistribution for development
Progressive income redistribution is more likely to raise aggregate demand through increased spending, while regressive transfers will achieve the converse. Social protection should be consolidated and disbursed more effectively, efficiently and equitably, thus strengthening aggregate demand while improving human welfare.

Appropriate investments to improve health, nutrition, education, training and needed infrastructure will pay significant development dividends in the medium and long-term. Meanwhile, universal health care should be financed by tax and other revenue as insurance options are more costly and encourage ‘perverse’ behaviours.

Of course, what governments can do is constrained by fiscal circumstances, but these should not be exaggerated or seen as immutable. All governments face choices in terms of what they choose to spend on, and most parameters can be changed over the medium-term, if not immediately.

Means constrain ends
A relatively upper middle-income country should boldly consider previously unthinkable options, some of which may still be beyond the means of other developing countries. In this connection, well-coordinated ‘all of government’ efforts can yield huge dividends.

For example, transformative, Japanese-style universal school lunch programs were first introduced early in the last century when the island nation still had little in terms of foreign exchange earnings. The program has successfully enhanced nutrition and health, but also the appreciation for science and civilization of all engaged. School food procurement has also been used to promote safer and healthier food production.

Similarly, the development of generic medicines, especially for neglected tropical diseases, will be important for many, if not most developing countries, while biofortified healthy food has tremendous potential for overcoming hunger, micronutrient deficiencies and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

Finally, selective investment and technology promotion is desperately needed after years of chimera-chasing and ersatz techno-sloganeering. As the world struggles to mitigate global warming, developing countries deserve considerable financial and technical support to modernize their economies with renewable energy, bypassing fossil fuel options.

Prevent abuse from the outset
The urgently needed turn to counter-cyclical public spending must be mindful of the waste and abuse of the past hiding behind noble-sounding rhetoric. Abuse of or even poorly conceived government spending will not only discredit public policies generally, but also set back these economies, their prospects and people further back.

Simply buying over existing privately held assets will not enhance economic capacities, capabilities and output. Similarly, pouring good money after bad money, including the corrupt or fraudulent investments of previous governments will not improve them.

As multilateral institutions and arrangements are increasingly being deliberately undermined, developing country governments have little choice but to fend for themselves and their people, while avoiding the temptations of jingoist nationalism, especially ‘beggar thy neighbour’ and selfish ecologically destructive policies.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.

NetAlly Launches Powerful All-in-One Multi-Technology Handheld Network Testing Solution, EtherScope™ nXG

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Oct. 01, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — NetAlly, a leader in handheld testing solutions for wired and wireless access networks, today announced the release of EtherScope nXG Portable Network Expert, a powerful handheld network tester that enables network engineers and technicians to quickly discover, test, verify and troubleshoot enterprise access networks. As the first handheld tool to offer a single user interface (UI) that fully integrates both wired and wireless network test data, the EtherScope nXG dramatically increases network visibility, accelerates and simplifies testing, and simplifies team collaboration. This is the first portable tool with the right combination of capabilities to "break the Layer 2 ceiling" "" allowing users to easily identify wireless clients not just by MAC address, but by IP, name and type, delivering visibility most Wi–Fi tools cannot provide.

"As today's networks continue to grow in complexity, network teams often struggle to keep pace. They need better solutions that help streamline their network testing and troubleshooting process," said Mike Parrottino, CEO at NetAlly. "To help address these challenges, we designed EtherScope nXG to be the most comprehensive and powerful portable network tester available."

EtherScope nXG's all new UI combines wired and wireless data analysis and purpose–built hardware to support a broad range of technologies like line–rate 10G (over copper and fiber), NBASE–T, Wi–Fi 5/Wi–Fi 6, and high–power PoE (Power over Ethernet).

Parrottino continues, "With EtherScope nXG's advanced out–of–the–box auto–testing capabilities, network engineers and technicians get unprecedented visibility that accelerates testing and drives collaboration, all in a truly portable, light weight tool that can easily be brought to problem areas. With it, teams will simply get more done, faster."

According to a recent Spiceworks survey, IT professionals face a variety of challenges that include implementing planned changes, managing unexpected changes, ensuring network security, and a lack of time and resources. These challenges are caused primarily by the disparity in staff skills and toolsets (between engineers and technicians), and visibility gaps across wired and wireless networks. The EtherScope nXG was designed to overcome these issues with key features and capabilities that enable users to:

  • Test, Validate and Troubleshoot the Latest Network Technology "" Users can assess support for NBASE–T, 10G, Wi–Fi 5/Wi–Fi 6, with advanced Android–based troubleshooting apps and purpose–built test hardware. Additional test capabilities include packet capture at line–rate to 10G, network discovery and path analysis, 24–hour RF traffic analysis, cable testing, and PoE TruePowerTM load testing.
  • Quickly Verify Performance "" The product offers 10G line–rate performance testing for critical servers, uplinks and key end devices over Ethernet, iPerf testing over Wi–Fi or wired links, and testing against another EtherScope nXG or other NetAlly tools for end–to–end tests.
  • Bridge the Gap Between Engineer and Technician "" Users can dive deep to verify, troubleshoot and document complex networks with multiple VLANs and Wi–Fi SSIDs, or take advantage of out–of–the–box AutoTests that require minimal skill and training. Through the EtherScope nXG, offsite engineers can extend their expertise via remote control to collaborate with technicians at distant sites to solve tough problems without the need for travel.
  • Assess the Health of the Network "" With Wi–Fi air quality tests for over–subscribed channels, Wi–Fi channel utilization analysis, and network discovery, EtherScope nXG can help "prove it's not the network" or pinpoint root cause faster than other non–integrated methods.
  • Discover Security Risks "" EtherScope nXG's powerful network discovery technology identifies unknown switches, hidden SSIDs and probing Wi–Fi devices, while categorizing devices by security status, detecting rogues and more.
  • Seamlessly Capture and Manage Field Test Data "" Users can enjoy automated and centralized reporting and analysis, documentation, and integration with network management systems via NetAlly's complimentary Link–Live cloud service.

“NetAlly continues a long history of putting ever more troubleshooting power in the palm of your hand with EtherScope nXG," says Lee Badman, wireless network architect at Wirednot. "It's not easy finding a tool that goes deep enough for senior engineers and developers, while also being junior technician–friendly, but EtherScope hits that sweet spot effectively. Combined with Link–Live, EtherScope is a new top–tier weapon in the war on wired and wireless network problems."

For more information about EtherScope nXG, please visit https://netally.com/.

About NetAlly
NetAlly offers testing you can trust, from your new ally. Our family of network test solutions have been helping network engineers and technicians better deploy, manage, and maintain today's complex wired and wireless networks for decades. From creating the industry's first handheld network analyzer in 1993 to being the industry pacesetter "" first as Fluke Networks , then as NETSCOUT "" NetAlly continues to raise the bar for portable network analysis. With tools that include LinkRunner , OneTouch, AirCheck and more, NetAlly simplifies the complexities of network testing, provides instant visibility for efficient problem resolution, and enables seamless collaboration between site personnel and remote experts. To learn more and see why NetAlly delivers the best in handheld network test visit https://netally.com/.

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Constitutional Committee Breakthrough Offers ‘Sign of Hope’ for Long-suffering Syrians

There is a “sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people” as a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, credible and inclusive Constitutional Committee is set to start deliberations next month, the United Nations Special Envoy for the country told the Security Council on Monday.

Children rest beneath a tree in a makeshift camp in Aqrabat village, near the Turkish border, after fleeing hostilities in Idlib. (June 2019). Credit: © UNICEF/Aaref Watad.

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2019 – There is a “sign of hope for the long-suffering Syrian people” as a Syrian-led, Syrian-owned, credible and inclusive Constitutional Committee is set to start deliberations next month, the United Nations Special Envoy for the country told the Security Council on Monday.

As the “first concrete political agreement” between the Government and opposition groups, it “implies a clear acceptance of the other as an interlocutor”, said Geir O. Pedersen. “It commits their nominees to sit together in face-to-face dialogue and negotiation, while at the same time opening the space for civil society at the table”.

After years of intense negotiation, Secretary-General António Guterres announced last Monday that the Syrian Government and the Syrian Negotiations Commission had agreed to form “a credible, balanced and inclusive Constitutional Committee that will be facilitated by the UN in Geneva”.

“Step by step we need to build the kind of safe, calm and neutral environment that could make Syrians feel that the political process can restore their country and respond to their aspirations”
Geir O. Pedersen, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria

It offers “a new social contract to help repair a broken country”, he flagged, saying it “can be a door opener to a wider political process” and, if accompanied by other steps to build trust and confidence among Syrians and the international community, “a step along the difficult path out of this conflict”.

 

Nuts and bolts

The agreement’s core terms of reference are framed by the key principles of respect for the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions, Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

The UN envoy spelled out that the constitutional reforms adopted by the Committee “must be popularly approved and transposed into the national legal order by a means that will need to be agreed”.

He outlined the Committee’s structure, which will consist of “equal co-chairs” one from the Government, the other from the opposition; a 45-person body consisting of 15 Government, 15 opposition and 15 civil society members to prepare and draft proposals; and a 150-person body from the same sectors, each with 50 members, to discuss and adopt proposals – with a 75 per cent decision-making threshold.

Noting that the UN will release the names of the 150 members after they have been confirmed, he pointed out that the 50 civil society actors hail from different religious, ethnic and geographical backgrounds; some live inside Syria while others are based outside; and nearly half are women.

“Both parties have told me that they have confidence in the United Nations and want to work with us in a sustained and constructive manner”, said Mr. Pedersen, adding: “We will do everything we can to meet their expectations”.

“Ensuring sufficient credibility, balance and inclusivity…has been a key priority”, the UN envoy said, admitting that “the result is a negotiated compromise, and like all compromises, no one is completely satisfied”.

Lauding the “outstanding work” of “Syrian experts and activists, men and women, on all sides” that have helped create this new public space for democratic and civic debates, he acknowledged that not all of them could be on the Committee, but expressed confidence that “they will continue to make their voices heard”.

“The future constitution of Syria belongs to the Syrian people and them alone”, he stressed.

“Syrians, not outsiders, will draft the constitution, and the Syrian people must popularly approve it”, maintained Mr. Pedersen.

Pointing to the continuing humanitarian crisis in Idlib; ongoing terrorism concerns; violence – and the plight of displaced, abducted and missing civilians – the Special Envoy recognized that many challenges persist, and appealed to all parties to “seize upon the momentum that the Committee offers and take concrete actions, to build trust and confidence”.

“Step by step”, Mr. Pederson told Council members, “we need to build the kind of safe, calm and neutral environment that could make Syrians feel that the political process can restore their country and respond to their aspirations”.

This story was originally published by UN News

The looming climate crisis: Where is our Greta Thunberg?

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit. PHOTO: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS

By Habibullah N Karim
Oct 1 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has issued its latest warning saying that the world’s oceans are rising twice as fast as they did in the last century due to fast-disappearing ice-sheets in the Antarctic and Greenland. The IPCC predicts that as much as two-thirds of the permafrost could be gone before the end of the current century, further exacerbating carbon dioxide emissions as humongous amounts of CO2 trapped in the permafrost would be released in the process. In other words, all the apprehensions about climate change are much more menacing than anticipated earlier, making for huge shifts in climate patterns that will wreak havoc on the coastal cities and habitations around the world. On the one hand, rising sea levels will inundate low-lying coastal areas and, on the other hand, all the entrapped heat in the oceans will give rise to far more destructive cyclones more frequently. The world as we knew it in the pre-industrial era is gone for ever.

The level of change in the climate that humans have already caused can no longer be labelled an innocuous “climate change” but rather a pernicious “climate crisis”. This new reckoning is bound to cause major setbacks in countries like ours and should surely cause major headaches to socio-economic planners.

Bangladesh sits at the head of the funnel that directs all the atmospheric turbulence above the Indian Ocean to the narrow mouth of the Bay of Bengal, putting us at the receiving end of this huge climate crisis. But do we see anyone blowing the whistles on this one? The government seems complacent with the high growth rates the nation has achieved in recent years but all such growth prospects will be in serious jeopardy if we fail to address the climate crisis on a war footing.

15-year old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg stunned the world leaders last week at the UN General Assembly with her in-your-face proclamations on how climate change, nay, climate crisis, has robbed our children of their right to a prosperous future in a world sinking in its oceans and churning in its storms. That the world must rise in a body to counter the effects of anthropogenic global warming and arrest the rising global temperatures and devote resources to “carbon sequestering” is causing world leaders to cringe in their seats. Many world leaders are taking bold steps and major economic measures to counter climate change and many more are rising to the challenge being prodded by a fearless teenager from Sweden who dared to cross the Atlantic in a solar powered boat instead of taking a carbon-gushing plane ride to attend the UNGA meeting in New York. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)—the global compact of climate Tsars—has been working on creating awareness and pushing for remedial actions on climate change for nearly three decades now but the world needed the prodding of a sharp-tongued and fiercely committed Greta Thunberg to jolt world leaders into fervent action on the impending climate crisis.

Bangladesh is a poster-child for climate change that brings to fore all the disastrously harmful effects of global warming; in all climate conferences Bangladesh is at the dead centre of discussions on how to mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change but not much planning and activity is visible yet on the home front. Rather we had been in the news for all the wrong reasons, when Green Climate Fund resources were plundered by a government-sanctioned private bank that almost went belly up last year.

Sweden is a country with a large coastline where the effects of global warming is causing rapidly changing shorelines as the sea creeps inward relentlessly. Of course, Sweden has reasons to be highly concerned but it is a thinly-populated country with a high per capita income. It has the wherewithal and landmass to put up with climate change. That this nation of only 10 million has produced a Greta Thunberg to ring the carillon bell on climate change makes our lack of action in this area all the more poignant.

Bangladesh may not have as large a coastline as Sweden but our fragile coastline hosting the largest mangrove forest of the world and a population 17 times larger than Sweden’s at the mercy of the elements make it imperative that someone as fearless and as passionate as Greta comes forward to bell the cat on climate crisis before we become climate fodder. There is certainly no dearth of derring-do teenagers here as evidenced by the traffic revolt of the teens earlier this year. The clock is ticking for a climate uprising. Is anyone listening?

Habibullah N Karim is an author, policy activist, investor and serial entrepreneur. He is a founder and former president of BASIS and founder-CEO of Technohaven Company Ltd. Email: hnkarim@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

No to Ageism, Yes to Intergenerational Equality

Srinivas Tata, is Director, Social Development Division, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

 

Eduardo Klien, is Regional Director, Asia, HelpAge International

By Srinivas Tata and Eduardo Klien
BANGKOK, Thailand, Oct 1 2019 – As we are celebrating the International Day of Older Persons today, we recognize that population ageing is a human success story, a story of longer and often healthier lives of the world’s people. The many faces of older persons that we see in Asia and in the Pacific, and, indeed, all over the world, attest to this fact. Still, however, ageing is considered a threat. There is talk about the “burden of ageing”, exploding healthcare costs, and concerns about plummeting economic growth due to the shrinking labour force. In many cities of Asia-Pacific, we see advertisement for “anti-ageing cosmetics” and surgeries. The current ideal is that we must be young, dynamic and without wrinkles or grey hair, especially older women.

Srinivas Tata

Population ageing is a human success story and an inevitable outcome of the demographic transition. In Asia-Pacific, the pace of change is unprecedented, with fertility rates falling rapidly across the entire region and life expectancy rising, resulting in a rapid increase in the proportion of older persons. In 2000, those aged 65 or older made up 6.1 per cent of the population; in 2019 it was 8.7 per cent and in 2050 it is projected to be 18.4 per cent. In many European countries, it took almost a century to increase the share of the older population from 7 to 14 per cent. In Asia-Pacific, this is happening in as little as 18 to 20 years, such as in Sri Lanka and Viet Nam. This means that countries, and in particular policymakers need to act fast.

The region continues to be the prime driver of global economic growth, yet a significant proportion of the working age population is not covered by pensions. In several countries of the region, especially ones in South-East Asia and South and South-West Asia, coverage is well below 20 per cent. Similar challenges exist in terms of providing accessible and affordable health care, particularly for those left furthest behind. Robust social protection systems must be developed to address population ageing in a comprehensive manner. Because the majority of older persons are women, their needs must be specifically addressed.

Older persons make vital contributions to society; their role should not only be acknowledged, it should be made easier, including through improving their knowledge and skills through lifelong learning, promoting flexible working arrangements, and allowing them to have easy access to everyday conveniences, like public transportation. A study on the time use of men and women shows that overall, older persons provide more care than they receive. They provide care to grandchildren and other older persons who need care, with many intergenerational benefits, including indirect contributions to family income by making younger women freer to participate in the paid labour force. Ageing surveys have also found that the health of older persons tends to be better if they are socially connected, volunteer and contribute to society.

Eduardo Klien

Through older persons associations, older persons generate income, build up social support structures and provide access to credit, allowing them to stay more active and healthier. Mindsets need to change; we can worry less about shrinking working-age populations when we consider that people live longer and healthier. Pensions systems should be adapted to cover those in the informal sector and retirement ages adjusted to provide the choice to older persons to work up to a later age. We must alter our perception of ageing as a burden. Rather, policies and plans should see ageing as opportunity, with benefits to be harnessed.

Population ageing provides attractive business prospects, often identified as the “Silver Economy”. More products should be tailored to the needs of the growing older population, while universally designed products and the care economy can grow exponentially. Financial products and instruments, like reverse mortgages, can be designed to adapt to needs of older persons, including to use their immovable assets to fund financial requirements.

The young people of today are the older persons of tomorrow. Population ageing can only be addressed systematically if an intergenerational approach based on equity and seeing youth and ageing are part of a single continuum is adopted. Let us celebrate population ageing and embrace it. A fair society for older persons is a just and prosperous society for all ages.

ESCAP and HelpAge have recently joined forces to address population ageing more comprehensively through the organization of advocacy events and the collaboration on research on older persons. We stand ready to support countries in the region in designing and developing policies and programmes to ensure that older persons are not left behind.

Barbados Prime Minister Warns of Mass Migration Backlash Because of Climate Crisis

Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley warned of a backlash of mass migration to the world’s richest and biggest polluters, saying an influx of climate refugees can be expected in coming years as a consequence of failing to take action to stop climate change. Courtesy: Desmond Brown

By Desmond Brown
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2019 – The Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley tells IPS her patience is running thin, as she challenges the world to tackle the climate crisis.

She warned of a backlash of mass migration to the world’s richest and biggest polluters, saying an influx of climate refugees can be expected in coming years as a consequence of failing to take action to stop climate change.

“The bottom line is that we are not here by accident. There is no traditional norm on the part of the world where I come from,” Mottley tells IPS.

In September 2014, Small Island Developing States met in Apia, Samoa for the Third International Conference on SIDS and adopted the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action, also known as the SAMOA Pathway. It is a 10-year plan to address challenges faced by small islands.

During last week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the world body convened a one-day, high-level review of progress made in addressing SIDS’ priorities in the first five years since implementation.

According to the world leaders, progress toward sustainable development in SIDS will require a major increase in investment.

Foreign Affairs Minister of Belize Wilfred Elrington says the mid-term review represents more than a simple reflection.

“It is a critical political moment, given the overwhelming challenges that threaten our sustainable development,” Elrington tells IPS.

“Our people receive daily reminders of the ticking clock for our survival. Last year we had a special report from the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] that predicted utter devastation for our countries if we missed the 1.5° C target.”

Elrington says the latest special report on the ocean and cryosphere from the IPCC projecting that 65 million people who inhabit islands and low-lying states are at risk of total inundation, only reinforced what is already happening.

“Our beaches are disappearing, our drinking water is being salinated, our oceans and seas are warming, acidifying and deoxygenating threatening our reefs and our fisheries. And if we are not experiencing more frequent flooding events, we are experiencing extreme drought events,” Elrington adds.

“Anyone of us could be the next to face a Category 5 hurricane or cyclone. We are the ground zero of a global climate and biodiversity crisis.”

Some of the specific development issues SIDS are faced with include their remoteness, transport connectivity, the small scale of their economies, the high cost of importing, the high cost of infrastructural development, vulnerability and climate vulnerability.

Already on the frontlines of climate change, sustainable development in many SIDS is threatened by difficulties in achieving sustained high levels of economic growth, owing in part to their vulnerabilities to the ongoing negative impacts of environmental challenges and external economic and financial shocks.

“It is diabolical and it is unbelievable. I refer to the plight of Barbuda whose cost of recovery was 10 times that which was pledged, and who still have not collected even that which was pledged,” Mottley says.

“I refer to Dominica, whose public service is minuscule to most countries but who are required to jump through the same hoops to unlock 300 million dollars in public funds while the people of Dominica, who were affected like the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama [in the Bahamas], don’t know where they’re going to earn money this week,” Mottley adds.

The prime minister says: “Twenty five years ago we met in Barbados and settle the Barbados Programme of Action, and on that occasion, we recognised that the wellbeing and welfare of Small Islands Developing States required special recognition and was a special case for our environment and our development.”

Meanwhile, Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Karen Cummings says even with their limited resources, SIDS have been doing their part, adding that her country has taken an “aggressive” approach towards climate change and has been “ambitious” in its nationally determined contribution commitments.

Leaders called on the international community to mobilise additional development finance from all sources and at all levels to support SIDS and welcomed the ownership, leadership and efforts demonstrated by these states in advancing the Implementation of the SAMOA Pathway.

They expressed their concern about the devastating impacts of climate change, the increasing frequency, scale and intensity of disasters and called for urgent and ambitious global action in line with the Paris Agreement to address these threats and their impacts.

The High-level Review of the SAMOA Pathway comes one month after Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas, causing significant loss of life and property damage.  Countries noted that the increasing frequency, scale and intensity of natural disasters will continue to claim lives, decimate infrastructure and remain a threat to food security.

While some progress has been made in addressing social inclusion, poverty, and unemployment, inequality continues to disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including women and girls, persons with disabilities, children and youth. More support is needed to strengthen public health systems in SIDS and especially reduce the risk factors for non-communicable diseases, and healthcare after disasters.

Other areas identified as needing more effort include demographic data collection, trade opportunities, and economic growth and diversification.

Michael Tierney, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations and co-facilitator for the Political Declaration of the SAMOA Pathway midterm review, says SIDS have done excellent work in setting up a partnership framework at the United Nations, whereby the partnerships they are working on are monitored and registered and there is an analysis done of their effectiveness.

“It’s actually a model of other parts of the world to look at. It can be improved and it can be strengthened but there is a very detailed process here at the U.N. whereby we try to encourage new development partnerships for the islands, but also, we try to monitor and analyse what we’re doing and if we’re doing it well,” Tierney tells IPS.

“One of the things, quite frankly, that we need to do better is get more private sector interest in projects. That’s a problem across the board in the developing world but it’s something that is specifically a difficulty in the Small Island Developing States.”

Confronting New Climate Reality in Asia & the Pacific

Children run away from a forest fire in a village in Palembang, South Sumatra, on Sept. 18. Credit: Antara Photo/Mushaful Imam

By Kaveh Zahedi
BANGKOK, Thailand, Oct 1 2019 – Last week, world leaders gathered at the United Nations in New York for the Climate Action Summit. Their goal was simple: to increase ambition and accelerate action in the face of a mounting climate emergency.

For many, this means ambition and action that enable countries to decarbonize their economies by the middle of the century. But that is only half the equation.

Equally ambitious plans are also needed to build the resilience of vulnerable sectors and communities being battered by climate-related disasters of increasing frequency, intensity and unpredictability.

Nowhere is this reality starker than in the Asia-Pacific region, which has suffered another punishing year of devastation due to extreme events linked to climate change.

Last year, Kerala state in India had its worst floods in a century. The floods in Iran in April this year were unprecedented. Floods and heatwaves in quick succession in Japan caused widespread destruction and loss of life.

In several South Asian countries, immediately following a period of drought, weeks of heavy monsoon rains this month unleashed floods and landslides. Across North East and South Asia, record high temperatures have been set.

The latest research from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) has shown that intense heatwaves and drought are becoming more frequent.

Unusual tropical cyclones originate from beyond the traditional risk zones and follow tracks that have not been seen before, causing unprecedented floods throughout the region.

Science tells us the impacts are only going to increase in severity and frequency as the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere continues to rise.

The poor and vulnerable are taking the biggest hit. Disasters cost lives and damage livelihood and assets. Disaster exposure has increased child malnutrition and mortality rates and forced poor families to take children out of school – entrenching inter-generational poverty.

It also perpetuates inequalities within and between countries. A person in small-island developing states in the Pacific is three to five times more at risk of disasters than a person elsewhere in our disaster-prone region. Vanuatu has faced annual losses of over 20 percent of its gross domestic product.

In Southeast Asia, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have all faced losses of more than five percent of their GDP. In short, disasters are slowing down and often reversing poverty reduction and widening inequality.

But amid this cycle of disaster and vulnerability lies a golden opportunity for careful and forward-looking investment. The Global Commission on Adaptation recently found that there would be over $7 trillion in total net benefits between now and 2030 from investing in early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and in making water resources more resilient.

So where could countries in the Asia-Pacific region make a start? First, by providing people with the means to overcome shocks. Increasing social protection is a good start.

Currently, developing countries in Asia and the Pacific only spend about 3.7 percent of their GDP on social protection, compared to the world average of 11.2 percent, leaving people vulnerable in case they get sick, lose their jobs, become old or are hit by a disaster.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, we saw the effectiveness of social protection, especially cash transfers, but these were only made possible because the government was able to use a conditional cash transfer system and mechanism already in place for poor and vulnerable people.

Second, by lifting the financial burden of the poor. Disaster risk finance and insurance can cover poor and vulnerable people from climate shocks and help them recover from disasters.

A good example is Mongolia’s index-based insurance scheme which their government has been using to deal with the increased frequency of “dzuds,” where a combination of droughts and shortage of pasture lead to massive livestock deaths.

Disaster risk finance can also help countries pool the risks as is happening through the emerging Asean Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance program.

Third, by increasing investment in new technologies and big data. Artificial Intelligence-driven risk analytics, as well as the fast combination of sensor and geospatial data, can strengthen early warning systems.

Big data, including from mobile phones, can help identify and locate vulnerable populations in risk hotspots who have been the hardest to reach so far, ensuring faster, more targeted help after disasters.

Experience around the region has already shown the potential of using tech and big data to alleviate disaster risks. In India, a combination of automated risk analytics, geospatial data and a digital identity system – the so-called AADHARR system – have helped to identify and deliver assistance to millions of drought-affected subsistence farmers.

But much more investment is needed to make technology an integral part of disaster risk response and resilience building.

Climate-related disasters are likely to increase in the Asia-Pacific. This is our new climate reality. The Climate Action Summit provides the perfect platform to make the commitments needed for helping communities and people to adapt to this reality before decades of hard-won development gains are washed away.