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Blog Posts: poverty

  • Without Land, What Would a Farmer Do?

    Rural farmers depend on land and natural resources for food, income, and their physical well-being. But what happens when national or local governments prevent rural people and communities from farming their land?

    All governments have the authority to restrict the use of private land, usually for public interest purposes, such as environmental management or biodiversity conservation. In these cases, the affected individuals should be compensated for their losses even though the land remains theirs. Problems arise when governments routinely restrict the use of private property for ordinary government business or for meeting short-term political ends. With weak rights to their property and insecure tenure arrangements, local people stop investing in their land and natural resources. In many countries, governments restrict the use of private property without consulting the landholders or providing compensation. With courts too expensive to access, poor people have few opportunities for recourse.

  • A Time for Leadership on Climate Justice

    I spent the recent U.N. climate negotiations in Doha trying to reconcile two injustices. The first is captured by Nicholas Stern’s “brutal arithmetic.” This is the simple, unavoidable fact that bold greenhouse gas emissions reductions will be needed from all countries to hold global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, thus preventing climate change’s most dangerous impacts. Developing nations, many of which are battling crippling poverty and inequality at home, are being told that the traditional, high-carbon pathway to prosperity is off-limits, and that they, too, will need to embrace aggressive mitigation actions. This is a glaring injustice – the product of two decades of missed opportunities in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), inadequate domestic action in industrialized countries, and substantial geopolitical changes in major emerging economies.

    But the second injustice is even greater – one that is manifest and which must be avoided. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has illustrated, breaching the 2°C threshold would seriously degrade vital ecosystems and the communities who depend on them. This, itself, is an issue of justice, as climate change undermines the realization of human rights, including the right to food, health, an adequate standard of living, and even the right to life. Those same developing countries who are home to the poorest and most vulnerable members of our global community—and who are now compelled to act on reducing emissions—will be hit first and hardest by climate change’s impacts.

  • WRI Wins Award for its Environmental Justice Film, “Sunita”

    Consider this blog post to have been written hastily on the back of a cocktail napkin. Not really, of course, as my handwriting is increasingly poor in this digital age. But I’m in acceptance-speech mode, as WRI just won the 2012 EthicMark Award for its environmental justice film, Sunita.

    This award, which I recently accepted at the Sustainable Brands London conference, is given for advertisements that “uplift the human spirit and society.” WRI tied for first place in the non-profit category, along with Ten Thousand Villages’ fantastic film, World Fair Trade Day 2011. We at WRI are incredibly thankful to the folks who honored us with this award—the World Business Academy, Ethical Markets Media, and the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business—and I’m thrilled to be returning to Washington, D.C. with our first-ever award for communications.

    While the story of winning this award is certainly a pleasure to share, it’s nothing compared to the story of creating Sunita.

    [youtube wko4MxZGIus]

  • 3 Imperatives for the Next Global Development Agenda

    This post was co-authored with Vinod Thomas, Director-General of Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank.

    Can extreme poverty be eliminated in the next 20 years? With much of the world still mired in an economic slump, the question might seem ill-timed. Yet, as heads of state arrive in New York on Monday for the 67th United Nations General Assembly, this goal should be at the top of the agenda.

    There are two compelling reasons why world leaders should seize this moment. First, this is a crucial chance to build on the hard-won progress in reducing poverty over the past two decades. With the UN-led Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a galvanizing force, the number of people living below $1.25 a day fell from some 43 percent in 1990 to about 22 percent in 2008. But far more still needs to be done.

  • Rio+20 Text Offers Hope for Improving Governance

    The main focus of the formal negotiations at Rio+20 is the outcome document, “The Future We Want.” The text, which was approved earlier this week and will likely be agreed upon by heads of state and U.N. officials, outlines a global framework for sustainable development and building a green economy. The text will have an impact on areas ranging from climate change to business to transportation, but the document’s biggest implications for governance is its references to Principle 10. By including this Principle and modest action, the outcome document offers glimmers of hope that citizens—including poor and marginalized communities across the globe—will no longer fall victim to environmentally degrading, exploitative development projects.

  • Q&A with Manish Bapna: Environmental Protection and Poverty Reduction Are Linked

    This is a Q&A with Manish Bapna, WRI's interim president. The story originally appeared in the Brazilian publication, "Revista Epoca," and was written by Luciana Vicaria.

    LV: In your opinion, what are the biggest environmental problems?

    MB: Today’s environmental challenges are largely interconnected. Two-thirds of the ecosystem services (the benefits that people derive from nature that underpin economies and livelihoods) are degraded . This degradation is expected to accelerate in the first half of the 21st century, exacerbated by the effects of climate change. By 2025, up to two-thirds of the world’s people are projected to live in water‐stressed conditions. Food security is another pressing concern. To feed the world’s nine billion people (which we’re expected to pass by mid-century), the U.N. Food and Agriculture (FAO) organization projects that food availability needs to increase by at least 70 percent.

  • Rio+20: Moving Ahead with the Sustainable Development Goals

    As the global summit in Rio approaches, negotiations are still in flux, but some ideas that could advance the global sustainability agenda are gaining momentum.

    One such idea is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are emerging as a potentially significant outcome with global policy implications for the post-2015 development agenda. With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire in 2015, the idea is for governments to launch a process in Rio to develop broader SDGs that would complement or succeed them.

    The MDGs have had a laudable impact on reducing the proportion of the world’s people living in extreme poverty. But they have also been criticized– fairly – for failing to address some key drivers of poverty. These include environmental issues—such as climate change and resource scarcity—that disproportionately impact the poor and most vulnerable, as well as the inequitable distribution of wealth, income, and opportunity.

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