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6 Top Environment and Development Stories to Watch in 2013

This post originally appeared on Bloomberg.com.

As we enter 2013, there are signs of growth and economic advancement around the world. The global middle class is booming. More people are moving into cities. And the quality of life for millions is improving at an unprecedented pace.

Yet, there are also stark warnings of mounting pressures on natural resources and the climate. Consider: 2012 was the hottest year on recordfor the continental United States. There have been 36 consecutive years in which global temperatures have been above normal. Carbon dioxide emissions are on the rise – last year the world added about 3 percent more carbon emissions to the atmosphere. All of these pressures are bringing more climate impacts: droughts, wildfires, rising seas, and intense storms.

All is not lost, but the window for action is rapidly closing. This decade--and this year--will be critical.

Against that backdrop, experts at WRI have analyzed trends, observations, and data to highlight six key environmental and development stories we’ll be watching in 2013.

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Why Africa Needs Open Legislatures

This post was co-written with Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator and Head of Secretariat for the Africa Freedom of Information Centre.

Open government requires an open executive branch, an open legislature, and an open judiciary. Historically, however, global attention to government transparency and access to information has focused on the executive branch.

But this may finally be changing. In April of this year, 38 civil society organizations from around the world convened in Washington, D.C. and agreed to work together to advance open parliaments. In September, more than 90 civil society organizations from more than 60 countries launched the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness in Rome.

Civil society attention on lawmakers and legislatures is critically important—especially in Africa, where parliaments have long worked behind closed doors (most legislatures on the continent are parliaments). Transparency is needed for civil society to hold legislators accountable for their decisions and actions, and to ensure they are responsive to the needs and concerns of their constituents.

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Interactive Forest Atlas of Congo - Atlas Forestier Interactif du Congo (Version 3.0)

Please see our Congo Basin Forest Atlases page for the latest versions of our Congo Basin Atlases, along with links to interactive maps, desktop mapping applications, GIS data, posters...

New, Interactive Atlas Can Improve Cameroon’s Forest Management

Cameroon’s forests, which cover about 60 percent of the country, play a vital role for people and the economy. They account for more than six percent of the nation’s GDP, the highest percentage of all countries in the Congo Basin. Cameroon’s forests provide services and sustenance directly and indirectly to local communities and city dwellers alike.

Yet, until recently, Cameroon lacked a comprehensive information system to actually monitor and manage its forests. There was no integrated system or entity tracking the various forest uses, like logging concessions, community forests, hunting zones, and more. The information that was available was scattered amongst different institutions, wasn’t publicly accessible, or was of a quality insufficient to support legality claims and effective land use decisions. This lack of information exacerbated the unsustainable use of forest resources and sparked conflicts between competing forest stakeholders, such as loggers and community groups.

That’s where the Cameroon Forest Atlas comes in. Since 2002, Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) has worked with WRI to improve transparency and governance in the forest sector by publishing and regularly updating the Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon. MINFOF and WRI recently released version 3.0 of the online Atlas, as well as an accompanying report, poster, desktop mapping application, and underlying spatial datasets.

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Cameroun: Affectation des Terres dans le Domaine Forestier 2007

Cette carte montre l'affectation des terres dans le domaine forestier national au Cameroun Décembre 2007. Elle donne des informations sur les differentes categories d'occupation du sol dans les domaines forestiers permanent et non permanent sous toile de fond du couvert forestier. Elle inclut également des informations sur les routes principales.

Interactive Forest Atlas of Cameroon - Atlas Forestier Interactif du Cameroun (Version 3.0)

Please see our Congo Basin Forest Atlases page for the latest versions of our Congo Basin Atlases, along with links to online interactive maps, desktop mapping applications, GIS data,...

Open Government Partnership: African Nations Commit to New Levels of Transparency

This post was co-written with Gilbert Sendugwa, Coordinator and Head of Secretariat for the Africa Freedom of Information Centre.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) boasts some pretty lofty and much-needed goals. The global initiative aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. It was officially launched September 20, 2011 by eight founding governments: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States.

Now that the OGP is nearly one year old, it’s a good time to analyze how it’s faring—most notably in Africa, which has a long history of secrecy in government and lack of effective public participation.

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Cameroon: Logging Titles 1992

This map shows the status of logging titles in Cameroon in 1992. It includes information about the area and percentage of total area of active and inactive logging titles, as well as those under transfer or pending allocation.

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