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Genetically Modified Organisms and the perils of being too precautionary

Foto Anna Sophia 3

By: Anna Sophia Doyle*

At a time when the global view of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) grows ever more polarized, the seventh meeting of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety[1] was both timely and symptomatic of the current divide. Agenda items were many and varied, including compliance to the protocol, financial mechanisms and resources, and socioeconomic considerations regarding the use of living modified organisms (LMOs)[2].

But the most hotly contested issue without doubt was the debate surrounding the attempted endorsement of the Guidance for Environmental Risk Assessment of LMOs (referred to from here on simply as “the Guidance”).

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Day of Spring, Love, Peace and Ice

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The 21st of September marks the beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere. In Bolivia, it is also the day of Love, Peace, Students, Doctors and Photographers (!!). Most relevant for this article, however, today is usually the day of the year that the extent of sea ice in the northern hemisphere reaches rock bottom, much to the concern of polar bears (or at least people concerned about polar bears). In the southern hemisphere, on the other hand, sea ice usually reaches its maximum extent on this day (possibly to the delight of penguins).

In this satellite era, the extent of sea ice is an easy-to-measure indicator about the state of the global climate (warmer climate -> less ice), but the extent of sea-ice itself also affects the global climate (less ice cover -> lower albedo (reflectance) -> warmer climate). Thus, many people watch this indicator closely, and the availability of several independent web-sites with daily updated data on sea-ice extent makes this possible, and even delightful (at least for data-freaks like me).

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Bolivia’s Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism in the limelight

Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC

Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC

During the first week of September 2014, the California-based film company GLP films came to Bolivia to make a video about the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests and Mother Earth, which is Bolivia’s alternative to the international REDD+ mechanism to reduce deforestation (see expedition web-site).

The video project is financed by the Think Tank Initiative managed by the International Development Research Centre in Canada, and the resulting video is expected be featured at a side event at the COP20 in Lima in December 2014.

Under the direction of Lykke Andersen from INESAD, and with the help of many other institutions and individuals, a 6-person film crew, armed to the teeth with gear, visited La Paz, Rurrenabaque, Bella Altura, Pando, Santa Cruz, Concepción, and El Torno.

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Are married women really the only ones who need family planning?

LisbethVogensenBy: Lisbeth Vogensen*

One common indicator used in many family planning and sexual and reproductive health research documents is that of unmet need for contraception/family planning (see Figure 1). In most cases, this unmet need indicator is followed by this description: percentage of women aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union (1). Running into this indicator not only makes the feminist inside me stand up in protest, it also lets me know that the information presented on unmet need is incomplete. This unmet need data that only includes women who are married (2) is then generalized to be representative of the entire country/region/world.

Figure 1: Percentage of women with an unmet need for family planning (any method) among those aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union: most recent data available

mapa_unmetneeds

Source: World Contraceptive Patterns 2013 (United Nations, 2013), available from www.unpopulation.org.

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Deforestation reduced – mission accomplished or too good to be true?

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

During the last decade, Bolivia had one of the highest per capita deforestation rates in the World (1). Apart from this being decidedly unkind to Mother Earth and exacerbating problems of wild fires, droughts and flooding in Bolivia, this also caused Bolivians to be among the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions in the World (approximately 11 t/CO2/person/year – more than almost all European countries and more than twice the global average) (2).

This was obviously a major problem in Bolivia, and at INESAD we have been working for several years on promoting policies to reduce deforestation. Thus, we should be thrilled by the recent news from ABT showing that Bolivia has reduced deforestation by 64% since 2010 (see Figure 1).

Info-niveles-disminucion_LRZIMA20140723_0021_11

Figure 1: ABT reports sharp reductions in deforestation in Bolivia between 2010 and 2013.
Source: La Razon, 23 July 2014 (http://www.la-razon.com/sociedad/ABT-Bolivia-redujo-deforestacion-bosques-anos_0_2093790639.html#.U9I6T0RWunI.facebook).

But it almost seems too good to be true. I suspect that everybody working in this area are asking themselves: Can this really be true?

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Sachsy development

SanneBlauwBy: Sanne Blauw*

The logic is irresistible: if we send enough money to developing countries, poverty will be put to an end once and for all. We have got to help, it’s our responsibility. In the book The Idealist, Nina Munk portrays the charismatic Jeffrey Sachs and his Millennium Villages in Africa. How good intentions can have destructive consequences.

Already at a young age Jeffrey Sachs (1954) stood out: he received high grades in school, won math competitions, and displayed leadership qualities. He was already a successful economist when the Bolivian president Victor Paz invited him to help Bolivia in the mid-eighties. The country was poor and the economy was in chaos. Inflation reached 25,000%. Sachs wrote a plan for economic recovery. The strict fiscal and monetary policies caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose their job or pension. But the “shock therapy” helped: inflation fell to 15%. As it turned out: the economy is controllable, as long as you are willing to make concessions.

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Ambassador Internships at INESAD

Ambassador Internships at INESADINESAD is pleased to launch the Ambassador Internship program, which is financed by the Royal Danish Embassy in Bolivia. These are highly competitive paid internships for young, aspiring development professionals and researchers who wish to gain hands-on development research experience at INESAD in Bolivia. Interns will collaborate on on-going research projects at INESAD, or develop their own related Ph.D. research within INESAD’s priority areas.

The duration of these internships is between 3 and 12 months. Applicants can come from any country in the World, but fluency in both Spanish and English is a minimum requirement.

Applications are accepted throughout the year, but should respond to the current openings listed on this page: http://inesad.edu.bo/developmentroast/contact-us/internships/.

 

Please forward this announcement to outstanding students who might be interested in becoming an Ambassador Intern at INESAD!

 

Climate finance: Looking for synergies instead of additionality

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

In an attempt to deal with the threat of climate change, many development banks and development institutions have established considerable budgets in support of climate change mitigation and adaptation projects in addition to their usual development projects. For example, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is aiming for 25% of their lending portfolio to be destined to climate change and sustainable development projects by 2015.

There is a concern, however, that these climate change projects may not be truly additional, compared to the business-as-usual scenario, but may just represent a renaming of already existing projects (compare panels (i) and (ii) of Figure 1), or worse, that the climate change projects are actually diverting funds away from development projects to the detriment of the poor (panel (iii)).

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Earth Hour – why I have decided not to participate

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

You have got to be impressed by anybody who can rally several hundred million people around a cause.  WWF has managed to do that several years in a row by getting people to turn off the lights for one hour every year to highlight the impacts of our energy use on the global climate.

However, there are two important reasons why I have decided not to join this global event.

First, I think electricity is the World’s best poverty-reducing invention ever, and if we wanted to turn it off for an hour, it should be to think very hard about how to bring this crucial invention to the 1.3 billion people who still don’t have it and thus suffer from darkness, low productivity and extreme poverty.

Second, and a lot less obvious, is the fact that symbolic do-good-events like this tend to be counter-productive because they make people feel like they have acquired a license to indulge in self-interested and unethical behaviors (Mazar and Zhong, 2010).

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We live in a dangerous world and not only rural, indigenous, old women are vulnerable

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Even the most affluent and powerful people in the World are exposed to the risk of adverse shocks and stresses: Christopher Reeve (Superman) became a quadriplegic after a riding accident; Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years; Mel Gibson had to pay more than $400 million in his divorce settlement; Steve Jobs got fired from his own company; and Donald trump has declared bankruptcy four times.

We are all at risk of adversity, or even calamity, and the list of threats is endless: Natural disasters, illness, accidents, unemployment, price fluctuations, conflict, vandalism, fire, robbery, pest attacks, technological change, pollution, climate change, etc. Most of these threats are almost entirely outside our control and it is important that we build up resilience against them so that we will be able to overcome the challenges that we are bound to encounter.

Some people and households are more resilient than others, however. They bounce back even after severe adversity. Nelson Mandela, for example, became one of the most famous and respected presidents in the World and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after spending 27 years in prison; Christopher Reeve claimed that the accident, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, helped him appreciate life more and considered himself a very lucky man less paralyzed than many able-bodied men; and Donald Trump evidently rebuilt his fortune between bankruptcies.

While resilience is an integral part of the human psychology, it would be useful if we could measure and compare resilience in a more general way. This is what a new research paper and Policy Brief from INESAD proposes.

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