OP-Ed Article by Leisa Perch, IPC-IG/Team Leader – Rural and Sustainable Development
The Rio +20 meeting in 2012 is an opportunity for global policy makers to review twenty years of action on Agenda 21 and what has been delivered. Thus far, the score-card is mixed; neither wholly positive nor wholly negative. Significant challenges lie ahead. Global food prices have escalated sharply and malnutrition is on the rise. While a recent report suggests that globally efforts to sharply reduce extreme poverty by 2015 are on track, hunger remains persistent. The triple effects of the global economic crisis i.e. the weakening of the insurance sector, lower demand for exports and reduced remittances have exposed the fragility of economies and households alike. Fiscal space constraints narrowed the options for mitigating the worst of the crisis on households. Nine (9) Caribbean countries registered debt to GDP ratios in excess of 80 percent in 2010.
CO2 emissions reached a new high in 2010 and by some estimates, global disasters now cost at more than$100 billion and have impacted the lives of millions. Estimates for 2010, alone, suggest that over 40 million people were displaced by disasters.
Rio +20, therefore, must deliver an agenda: (i) focused on people-centred development, building on the MDG Summit in 2010; (ii) informed by a critical review of collective success and failures; and (iii) anchored in inclusion and inclusiveness within states and between states.
As attention turns to “greener pathways” of growth and development, in the context of the “green economy”, one can speculate on some of the questions facing heads of governments, ministers and technical advisers: How can a green economy process really bring the poor into the centre of growth and development? How can a greening economy help to bridge the current gap between those seeking work and the jobs available? How can the tourism sector be greened and still be competitive? Which pathways will stimulate new sources of growth and provide opportunities for small and micro-business? Once “green”, how to stay green? How can greening economy offer real opportunities for the working poor?
It is also not yet very clear how the green economy process will increase resilience in the face of the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters that remains one of the more significant challenges to sustained growth and development in Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) worldwide and in the Caribbean.
Hurricanes, storms, heavy rains, tsunamis and earthquakes can potentially erase years of progress and investment, with predicted patterns of climate variability and change potentially putting Caribbean SIDS on a continuous cycle of “build, repair and recover”. Hurricane Ivan’s impact on Grenada in 2004 was estimated at over 200% of GDP and recent analyses estimate that Caribbean governments could end up spending as much as 20% of their GDP on coping with climate change.