State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

SESSION II: POVERTY – How Do We Achieve the Millennium Development Goals?

And we’re back with session II: Poverty – How Do We Achieve the Millennium Development Goals?

Credit: David Wentworth

Update | 11:15 a.m.

The conversation begins with a short, but complex question: How are we doing with the MDGs? A panel of experts including HRH Princess Maxima of the Netherlands, Glenn Denning, Professor of Processional Practice, Columbia University, Upmanu Lall, Professor of Engineering, Columbia University, and Hans Vestberg, President and CEO of Ericsson take the stage. Bishop moderates.

Reducing hunger: it’s time to act on our words

Update | 11:15 a.m.

Lall states that the MDGs regarding water and sanitation missed supplying water for agriculture. Denning asserts that you need to science and knowledge. We have these but we need the political will to proceed. Success in applying the science has been proven in Cambodia and in Malawi. All of the resources are there to reduce hunger and the commitments have been made (ex L’Aquila). It’s time to apply what we’ve promised.

The role of financial inclusion in the MDGs

Update | 11:18 a.m.

Our panelists discuss how financial inclusion is not included on the MDGs. How do we get farmers resources, credit? Financial infrastructure needs to be included in plans for sustainable growth. It’s important to get people into formal systems of banking. Mobile banking is helping to make services possible.

“They do things with mobile phones that we in the West would never imagine”

Update | 11:20 a.m.

No accident that Ericsson is taking great interest in mobile banking. So where do we see potential for new technologies in development? Hans responds that we are seeing that we can deliver health and education in poor areas. We’ve seen that health workers can register information with mobile. We’ve seen rising school attendance. They do things with mobile phones that we in the West would never imagine.

Water as a local problem

Update | 11:26 a.m.

Shifting to the subject of water, Bishop asks “how do we make water have the political animation to get things changed?” Lall responds that water is seen as local problem. In India, groundwater rates are dropping drastically. We have to promote a process to bring information to the surface on water. Lall states that we’re not close.

Denning: We need to go beyond making promises

Update | 11:30 a.m.

Bishop asks our panelists “what do we prioritize in the last 5 years of the MDGs?” Denning responds that we need to go beyond setting goals and meetings. The L’Aquila commitment was a great signal, however, 9 months later we probably only have 10% of that commitment. We need to go beyond making promises. We need to look at government of donors and analyze if they are delivering . We need binding mechanisms that track commitments. Denning goes on to state that he hopes we talk about this in September meeting, which results in applauds from the crowd! The MDGs recognize that you need to make improvements in ALL sectors. It’s a cop out if we just focus on education, malaria. We need to focus on all.

Nairobi speaks on green growth and Africa

Update | 11:34 a.m.

Now we go over to Nairobi where a panel of distinguished professionals discuss if green growth is the answer for Africa, moderated by Jonathan Ledgard, Africa Correspondent for The Economist. Ledgard sets the scene: the population of Africa is doubling, urbanization is quadrupling, and the continent has lost 30-50% of its biodiversity in the last 10 years. Most indicators are very poor. For instance, 3.7 million in Ethiopia are dependent on food aid.

What are the building blocks build a greener economy in Africa?

Update | 11:37 a.m.

Ledgard asks, “what are the building blocks we need to see in Africa to build a greener economy? Panelists respond that they have made great progress in Africa. Malawi has doubled its food production. Commitments have been made. Now it’s important to develop methods of collecting taxes and using that money correctly.

We need to focus more on financial inclusivity

Update | 11:37 a.m.

James Mwangi, Group Managing Director and CEO of Equity Bank speaks on how we need to focus more on financial inclusivity. When you have 80% not in the system, the population is voiceless. Appropriate financial systems have proven that the poor can be included. Equity Bank has 54% of all bank accounts in Kenya. We are not talking about donations. We are talking about loans that can transfer people’s lives. Technology becomes critical to developing system in a cost effective way.

Government and private sector need to interact to maximize natural resources

Update | 11:44 a.m.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Under-Secretary-General speaks from Nairobi: We have a tendency to split world into industrialized and non-industrialized. Green technology is Africa’s advantage and much of its GDP is in its resources. We need to become efficient with our resources. When food gets priced out, it is Africa that will suffer the most. During World Water Day held this past Monday in Nairobi, we learned that 1/2 of the patients in hospital beds is due to dirty water. This continent can multiply its energy by four times with a low carbon footprint using geothermal, wind, solar power, but the government and private sector have to interact.

How can government manage to be sustainable and match people needs?

Update | 11:45 a.m.

Sylvia Mwichuli, Africa Communications, UN Millennium Campaigns, responds that grassroots people need to be included. Government needs to ensure that financing is available hand in hand with good policies. We need to build partnerships both local and international. It is a joint initiative. Everyone needs to come together to find pragmatic solutions.

When we move forward in Africa. What role will loans play?

Update | 11:56 a.m.

Mwangi responds that it is an issue of collateralization. The nature of African economy is that it has no access to land and title documents. It is important that we become innovative on how we structure loans so that collateral does not just mean land. Cash flows can be a means of collateral if financial services are inclusive.

Does Ericsson see Africa as a business opportunity?

Update | 11:56 a.m.

Hans responds that it’s a unique opportunity. We need more telecommunications services in health, we need payment systems and need to see governments investing in these things. MVP has shown that it is a great business case. HRH Princess Maxima of Netherlands adds that we need invest in pilots to figure out how to scale new technologies. Mwangi adds that we need to look at what clients really need, we need to look at local need. Listening to what clients needs give you the business case.

What lessons from Malawi can we use?

Update | 12:01 p.m.

Denning responds that we see that when agriculture expands, people do start saving. First thing they do is buy mobile phones. 5 years ago, the president of Malawi stood up and said enough is enough. No more food aid. We will grow it through a subsidized program for seed and fertilizer. And now, instead of waiting for food from WFP, they are now a food exporter, selling to WFP and to Zimbabwe. However, these funds for subsidizing came out of education and health. This is the downside. We need to provide more aid so that other sectors are not neglected. They are all needed.

What is driving innovation within the international community?

Update | 12:03 p.m.

Questions from the audience: what is driving that innovation within the international community? Denning responds that he’s worried that there are not enough resources. The ideas generated in MVPs are plausible and useful and it is very clear what is needed. Communities are actually quite organized but they need the resources. Hans says that in Africa, we are developing so many advances in mobiles. We underestimate how much innovation power there is in Africa.

Update | 12:09 a.m.

Video from Shawn Ahmed “Uncultured Project” These videos show donors where their aid money goes and how we need to improve how we engage people about global poverty. Shawn asks the panel: What do you think will be the next social technological breakthrough?

HRH Princess Maxima of Netherlands responds that you need the right applications, price and distribution. Equity Bank has proven the possibilities of reaching poor people through peer-to-peer conversations.

Where can we make a lot of progress in the next 5 years?

Princess Maxima: If we focus on financial infrastructure with the right distribution channels, then we can create a lot of innovation that can reach a lot of people

Glenn: There is no silver bullet. We need to focus on all sectors. Partnerships between governments and private sector are essential.

Update | 12:30:

It’s Break time! Time for some much needed lunch. Again, we are Eric, Stephanie, and Jaclyn from the Masters in Development Practice Program at Columbia University. Next up is a panel on Economic Recovery. Thanks for staying with us!

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