By Zachary Fillingham* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
TORONTO (IDN) - The East China Sea territorial dispute between China and Japan figured prominently in various geopolitical risk forecasts for 2014, and with good reason. Neither side shows any sign of standing down, and with every new military deployment near the contested area comes an increased risk of a small-scale military incident spiraling into war.
Anti-Japanese sentiment in China runs deep, fueled by memories of Japan’s brutal invasion and occupation during World War II. These feelings have been strengthened by the Chinese education system and state-controlled media, along with frequent examples over the years of half-hearted and waffling contrition on the part of the Japanese government. They have even been absorbed into the national narrative of China’s rise, such that China will only receive the official stamp of superpowerdom once Japan has been fully eclipsed in East Asia - politically, economically, and militarily.
By Aditi Sen* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
WASHINGTON IDN | Yale Global) - Typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in November was yet another devastating reminder of what climate-related extreme weather may mean for coastal communities. While the underlying causes and the full impact of the typhoon are yet to be known, this disaster was by no means an isolated occurrence.
Several studies indicate that coastal communities in Asia are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and among the hardest hit will be the region’s megacities. The sprawling cities by the sea – cities like Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta – face an increased risk of flooding thanks to the combined impacts of sea level rise, storm surge from intensified tropical cyclones and land subsidence.
By Savitri Goonesekere, Jayantha Dhanapala and G. Usvatte-aratch* | IDN-InDepth NewsViewpoint
COLOMBO (IDN | Colombo Telegraph) - There has been, in recent times, public discussion in regard to whether our country is moving towards an authoritarianism that undermines democratic governance. The President, Ministers and government spokespersons have consistently denied this allegation. They refer in particular to the recent elections in three provinces as indicative of a functional and vibrant democracy responsive to the needs of the people. Infrastructure development that has taken place is also cited.
The recently concluded CHOGM hosted by Sri Lanka is considered an indication that Sri Lanka has achieved significant international stature as a country whose governance follows Commonwealth values. These values as stated in the final CHOGM communiqué refer in particular to democracy, human rights, tolerance, freedom of expression, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, and sustainable development.
By Jaya Ramachandran | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
ROME (IDN) - More partnerships and investments are needed to support the pan-African Great Green Wall Initiative, which has become Africa's flagship enterprise in tackling the detrimental social, economic and environmental impacts of land degradation, desertification, drought and climate change, experts say.
The initiative brings together more than 20 African countries across North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn, international organizations, research institutes, civil society and grassroots organizations, supporting local communities in the sustainable management and use of forests, rangelands and other natural resources in dryland areas. It also seeks to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well improve the food security and community livelihoods in the Sahel and the Sahara.
By Isabelle Ramdoo and San Bilal* | IDN-InDepth NewsEssay
MAASTRICHT (IDN) - The sustained commodity boom of the last decade provided a new impetus to a number of African countries, after decades of economic turmoil. High growth rates, recorded in recent years, uncovered new opportunities to finally address long-standing socio-economic challenges that had hindered the continent’s economic performance for decades. From an economic perspective, to be truly transformative, these opportunities will have to be translated into employment creation, improved productivity and industrialisation, and governments will increasingly be put under pressure to deliver on concrete results.
By Bernhard Schell | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
ABU DHABI (IDN) - Water is critical for producing power and the treatment and transport of water requires energy, mainly in the form of electricity. Even though the interdependency between water and energy is gaining wider recognition worldwide, water and energy planning often remain distinct. The tradeoffs involved in balancing one need against the other in this “energy-water nexus,” as it is called, are often not clearly identified or taken into account, complicating possible solutions, says Diego Rodriguez, a senior World Bank expert.
In 2013 alone, water shortages shut down thermal power plants in India, decreased energy production in power plants in the United States and threatened hydropower generation in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China and Brazil.
By Jaya Ramachandran | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BERLIN (IDN) - The World Resources Institute (WRI) has greeted the European Commission’s announcement of a climate and energy package, which the 28-nation European Union (EU) heads of state would consider at their meeting on March 20-21. But the Institute points out that “the proposal does not yet ensure a clear pathway to a low carbon economy”.
By Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
TEHRAN (IDN) - In what way is the oil wealth of the Arab countries being spent? Is that wealth being used to promote sustainable social, cultural, political and economic development in Arab countries and, thus, plays a positive role in the life and livelihood of the Arab masses? Or is it being used in the opposite direction and is actually destroying the entire infrastructure in the Arab world, and instead of being a silver bullet for the maladies of the Arab countries, is only a scourge?
It is not easy to pass a simple judgment on this issue and many positive or negative arguments can be offered here. However, if the current conditions in the Arab world are examined more closely, especially after the political developments that have come to be known as the Arab Spring, one can, at least, claim that more than being a cure to their intractable ailments, the Arab oil wealth has been a scourge in disguise.
By Richard Johnson | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
GENEVA (IDN) - “What does it mean to live on US$1.25 a day?” asks GCAP’s Michael Switow, and points to photographer Stefen Chow and economist Lin Hui-Yi’s interesting approach to answering this question. In their photo essay they shows how much food an individual at the poverty line can buy. In Brazil, for example, where the poverty line is US$1.23/day, someone could buy one pineapple. In Switzerland, the poverty line is much higher at more than US$10 per day, but this still only buys two sausages or one bunch of romaine lettuce.
By Hiba Zayadin* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
CAIRO (IDN) - The first step in General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi's roadmap to “democracy” has been implemented. A new charter has replaced the 2012 constitution drafted during former President Mohamed Morsi's short-lived presidency giving Sisi the legitimacy he seeks to strengthen the army's grip on Egypt's political system. Over 98% of participants voted in favour of approving the new constitution. According to officials, the voter turnout was 38.6% of the Egyptian population – higher than the 33% who voted on the constitution presented during Morsi's tenure.
There was little doubt the new military-backed constitution would pass. On the first day of the voting process, polling stations featured women ululating in celebration, Egyptian flags being waved, and soldiers carrying flowers handed to them by people displaying their support for the army.
By James Mackie* | IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis
BRUSSELS (IDN) - While the debate on Scottish independence is heating up prior to the referendum in September 2014, it is important to consider what implications an independent Scotland would have for UK and European development aid. While the UK aid would undoubtedly be affected, this new donor country would need to make an effort to minimize the effect on further aid fragmentation.
Scottish independence would lead to more fragmentation of European development cooperation and a major reduction in Department for International Development (DFID) programmes as a result of an estimated GBP 1 billion cut in its budget, yet neither of these two outcomes are really dealt with in two recent reports on what a Yes vote in the 2014 Scottish referendum would mean for development cooperation.