developing countries

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Find Inspiration in Toilets

Jack Sim is a funny man with a serious, yet unexpected mission: to revolutionize toilets for the base of the pyramid and to ensure worldwide sustainable sanitation. Often referred to as “Mr. Toilet” – a title he takes great pride in – he has worked tirelessly for fifteen years to make the availability of clean toilets a political priority and an economically feasible reality for the world’s ‘poor’. The need is big: 2.6 billion people currently lack access to a clean private toilet. When I met Jack Sim at a pre-WEF event at the HUB Zürich I couldn’t help but wonder about this curious man on stage. He was humming with energy, excited to share his story about the many issues concerning poop, making the audience laugh and yet providing relevant information about his cause.

The Practical Politician from the Philippines

Student Reporter Andreas Slotte had the privilege of interviewing Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering, Vice Chairperson of the Climate Change Commission of the Philippines, during the UNEP Switch-Asia Sustainable Consumption and Production Conference (SCP) in Asia, held in Bangkok, Thailand. A government official in a unique position, Ms Sering is in charge of finding practical, implementable SCP policies that could be enacted in the Philippines. Unlike the comparatively steady states of developed economies, the Philippines present an exciting challenge of a country seeing high-single digit growth rates (the Philippine’s Gross Domestic Product grew by 6.6% in 2012, and has had an annual growth rate of 5% for the past 10 years), yet in pressing need of infrastructure and other macro-scale projects. (more…)

The Many Roads to Our Common Future

At the UNEP Switch-Asia SCP conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Student Reporter Mas Dino Radin sat down with Dr Magnus Bengtsson, Director of Sustainable Consumption and Production Research at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), to tackle the issues surrounding implementing SCP policies in the developing, as juxtaposed with the developed world. (more…)

Asia to Take the Lead towards a Sustainable Future: Pipedream or a Possible Reality?

Like many buzzwords, sustainable development can mean a variety of things depending on who is using it and how. A quick Google search (as well as asking experts) would reveal the same: the definitions might not differ that much, but the implications vary vastly, ultimately implying that there really is no one way towards sustainable development. Among the varying opinions that exist out there, some suggest that the developed bloc (such as the U.S. or the European Union) should take charge in the matter. However, there seems to be a growing trend nowadays that looks at Asia to take a more leading role in paving the way for a sustainable future. This subject was at the forefront during one of the panel discussions at the UNEP SWITCH-Asia Conference on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) in November 2012. The question then is what makes Asia so special when it comes to hoping for a more sustainable future?

A Universal Diet – Can the Same Sustainable Development Plans Work for Emerging Economies?

‘Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites.’ William Ruckelshaus, the former Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, made this famous statement in BusinessWeek in 1990. Twenty years later, we are still seeking the right ‘diet’ for sustainable development. While the recent developments in the global dialogue on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and resource efficiency have helped create a better “diet plan”, the question remains: could it work for all economies? First, let’s have a look at some of the hottest items in our new sustainable development diet. At the World Resources Forum 2012 held in Beijing, China, 2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Dr. Mohan Munasinghe was one of those tackling the topic.

Young Dreamers Take Action: New Ways of Financing and Capacity Building in Indonesia

There was a young face sitting at the panel in one of the sessions at the UNEP Sustainable Consumption and Production in Asia conference. With no name in the conference agenda or on the table, there were no clues as to her identity. While everyone was still wondering who she was, she started her presentation on new models of microfinancing and capacity building for socio-eco-preneurs (innovative entrepreneurs who minimize or eliminate negative ecological and socio-cultural impacts when developing goods and services for profit). Given that the attendees were here for both practical and innovative solutions, Vrilly Rondonuwu, along with her three colleagues, Idda Mahbubah, Adie Nugroho and Airin Azizah did not fail to deliver as they represented Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Indonesia to a captivated audience. These young people’s main objective is to create a sustainable financing and capacity building model for Indonesia by involving multiple stakeholders, which include financial institutions, banks, corporations, and socio-eco-preneurs.

The World Economic Forum is in the Kasbah

As I start to comb through the attendance list of the Summit, I find myself excited to see the shape of the conversations that will begin here tomorrow. Almost a thousand of the world’s smartest people have descended upon the Madinat Jumeirah Convention Centre – a modern kasbah. I recognize many of the names on the lists of the various councils – typically they are people who I have long admired for their personal and professional achievements. I am hopeful that this gathering of some of the world’s greatest minds, attempting to digest the current state of affairs, will yield tangible results that will increase the quality of life for the masses. The mood becomes more reverent as I walk around the Global Agenda Councils’ meeting space.

The Green Economy – a Luxury That Only the Developed World Can Afford?

One of the most common misconceptions about the green economy is that there is an inescapable trade-off between environmental sustainability and economic development. In addition, that environmental concern would be a luxury that only the developed countries can afford. However, throughout the conference so far, we have seen multiple arguments that incorporating sustainability into the development process is a vital key to alleviate poverty and increase economic growth. In a session today organized by the Global Research Forum on Sustainable Consumption and Production, Nobel Prize Winner Mohan Munasinghe argued that there are some third world countries that still believe the increased focus on sustainability and the green economy to be “a trick by the western countries to keep down their development process”. Nevertheless, the gap between the north and south on this issue has been narrowing and the world seem to be reaching a general consensus that sound environmental management is vital in order to achieve economic growth, not only in the long run but also in the short run.

World Resources Forum 2012: Just Keep Smiling

I cannot stress the grandeur of the China National Convention Centre. It sweeps  you off your feet and mops the gleaming floor with your flabbergasted face. I’ve been to smaller airport terminals and I have visited a sheikh’s palace that would fit five times over. Should the might of the late great leader ever be lost among Beijing’s smog and active lifestyle, the buildings will most definitely remind you of what you so gravely forgot. Walking past a gargantuan hallway, stumbling in and out of doors you do eventually end up in what happens to be the World Resources Forum 2012.

To Repeat or Not to Repeat -The Future of Resource Consumption in Emerging Economies

Student Reporter Adam Wong  interviewed Yi-Heng Cheng, CEO of Kunshan Quanta K&M Consulting and Shanghai Microtech Co. Ltd. on the future of resource consumption in China. The emerging economy is today in the historical position that European conturies and America were some decades ago, and rapid industrialisation means that the ever-hungry economy is fiercely demanding all the time. But the world has changed significantly since then and countries face the challenge of either being swept away by the tide or being eroded in its wake.

“Be Water” – Adapting, Changing and Maintaining Sustainability through Chinese Philosophy

“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend. “

The above is one of my favorite philosophical sayings, and it is from a legend of my hometown, Bruce Lee, a martial artist and modern philosopher.

Mega-Cities, Mega-Problems

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brasil – Rarely does it happen in the world’s metropolises that the most valuable parcels of real estate are given to shanty towns. Slums are usually relegated to the suburbs, along the fringes of the city, far away from “normal” citizens and tourists. In Rio, the opposite is true. Few premier hotels and upper class condominiums offer such breath-taking views of the city and its coastline as do the favelas.  And more and more of the city’s poor are “taking advantage of them.” Images: Visit of Favela Morro da Providencia (Source: Student Reporter).