DESA News Vol. 11, No. 11 November 2007

Technical cooperation

Converting coal into syngas for sustainable development

Capacity-building workshop in Kazakhstan explores the potential of underground coal gasification technology

Energy efficiency and renewables might appear to be solutions for protecting the atmosphere and de-carbonizing the economy. But International Energy Agency projections seem to indicate that coal will continue to be the largest source of energy for the next forty years in many of the transition economies.

How do we curb greenhouse gas emissions in the meantime? The Commission on Sustainable Development has suggested the use of clean coal technologies. “Clean coal” may sound like an oxymoron, but underground coal gasification, or UCG, is a technology that now makes it possible to turn coal into a synthetic gas, which is itself a fuel. The production and use of synthetic gas is a more efficient, and cleaner, means of extracting energy than burning coal directly.

To explore the potential of UCG, a capacity-building workshop sponsored by DESA and the TuranAlemBank of Kazakhstan will be held in Almaty on 12 and 13 November. Kazakhstan has Central Asia’s largest recoverable coal reserves while air pollution is a significant problem in the region, stemming from the use of low quality coals, lack of emission control equipment at the thermal power plants and technological inefficiency.

About thirty participants from Central Asia are expected to take part in the workshop. Experts from Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United States will share insights on the issue, while representatives from China and India have been invited to discuss experiences their own experience with the technology.

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Government accountability in Asia

Innovations to improve government accountability will be emphasized at Jakarta meeting

Practical solutions to the problems of government accountability will be presented at a regional forum on reinventing government in Asia, taking place in Jakarta from 14 to 16 November. The forum, organized by DESA in partnership with the Government of Indonesia and UNDP, will open with a statement by Guido Bertucci, Director of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management in DESA.

Four plenary sessions will follow, covering reforms needed to build and sustain transparency and accountability in the public sector, programmes to combat corruption, capacity and accountability of local governments, and service delivery. Two country presentations will be made at each session on what works and what does not, with an emphasis on day-to-day practice. Working groups will meet on the third day of the forum to debate the main themes, with conclusions presented for general discussion.

Over the course of the event, each minister and senior government official will describe an innovation in accountability that has had tangible results, while conveying how social groups have most benefited. It is hoped that these shared practices will encourage and inspire government officials dealing with accountability issues at home.

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Census cartography and census management

DESA will be holding a regional workshop on census cartography and management in Rabat from 12 and 16 November covering the fundamentals of geographic information systems and census geography techniques including geo-coding. Practical data collection and conversion to digital format will be stressed along with GIS-based data analysis and dissemination.

In addition to demonstrating software usage, the workshop is intended to stimulate discussion among participants on census mapping, with an emphasis on practical experience. Institutional, organizational, financial, capacity-building and implementation issues will be covered. The revised UN Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses will also be presented.

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Poverty reduction for beginners

E-course aims to acquaint young people with poverty reduction strategies

The many dimensions of poverty reduction strategies are spelled out in an e-course the DESA Division for Social Policy and Development has designed especially for young people in collaboration with UNFPA, the World Bank and Youth Action for Change. The course seeks to help youth understand UN poverty reduction strategy papers, and acquire the skills needed to contribute to poverty eradication efforts in their countries.

Replete with a chat room, learning forum, and collaboration engine (“wiki”), the course is comprised of six modules to be completed over a nine week period, including: Introduction to national development strategies; poverty diagnostics; defining priority interventions; costing and budgeting; monitoring and evaluation; and the consultation process. At the end of the course, participants will receive a certificate of completion, as well as ongoing support to help them apply their newly-gained knowledge.

The course runs 1 October to 30 November. A total thirty youths will take part, most of them from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

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Compilation of international merchandise trade statistics in Africa

Improving the quality and availability of trade data from Eastern and Southern Africa is the purpose of a workshop on compilation of international merchandise trade statistics running from 12 to 16 November in Addis Ababa. The meeting is being organized by the DESA Statistics Division in cooperation with ECA. Export processing zones, treatment of re-exports, valuation of imports, and calculation of external price indices and trade indicators are on the programme.

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Decentralization in Africa

Fostering capacities of local leaders is essential to combat poverty

The design and implementation of decentralization policies will be the focus of attention at a capacity-building conference in Monrovia from 20 to 22 November. Organized by the Municipal Development Partnership Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office in close collaboration with DESA, UNDP and UNCDF, the workshop will offer participants a chance to share experiences on decentralization and improvement of service delivery at the local level.

Devolution of power to sub-national governments is being embraced increasingly in Africa. Decentralization is viewed by many not only as a way to speed up local development, but also as a means of giving the poor increased say in the fight against poverty. Local leadership capacity is essential. Participants will include national ministers in charge of local government, senior civil servants, local government leaders, representatives of European regional assemblies and municipalities, civil society and other development partners.

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Economic statistics and the informal sector

A DESA workshop on integrated economic statistics and the informal sector will take place in Tehran from 10 to 13 November. National statistical officers of ECO member countries will be trained on data collection strategies, and the compilation of basic business statistics, with an emphasis on the petroleum and manufacturing sectors. Current country practices will be covered along with measurement of household enterprises and the informal sector, and issues considered for the update of the 1993 System of National Accounts that are relevant to ECO members. Participants from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are expected.

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