DESA News Vol. 13, No. 09 September 2009


Climate change and economic growthClimate change and economic growth

“The transition to a low-carbon economy will be difficult, but it will also yield great benefits across the spectrum of human activity. We can catch two birds -- climate change and economic growth -- with just one stone,” says the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the University Presidents’ Forum on Climate Change and Sustainable Development in Seoul on 17 August.

Climate change is central to economic growth and development. It is vital to the well-being of billions of people, particularly in the poorest countries of the world. Addressing climate change will not only promote a cleaner environment; it can also foster sustainable global growth. More and more, leaders around the world understand and embrace this fact.

When countries invest in green technology or make their operations more energy efficient, they show that what is good for the environment is also good for economic prosperity in the twenty-first century, which will belong to those who are the first to take the low-carbon path. Those countries who act today will be more economically competitive tomorrow. And the benefits will continue for decades to come.

To achieve a sustainable solution to climate change, the Secretary-General says further that “the negotiations will, in turn, have to resolve four difficult political issues: First, setting ambitious midterm targets for industrialized countries; Second, determining nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing countries; Third, providing essential finance and technology support for adaptation;. and fourth, determining institutional arrangements and governance to manage this support.”

World Economic and Social Survey 2009 launched on 1 September

The central message of this flagship survey, published on 1 September on the topic of “Promoting Development, Saving the Planet”, is that addressing the climate challenge cannot be met through ad hoc and incremental actions.

In the first place, it requires much stronger efforts by advanced countries to cut their emissions. The fact that in this regard more than a decade has been lost since the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change only adds urgency to those efforts. However, even if advanced countries begin to match their words with deeds, their efforts are, by themselves, unlikely to be sufficient to meet the climate challenge. The active participation of developing countries is now required and such participation can occur only if it allows economic growth and development to proceed in a rapid and sustainable manner.

This Survey argues that switching to low-emissions, high-growth pathways in order to meet the development and climate challenge is both necessary and feasible. It is necessary because combating global warming cannot be achieved without eventual emissions reductions from developing countries. It is feasible because technological solutions that can enable a shift towards such pathways do in fact exist. It is, however, neither inevitable nor inconsequential.

Such a switch would entail unprecedented and potentially very costly socioeconomic adjustments in developing countries—adjustments, moreover, that will have to be made in a world more rife with inequalities than at any time in human history. If it is to happen, the switch will require a level of international support and solidarity rarely mustered outside a wartime setting.

The Survey also argues that achieving such a transformation hinges on the creation of a global new deal capable of raising investment levels and channeling resources towards lowering the carbon content of economic activity and building resilience with respect to unavoidable climate changes. Most developing countries do not currently have the financial resources, technological know-how and institutional capacity to deploy such strategies at a speed commensurate with the urgency of the climate challenge. Failure to honour long-standing commitments of international support in those three areas remains the single biggest obstacle to meeting the challenge. Bolder action is required on all fronts.

The Survey contends that, in line with common but differentiated responsibilities, the switch will demand an approach to climate policy in developing countries different from that in developed ones. It will, in particular, require a new public policy agenda —one that focuses on a broad mix of market and non-market measures while placing a much greater emphasis than has been seen in recent years on public investment and effective industrial policies, to be managed by a developmental State. The mix in developed countries is likely to entail a larger role for carbon markets, taxes and regulations.

Finally, issues of trust and justice will need to be taken much more seriously so as to ensure fair and inclusive responses to the climate challenge. The Survey argues that one determinant of success will be the capacity of developed and developing countries to create a more integrated framework and joint programmes with shared goals on, inter alia, climate adaptation, forestry, energy (including energy access), and poverty eradication.

High-level Summit on Climate Change

This upcoming summit will be held at Headquarters on 22 September, a day before the opening of the General Debate of the General Assembly, where more than a 50 Heads of State or Government are expected to attend. The Summit will not be a negotiating forum, but it is meant to galvanize political will for a successful outcome in Copenhagen. It should bring countries closer on issues where they differ.

In addition to the opening and closing plenary sessions, there will be a total of eight parallel interactive roundtables addressing the same four broad themes: mitigation commitments; mitigation actions; adaptation; and building trust. The technology and finance issues will cut across these themes. Each roundtable would be chaired by two Heads of State or Government, who will be supported by a climate change Principal. The Secretary-General will provide a Chair's summary at the closing plenary of the summit.

There will also be a lunch-time event, organized by the Global Compact Office, for Heads of State or Government, private sector CEOs, and heads of CSOs. DESA is supporting the organization of the event, in particular by identifying participants in the thematic areas of energy and water.

High-level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Transfer

This upcoming conference in New Delhi on 22-23 October will seek to advance understanding on key actions needed to accelerate technology development and transfer in all countries in accordance with their national needs. The conference will throw light on technology scenarios, institutional and business models of development and deployment, and mechanisms to promote technology transfer to developing countries and to enhance the scope for cooperation on research and development.

The international community has long emphasized the importance of technology for sustainable development and for meeting climate change challenges in a reasonable time-frame, both in developed and developing countries. Development and transfer of mitigation and adaptation technologies are of importance to align sustainable development and economic growth imperatives in an era of climate change. In addition, appropriate mitigation technologies can align energy security with climate change concerns.

This understanding of the central role of technology development and transfer has been incorporated in the Bali Action Plan, which emphasizes the critical importance of technology to successfully implement mitigation and adaptation actions in developing countries. However, the global community has yet to develop a strategy to unlock the full potential of technology.

The Delhi Conference will advance the discussions initiated at the Beijing High-level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Technology Transfer, co-organized by the Chinese Government and DESA on 7-8 November 2008. The Beijing Conference took stock of the clean technologies, the barriers to transfer and the potential for technology collaboration. Participants also presented case studies. The conference clearly recognized the need for new and innovative mechanisms of international cooperation, particularly in research, development, deployment and transfer of climate related technologies.

Road to Copenhagen Summit in December

Nations are expected to wrap up negotiations in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, in just over 100 days on a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, whose first commitment period ends in 2012. The latest round of negotiations towards a pact in Copenhagen wrapped up on 14 August in Bonn, Germany, with only “limited progress” having been made.

With only two more conferences, totaling 15 days, scheduled before the December meeting, “negotiations will need to considerably pick up speed for the world to achieve a successful result at Copenhagen,” said Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Some strides were made regarding the negotiating text at the week-long meeting in Bonn, with countries also discussing how to translate mid-term reduction pledges (for the year 2020) by wealthier nations into legally-binding targets as part of the deal to be clinched in Copenhagen.

“Industrialized countries need to show a greater level of ambition in agreeing to meaningful mid-term emission reduction targets,” Mr. de Boer said. “The present level of ambition can be raised domestically and by making use of international cooperation.”

Based on UN News Center and Press Releases

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ICT and innovation for educationICT and innovation for education

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can be a powerful enabler to bring sustainable development to countries of this world. Today, we live amidst an unprecedented revolution in the advancement of ICT. Education has become a primary focus of the recently forged Information and Communication Technology for Development community, especially in Least Developed Countries.

The United Nations’ Second and Third Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are achieving universal primary education and promoting gender equality, respectively. ICT plays an important role in reaching these goals. It allows learning to take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This contributes immensely to the inclusion of traditionally excluded populations such as girls and women, ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities. For the female population in particular, their increased access to education has a huge impact on the society.

A major gap has always existed between affluent people living in developed societies with access to modern information technology and underprivileged people living in impoverished and rural communities in developing and least developed countries. Even today, an unequal adoption of technology excludes many from harvesting the fruits of the digital economy.

While there is agreement that ICT can be a powerful tool for advancing education efforts going forward, the challenge we face today is turning the potential of Information and Communication Technology for Education (ICTE) into reality with results. This is a tremendous challenge, compounded by the realistic fears that if not used properly, ICT can increase existing social and economic inequalities, particularly if access and use of ICTE is not equally available to everyone.

Implementation of ICTE must be case specific and locally driven, or the development community may risk further isolating impoverished populations rather than promoting inclusion and social advancement.

A vibrant education sector is fundamental for developing human capital within countries. With an active and transformative education policy and a supportive infrastructure, the development of a knowledge-based population can apply itself to sustained and equitable growth. ICT can play a vital role in increasing access to education as well as providing better quality education.

GAID Global Forum 2009

On 2-4 September 2009, Ministers, policymakers, business leaders, and innovators in the field of ICT for development from around the world will converge in Monterrey, Mexico for the Annual Global Forum of DESA’s Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID). GAID is the principal platform within the United Nations system for policy dialogue and collaborative partnerships among all stakeholders on the strategic use of ICT for achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.

The Global Forum, which is the flagship event of GAID, will be jointly organized with the Government of Mexico and Indigo Media. The event in Monterrey will bring together IT leaders and the development community under the umbrella of the Global Alliance for a focused dialogue on emerging issues and challenges in the field of ICT for development, particularly in the areas of Education and Innovation, and foster cooperation among governments, private sector and civil society.

This year, the Global Forum will feature the “i-MarketSpace”, an innovative platform to showcase and promote ICT-based projects and initiatives with the aim of raising awareness, sharing experiences, acquiring new partners and/or members, and finding potential sponsors.

The Global Forum will be held in conjunction with the World Summit Awards Gala, which will showcase and celebrate the most outstanding local e-Content and innovative internet applications.

Increased access to education through ICT

ICT is used worldwide to increase access to, and improve the relevance and quality of education. The unprecedented speed and general availability of information due to ICT extends educational opportunities to marginalized and vulnerable groups. ICT gives students and teachers new tools with which to learn and teach.

Geographical distance is no longer an obstacle to obtaining an education. It is not necessary for teachers and students to be in the same space, due to innovations of technologies such as teleconferencing and distance learning, which allow for synchronous learning. If given access and appropriate training in ICT, the Internet can also provide these groups with an abundance of online learning materials, covering a wide range of subjects that are up-to-date and produced by cutting-edge technologies.

In addition, many world-leading conventional universities are now offering some of their academic courses through various ICTs for their distant learners. Applications and processes of e-learning include web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration, where content is delivered via the internet, intranet/extranet, audio/and or video tape, satellite TV and CD-ROM. Although many developing countries have begun to take initiatives to introduce virtual classrooms at their schools, the use of e-learning continues to be a challenge for the least developed countries.

Improved quality of education through ICT

ICT can improve the learning process through the provision of more interactive educational materials that increase learner motivation and facilitate the acquisition of basic skills. The use of various multimedia devices such as television, videos and computer software can offer a more challenging and engaging learning environment for students of all ages.

Twenty-first century education reform policy has been focused on a shift from the traditional teacher-centered pedagogy to more learner-centered methods. Active, collaborative learning environments facilitated by ICT contribute to the creation of a knowledge-based student population.

Education leadership, management and governance can also be improved through ICT by enhancing educational content development and supporting administrative processes in schools and other educational establishments. By supporting management and reforming administrative procedures more effectively, ICT would serve as an incentive for leaders and staff at all levels to institutionalize its use.

Educating ICT leaders through ICT

Educating ICT leaders is a challenging task, especially in developing countries. A research project focusing on computer aided consulting has produced innovative services that can be used to educate ICT leaders in complex real life situations. Results have shown that these computer aided consulting services greatly help in teaching difficult to explain concepts in difficult to teach ICT courses.

Developing countries need ICT leaders who can manage and lead entrepreneurships and small to medium businesses (SMBs). However, educating these leaders is difficult in developing countries due to the lack of local expertise and resources. A unique challenge in educating ICT leaders is that they need to develop problem solving skills for complex real life situations and manage the intricate business and technology interdependencies in these situations.

To address these challenges, a unique educational approach is needed that plays the dual role of solving real life problems for real life industry segments, and educating the students on the complex issues of IT planning, integration, security and administration. Research and analysis of educational as well as professional practice tools revealed no clear winners. Most educational tools are too simplistic and do not capture real life situations while most professional practice tools solve real life problems but are not designed for learning.

Challenges of ICT in education

Countries everywhere are facing similar challenges in implementing ICT in their education systems. Unfortunately, many local, national and regional government bodies are still not giving ICTE the attention and priority it deserves despite the benefits it brings. Providing basic access to ICT to young people living in either impoverished communities or rural locations often neglected by policy makers is one major challenge being faced. These areas oftentimes lack basic infrastructure such as classrooms, let alone Internet connectivity. The availability of quality teachers to apply ICT to the existing education systems is also in short supply.

Bringing long-term, sustainable ICTE reform will also be costly and will challenge policymakers handling national budget allocations to make difficult decisions in how to allocate national monetary resources and foreign aid. Finally, shifting the existing focus from the traditional educational models in place, depending on the specific country, to one that is ICT driven, will certainly not be easy.

Today, citizens in many countries share a common problem in that they have been left behind when it comes to ICT connectivity, and have become part of a digital divide. 12 This gap exists where people have been divided by ICT in one way or another, but mostly between those in the middle and upper classes, and those who live below the poverty line or in rural areas. By bridging the gap between the various groups, countries can make significant progress in eliminating the social and economic inequalities that are detrimental for sustainable development.

Teachers and ICT

ICT can improve the quality of education and heighten teaching efficiency provided through preservice training and programs relevant and responsive to the needs of the education system. This will allow teachers to have sufficient subject knowledge, a repertoire of teaching methodologies and strategies, as well as professional development for lifelong learning. These programs will expose them to new modern channels of information, and will develop self-guided learning materials, placing more focus on learning rather than teaching.

However, it is important to point out that ICT is used to enhance teaching styles, and should not replace the role of the teacher. ICT helps create structured and systematic teaching as well as better school management and organization of ICT usage. Teachers should be provided with adequate and appropriate support in their classroom, and be guided by professional standards that incorporate a code of conduct.

High costs and other difficulties in the transition to ICTE

Offering affordable ICT to underdeveloped regions remains a complex and difficult challenge. Assessing the costs related to Internet connectivity, for example, varies tremendously between countries and within the countries themselves. The disparities are dependent on a number of factors, including existing infrastructure, the nature of the Internet provider and the nature of the Internet technology.

Oftentimes, government-owned telecommunication companies have failed in their efforts to provide affordable and efficient services. In their attempt to control national telephone networks, some governments have been reluctant to ensure a competitive market for communication services, thus, impeding better connectivity and sustainability. This has led sometimes to high levels of corruption and profiteering among state-owned telecom companies. Governments should consider reevaluating their licensing policies and initiate regulatory frameworks conducive to more cost-effective and enhanced choices for connection.

Any initiative, be it from the government, private sector or civil society, should make lobbying for more investments in computers a priority. Insufficient access to computers is one of the main obstacles in ICTE programs. This is particularly relevant for educational institutions located in rural areas where the school or training institution is the only access point for computers. Although this will require massive investments in the infrastructure, it is nevertheless essential in order to guarantee equal access and overcome the digital divide.

Recommendations for implementation of ICT in education for development

What the experiences of countries pursuing ICTE have taught us thus far is that while there is tremendous potential for broad ranging improvements across many sectors of education through the use of ICT, the road will certainly not be easy. It will take a continued commitment from all stakeholders involved to make any kind of substantial and sustainable change. A key to success is to adopt a comprehensive, end-to-end, systematic approach, with a phased and learn-as-you-go implementation that can be adjusted to adapt to the specific needs and a changing environment.

Special consideration should be given to ICT connectivity and accessibility for educational purposes. Bandwidth and spectrum of radio and television wavelengths should be allocated for education. Planning for connectivity infrastructure and regulations should promote and facilitate educational use of ICT. The trends towards convergence and new mobile platforms for internet-connectivity need to be fully exploited through innovative policies and partnerships that can help lower cost and expand access.

It is necessary to focus on training teachers and instructors to use ICT to develop their own teaching support materials. This approach assures ownership by teachers and instructors and enhances the usability of products. Many projects still focus on using materials for teachers and students that have been developed externally. However, such materials often fall short of providing appropriate or relevant content for the local situation.

Any initiative, be it from government, private sector or civil society, should make lobbying for more investments in computers a priority. Insufficient access to computers is one of the main obstacles in ICT for education programs. This is particularly relevant for educational institutions located in rural areas where the school or training institution is the only access point for computers.

Sustainable partnerships between the government, private sector and civil society must be built to offset costs and mitigate the complexities of the integration of ICT in education. Good will, dedication and flexibility are necessary from all partners to ensure agreement and progress. Due to high costs, investments made must be strategic after careful planning, finding creative ways of financing, and creating networks and synergies.

Based on White Paper on Information Communication& Technology (ICT) in Education for Development, prepared by graduate students at The New School University, under the supervision of Prof. Rafat Mahdi on 15 May 2009 for the GAID Global Forum 2009

Based on Paper on Educating ICT Leaders Through ICT – An Innovative Approach, Prof. Amjad Umar

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Call to action for young men and women

Call to action for young men and women

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day on 12 August was “Sustainability: Our Challenge. Our Future.” Jean-Pierre Gonnot, Acting Director of DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development noted in the message on behalf of the Secretary-General that “our world faces multiple, interconnected crises with severe and far-reaching impacts that fall disproportionately on the young,” including unemployment and climate change. “Let us renew our pledge to support young people in their development. Sustainability is the most promising path forward, and youth can lead the way.”

Video: (1 hour 27 minutes)
Message of the Secretary-General:
Press release: