Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Small is beautiful!


Think about it - from 60 to 90 percent or more of economies of most countries are actually run by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Single owner enterprises, with single sources of income, a single line of products or a combination of these features characterize SMEs.

SMEs function independently, providing goods and services directly to the consumer, or form part of a supply chain, linking them to large business corporations producing complex products.

Sometimes also interchangeably called microenterprises, SMEs are legally registered and tax paying entities. This distinguishes them from the equally small household or one-person  enterprises that form an equally large proportion of the informal economic sectors of most developing countries (again up to 90% in some cities!).

A cross-cutting serendipitous tag for GDRC, issues related to SMEs influence research carried out by many of its programmes - particularly sustainable development, sustainable business, informal sector, microfinance, etc.

Greater attention need to be paid to SMEs - how can they contribute to better sustainability practices in the private sector? How can their environmental impacts be reduced? Without affecting their bottom line? Or making it part of the bottom line? Especially in developing countries? Questions that need further research ... more work to do!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Microfinance and environmental management

Providing microfinance, and creating necessary conditions for microfiance to be used for environmental management, is an important aspect for poverty alleviation. This is particularly true in developing countries and in post-disaster situations.

GDRC has been exploring this issue in its Programme on Microcredit and Microfinance.

- Environmental Colours of Microfinance: http://www.gdrc.org/icm/environ/environ.html
- Microfinance and Disasters: http://www.gdrc.org/icm/disasters/index.html

Friday, February 20, 2009

Celebrating the Local Dimension

What kind of lifestyles, particularly urban, needs to be adopted? How can economic growth goals be reconciled with environmental ones? Who plays the key roles in this case - the manufacturers? The national government? The local government? Or the citizens? What kinds of participation and partnership structures can we put in place for this purpose? Indeed, there can be no 'one policy' to achieve reduction goals - and a comprehensive mixture of policies need to be developed. What would these look like? Who does what, when and where? And indeed why? What are the motivations?

Global environmental problems and the solutions to mitigate them can find their legitimacy for dialogue only if a local dimension is kept in mind - indeed, the local human dimensions in finding solutions for environmental problems is by far the way forward in this respect. Decision-makers, using buzzwords such as 'public choice,' 'informed consent,' and 'community participation,' have now come to realize that it is critical to understand the relevance and implication of global problems from the man-on-the-street perspective, even in order to start defining the problem. How can the focus on the man-on-the-street be built? Who has to do this? What indeed are the 'human dimensions' of environmental development and management?

Scientists have striven to remain independent and rational so that their work would not be influenced by outside pressures. But with an increasing realization of the interlinkages between problems, solutions and the 'humans' who are part of both, scientific research will have to find partners and partnerships in unlikely places to find and justify the solutions that they will suggest … Increased globalization of the economy, with decision-making processes far removed from the local levels, has had a negative and deteriorative impact on the environment. This highlights the old ying and yang debate of quantitative growth of the local economy, and the qualitative improvement of the local environment. Which comes first? Both have their priorities and their advocates … is there a 'good' and a 'bad'? In the final analysis, it is the community that can actually decide on things that affect their lives and what is best for them. How can such thought-processes and leadership be fostered? Paternalism not-with-standing, how can local governments and other bureaucracies be made to 'listen' to the community? What kind of future vision of symbiosis be built ground-up? How can local desires and wishes be reconciled with national priorities? Indeed, how can the middle ground be identified and fostered??

And so the debate goes on ...



Monday, February 16, 2009

Climate Change: Seeing REDD

You probably have heard of the REDD Initiative - Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation initiative. The Climate Change Conference in Bali, in December 2007, opened the possibility of developing an incentive mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). One example of REDD is the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). Some REDD mechanisms already feature in the voluntary carbon markets.

REDD mechanisms can deliver multiple benefits. In addition to mitigating climate change, REDD can support livelihoods, maintain vital ecosystem services, and preserve globally significant biodiversity. Discussions on the linkages between REDD and biodiversity conservation are increasing. A number of research projects and policies are being developed around the issue. However, Parties to the CBD noted that the benefits will not necessarily be automatically achieved.

REDD is being spearheaded within the UN system by UNDP, FAO and UNEP. See a presentation on how they are doing this. Also keep yourself updated on REDD and related issues at: http://www.redd-monitor.org/

Much of what GDRC does in its various programmes have direct or indirect implications for the REDD initiative. REDD will be an interesting serendipitous tag for GDRC to interlink local issues and dimensions to larger issues at the global level.



Saturday, February 14, 2009

Time to renew ...

Its been quite some time and then some, since entries have been made on this blog.

So its time to renew and revamp this blog, focusing on themes that stitch together the disparate topics covered by GDRC's 15 programmes.

Besides keeping the original intent and purpose of the blog, it will now also cover summaries and implications of new documents added to GDRC's website - allowing the user's own sense of serendipity to link it back to his/her reality!