17 June 2017 - Iran and UNDP strengthen efforts to combat desertification

Today, around the world, over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification.  About 1 billion people – in over 110 countries – are currently at risk of its consequences.

Here in Iran, the level of desertification is “high”.  Over 20 per cent of the country’s land is exposed to desertification.  Deserts threaten 18 provinces and 97 cities of the country.  And in these arid and semi-arid areas, desertification is at risk of increasing. 

However, for many years, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been working closely with the Government of Iran to support the sustainable management of its natural resources and through this reverse the effects of desertification.

Today, to strengthen these efforts and to commemorate World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) and Drought, the signing ceremony of Phase III of the Carbon Sequestration Project (CSP) took place at the Forest, Rangeland and Watershed Management Organization (FRWO) in the presence of Deputy Minister and Head of FRWO, Dr. Khodakaram Jalali, Member of Parliament of Iran from South Khorasan, Mr. Mohammadreza Amir Hassankhani, Director Generals from different provinces in which the project is being implement, the media and the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Gary Lewis.

20170617 undp02Swathes of green trees stem desertification, provide jobs and other resources, and absorb carbon emissions

Back in 2003, the first phase of CSP was initiated in South Khorasan Province with support from the Global Environment Facility.  The second phase was replicated and implemented across 18 provinces in Iran.  In this – the third phase – the project will be expanded in five new sites in four provinces: South Khorasan, North Khorasan, Yazd and Golestan. 

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Dr. Jalali said: “After rise of global temperature and shortage of water, desertification is the third biggest environmental threat that the planet faces.  In just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.”

Dr. Jalali added: “Iran has taken concrete steps to overcome this challenge.  The achievements of the CSP shows that the joint collaboration between UNDP and FRWO through this project has proven to be successful in reversing desertification.  We hope to replicate this successful method in other projects as well.”

CSP coverage area CSP coverage area

Also speaking at the event, Mr. Lewis said: “There is possibly no greater issue than land management in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals agenda.  It touches everyone.  From the food we eat, to the clothes we wear and the houses we live-in.  all this is based upon land resources.  And our management of these.  But the challenge of desertification is literally creeping up on us.  Some have called it “The Silent Earthquake of the Century.”

“There are two main drivers of desertification.  First the overall impact of climate change.  Second, desertification is driven directly by human activities.  But we – humans – have, at last, recognized the halt and the need to reverse and combat desertification.  The WDCD sends a strong message about how land contributes to sustainability, stability and human security on our planet” said Mr. Lewis.

He added: “The theme for this year’s WDCD of “Our land. Our home. Our future.” – underlines the central role which productive land can play in turning the growing tide of migrants who are abandoning their unproductive land.  We must help these communities to become sustainable, resilient and thus secure, into the future.”

The CSP Phase III signing ceremony took place at FRWO todayThe CSP Phase III signing ceremony took place at FRWO today

Mr. Lewis concluded his remarks by saying: “For the past 20 years, FRWO and UNDP have worked hand-in-hand to implement several very successful development projects.  One of these is CSP the success of which stems from one thing mainly – the participatory approaches it has used.  With this partnership and the support of the thousands upon thousands of people at the community and village level, I really do believe that we are beginning to reverse the “Silent Earthquake”.

Dr. Jalali and Mr. Lewis then signed the Carbon Sequestration Phase III Addendum, and together launched the UNDP report entitled “10 Sustainable Development Solutions for Asia and the Pacific” which features the success of the CSP

From Left to right: Member of Parliament of Iran from South Khorasan, Mr. Mohammadreza Amir Hassankhani, Deputy Minister and Head of FRWO, Dr. Khodakaram Jalali and the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Gary LewisFrom Left to right: Member of Parliament of Iran from South Khorasan, Mr. Mohammadreza Amir Hassankhani, Deputy Minister and Head of FRWO, Dr. Khodakaram Jalali and the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Gary Lewis

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Remarks at “World Day to Combat Desertification & Drought” and Signing Ceremony of Carbon Sequestration Phase III Addendum (2017 - 2022)

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Part 1: Introduction to the global situation regarding desertification and land degradation

There is possibly no greater issue than land in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals agenda.  It touches everyone.

From the food we eat, to the clothes we wear and the houses we live-in.  All this is based upon land resources.  And our management of these.

We all know about the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – or SDGs.  SDG Goal 15 – which is all about “Life on Land” – calls upon all countries of the world to combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation.

Today, around the world, about 1 billion people on the planet – in over 110 countries – are currently at risk of the consequences of desertification.  Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification.  These people are often among the poorest and most-marginalized of citizens.

Here in Iran, over 20 per cent of the country’s land is exposed to desertification.  Deserts threaten 18 of our provinces.  And 97 of our cities.  And in these arid and semi-arid areas, desertification is increasing. 

The challenge of desertification is literally creeping up on us.  Some have called it “The Silent Earthquake of the Century”.

According to Iran’s own official estimates through the “Desert Potential Assessment,” when compared with other arid and semi-arid countries, Iran’s level of desertification is “high”.

There are two main drivers.  First the overall impact of climate change.  Second, desertification is driven directly by human activities such as:

Over-population.

Over-grazing – in many parts of Iran this has been caused when sheep herders let their flocks of goats and sheep overgraze the land.  Sometimes it is caused by villagers breaking off rangeland shrubs for firewood.

Excessive exploitation of underground water.

Contamination of aquifers.

Land conversion and mining operations.

and – finally – the uncontrolled exploitation of rangelands and arable lands.

Part 2: World Day to Combat Desertification

But we humans have, at last, recognized the halt and reverse combat desertification.

Today – 17 June – we commemorate the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD).

This day has been marked every year since 1995.  We use it to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification. 

We use it to draw attention to the need to implement the UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification).

This is a convention which Iran ratified in April 1997.

The WDCD sends a strong message about how land contributes to the sustainability, stability and human security on our planet.

The theme for 2017 is “Our land. Our home. Our future.”

This year we examine the important link between land degradation and migration.

We give our attention to the power which the land holds in providing people with the opportunity and resilience to have a future on their home ground.  For, if there is over-competition for scarce resources, people will move in search of food – water – and energy.  In other countries, in recent years, this has caused institutional breakdown and conflict.

That is why halting and reversing desertification is a human security concern.

This theme of “Our land. Our home. Our future.” – underlines the central role which productive land can play in turning the growing tide of migrants who are abandoning their unproductive land.  We must help these communities to become sustainable, resilient and thus secure, into the future.

So, on this World Day to Combat Desertification we are gathered here to extend a highly successful initiative funded by the Government of Iran and the UN Development Programme.

It is called our “Carbon Sequestration Project”.  The Carbon Project gets its name from the fact that one of its side effects is the ability of the newly-re-greened areas capture and sequester carbon dioxide.  It is essentially a community-development-plus-environmental initiative.

Part 3: Linkages to the Sustainable Development Goals

Back in September 2015, the world adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.  Iran was among these countries.  Indeed, President Rouhani attended the event along with many other world leaders, at the UN HQ in New York.

This momentous decision by 193 countries was a recognition of the fact that all people share one planet and individual countries cannot be assured of their own development, peace and security while ignoring how others are living. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that the world has a common destiny, which requires a common goal.  And this is what the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) embody. 

As I mentioned, our subject today really relates to SDG 15.  And indeed, Iran also has good practices to share on SDG 15, as I will share with you shortly.  But there are other SDGs which we can contribute to through our efforts to combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation.  These include:

 Goal 6 – sustainable water – by combatting desertification, and halting and reversing land degradation we can improve water efficiency and quality.

 Goal 1 – end poverty – our future economic growth, prosperity and human well-being depend upon whether we are able to protect and restore our working landscapes.

 Goal 2 – end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.  The sustainable management and the restoration of our land resources are vital to enhance agriculture productivity, especially for small scale food producers.  

Goal 7 – clean and efficient energy. Climate change requires a rethink and bold moves towards renewable energy sources. Nearly 3 billion people in the world will need to rely on biomass for cooking and heating in 2030.  The sustainable management of land and water is pivotal to ensure a reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply for all.  I have seen the excellent work Iran and the UN has done through our Carbon Sequestration project on this in Saveh.

Goal 13 – combatting climate change. If we improve how we manage land, we can reduce our emissions.  Low-emissions agriculture, agro-forestry and ecosystem conservation and restoration all have a role to play in reducing our emissions gap.  Currently Iran is the 9th largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Part 4: The FRWO-UNDP partnership

Now, for many years, the United Nations (specifically UNDP) has been working closely with the Government of Iran to support the sustainable management of its natural resources.  In this collaboration, the Forest, Rangelands and Watershed Management Organization has been our key partner.  Especially in efforts to promote sustainable development and combat desertification.  

For the past 20 years, FRWO and UNDP have worked hand-in-hand to implement several very successful development projects.  One of these is the Carbon Sequestration Project.

The success of this project stems from one thing mainly – the participatory approaches it has used.

Its achievements are too many to name them all, but have included:

  • local capacity building,
  • men and women’s economic empowerment,
  • small enterprise-job generation,
  • strengthening of alternative livelihoods, and
  • the participation of local villagers in the rehabilitation and management of their own degraded rangelands.

One of the project’s key achievements has been its ability to engage local community participation in all stages of the decision-making process.

If the shrubs and trees are planted with community engagement, it has been demonstrated that the cost of tree-planting drops to one-fifth of what it would cost the government if they hired private contractors. 

More than this, it comes with the all-important element of community buy-in and ownership.  It thus immediately becomes ‘Our’ project, not ‘Their’ project.

When hundreds of thousands of these shrubs grow in areas covering thousands of hectares, this creates a small biosphere which then allows other vegetation and wildlife to return.  Such newly-greened biospheres sustain people’s livelihoods in a number of ways.

The first is that vegetation in the microclimate helps to retain more moisture on the ground.  This in turn produces more vegetation. 

When the small trees disperse their seeds, the vegetation thickens. 

Farmers can then bring in livestock to eat leaves from the shrubs without damaging the plants themselves.  The overall ecological carrying capacity of the land increases.  This generates income for farmers and rangers.  People can sell produce from the trees and shrubs – be it resin or fruit.

The Carbon Project has addressed the fuel-wood problem by supplying residents with simple stoves fuelled by paraffin supported by the project.

But the real benefit in terms of sustainability is that the communities – once the source of the problem, through their overgrazing and fuel-wood “predation” – develop a strong sense of ownership and become the guardians of the land.

The results of this project – and I have evidence which I shall share shortly – have been so successfully demonstrated that were acknowledged and recognized at different levels (local, provincial and national) by a number of entities and authorities.

And now, after two phases and a few addendums, I’m really delighted to see that the “saplings” we planted together in our original pilot in Khorasan-e Jonubi have now “taken root” and “branched-out” to a grand total of 20 provinces.

And yet, there are even more requests of further expansion and up-scaling.

All this has been done – it has to be said – by the government with only modest support from UNDP.  This reflects the fact that Iran – as an Upper Middle Income Country – does not really need UNDP finance.  What it needs is our technical capacity and our demonstrated ability to implement successful projects.  We have a true partnership.

Here are some of the pictures from years of project implementation which I would like to share with you.  And here are some numbers.

The project which was first started in one village is now:

active in about 300 villages,

with 117,000 inhabitants,

more than 3 million hectares of Iran’s vulnerable land have been covered with rehabilitation activities.

During these years of implementation:

1,744 Village Development Groups (VDGs) were established.

113 of them are groups managed by women.

Women are taking part in more than 1,500 groups jointly with men.

The VDGs have more than 23,500 people as members.

These VDGs are directly involved in the sustainable development practices while a larger number of local people are participating in the implementation of action plans.

During the years of implementation, the initiative has not only been scaled-up but it has also evolved in a technical sense.

Now, I’m learning from our government partners that the activities are now extended to social initiatives such as building schools, libraries, and medical clinics in some of the pilot villages.

In this way, the project which was originally only supposed to mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon has now turned to a social mobilization mechanism for sustainable rural development.

It’s important to acknowledge the fact that the project has not only served environmental/natural resources purposes, but it has also successfully targeted economic targets at the village level.

Typically, combatting desertification and environmental initiatives are not expected to generate so much economic interest.

These types of initiatives are not usually economically self-sufficient.  They always tend to require injections of money.

But the Carbon Sequestration Project has quite amazingly been able to generate money and jobs while saving our invaluable Iranian environment.

And this is what world environmental conservation needs more of.

Initiative which:

  • combats desertification,
  • saves energy,
  • reduces emissions,
  • avoids soil erosion
  • …while also generating job opportunity and economic development.

Isn’t this a win-win solution?

I’ve also learnt from our government partners that in one of the new upscaling pilot areas – Ghaenan in Golestan province – there has been a net benefit of about US$3 million made during the very first year of project implementation to the benefit of local communities.

So, no wonder our Carbon Project is so successful in Iran.

That is why it is being upscaled in several provinces.

As you all know, the project was initially targeted at drylands but now has even been extended to deforested areas in the humid climate of Golestan Province (which is part of today’s expansion).

We combat desertification.  We re-afforest.  We grow the economy.

Now a few words on the Village Development Groups.  These are where people have the opportunity to sit together and discuss their priorities and design their future while also observing sustainability elements.  

Khorasan-e Shomali’s Provincial Governor-General has instructed all authorities to apply the Carbon sequestration model in all villages in the province and he’s secured required resources.

The project has even inspired the Lake Urmia restoration national committee.  And I’ve learned that with direct instructions from Mr. Kalantari, the model is replicated to save water in the Lake Urmia basin restoration programme.

The approach has even been adopted at the highest level in Iran’s 6th National Development Plan, showcasing the strength and versatility of this project model.  

So, today, we seek to continue along this successful path through the signing of an agreement for implementation of a 3rd phase.  

As demonstrated by the agreements we shall be signing today, the UN in Iran – and UNDP in particular – stands ready to continue to support the Government of Iran in obtaining technical support and sharing the necessary knowledge and technology to solve the problem of desertification.

As an indication, I am delighted to announce that the story of our Carbon Project – here in Iran – has been published in the UNDP partnership series as one of the top “10 Solutions to help meet the SDGs” in Asia and the Pacific.  We are launching this report here in Iran today as well.

What our Carbon Project is doing is exactly what UNCCD is looking for. 

So, ladies and gentlemen, today we are co-signing with our government partner a 5-year Addendum to the Carbon Project.  It is will expand the project into 5 new sites in 4 provinces (all of which we have been working in before.  He is a picture:

  • South Khorasan,
  • North Khorasan,
  • Yazd and
  • Golestan

It may even be further extended to additional provinces, if there is interest.

And the uniqueness of this agreement is that government is providing most of the funding.

UNDP’s contribution is less than 5 per cent.

But, as I noted, this reflects Iran’s status as an Upper Middle-Income Country which has sufficient funds to invest in development but only needs UNDP’s technical support.

I would like to congratulate the strong sense of ownership that the government is showing in this partnership.  I trust that this extension will not only deliver numerous results but it’ll turn into a new form of partnership in Iran between Iran and the UN.  I believe that Iran is strong enough to draw upon its own resources in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

I also believe that Iran – through these sorts of partnerships – will soon turn into a regional pioneer and a leader in combating desertification and sustainable development.  With models to share with the regional countries.

Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the role of Mr. Jalali’s leadership in this process.  I would also like to single out Dr. Garshashbi for his committed support to the project.  Mr. Kargar as National Project Director himself and his colleagues including Mr. Pouyafar as National Project Manager.  These men are so determined – so professional – so hardworking – and so passionate about our joint project.  We would certainly not have come this far and have achieved these fantastic results without their steadfast support. 

And of course, I recognize the role of the provincial managers and the respective FRWO Directors-General of pilot provinces who are at the front line of implementation – and most of whom are here today. 

Your daily involvement and actions are what is moving this initiative forward.

With all this support – and that of the thousands upon thousands of people at the community and village level, I really do believe that we are beginning to reverse the “Silent Earthquake”.

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14 June 2017 - Birth of Hawksbill Turtles on the shores of the Persian Gulf

Hawksbill Turtles are critically endangered species.  This is mostly due to human and natural impacts.  They are accidentally captured and threatened by fishing nets.  Fox is a natural predator. Despite the turtle’s international protected status, Hawksbill eggs are still eaten around the world. 

However, in some corners of the world, there still exists some safe havens for the Hawksbill Turtles, and a number of committed partners – including Global Environmental Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP) –  with the support of the local community are working together to reverse the destiny of this endangered species.

Shib Deraz village located in the South of Iran in Qeshm Island has become a safe spot through the controlling of natural and human disturbances on the beach where Hawksbill Turtles come to make nest for their eggs.

Every year from late February to late June, the intact gentle slopes of the southern shores of the Persian Gulf hosts hundreds of Hawksbill Turtles that come to lay their eggs.  After about two months a small black nose appears shyly from the sand on the nest, this means that the eggs have been hatched.

20170614 undp01Hawksbill Turtles are critically endangered species

This year, the hatching of Hawksbill Turtles coincided with International Day for Biological Diversity and commemoration of Ocean Conference.  The “Ocean Celebration” ceremony was organized by UNIC Tehran in cooperation with the Department of Environment of Qeshm Free Zone and Hormod Sustainable Development Institute.  The GEF/SGP Community Conserved Turtle Site was chosen for this event.

Government officials, UN representatives, the local community and the media gathered in Shib Deraz to discuss and showcase their efforts aimed at protection of the marine environment. 

The UNDP-GEF/SGP Marine and Coastline projects were initiated in Qeshm Island in 2001 with the aim of persevering the coral reefs, enhancing the local knowledge on the importance of protecting the eggs of the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtles and through their empowerment and active participation protecting the related territories and  habitats of this endangered species.

As a result of these efforts In Shin Deraz village, every year between 4,000 to 5,000 eggs of Hawksbill Turtles have been safely protected, hatched and released to the azure waters of the Persian Gulf. 

 

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6 June 2017 - Iran: Communities Conquer Dust and Drought, Helping Themselves and the Environment

Once famed for their natural beauty, Iran’s rangeland plains have become seriously degraded through unsustainable use and drought. Intensive cattle-farming has stripped the land of vegetation, leaving bare soil that the wind stirs into dust. Forests have been cut by people seeking wood for fuel, leading to further decline, air pollution as the wood is burned and the destruction of valuable biodiversity.

For people in the rangelands, a place of beauty has become a hostile environment—and may only become more so with the heat and drought expected through climate change. Water shortages are acute; agricultural livelihoods no longer sufficient. With few other options, many people have left, choosing uncertain futures as migrants in search of work.

Yet a growing number have also found hope that, in working together, they can reverse the tide of desertification and restore the beauty of their homeland, and in doing so cultivate new livelihoods.

“Involving communities is essential to give them a sense of ownership,” said Dr. Prabhu Budhathoki, Chief Technical Advisor to the United Nations Carbon Sequestration Project. “It makes them feel like they can take their destiny into their own hands.”

“Nothing for us without us”

Dr. Budhathoki spoke in 2003, when setting up the project with Iran’s Forest, Range and Watershed Organization, the Global Environment Facility and UNDP. It was the start of an enduring partnership to help not only ‘green’ the rangelands but also sustain the livelihoods of people living there.

The effort began in 37 villages in South Khorasan Province, an area that is among the most impoverished in Iran. Annual rainfall is so minimal it is measured in millimetres.

Bordering Afghanistan, the province has been the destination for refugees fleeing conflict there. Nearly 40,000 livestock, owned by both local people and Afghans, have stripped away most vegetation, making the region a ‘hotspot’ for wind erosion. When the project began in 2003, so many people had moved away that the population had become increasingly sparse. Those left behind were way below national averages for literacy and life expectancy.

The project built on the premise that it was not enough to simply help restore the local environment through reforestation. Poverty and unemployment had destroyed the rangelands through excessive reliance on them to feed livestock and supply fuel for cooking and heating homes. Planting more trees without addressing these issues would only lead to people cutting them down once again.

It was also clear that people needed to come together and learn about how to sustainably manage local resources, and then make decisions in line with their collective interests. This would strengthen the sense of community and empower people to work together on solving their problems.

In each village, the project set up a village development group to start tackling environmental and economic challenges. Following the philosophy of “nothing for us, without us,” they began crafting village development plans that identified common priorities—such as ready access to potable water, availability of employment and protection from dust storms.

Based on the plans, the project began providing agricultural extension support to improve productivity. It guided local discussions around options for more sustainable livelihoods and offered new forms of vocational training as well as topics such as legal rights and insurance.

Central government institutions stepped forward to improve infrastructure, such as by constructing water reservoirs and improving schools and health care facilities. Early on, the groups got involved in selecting plants that could halt desertification, and organized community members to take part in planting and irrigating saplings and shrubs.  

In parallel, the project set up microcredit mechanisms offering highly subsidized loans for people to improve their livelihoods. One type of mechanism, managed by the village development groups, pooled small savings from group members and disbursed them based on agreed protocols. Another type drew in contributions from UNDP, the government and other organizations, and offered larger sums, under the management of specially created cooperatives. The cooperatives also supervised loans made by the village development groups.

A majority of loans went to help people improve their livelihoods, such as through investment in new kinds of agricultural production, and better packaging and marketing of local goods. Around 40 percent went towards projects improving community welfare as a whole, such as through the installation of solar water heaters and facilities to desalinate water.

While resources for restoring the rangelands have come mainly from the central government, loans also helped communities invest in equipment to participate as subcontractors. Training has helped them acquire relevant skills, and assisted many local women in establishing small nurseries at home to cultivate seedlings. The process has provided 21,000 days of employment for local people, while shaving operational costs for the government by about half.

Swathes of green trees stem desertification, provide jobs and other resources, and absorb carbon emissionsSwathes of green trees stem desertification, provide jobs and other resources, and absorb carbon emissions

A national transformation

Today, life in the 37 villages has been transformed. The villages hum with activity. The wind that once stirred up clouds of dust now powers irrigation pumps that push water to crops and livestock. Women bake bread in modern stoves for sale in local markets, and seal locally grown dried barberries in attractive, colorful packages destined for shops in urban areas. Greenhouses shelter young plants, and clean, safe playgrounds resound with the cries of happy children.      

Across the villages, all basic dimensions of human development have noticeably improved—at double the rates found in similar areas over the same time period. Education has increased, life expectancy has grown and income has climbed.

“My family was about to migrate to the city nearby in search of a living,” recalls Zari Sa’adati, from the village of Hassan Kolangi village. Instead, she used a microloan to set up a small herbal extract workshop. “We now have enough income to stay in our own village,” she says.

Around the villages, the once barren landscape is covered with swathes of plants that both stem desertification and provide resources such as herbs and berries used by local communities. The project has regreened 15,000 hectares, which has not only cut erosion, but also boosted the rate of absorption of carbon emissions to rise from 60 kilogrammes per hectare in 2006 to 1,500 kilogrammes per hectare by 2012.

Because people have new economic options, the number of livestock has fallen to 32,000, reducing pressure on the rangelands, and fuelwood collection has dropped by over 80 percent.

By the end of 2015, the project, once a pilot for 37 villages in 1 province, directly covered 261 villages in 18 provinces. Strongly endorsed by central policy makers, it is now a national model for rural development. Coverage and restoration of areas located in over 2.8 million hectares of land is expected by the end of 2017, and tens of thousands of rural Iranians will no longer face the agonizing choice of abandoning their homes to the desert.

 

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6 June 2017 - 10 Sustainable Development Solutions for Asia and the Pacific

NEW YORK, 6 June 2017 – A new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) showcases ten projects that are transforming the course of development in the Asia-Pacific region.

Entitled “10 Solutions to Help Meet the SDGs,” the report describes large-scale projects in ten countries in the region – Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Solomon Islands and Timor Leste – that have demonstrably accelerated progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

“The Asia-Pacific region is fast becoming the world’s economic centre of gravity,” said Haoliang Xu, Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific. “These stories show how transformation can work – and with our long history in the region, UNDP is fully engaged in the process of identifying development solutions that unlock and scale up progress.”

Among the highlights of the report are China’s Green Lights Project, a groundbreaking initiative among the Chinese government, private companies and UNDP to replace costly, energy-draining conventional incandescent light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Enlisting the light bulb industry from the start, the project helped to retrain and incentivize light bulb manufacturers to develop conversion techniques and improve production. The resulting improvements in the production of energy-efficient bulbs led to better quality products, which in turn incentivized the public to ‘go green’, taking advantage of dramatically widened access to better lighting options. 

By 2016, incandescent bulbs of 15 watts or higher had been banned for sale in China, part of an ambitious national drive to phase out incandescent bulbs entirely, thereby slashing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 48 million tons a year annually, and by up to 237 million tons by 2025.

“We are supporting innovation not only in development solutions, but also in how those development solutions are designed and implemented,” said Xu. “These projects demonstrate the levels of innovation required to make good on our pledge to leave no one behind.”

Despite spectacular growth and transformation over the past 15 years, the Asia-Pacific region remains plagued by significant development challenges: a widening gap between the wealthiest and poorest people; patterns of consumption and production that threaten stability of populations and the environment; and the world’s highest vulnerability to natural disasters. 

However, noted Xu, the region is also increasingly well equipped to handle these challenges.

“Each development intervention needs to aim for transformation, reaching large numbers of people, and strengthening the range of institutions and services that underpin both human and environmental well-being,” he said. “It is a tall order, but far from an impossible one.”

In addition to energy efficiency and climate change adaptation, the report includes projects to expand financial inclusion, access to legal services, and civic participation among women and marginalized groups.

In the Solomon Islands, for example, the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme, a joint initiative by UNDP and the UN Capital Development Fund, supported the Central Bank in rolling out mobile and branchless banking services across the 1,000 far-flung islands comprising the nation. As a result, the number of bank account holders doubled within six years. By 2016, over 195,000 new accounts had been opened, and over 100,000 people could bank using mobile apps.

Xu pointed out that such innovations were intrinsic to the UNDP way of doing business in the region, and acknowledges the organization’s own successful transformation from donor to development advisor and provider of development services.

“This report reflects the confidence that governments in Asia and the Pacific have placed in our new direction,” he said. “The 2030 Agenda is the most ambitious benchmark the world has ever seen. We at UNDP have the experience, expertise and personnel to support the region in meeting, and perhaps even exceeding, the SDGs.”

Follow the Conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #MeetTheSDGs

About UNDP

UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in more than 170 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations. www.undp.org

 

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16 May 2016 - Iran launches its first National Strategic Plan to step up the battle against climate change

Iran launched a national strategic plan today aimed at helping the country to adapt and mitigate to risks from climate change.

The plan, developed in line with the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the Paris Agreement to combat Climate Change, will guide how Iran moves forward on sustainable socio-economic development.

“The launch of this national strategic plan reflects Iran’s strong political will in achieving sustainable development,” said Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice-President and Head of Iran’s Department of the Environment.

Dr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice President and Head of the Department of EnvironmentDr. Masoumeh Ebtekar, Vice President and Head of the Department of Environment

“This plan is the result of the collective work between people, the United Nations, universities and the media” she added. 

Across the nation, Iran faces multiple environmental challenges such as shortage of water, land degradation, desertification, and loss of biodiversity. In some areas, the shortage of water has been so acute it has forced people to migrate. In other regions desertification has affected livelihoods and has caused severe sand and dust storms affecting wide swathes of the country.

The impact of climate change is not only being felt in Iran but across the world, and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence points to human influence as the cause.

In his speech at the event, Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, said that for every man-made problem lies a man-made solution.

“We see from the long sweep of human history, that problems gets solved if we do two things.  The first is to know, the second is to act on the basis of the evidence that we know. That is what I see happening here today,” said Mr. Lewis. “By launching this plan Iran now becomes one of a very small number of countries that is acting in this evidence-based way.  The UN – and specifically UNDP – is extremely proud to be involved with Iran in this journey to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.”: https://goo.gl/VFdghl

Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative (left), Dr. Ali Nazaridoust, Head of Programme  and Assistant Resident Representative (right) Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative (left), Dr. Ali Nazaridoust, Head of Programme and Assistant Resident Representative (right)

Also speaking at the event was Dr. Saeed Motessadi, Deputy Head of the Department of Environment who stated: “Iran ranks among the top 10 countries in the production of greenhouse gases.  We should not be waiting for disaster to strike, we should plan ahead and the national strategic plan will guide the country towards the right path to overcome these challenges.” 

The event took place at the Department of Environment in the presence of government officials, members of Iran’s academia and the media.

 

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