EWB E-conference 2011

Future challenges for international development: how do we address the "Perfect Storm"?

Dr Andree Carter will raise some very important challenges in her keynote speech on Friday on future challenges for international development and the role of science and engineering. The so called “Perfect storm” as we head into 2030 with depleting natural resources whilst there is increasing demand on global water, food and energy reserves.

The urgency to mitigate climate change, alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable development is paramount yet how do we tackle such a global challenge? We have 5 years left to achieve the MDG targets set ten years ago. Carter states that achieving these does not simply require technical solutions,

“Firstly, science innovation for development is not just about technological solutions. As importantly, it is about establishing a scientific understanding of problems that will guide development policy and investment.“

Science and Innovation for Development http://www.ukcds.org.uk/publication-Science_and_Innovation_for_Development-172.html

The challenge for us as the development community is how can we address these global challenges and ensure that the poor are not marginalized?

Carter challenges us to think beyond the MDGs and look at what the new global paradigm needs to be in light of the knowledge of the predicted "Perfect Storm". What do you think we need to be focussing on in order to make the MDGs a reality and to look beyond MDGs to alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable development?

Comments welcome.
I think Andree's paper illustrates that not only must we work with people in developing countries, we have some pretty big questions to answer about our own lives in the UK, USA, Europe etc, she says:

'The charity WWF has calculated that if UK citizens continue to use energy, water and natural resources in the same way they would need the equivalent of three planets to ensure current lifestyles. The world needs to find new ways to live sustainably. Low carbon, low cost technology, green growth, leapfrog technologies are all relevant but must be appropriate for local use.'

I agree that we need a new global paradigm, one that creates an environment where new ways of living sustainably seem like the most obvious choices to make and do not face significant barriers - will this move us towards a homogeneous society, and would this be a bad thing? Or should the paradigm move us back towards more localised systems, are these more sustainable?
I'd be interested to know if and how far Dr Carter believes that the UN Report 'Energy for a Sustainable Future AGECC Summary Report' will go to addressing the issues identified in the 'Perfect Storm'?

Does Andree think Western Governments are taking these targets seriously both at home and abroad?

Also, does Andree welcome the focus upon the smaller number of countries to receive UK development aid?
Tony some interesting points made, something that hopefully we will hear on Friday from Dr Carter himself however the summary report highlights that in order to achieve this,

"It will take the active engagement of all sectors of society: the private sector; local communities and civil society; international organizations and the world of academia and research."
As Ban Ki Moon put it.

I think Western Governments are aware of the issues more so than in recent years but there is still a huge need to drive action and we are certainly not being forced to stop using energy and water as we please here in the UK for example.

How do you propose that Western governments should be behaving? What can we do to get the urgency of the situation through not only to our governments but to all members of society and actually drive change?
In line with this discussion you may also find this blog interesting, from Duncan Green at Oxfam - it references the recent Economist report on meeting the food demands of the future - http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=4597. Some interesting dialogue that is interlinked with the issues of water security, climate change and growing populations.
United Kingdom
Better late than never, they say, so sorry this posting is over time. This discussion is looking at how we "do" better for the future. I was in Ireland recently, and a lecturer from a prestigious Dublin university invites overseas students to study in Dublin for a year - but the remaining work is done in the country to which the student belongs. So they end up with a degree from that university and are not 'they must clever as they got a European degree' but rather they create a hub of knowledge where it really matters. Look at the number of academic papers coming from African universities - yet many of the postgrad students in the UK are from overseas - but the Universities in the countries from which they have come do not see the intellectual benefits of their studies. Let us have Centres of Excellence in Africa and Asia where exchanges can take place. Let us get away from 'They do the field work and we do the analysis' - it is skewing learning and development.
Liz that is a really interesting point and analogy. Yes it does indeed seem warped that we should analyse situations which are completely unfamiliar and okay we may have certain differing degrees of 'field' experience so to speak but unless you have grown up in a culture then there is always I imagine an unfamiliarity with it. Education plays such a key role in development and I feel too often overlooked and its not just our Education in the west but opportunities to provide education for those in areas where it is not readily accessible to all. Barriers to development too often come down to a lack of in country skills. An interesting project at Edinburgh University was looking at developing intermediate education in order to bridge that gap.

Would it be fair to say that in order to begin to achieve these goals we need to have a cross disciplinary approach? As engineers we are increasingly realising it is not just about fixing the technical problem. More and more the realisation of issues of sustainability and the fast approaching 2030 paradigm highlight the need to consider beyond the boundaries of technology and look at the longer term effects and social impacts on both society and our world. Transforming the aims of the higher education system is certainly one way to start to do this. I wonder whether Bland can shed any more light on this from his experience of setting up the course in sustainability at Manchester and the impacts it has had?
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