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The Environments of the Poor
Over the past decade, the Asia and Pacific region has shown a rapid decline in income-based poverty as a result of broad-based and largely pro-poor economic growth. Social indicators of poverty in the region, as expressed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), have also substantially improved. Asia is currently recovering from a major economic slowdown, but growth in the region remains on a lower scale than before the crisis, and economic challenges remain in some countries.
However, the region's development is considered to be not sufficiently inclusive, and is further threatened by climate change and other environmental risks and natural hazards. The poor tend to be concentrated in environmentally marginalized areas (such as slums, drylands, coastal, uplands, and flood-affected wetland areas), because they are left behind from the growth process, or they are in search of marginal livelihood and affordable living space. While the Asia-Pacific region will continue to make progress in poverty reduction, both in terms of income and social dimensions, vulnerability and poverty attributed to environmental causes is still likely to increase.
Poverty-environment linkages are mostly emphasized in the context of sustainable livelihoods, impact of pollution on people's health, and climate change and disaster vulnerability. The Asia-wide regional conference will add to these four dimensions:
- spatial dimensions of the environments of the poor and climate change related hazards;
- how the environments of the poor are influenced by climate change adaptation, migration, disaster resilience,
- what opportunities the green economy may bring for the poor; and
- implications for development assistance, including impact and MDG7 monitoring, financing, and program design with non-environmental solutions to environmental problems of poverty and vulnerability.
The conference is a joint event by ADB and various development partners from donor organizations (ILO, JICA, UNDP/UNEP) research networks (ADBI, EEPSEA, NCAER, SANDEE, TEEB, TERI) and funding facilities and other initiatives (CDIA, GMS-EOC, APCF). In addition, AFD, and DFID and GTZ expressed their interest in participating.
Objectives and key messages of the conference
The conference addresses the challenge of achieving poverty reduction in the face of growing climate variability and change, which directly affect livelihoods and health among people already living in extreme poverty and vulnerable to it. It will take stock of the conceptual understandings and empirical evidence developed in recent years on the environment and poverty nexus, and see how this has influenced the policy formulation and implementation in Asia and the Pacific. The event will take note of studies that rightly point out the ways and degrees to which the very poor are disproportionately affected by climate change, poor transportation patterns, energy poverty, etc.
ADB and others can be leading partners in charting poverty and climate response strategies and programs; the Conference will serve to further inform this agenda and explore room for partnerships involving, in addition to ADB, interested public, donors, private sector, and civil society actors.
The following key questions will be addressed in the conference:
- Given the potential role of ecologically degraded environment for deepening poverty, and the increasing threat due to climate change hazards, what role does the spatial approach play to bring the environment-poverty nexus closer to the climate agenda?
- How do the poor adapt to climate change; what are the implications for environmental and poverty programs; and how can we bring the adaptation and mitigation agenda closer for the benefit of the poor?
- How can the green economy be made more relevant for poverty reduction?
- Climate money – how can the private sector promote the climate-poverty agenda?
- What are the implications of a closer poverty-environment-climate link for public investment and donor support to make the policy rhetoric "inclusive and sustainable development" a real proposition?
In preparation for the Delhi conference, ADB, ILO and UNDP/UNEP plan to hold one-day country-workshops (in end-October 2010) in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Uzbekistan, and Viet Nam (all to be confirmed). These events will prepare for the regional exchange, and facilitate broader and deeper discussions in partner countries.
Participants will be a core team/panel of representatives from government (especially ministries such as the Environment, Urban Planning, Rural Development, Finance, and Planning), national think tank institutes, and selected representatives of external assistance agencies.
The workshops will discuss country-specific research papers prepared for the Delhi conference, as well as other relevant studies and policy notes on "the environments of the poor". They are intended to influence country programs and strategies.
The output of the Delhi conference will include conference papers and presentations, a website with copy-edited papers, and a summary publication under ADB's Sustainable Development Series. Specifically, the conference will develop:
- country studies on spatial dimensions of environmental factors for poverty in Asia and the Pacific;
- thematic papers on climate change adaptation with poverty reduction;
- sector and product studies on pro-poor green growth; and
- recommendations for investment and planning.
Prior to the conference, the papers will be discussed in national workshops organized in selected partner countries.
About 130-150 participants are expected at the Delhi conference, of which 80 are from government agencies (Director General and Undersecretary levels), and the remaining other experts from donor agencies and international and national think tank institutions.
The country workshops will gather about 20-30 experts from governments, national think tank institutions, and external aid agencies.
Resource speakers are from government, think tank institutions, and international organizations, among others.