Will the Bali meeting and the UNDP Human Development Report address the poverty issue?

Perspektif Online
02 December 2007

This article appeared in the Jakarta Post of December 4, 2007 under the title "Bali Meeting Should Address Poverty Issues". Here is the original text

By Wimar Witoelar, InterMatrix Communications

More than 10,000 people, including ministers and senior officials from more than 180 countries, are gathered in Bali from December 3 to 14 to address climate change. They are seeking a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, which expires in 2012. The 1997 Kyoto accord required industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - which are generally thought to be responsible for global warming - by specific amounts by the year 2012. Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar says he expects that the Bali meeting will achieve more comprehensive results than Kyoto.

But we are actually hoping for serendipity to direct the Bali results to a more immediate human problem in Indonesia, which is poverty. In a talk show held on November 27 by the UNDP to launch the 2007/2008 Human Development Report, the main speaker Haakan Bjorkman, UNDP's Indonesia Country Director, highlighted the poverty implications of the annual report, this year titled 'Fighting Climate Change: Human solidarity in a divided world'


Wimar Witoelar with Hakan Bjorkman at launch of UNDP Human Development Report


His point is that Indonesia's poor will be most affected by climate change, the United Nations Development Programme said in an auxiliary report titled “The Other Half of Climate Change.” This report looks at the impact of climate change on the poor in Indonesia as well as efforts to adapt to the global weather phenomenon.

In the report, it says that Indonesia will face changes in season and rainfall, more extreme weather events, rises in sea levels of between 9 and 100 centimeters, warmer oceans and higher temperatures due to global warming. UNDP country director for Indonesia Hakan Bjorkman said the impact of climate change was discriminatory. "Poor people are more vulnerable. They have fewer resources or capacities to adapt to climate change," Bjorkman said.

"Farmers, fishermen and urban slum dwellers are living on the most marginal land that is vulnerable to droughts, floods or landslides. When disaster strikes, poor communities have very few resources to fall back on," Bjorkman said. "The impact of climate change will be felt the strongest among poor people. Climate change sabotages Indonesia's fight against poverty," Bjorkman added.

However, is adapting to climate change a sufficient response to the poverty crisis? That is what Binny Buchori, Executive Director, Perkumpulan PraKarsa questioned at the launch of the UNDP Report. She agrees that climate change can affect or deepen the poverty. However, she cannot agree that addressing climate change is sufficient response to reduce poverty. Poverty alleviation needs more than the climate change perspective.


Binny Buchori with the press and with co-speakers Effendy Sumardja and Emil Salim

Indonesia’s human development index remains low, far below its neighboring countries, Infrastructure is worse than before and Indonesia’s economy has not recovered from the crisis

There are a number of factors that contribute to poverty. First, economic policy has not created more employment, increase purchasing power capacity or increase productivity. What it does is increase growth, create macro stability and ensure fiscal sustainability. All very fine but not directly helping poor people. Industry has been constantly declining, and investment flows have not increased.

Binny Buchori and many social activists say that poverty is a rights issue. The Indonesian Government has paid lip service to this notion. But translating words to meaningful policies requires a comprehensive approach is needed. It is not enough to address the climate change issue.  We need to have a pro-poor budget and access and rights to basic services such as health, education, and work protection

Adapting to climate change is a necessary condition but not a sufficient response to poverty reduction. Speaking for the UNDP, Country Director Hakan Bjorkman agrees to this conclusion. He has no illusions about the complex poverty issue. But he feels the global focus on climate change is a worthy cause not only because of its own urgent nature, but because the concentration of resources which could be pulled into a concentrated effort is a force which could provide the momentum for a new surge in poverty reduction efforts.

This is what the Bali Meeting is all about. Can the 180 governments hammer out agreements which will not only resuscitate the Kyoto Accord on climate change, but also push for new national policies on poverty? We are not too optimistic that the Indonesian government will rise to the challenge, especially this being an intersectoral issue. However, we must not give up hope. And if we take care of our democracy, we can keep demanding that necessary measures grow into sufficient remedies.


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  1. From lasut on 06 December 2007 19:55:49 WIB

    Hell yeah as we can see maybe "the Greens" could bring the development to believe ïn the concept of Saving the world from the Natural Exploitation and Global Militarization. This might lead to the new fundamental laws of the universe(saving the world). Progressive Moderate Revolutionary in saving the world, awareness of the environment back to the environment(people) might create the power to build up for the class struggle and reduce poverty. Of course, there is a possibility it's not terrorism we should be afraid of, it is resources in the world that are getting less...which leads us to WAR!
  2. From Chandra on 06 December 2007 21:49:05 WIB
    Adelin Lies the illegal logger who generously contribute to global warming has been proclaimed free of the severe damage he has done. Indonesia is too poor and too corrupt to care about impact of climate change to poverty.
  3. From albertus on 07 December 2007 15:56:17 WIB
    Industrial nations will be reluctant to agree to any binding carbon reduction agreement, since it will definitely hinder economic growth. While coastal and island nations, such as Japan, Oceanic countries will be pushing hard for a binding agreement, nations such as China will definitely try hard to delay as long as possible such agreement.

    Indonesia, while also affected directly by the climate change, is certainly does not have the necessary resources to spend in that direction, especially after all this oil price bloat. Indonesia wishes to receive compensation for all the 'green' projects she will or has implemented. But who will provide such funding? I do not expect the Bali conference will produce such result or meet our expectations for a binding agreement. Most likely they will state a new date for 'further talks'.
  4. From thea on 10 December 2007 08:31:49 WIB
    I really like this writing!!
  5. From Djuwari on 21 December 2007 15:41:20 WIB
    The human development is in fact not basically based on the so called gass emission reduction. The poor have got accustomed to living in both "hot and cold" atmostphere. By getting used to living in "hot" atmsophere, it is meant that their houses (shelters) are trasparantly lighted by sunshines because of the broken roofs and tiles. By geeting used to living in cold atmostphere, it is meant that their houses' roof and tiles are leaking so that the rain water spraying them while "snoring".
    The policy makers are on the opposite and contradictorily from the people or the poor. So, Bali meeting is for the haves who never shared feeling of the poors.

  6. From Abbie on 03 February 2008 12:26:00 WIB
    The importance of poverty alleviation is paramount in our mitigation efforts towards climate change. Emil Salim, the head of the Indonesian Delegation in the UNFCCC's COP13/CMP3, stressed that combating climate change must go hand in hand with the empowerment of our communities, and there is no space for the sacrifice of one for the other. The 2003 WBG's EIR (Extractive Industries Review), chaired by Emil Salim, recognized the threat posed by climate change to poverty alleviation and recommended the World Bank to increase efforts to alleviate poverty through sustainable development. We must note that the UNFCCC recognizes the role of poverty reduction in mitigating climate change, Mr Witoelar. Like you said, lets hope for the best from our policy makers.

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