Category Archives: sustainability

How sustainable is well-being? Measuring resources for the future

This post, written by Carrie Exton (Statistics Directorate of the OECD), is part of the Wikiprogress series on How’s Life? 2013 chapter onMeasuring the sustainability of well-being over time“. 

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” So said Søren Kierkegaard.  It is certainly easier to make sense of events with hindsight. The financial crisis that began in 2007 is likely to become a textbook example of a catastrophic event that very few (or certainly not enough) people saw coming. The 2013 edition of How’s Life?” shows the human cost of the financial crisis, reminding us that, much like stock market investments, people’s well-being can go down as well as up. So how can statistics help us to understand whether the choices made by current generations are likely to put the well-being of futuregenerations at risk? 
Most statistics tend to look backwards. For one thing, it’s a lot easier to measure things that have already happened. But measures of progress also need to look forwards. That is why How’s Life? 2013 also includes a chapter about measuring the sustainability of well-being over time. It’s not the most attention-grabbing part of the report: there aren’t many pictures, and you won’t find a bar-chart showing which country is the ‘most sustainable’. What it does include is a proposal for how the OECD could monitor the resources which help to sustain well-being over time in the future.
It can be helpful to think about the sustainability of well-being in terms of risk-management, where measurement means identifying and regularly auditing risks. In several cases, we are already know something about where to look: you can read about the risks of climate change and financial meltdown in the newspapers almost every day. But some risks, such as those concerning social ties and trust, are less tangible. Getting good quality and internationally comparable data on each of these risks is harder still. Yet building an international picture is vital, because the sustainability of well-being is undoubtedly a global issue, with risks that require international cooperation if they are to be managed effectively. 
To gain a fuller understanding of risks, we need to start by mapping out what helps to sustain well-being over time. A recent UNECE/ Eurostat/ OECD Task Force for Measuring Sustainable Development identified four key types of resources that can be measured today, and that are likely to help shape the well-being of future generations: economic, natural, human, and social capital.  These resources are described as “capital” because they reflect the assets and liabilities that we carry forwards over time. For many people, capital means things like money and machines – and while these are important, they are certainly not the only resources that matter for well-being. So this notion of “capital” for well-being is very broad, and doesn’t necessarily mean measuring everything in terms of money. We know, for example, that there is often a difference between something’s price tag and its well-being value, and in many cases we are far from being able to estimate the size of that gap accurately.  
Click on image to enlarge
For several types of capital, the measurement effort is well underway. How’s Life? 2013 already includes some information about household wealth, education, levels of trust, and the environment. National accountsinclude information about economic capital; OECD’s Green Growth indicatorsand Environmental Outlook to 2050 (among others) describe several important types of natural capital; OECD’s skills surveys, healthand labour statistics can help to inform estimatesof human capital; and Statistics Directorate have recently set out a measurement agenda for social capital
For How’s Life?the next step will be to bring together a concise set of indicators that can capture resource stocks on a human scale, including where possible their evolution over time and their distribution across society. “Trans-boundary impacts” (i.e. the impacts that countries have on one another) and “flow” measures (such as investment, depletion and degradation) will also be important indicators – particularly where these highlight significant risk factors, such as in the case of carbon emissions. Measures also need to reflect the latest evidence on the thresholds or tipping points beyond which stocks of resources might be considered dangerously low or imbalanced. 
Stocks of resources or capital are not the only determinants of well-being over time, but they offer a practical way to examine links between the present and the future: through the accumulation or depletion of resource stocks, the choices made by one generation can influence the opportunities available to the next. It’s important to start measuring the sustainability of well-being alongside current well-being outcomes – the future is, after all, where we’re going to spend the rest of our lives.
– Carrie Exton

Feeding the World: The Challenge of Energy for Food Security

This article by Helena Wright, Imperial College London is part of the Wikiprogress Environment Series.

Back in 2008, business leaders at the World Economic Forum raised a call for awareness of the nexus between water, food and energy security, as well as climate change.  They realised that there is a serious water crisis ahead, as many groundwater resources are depleted, while demand for food and energy is increasing.  By 2030, the world’s population and economic growth are expected to lead to a 40% increase in energy and water demand, and a 50% increase in food demand.  Meanwhile, climate change puts additional strain on agriculture.
Energy is crucial for production and transport of food, from the ‘farm to fork’.  The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN estimates the food sector currently accounts for around 30% of the world’s total energy consumption and over 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.
As illustrated in the graph below, the increases in food prices of recent years have been closely linked to rising energy and oil prices, with serious economic implications. The poor are particularly affected by high food prices as they spend a high proportion of income on food. Worryingly, the triple food, fuel and financial crisis of recent years may be a taste of things to come.
Global agriculture is highly dependent on energy from fossil fuel-burning for many processes, from on-farm mechanisation, to fertiliser production, to food processing and transportation. The price of oil is also closely correlated with the price of fertiliser.
The emerging biofuel market increases interdependencies between food and energy prices, since feed and fodder commodities are being used for biofuel, and also because a higher oil price increases demand for biofuel. The Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) has found that growing bio-fuels from crops is extremely water-intensive, as well as being a practice which puts pressure on food crops.  According to the FAO, it takes 2,500 litres of water to produce one litre of biofuel for transportation. New legislation may be needed to address the impact of biofuel mandates on food and water security.
Energy and water are both absolutely essential for food.  This is especially true because irrigation is used for the production of roughly 40% of global food.  In this way, agriculture accounts for about 70% of all freshwater withdrawal.  Inefficiency in one area can also lead to inefficiency in another. For example, subsidised electricity for irrigation can lead to over-pumping, which contributes to groundwater depletion. Where water is extremely scarce, desalination – which is highly energy-intensive – is used.
As conventional fossil-fuel sources become depleted, we have seen a shift to processes like hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) which are even more water-intensive.  Extraction and processing of oil sands uses about 100-1000 litres of water per gigajoule (GJ), compared to 10-100 litres for conventional oil and gas. According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), 79% of new planned power capacity in India will be built in water-stressed areas. Use of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology also increases water consumption.
Renewable energy has brought new challenges.  Hydropower, already the world’s dominant source of renewable energy, is a prime example of a technology that must be carefully managed to avoid negative impacts.   Dams can affect biodiversity, fish migration and have impacts on downstream food security.  It is clear we must start to think about the ‘water productivity’ of energy.  Solar power, for example, hardly uses any water.
In the long-term, it will be necessary for our food to be produced using sustainable energy resources and this is likely to require a transformation in agricultural systems.  At the moment, we are seeing the opposite occur: food crops such as maize and soy are being used to fuel energy-consuming transport. This issue must be tackled. Otherwise, there is a risk food prices will continue to sky-rocket.
Research is only just beginning to explore the complex issues in the food-energy-water nexus. What is clear is that better collaboration is needed between different sectors. Policy-makers must ensure that expansion of certain types of energy does not put a strain on other vital resources.
At the UN climate talks in Doha last month, it was evident that policy-makers often work in silos – for instance, there can be little cooperation between those working on reducing emissions and those on adapting to climate change.  This may have led to the controversial issues created by biofuel expansion.   It is clear a more holistic outlook is needed in tackling these problems and managing increasing demands for energy, water and food.

This article first appeared in the Outreach Magazine 

Renewable Energy : Why the Definition Needs to be Revised

This article by Almuth Ernsting, European Focal Point of the Global Forest Coalition and Co-director of Biofuelwatch is part of the Wikiprogress Environment Series.

Climate change mitigation and sustainability are the key rationales for increasing the share of renewable energy.  Yet definitions of renewable energy used by policy-makers are so broad that subsidy regimes and other policies to promote renewable energy are able to result in highly negative climate, environmental and human impacts. 
According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy is “derived from natural processes…that are replenished at a faster rate than they are consumed”.  In reality, North America’s and Europe’s renewable energy policies are heavily focused on large-scale wood combustion for electricity and heat – which depends on increased logging and the expansion of monoculture tree plantations – and on greater use of transport biofuels. 
The fact that soils, freshwater, and ecosystems are being destroyed rather than replenished in this process is ignored. Also overlooked is the growing volume of evidence that industrial bioenergy – both biomass combustion and transport biofuels – commonly cause more greenhouse gas emissions than the fossil fuels they might replace. A growing volume of peer-reviewed studies documents the scale of those emissions, which result from indirect land-use change, increased fertiliser use and other causes.
In the US, bioenergy accounts for 44% of all energy classed as renewable – more than any other technology.  The US Energy Information Administration expects its share to grow much faster than that of the renewables sector overall until 2040.  In Canada, the share of bioenergy amongst ‘renewables’ is surpassed only by that of large-scale hydropower.
In the EU, according to Member States’ 2010 renewable energy plans, bioenergy would have a 54.5% share of the 2020 renewable energy target. Most of this would come from burning 80-100 million tonnes of wood a year.  This is likely to be an underestimate:  in the UK alone, companies have announced power station plans which would require around 90 million tonnes of wood annually – nine times as much as the country produces.
The result of these ‘renewable energy policies’ is a massively increased demand for wood, vegetable oil, cereals and, crucially, for land.  Biofuels still only account for 3% of global transport fuel, yet, according to a report by the International Land Coalition, they were responsible for 59% of all land-grabs between 2000 and 2010.  By pushing up the price of cereals and vegetable oils, they have led both to greater hunger and malnutrition, and to the increased destruction of forests and other ecosystems – including peatlands – for palm oil, soy and other plantations. 
Those impacts are being intensified with the rush towards industrial wood-based bioenergy. In the longer term, industry and governments expect much of the wood for EU power stations to come from new tree plantations in South America and Africa, threatening yet more land-grabs and ecosystem destruction. The demand for land for tree monocultures also exacerbates shortages of land for food production and causes rural depopulation further compromising national food sovereignty (see: Women, Indigenous Peoples, pastoralists and small farmers – particularly those without formal land titles – suffer most from these land grabs and from the resulting food shortages, as well as from associated water depletion and ‘water grabs’.
In response to growing awareness of the harms resulting from bioenergy, industry and governments are developing ‘sustainability standards’.  However, these ignore the fact that deforestation and forest degradation, as well as other impacts, are primarily driven by excessive demand for wood and agricultural products.  A study published in Science projected that climate change mitigation policies, which tackle only fossil fuels and ignore the wider land-impacts of bioenergy, could lead to the destruction of all remaining forests, grasslands and most other ecosystems worldwide by 2065. Another study has shown that, even if bioenergy sustainability standards were enforced worldwide and bioenergy expansion relied on agricultural intensification, sub-Saharan Africa would lose 38% of its forests and wooded savannah and large amounts of grassland, while Latin America would lose 20% of its forests and savannah.
Given the volume of evidence of the serious negative impacts that industrial biofuels and large-scale biomass have on climate, forests, biodiversity, soil, water, and people, including them in the ‘renewable energy’ definition can no longer be justified.
Almuth Ernsting,
Almuth Ernsting is European Focal Point of the Global Forest Coalition and Co-director of Biofuelwatch.

This article first appeared in the Outreach Magazine 

Climate Change and Health Beyond 2015: The Sustainable Development Agenda

This blog is part of the Wikiprogress Environment Series
Global Health Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The Outcome Document from the recent Rio+20 Summit, “The Future We Want”, recognises that health is both a precondition for, and an outcome of, sustainable development. Climate change affects health through a myriad of exposure pathways, each presenting simultaneously both challenges and opportunities for sustainable health and development.
Interventions targeting either adaptation or mitigation of climate change, therefore, can have multiple health and societal benefits – the key is to find root points of leverage where a single policy might have numerous beneficiaries.
The relationship between health and all three original (1992) Rio Conventions – on Climate Change, Biological Diversity, and Desertification was recently documented in “Our Planet, Our Health, Our Future”, a collaborative effort between the World Health Organization (WHO) and all three Rio Conventions. In particular, the report revealed both risks and interdependencies. Climate change will directly lead to net negative health impacts, including through extreme weather events, spread of vector-borne disease, diarrhoeal disease, food security and malnutrition. Natural capital, such as biodiversity, underpins ecosystem services – upon which health and societal wellbeing depend – but are threatened by climate and land use change. Just a few measurable benefits that ecosystems provide mankind include flood protection, disease regulation, and water purification. Desertification leaves populations vulnerable to water quality degradation, water scarcity and droughts, decreases agro-ecosystem productivity and increases food scarcity/malnutrition.
If human society could advance from a carbon-intensive economy to a green economy, human health opportunities would abound. For example, reducing fossil fuel combustion might not only reduce the extent of climate change, but more immediately such intervention would improve air quality, and if done in the transportation sector, could potentially increase ‘active’ transport that subsequently would lower the risk of obesity and associated chronic diseases. This is just one policy example of how addressing climate change can both enhance sustainable development and save lives.
Sustainable development remains the central context of the post-2015 development agenda. Yet, at this juncture it is critical to acknowledge how health is inextricably linked to ecosystems and our earth’s climate; this awareness is especially salient in the UNFCCC process toward developing a set of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With the centrality of health as both an input and outcome, and climate change as a cross-cutting issue, a new level of inter-sector awareness and collaboration is warranted, especially as revised targets and indicators are being drafted for the SDGs.
Furthermore, establishment of appropriate indicators will help ensure that interventions in any sector will lessen, rather than add to, the disease burden. WHO, in fact, is now strongly advocating a holistic “Health in All Policies” approach which accepts that population-wide health is determined by many sectors beyond solely health. The role of weather variability and health is obvious for thematic areas such as water and sanitation, food security and nutrition, and disaster management, as well as climate change specifically. Outcome indicators might include: annual mortality rates from climate-sensitive diseases (i.e. the sum of all vector-borne disease, diarrhoeal disease, malnutrition, and weather-related disasters etc.); household dietary diversity scores as an output indicator for food security; and percentage population with access to weather/climate-resilient infrastructure (such as water sources and hygienic sanitation facilities for example).
Health should also be a key consideration for other areas. Representative outcome indicators in the area of energy, for example, might include the percentage of households using only modern, low-emissions heating, cooking and lighting technologies that meet emission and safety standards; or measuring the burden of disease attributable to household air pollution could be another outcome indicator. Indicators for the reliability of energy supply to health facilities are also important. In jobs, healthy workforces are a precondition for sustainable development, and indicators such as the proportion of workplaces that comply with national occupational health and safety standards (an output indicator), or measuring occupational disease and injury rates (an outcome indicator) merit consideration.
Clearly the health of our human population depends on the healthy conditions across all societal sectors and natural systems. Climate change, now solidly tied to our  carbon-intensive economy, challenges all communities working on core elements of sustainable development. Human health has been relatively sidelined in the UN Framework Conventions, but now needs to be better interwoven into the process of defining the next set of global development goals.
Professor Jonathan Patz
This article first appeared on Outreach Magazine 


Post-2015: Aim here

You’d be pretty foolish to propose a complete post-2015 development framework right now, wouldn’t you? What with the High Level Panel still to have their second substantive meeting (in Monrovia, following London last November and with the Indonesian fixture to follow), and the global consultations still running… You’d pretty much be putting up a target and inviting attack, wouldn’t you? Still, hard hats on, here goes!
Save the Children today publishes the modestly titled Ending Poverty in our Generation, which sets out a vision of how the successor to the Millennium Development Goals could look. Rather than try to summarise it here, I’ll suggest reading it instead – but you can get the gist of it from the contents page, which is reproduced at the bottom of this post. And Mark Tran at the Guardian has a very good (and kind!) piece up already.
The central points, to my mind at least, are these:
  • to continue the MDG structure of a limited number of goals with specific targets and indicators;
  • to address inequalities in various dimensions across every thematic area;
  • to prioritise the achievement of universal (or ‘zero’) goals, from e.g. universal healthcare to the eradication of hunger and absolute income poverty;
  • to ensure sustainability of development progress is given much greater priority; and
  • to radically improve accountability, including through prioritisation of domestic taxation as the source of finance, and with substantial investment in the availability of data
You could summarise this as ‘MDGs+ with our priorities rather than yours’, but I hope you won’t. The intention is not to make the case for this specific proposed framework, and we won’t be lobbying for this as a complete set against any other alternative.
Instead, we’re publishing this because we hope it can be useful, in two particular ways.
The first reflects that we’ve been a little worried about the need to bring the conversation on post-2015 around to specifics. For example, there is in the technical discussions, and increasingly in the political ones also, what feels like an overwhelming consensus on inequality. However, it’s much easier to have a consensus on the importance of an abstract concept than on the actual policy implications thereof. Does that consensus translate, for example, into support for a global goal on income inequality? Or for targets on the ratio of progress between the most and least favoured groups (say by gender, or ethnolinguistic group) in each and every goal? While we recognise there is a long way to go, and that many voices are still to be heard, we hope that putting up a specific proposal may help crystallise some views – even if it’s in fierce opposition to our suggestions!
The second way in which we hope this might be useful is from our own learning. Save The Children is a large and complex organisation, and the process of engaging all the internal stakeholders to reach agreement has been an eye-opening one.  We had (repeatedly!) the kinds of discussions you might expect about how progressive or conservative a position to take in particular areas, and about how much we should be setting a utopian goal, or a politically feasible one. We also had surprisingly creative and good-tempered discussions about the importance of different thematic areas, and how some could be combined rather than excluded, and on where draconian decisions were really needed in order to maintain the clarity and simplicity of the MDG structure.
Of course, that last point  is one that took a good deal of discussion: just how much should we see the MDGs’ simplicity and clarity as an ideal, or at least as necessary to their political traction? You might well take a different view, which could lead to a quiet different structure (or indeed to the absence of one; I confess I’m still attracted to the idea of much broader, and non-exclusive menus of targets and indicators from which nationally-representative processes could prioritise…).
There’s a long way to go. As the UN consultations begin to report back (you can comment on the inequalities draft report here – please do!), and the High Level Panel will start to crystallise some of their thinking, there is still prolonged technical and then political discussion to be had – not least bringing together more completely the thinking and the talking on post-2015 and Sustainable Development Goals.
With a bit of luck, Ending Poverty in our Generation can be of some use in moving these discussions along. Even if it’s just as a target for criticism. Please do share your responses with us, whether in comments below or directly etc. In the end it’s only useful if we learn more publishing it about where post-2015 is going.
Building on the strengths of the MDGs
Finishing the job
Addressing the MDGs’ limitations
Responding to changes and new challenges
1) Finishing the job: better outcomes, faster progress
1 Reducing inequalities
2 Increasing transparency and accountability
3 Synergies and systems
4 Ensuring access is not at the expense of outcomes
5 Environmental sustainability
2) Putting in place the foundations of human development
Goal 1: By 2030 we will eradicate extreme poverty and reduce relative poverty through inclusive growth and decent work
Goal 2: By 2030 we will eradicate hunger, halve stunting, and ensure universal access to sustainable food, water and sanitation
Goal 3: By 2030 we will end preventable child and maternal mortality and provide healthcare for all
Goal 4: By 2030 we will ensure all children receive a good-quality education and have good learning outcomes
Goal 5: By 2030 we will ensure all children live a life free from all forms of violence, are protected in conflict and thrive in a safe family environment
Goal 6: By 2030 governance will be more open, accountable and inclusive
3) Creating supportive and sustainable environments
Goal 7: By 2030 we will have robust global partnerships for more and effective use of financial resources
Goal 8: By 2030 we will build disaster-resilient societies
Goal 9: By 2030 we will have a sustainable, healthy and resilient environment for all
Goal 10: By 2030 we will deliver sustainable energy to all
4) Institutional support and enabling mechanisms
Financing and policy coherence for development
Data availability
5) Save the Children’s proposal for a post-2015 framework

 Alex Cobham, Uncounted Blog
This blog is about inequality and development and those who are uncounted. It is written and maintained by Alex Cobham, Save the Children’s Head of Research. Uncounted aims to stimulate debate but is not a reflection of official Save the Children policy

Ending Poverty in Our Generation is Wikichild‘s most recent Spotlight.

Whats happening at the 4th OECD World Forum #Delhi2012?

As many of you will know, the 4th OECD World Forum – on Measuring Well-Being for Development and Policy Making started on 16 October 2012. 

Building on the Better Life Initiative, the main objectives of the Forum are to further the discussions on the different aspects that make for a good life today and to promote the development and use of new measures of well-being for effective and accountable policy making. Here is a brief run down of the different sessions over the next four days. Don’t forget to watch Wikiprogress’s coverage of the forum on our live feed.
Don’t forget to watch Wikiprogress’s coverage of the forum on our live feed and remember to follow us on Twitter @wikiprogress and offer your own opinion to #Delhi2012 . Get the agenda, list of speaker and more from our special articles on the 4th OECD World Forum.
There will be four parallel workshops taking place on each day of the Forum, details below and round table. Speaker include Joseph Stiglit, Jeffrey Sachs, David Cameron and many more experts! 
Day 1- 16 October – Theme: Material Conditions   
What are the main limits in the statistical system used for monitoring and reporting about inequalities and poverty? How important are these limits from the perspective of giving greater prominence to these issues in the domestic and international policy agenda?
What are the most important analytical and policy issues that better micro statistics on household wealth would allow addressing?
What are the most important dimensions of job quality and well-being at work where current metrics are lacking? What statistical initiatives are ongoing and what else remains to be done?
What are the most important dimensions of housing and urban infrastructure where current metrics are lacking? What statistical initiatives are ongoing and what else remains to be done?
Day 2- 17 October – Theme: Quality of Life
What are the main challenges to the health system that we will likely confront in the future? What type of measures would be needed to manage these emerging challenges?
Why are better measures of education and skills essential to policy and decision-making? How we can ensure that they are developed, i.e. who needs to be persuaded in order to achieve more consistent implementation and how can this happen?
Is there enough knowledge and experience to identify best-practices in the production of better statistics in this field?
What are the main links between effective and responsive institutions and people’s well-being?
Day 3 – 18 October – Theme: Gender Groups in Society 
What are the main factors limiting women’s empowerment in countries at different level of economic development? Do the available data and indicators provide adequate information on these factors? What are the priorities for action in the statistical field? Could indicators of women’s empowerment be better integrated into existing measurement frameworks (MDGs, etc.)?
What are the key dimensions of child well-being and what indicators could be used to monitor them? Do these dimensions and indicators change as children develop? What are the priority areas for improving the measurement of child well-being?
What are the most important factors bearing on the well-being of elderly people? What types of statistics and indicators should be developed and implemented in order to allow regular monitoring?
What are the most important life domains where these minority groups underperform relative to others? What are the most important drivers of these low achievements?
Day 4 – 19 October – Theme: Sustainability
What are the main threats to environmental sustainability? Which population groups are most exposed to environmental degradation? What are the economic risks associated with the unsustainable use of natural resources and the environment? How can we capture the dangers of a loss of natural capital to economic growth?
What are the main implications for well-being of disasters and conflicts, in the short, medium and long term? What have we learned from recent experiences in how such disasters have been managed? Which are the populations most vulnerable to the consequences of different types of natural disasters?
What have we learned from the crisis in terms of the factors that put economic sustainability at risk? What type of statistics would have allowed better assessing the scale of the imbalances that were accumulating in the world economic system before the crisis burst?
Is the notion of ‘social cohesion’ one that could usefully inform policy discussions in developed and developing countries? What is its main manifestation?
Enjoy what should be a fascinating four days.
Robbie Lawrence
Wikichild Coordinator 
Official OECD-India Website:


The week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review – a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the Wikiprogress Community Portal .    

On wikis
2012 Top 100 NGOs: #1 Wikimedia Foundation (The Global Journal 26.01.2012)
The Wikimedia Foundation is best known for its most famous initiative, Wikipedia. The Foundation operates under the belief that information is a not-for-profit commodity; the Wikimedia Foundation has been instrumental to the global phenomenon of user-generated content and the mass sharing of information.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on wikis

On growth and development
Sustainable Humanity (Project Syndicate 31.01.2012)
Developmental Economist Jeffrey Sachs calls for the mobilisation of new technologies shaped by social values in ensuring sustainable development incorporates equality in economic growth and protection of natural resources.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on sustainable development

On measuring progress
The OECD recently produced the video, How’s Life: Measuring Progress – asking experts, “What well-being and sustainability measures are needed to go ‘Beyond GDP’”?
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on the Better Life Initiative

On social development
UN Commission on Social Development kicks off with focus on poverty and youth (UN News Centre 02.02.2012)
In 2011 there were 75 million youths without a job; UN figures show that young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Over the next 10 days the UN Commission on social development will focus on youth unemployment, poverty eradication and socially inclusive policies.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on employment rates

On gender equality
Land rights for women can help ease India’s child malnutrition crisis (Guardian 20.01.2012)
India has developed significantly over the past decade; however malnutrition rates are among the worst in the world with 45% of children under 5 suffering from malnutrition. New research shows that allowing women ownership of the land they farm could drastically reduce these figures.
See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on access to land

In the Spotlight: UN High Level Panel Report on Global Sustainability – Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing (United Nations 30.01.2012)

A 22-member Panel was established by the Secretary-General in August 2010 to formulate a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity. The Panel’s final report, “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”, contains 56 recommendations to put sustainable development into practice and to mainstream it into economic policy as quickly as possible.
Read more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on sustainable development.

We hope you will tune in the same time next week. In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us  @Wikiprogress  or post it on our  Facebook page

Yours in progress,

Philippa Lysaght

January Editor’s Choice from Wellbeing Wales

By Danielle Klentzeris from Wikiprogress Correspondent, Lles Cymru Wellbeing Wales.

It is often said that childhood is the best time of our lives. However, according to new figures released by the Children’s Society, almost ‘one in ten children over the age of eight are unhappy’. Issues surrounding family life were found to have the greatest impact on children’s wellbeing and happiness, with relationships ‘within a household rather than the family “structure”’ being the main cause for children’s low sense of wellbeing. Speaking to The Guardian, Elaine Hindell, director of the Campaign for Childhood at the Children’s Society, said ‘we want our country to be the best place for our children to grow up. Yet unless we act now we risk becoming one of the worst and creating a lost future generation’.

In light of the report, Cameron’s call to concentrate ‘not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing’ has great resonance not just for adults, but for the wellbeing of modern children also.

From the state of children’s wellbeing to the state of the planet. The Guardian’s Dean Baker argues for the need to prevent cuts in areas concerning environmental preservation. Defending the need to ensure progress in the technological, environmental and educational fields, Barker argues that spending cuts that ‘that affect our progress in these areas… will be making our children worse-off, not better-off’. The crux of Barker’s argument appears to situate around the simple fact that financial debt will eventually decrease and drop off whereas environmental debt may not be so easily repayable. Quick fixes may appear a tempting option to already struggling governments but if we lose sight of the long-term goals of environmental sustainability then efforts to protect future generations become fruitless given there may well be no planet left to protect.

Unhappy children, planetary decay- there certainly doesn’t feel like there’s much to smile about these days. However, according to The Independent, laughter may hold the key to lifting societies’ woes. From a social tool to a means of curing illness, laughter allows human’s to ‘convey meaning more effectively than words and is a language in itself’. But far from being a sacred tool of human communication it appears that laughter has the power to transcended species. Whilst observing rats, Dr Jaak Panksepp, found that our rodent friends ‘produce ultrasonic chirps, particularly when they appeared to be playfully interacting with each other’. A marvel in itself but even more extraordinary when he later found that, upon tickling the rat’s stomach, these noises became ‘louder and more consistent with [the] familiar, dynamic rhythm’ of laughter.

As tempting as it is to try this experiment for myself, I don’t think the rats of Wales are quite ready for a quick rib tickle but the findings do raise an interesting point. Perhaps we are not so distanced from the creatures we share our planet with and recognising these supposedly ‘human’ traits in other animals may make us realise the importance of preserving the planet for the benefit of all future generations. Now that’s got to be something worth smiling about. 🙂

The week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review – a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the  Wikiprogress Community Portal .  

On progress in Australia
Australia’s national statistician prefers a “dashboard” approach to well-being  (15.12.2011)
Imogen Wall from the Measures of Australia’s Progress team at the Australian Bureau of Statistics uses a dashboard metaphor to describe the importance of using a range of indicators for measuring well-being, “It is important, when driving, to have information not only about speed and distance travelled, but also about engine temperature and remaining petrol.”
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Measures of Australia’s Progress

On gender equality
An African Gender Statistics Group in the offing  (13.12.2011)
In an address to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the Ghana Statistical Service, Dr Grace Bediako announced plans for an African Gender Statistics Group that aims to mainstream gender into national and international statistics programmes.
See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on Gender Statistics

On the environment
Time for a Green Index  (13.12.2011)
Professor of Environmental Science Chuluun Togtokh argues that the UNDP Human Development Index ‘idolises’ some of the most environmentally damaging societies and suggests replacing the index with one that considers green technologies. He has found that per capita carbon emissions are a simple and quantifiable indicator, which is both strongly and positively, correlated with income.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on green growth

On employment
Jobs, or more precisely, the lack of jobs is now a global issue (World Bank 26.09.2011)
The World Bank blogs on a pressing global issue: unemployment. It is more than the 205 million people worldwide who are unemployed, it is that in today’s post-crisis world policy makers and practitioners do not know how to create jobs, let alone good jobs.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on unemployment rates

In the spotlight
TIME 2011 Person of the Year: The Protester:  Why I Protest: Ahmed Harara of Egypt (TIME 14.12.2011)

In announcing the 2011 person of the year as The Protester, TIME has profiled a series of protesters involved the the various uprisings of 2011. Ahmed Harara was protesting in Tahrir Square in January when he lost his eye to a rubber bullet; ten months later he returned to Tahrir Square only to lose the other eye in the same way.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on the Arab Spring

In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us  @Wikiprogress or post it on our Facebook page .    

Yours in progress,

Philippa Lysaght