Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beyond Madrasas: Assessing the Links Between Education and Militancy in Pakistan

Increasing educational attainment is likely to reduce conflict risk, especially in countries like Pakistan that have very low levels of primary and secondary school enrollment. Education quality, relevance and content also have a role to play in mitigating violence. Education reform must therefore be a higher priority for all stakeholders interested in a more peaceful and stable Pakistan. Debate within the country about education reform should not be left only to education policymakers and experts, but ought to figure front and center in national dialogues about how to foster security. The price of ignoring Pakistan’s education challenges is simply too great in a country where half the population is under the age of 17.

There has been much debate concerning the roots of militancy in Pakistan, and multiple factors clearly come into play. One risk factor that has attracted much attention both inside Pakistan and abroad is the dismal state of the national education sector. Despite recent progress, current school attainment and literacy levels remain strikingly low, as does education spending. The Pakistani education sector, like much of the country’s public infrastructure, has been in decline over recent decades. The question of how limited access to quality education may contribute to militancy in Pakistan is more salient now than ever, given the rising national and international security implications of continued violence.

The second half of 2009 witnessed not only the Pakistani government stepping up action against insurgents but also the release of a new Pakistan National Education Policy that aspires to far-reaching and important reforms, including a commitment to increase investment in education—from 2 to 7 percent of gross domestic product. Hundreds of millions of dollars in international education aid have been newly pledged by donor countries. This renewed emphasis on education represents a substantial opportunity to seek to improve security in Pakistan and potentially also globally over the medium to long term. Policymakers both inside and outside Pakistan should give careful consideration to whether and how education investments can promote peace and stability, taking into account what we now know about the state of the education sector and the roots of militancy.

This report takes a fresh look at the connection between schools, including but not limited to Pakistan’s religious seminaries, known as “madrasas,” and the rising militancy across the country. Poor school performance across Pakistan would seem an obvious area of inquiry as a risk factor for conflict. Yet to date, the focus has been almost exclusively on madrasas and their role in the mounting violence. Outside Pakistan, relatively little attention has been given to whether and how the education sector as a whole may be fueling violence, over and above the role of the minority of militant madrasas.

Source: The Brookings Institution

International Education, Pakistan, Education, South Asia, Development

Rebecca Winthrop, Co-Director, Center for Universal Education
Corinne Graff, Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Center for Universal Education
The Brookings Institution
June 2010 —

Report Predicts Biorefineries Will Offer a Solution to Significantly Reducing CO2 Emissions and Creating Economic Growth

Biorefineries have a major role to play in tackling climate change, according to the World Economic Forum report The Future of Industrial Biorefineries launched on 29 June 2010. The report, produced in collaboration with Royal DSM N.V., Novozymes, DuPont and Braskem, says that the biorefineries industry could supplement demand for sustainable energy, chemicals and materials, aiding energy security. The report also acknowledges that a number of obstacles still stand in the way of biorefineries realizing their full economic potential.

The author of the report, Professor Sir David King, Director, Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, says “The emerging biomass value chain will create significant business opportunities and new winners, with technology- and science-driven companies with access to key enzyme and microbial technologies being central to the development of the bio-based economy. The growth of the bio-based economy could create significant economic growth and job creation opportunities, particularly in rural areas, where incomes and economic prospects are currently moderate, and in advanced manufacturing.”

The report says that a biomass value chain could create revenue potentials by 2030 in US$ billion of 15 for agricultural inputs, 89 for biomass production, 30 for biomass trading, 10 for biorefining inputs, 80 for biorefining fuels, 6 for bioplastics and 65 for biomass power and heat.

The report identifies a number of technical, strategic and commercial challenges that need to be addressed before any large-scale commercialization of the biorefining industry can succeed. These include the need for significant advances in the development and deployment of bio-based technologies, infrastructure development, high capital costs and the issue of restricted land and biomass availability.

Biorefineries using biomass (plant/vegetable-based material) as feedstock would create a transition from fossil carbon to more sustainable bio-based production, says the report. This could fundamentally reshape the industrial landscape.

Feike Sijbesma, CEO Royal DSM N.V., says “We are at the doorstep of a transition to a greener, more sustainable future, with the bio-based economy as the key enabler. No company or government can drive this transition alone – public and private sectors have to work closely together. As innovation will be key in achieving this, the private sector needs to drive this with conviction and new open innovation concepts. At the same time, it offers governments worldwide a great opportunity, too, in which their help to create a positive framework with stimulating regulations and incentives to enable the private sector to accelerate its investments will be key. The transition to a bio-based economy offers a lot of opportunities to all stakeholders involved.”

Steen Riisgaard, President and CEO, Novozymes, adds: “The report confirms the need for biomass replacement that comes at oil’s low price, but without its high cost. Over time, our cars, our trucks, even our airplanes are going to run on low-carbon fuels derived from starch and cellulose. Plastics and chemicals will be made from plants rather than petroleum. Millions of new green tech jobs will be created in rural areas and in biorefineries, producing bioenergy and biomaterials.”

Bernardo Gradin, CEO, Braskem, is already moving on the concept and says, ““Biorefineries offer a new trail to Advanced Manufacturing – a third industrial revolution with new rural and geographical winners and a move towards a bio-based, lower CO2 emissions society. Braskem will open her first by October of this year.”

The report concludes that the development of the bio-based economy is at an early and high-risk stage and no single industry, or company, is cable of managing this phase of its development independently. Government, therefore, has a key role to play in providing seed support – particularly at the pre-competitive stage – to the emerging bio-based sector and creating the market to ensure that it becomes established and successful as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Media Capacity Building to Create More Transparency and Accountablity for the Future US Aid to Pakistan

The best way to create transparency would be to empower media to play the role of the watch-dog on the development issues, including transactions, implementations and results to the grass root level. This will not only ensure good governance, but also a sense of ownership amongst the governments and the people in both the countries. Making the US and Pakistani citizens' truly know that the money is coming "From the American People" into the households of the People of Pakistan, helping them in education attainment, health and survival, economic opportunities and growth, democracy and political empowerment. Bridging the gap for energy requirements, understanding of the issues concerning water resources and Pakistan’s contribution in the war on terror with the US and allied forces for a better, prosperous and a stronger Pakistan for tomorrow on a more competitive global footing.

This can be achieved by building capacity of the media to report more accurately and with in-depth knowledge of the issues concerning Pakistan as a nation and a country and how it has been able to absorb the foreign assistance - AJ.

U.S. assistance to Pakistan will be more transparent and accountable, the U.S. top envoy to Pakistan has asserted.*

Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan with Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Richard Holbrooke was responding to a letter by U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman expressed concern that the Pakistani government may not be capable enough to use the USD7.5 billion assistance properly.

In his letter dated June 14, Holbrooke informed Kerry that the government is leveraging U.S. assistance to support reforms that will encourage the Pakistani government to allocate more of its local funds for health, education and other key sectors.

The U.S. strategy for Pakistani aid allocation also includes support for structural reforms to boost  investments in the country’s energy and education sectors, Holbrooke said. He added that his team is coordinating with the Asian Development Bank’s energy task force and the U.K.-Pakistan joint education task force on these initiatives.

The U.S. is slowly changing the way it does business in Pakistan in order to better integrate the priorities and plans of the Pakistani government, Holbrooke wrote in his letter. He noted that allocation of money and the identification of projects and partners have just began, and pledged to publish more information on U.S. aid to Pakistan on the websites of the U.S. embassy in the country and the U.S. Agency for International Development once plans become more concrete.

“We share your concerns of the risks for future funding should are assistance be diverted from its intended purpose,” Holbrooke wrote in response to several accountability concerns identified by Kerry.

Holbrooke confirmed that approximately 50 percent of U.S. funds in fiscal 2010 will be channeled through Pakistani federal and provincial agencies. In response to Kerry’s concern that such allocation opens up the potential for U.S. funding misuse, Holbrooke explained that the Obama administration has chosen institutions with track records of working with international organizations such as ADB and those with “strong accounting safeguards.”

On U.S. priorities in Pakistan for fiscal 2010 and beyond, Holbrooke said these would include better alignment of U.S. assistance with Pakistan’s priorities and push for internal reforms to improve Pakistan’s water supply and sanitation.

The special representative said on Kerry’s concern over U.S. development presence in Pakistan: “We share your concern that we strike the right balance between high visibility and overall impact for the Pakistani people.”

He went to describe plans to use some of U.S. funds for energy to partner with donors and the Pakistani government. The goal, according to Holbrooke, is a “larger, more significant and coordinate contribution to energy generation and distribution.”

article source: devex network

Sunday, June 13, 2010

BBC on borrowed time

BBC fights for its survival

Tessa Jowell, the long-serving culture secretary in the Labour Government and main architect of the BBC’s 10-year licence fee settlement in 2007, has said the BBC is on borrowed time and its behaviour, and that of its regulator the BBC Trust, is endangering its existence.
Jowell, who claims she had fight deep scepticism in government to get the 2007 settlement, accused the BBC of "wanting the benefits of the private sector with none of the risk." She predicted today that the BBC will face "the fight of its life" to preserve the licence fee under the new coalition government.
Jowell said that "the BBC has backed off in terms of its accountability" and implied that the BBC Trust is not doing the job it was set up to do. "The conception of the BBC Trust was essentially to put the licence fee payer in charge," Jowell said. "It is for those who are members of the trust, the chairman of the trust, to exercise the imagination and to understand the mood of the moment." She implied that even though the BBC is funded by a mandatory licence, in effect a national tax, it essentially doesn’t buy in to being part of public service and having to justify its actions and expenses on that basis. "The BBC could become the biggest mutual in the country, but it requires drive, focus, organisation and a love of the public realm," she said.
The BBC Trust responded: "The BBC Trust consults with licence fee payers wherever possible to get their views...the BBC has introduced measures such as a 25 per cent cut in the senior manager pay bill, tough efficiency targets and greater transparency in pay and expenses."