Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010

Finalist-PhilBlogAwards 2010
Finalist for society, politics, history blogs



Monday, October 31, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

A big infra project is in the pipeline in Bangladesh, which at projected budget of US $2.9 Billion is comparatively gigantic for a developing country. This is the Padma bridge project, which will traverse a river in the country.

As per report, the World Bank already decided to suspended the release of a US $1.2 Billion loan it allotted for the project. The question arising from the decision is: what’s the most reasonable justification for the delay?

I still recall the 11 Major Industrial Projects or MIPs in the Philippines in the 1980s, most of which relied on the World Bank for funding. The global recession came beginning in 1981, which then gave WB’s top management the justification to cancel the release of funding for the integrated steel and other projects. The act was tantamount to economic sabotage, which was so damaging that till these days PH’s suffers from an absence of integrated steel that is crucial to accelerating industrial development.

What’s WB’s drama this time in delaying the Padma project’s funding? Is this really a delay, or is this a cancellation of funding that is subtly a form of economic sabotage?

[Philippines, 31 October 2011]


World Bank Delays Padma Bridge Funding

Posted by Ivy Mungcal on 10 October 2011 03:49:27 AM

The World Bank has suspended the release of a $1.2 billion loan it promised for the construction of a river bridge in Bangladesh in light of corruption allegations faced by a firm participating in the project’s tender process, a senior Bangladeshi official has announced.

Some employees of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. are under investigation by Canadian authorities due to reports of possible corruption in connection to the $2.9 billion Padma River bridge construction project, Reuters says. The World Bank said it wants the issue resolved before providing the promised loan.

“The World Bank has cleared its position during the Washington meeting last week that it would not finance (the river project) until the issue was settled,” Bangladeshi Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said, according to Reuters.

This is the first time the World Bank has suspended any promised funds for Bangladesh and local officials have expressed concern over the impact of the bank’s decision on the country’s relationships with other lenders.

In addition to the World Bank, the Padma River project is supported by the Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Islamic Development Bank and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.


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Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The drug menace has been identified as a top crime to boot in Latin America, rendering it as the top national security problem as well. The youth has been notably most direly affected by social problems spawned by the drug menace, so much that xenophobia has come to infect the likes of Costa Rica’s youth very recently.

Necessarily, xenophobia breeds hatred, and hatreds scale up hate crimes. For countries that have had histories of respectable tolerance to other Latinos such as Costa Rica and Dominican Republic, it is terribly challenging to sustain the tolerance for long and not cave in to distrust and violence.

Just exactly what measures are being taken to “dis-infect” the youth from going the road of intolerance and start a rampage of anti-foreign hate crimes or so? Below is a reportage from the UNHCR concerning the subject.

[Philippines, 01 November 2011]


Costa Rican youth strives to combat xenophobia

News Stories, 14 October 2011

© UNHCR/P. Mora

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica, October 14 (UNHCR) Sitting around a large table in UNHCR's San José office, four young friends discuss a topical subject in Costa Rica that impacts directly on the lives of each of them. The earnest quartet one Costa Rican, a Colombian, a Nicaraguan and a Bolivian are members of La Red de Jóvenes sin Fronteras (Youth Network Without Borders), which was set up earlier this year to combat the spread of xenophobia among the country's youth.

Gathering a core of about 70 members Costa Ricans, foreign migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers the group has been active in countering negative, stereotypical perceptions about foreigners in a country that lies on a major south-north mixed migration route but where many young people oppose integration of refugees.

The young activists regularly hold small meetings to discuss the scourge of xenophobia and draw up strategies to counter it and to spread understanding about refugees and migrants and debate why they deserve to be treated fairly. Using mediums such as art, sports, theatre and social media platforms to attract young people, they are starting to make progress and setting an example in the region.

Twenty-year-old Millerland Angulo is the Colombian among the group of friends around the table. She is a refugee who made her way to Costa Rica three years ago after fleeing from persecution and conflict in her homeland. It was not long before she encountered hostility.

"When I first moved here, I remember my neighbour asking our landlord why she was renting her house to Colombians," Millerland explains, adding that the woman "strongly believed we were only here as [drug] traffickers and would bring drug-dealing to the neighbourhood."

Such ill-informed and negative perceptions about refugees are widespread, especially among young people. A national study conducted in 2010 by UNHCR found that 64 per cent of the population had an unfavourable opinion of the 12,500 refugees from more than 40 countries in Costa Rica. Within that group, 87 per cent said they believed refugees have a negative impact on society and the economy.

It was against this background that UNHCR helped establish a project called Lazos sin Fronteras (Bonds Without Borders). As part of this project, a group of about 180 young refugees, migrants, and Costa Rican nationals set up La Red de Jovenes sin Fronteras, or La Red, at a conference in February and issued a declaration of their goals.

They have received support from the Dutch government and UNHCR, which wanted a project that would promote young people as leaders of the present as well as the future. The core members of the fledgling group, with technical help from the refugee agency, mapped out a programme of activities to address the integration challenges that refugees and migrants face in Costa Rica.

Jozef Merkx, UNHCR's representative in Costa Rica, said the programme was unique and a possible model for other countries where xenophobia is a problem. "It's the first initiative where migrants, refugees and Costa Ricans are working together towards integration," he says. "It's a completely different approach to addressing the issue because the affected population is getting involved in creating a solution. It's a terrific means of providing a strong sense of empowerment to these groups," he adds.

Martha Amada, the young migrant from Nicaragua in the UNHCR office meeting, agrees with Merkx about the potential influence of La Red. "If other young people all over the world came together to do something similar to what we are doing to make a difference, then the vision of change can become reality," she says.

Part of the problem in Costa Rica is that many young people are not being taught at school about toleration. La Red is trying to bridge that gap by promoting solidarity and friendship between youth of different cultures and nations and by spreading awareness about refugees and migrants.

UNHCR's Valentina Duque, who works closely with La Red, believes that the involvement of young people in countering xenophobia is vital. "If they are willing and the desire is there, they can achieve so many great things," she says. "Their only setback is that they often lack the tools and information necessary to make significant changes. This programme was designed to give them that opportunity."

They've been busy and creative using the tools that they do have to hand. On World Refugee Day (June 20) this year, members of La Red organized a flash mob performance in San José. In July, they created a TV commercial for UNHCR's "1" Campaign.

And they have been getting results, attracting interest from prospective new members as well as important outside organizations, including the Costa Rican Youth Parliament, which has agreed to promote the objectives of La Red. This could help the group get political support for tackling important integration challenges, including access to health care, employment and education.

Eduin Jane, a 25-year-old Costa Rican member, summarizes what motivates them. "The most important thing is that, as a group, we don't believe in borders. No one place and one person is better than anyone else," he says. "Everyone may have a different nationality or live in a different country, but we are all citizens of the world."

It's a sentiment that Millerland embraces wholeheartedly. "When I first moved to Costa Rica, I didn't have any friends. I spent all of my time watching TV and felt useless," she admits. "However, now that I am in the network, I forget that I'm in Costa Rica and it feels like I'm back in Colombia for the first time, it feels like I am home."

By Erin Kastelz in San José, Costa Rica


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Friday, October 28, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Pakistan is undergoing a shortage of power supply estimated at 4200 megawatts. Huge enough to dampen production at industrial sites and agro estates, the power shortage must be addressed the quickest as Pakistan’s growth is moving up.

An emerging market as per definition by development agencies, Pakistan cannot afford to be lackadaisical about addressing power supply problems. It has to first of all re-tool and re-fix its policy environment so as to diversify power sources to green energy that includes hydro power, ocean power, solar energy, wind power, geothermal, and biofuels.

Below is a nice news update about addressing the power problem via hydro, culled from the ADB media bureau.

[Philippines, 29 October 2011]


New Pakistan Hydro Plant to Ease Nationwide Power Shortages

11 October 2011

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide $97 million to help fund a new private sector hydroelectricity plant in Pakistan, which will ease power shortages and create thousands of new jobs.

“Shops and factories across Pakistan are having to scale back operations because of electricity shortages,” said Takeo Koike, Principal Investment Specialist of ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department. “This new, renewable energy generating plant will power businesses and light homes across the country.”

Pakistan has an acute shortage of power, estimated at over 4,200 MW during peak demand, which has led to worsening brownouts and blackouts across the country, necessitating power rationing.

Most of Pakistan’s energy is generated from imported oil, putting a severe strain on the country’s finances as global oil prices rise and the local currency depreciates.

The ADB Board of Directors’ approval of the $97 million loan for the 147-megawatt (MW) run-of-the-river Patrind hydropower plant, between the Kunhar and Jhelum rivers near Muzaffarabad, will help mitigate power shortages and diversify Pakistan’s energy mix.

The loan is being provided to Star Hydro Power Limited, which is jointly owned by Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water), along with Daewoo Engineering and Construction Company and Sambu Construction Company, which are both listed on the Korea Stock Exchange.

The project marks the first investment in Pakistan’s power sector by a consortium of companies from the Republic of Korea.

The independent power producer (IPP) – which will revert to government ownership after 30 years – is expected to create 2,700 local jobs and generate over $240 million from purchases of local goods and services. It will also avoid about 280,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. The plant is expected to be up and running in 2016.

ADB has played a leading role in the development of the power sector in Pakistan, and the financing arrangements for the new plant draw on the experiences of the New Bong Escape Hydropower Project – Pakistan’s first private hydro IPP facility, which was partly financed by ADB.


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Thursday, October 27, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

African development stakeholders better go through a rethink of their development strategies and frameworks during the past decades. The challenge is for African experts and specialists to re-tool and configure new ‘best practices’ in aid of facilitating risk management as framework and strategy for achieving development goals.

The global framework is that of the Millenium Development Goal or MDG which most member countries of the UN committed to support and enact. The 2015 deadline nears, which makes it so tight a schedule to put into practice the emerging frameworks, strategies and tools. Chances are that the MDG goals may me achieved below the expected results or ‘barely passing rate’.

Below is a reportage about Africa’s poor nations’ chances to manage risks as a way to achieving the MDG.

[Philippines, 28 October 2011]


Helping Africa's poor to manage risks key to region’s progress, says new report

06 October 2011

New York — African countries should enhance the strength and resilience of their poor populations through targeted social safeguards, according to “Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, a region-specific report released today.

This year’s annual report shows that such policies will help in the region’s steady progress on some of the MDGs, eight internationally-agreed targets to reduce poverty, hunger, maternal and child deaths, disease, gender inequality and environmental degradation by 2015.

In spite of this progress, recent food, fuel and financial crises, coupled with threats from climate change and the recent instability in North Africa are likely to affect the region’s MDG achievement.

“We urge policy-makers to recalibrate their social protection programs, so that they are perceived not as handouts but rather as measures to strengthen productive assets,” said the authors of the foreword to the report.

According to the report, national schemes, such as pensions, safety nets and school feeding programmes, can impact positively on several MDGs by addressing the immediate needs of the most vulnerable, providing them with labor market skills and safeguards against relapses into poverty.

The document lays out a number of success stories in the area of policy, including Algeria's social protection scheme that contributed to reducing unemployment from 30 to 10 percent between 2000 and 2009, and Ethiopia’s 2005-2008 public works projects that led to construction of nearly 4,500 rural classrooms and improved food security for 7.8 million citizens.

Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme, covering 67 percent of the population, cut out-of-pocket expenditure for health by 50 percent. In Malawi, agricultural subsidies and outreach services resulted in an increase in the number of food-secure households, from 67 to 99 percent between 2005 and 2009.

Such schemes provide immediate protection for the poor while also making a longer term contribution to creating dynamic economies and more resilient societies, according to the report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the African Union Commission (AUC).

Tracking MDGs

Thanks to policy innovations and social protection schemes, Africa has made steady progress on a number of targets. For example, it increased primary school enrolment rates from 65 to 83 percent between 1999 and 2008.

In addition, 80 percent of the 36 African countries that have data for 1990 to 2010 increased the number of women in parliament during that period; and HIV/AIDS prevalence rates have dropped from just under six percent in 2001 to five percent in 2009.

However, while all regions of the world made progress on reducing maternal mortality, Africa faces a formidable task on this indicator, with several countries showing averages of 1,000 deaths per 100,000.

In addition, although the population with access to safe drinking water increased from 56 to 65 percent between 1990 and 2008, the rate of progress is insufficient for the continent to reach the 2015 MDG target of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.

Progress on some of the MDGs may have stalled or been reversed by the impact of the global economic crisis on Sub-Saharan Africa where the proportion of those earning less than US$1.25 a day decreased from 67 to 58 percent between 1998 and 2008.

More than 20 percent of young people in North Africa, for example, remained unemployed in 2008, while more than 75 percent of the labor force in Sub-Saharan Africa had vulnerable jobs in 2009.

In addition to carefully targeted and fiscally sound social safeguards, the report says more attention should be focused on designing strategies that promote job-rich growth and increase agricultural productivity.

To access the report, please visit

Contact Information


UNECA - Yinka Adeyemi, Tel: +251-11-5443537,,

AUC - Noureddine Mezni, Mobile: +251911511723

NewYork: UNDP - NicolasDouillet, +1.212.906.5937,

Tunisia: AfDB - Pénélope Pontet deFouquières, +216 71 10 12 50,


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Wednesday, October 26, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

What’s up with Uncle Sam’s healthcare policy at this juncture? I already touched on the subject in a previous article a couple of years ago. At that time I already observed the systematic exclusion of poor folks in America from healthcare, which is reminiscent of ultra-Right political contexts in the 19th and 20th centuries yet.

60 Millions of Americans don’t have access to healthcare. Maybe the figure doesn’t include the undocumented migrants who number by the millions too. In Hitler’s Germany, the weaklings health-wise were simply gunned down, as we can only surmise about how many hundreds of thousands were terminated in pursuit of the exclusionary policy.

I just had an internet chat with a former student of mine (UP Manila) who is currently taking up her health administration doctorate in the USA. She gave me a harrow report of neo-Nazi rise there as unemployment is now up at 9.7% and is still moving up. She also lamented about the old spoils of entitlements to healthcare that just don’t fit the emerging context. Likewise did she update me about the economic downspin that is now taking place that could lead to the next Great Depression.

Truly tragic has been the result of how many decades of predatory finance wreaking havoc on America via a Virtual Economy frame that was fueled by oligarchic maneuverings using the Reaganomics policy architecture. Getting back the Physical Economy frame, which supports a healthy healthcare policy environment, seems wishful thinking now, as degenerative forces are at work to collapse back both the USA and Europe into miserable 3rd World economies in the foreseeable future.

Below is an update report about healthcare debates in America.

[Philippines, 27 October 2011]


US Democratic House Member Slams Proposed Aid Cuts for Family Planning, Reproductive Health

The significant budget cuts for global family planning and reproductive health programs being proposed by Republican legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives will mean more unintended pregnancies, more maternal deaths, more children who lose their mothers during childbirth and more abortions, a Democratic House member said.

Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) argues U.S. foreign assistance for international family planning and reproductive health services provide benefits that are “tangible, cost-effective, life-saving, and critical for both the U.S. and aid recipients.” This is the reason she increased funding for international family planning and reproductive health when she was chair of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, she says. In fiscal 2010, $648 million was allocated for such programs.

For 2011, however, the Republican majority in the House originally proposed to reduce overall funding for international family planning to $440 million and ban U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund — the largest multilateral family planning and reproductive health provider in the world.

While the ban on U.S. funding for UNFPA was eventually taken off the proposal, and reductions to overall funding for international family planning was set to just 5 percent, significant cuts are being proposed anew for 2012. This includes a 25-percent cut to family planning and reproductive health programs and limitations such as the Global Gag Rule and ban on UNFPA funding.

“With the global population expected to surpass seven billion,” Lowey says, “We can only expect that the number of women with unmet need for family planning services, now an estimated 215 million women globally, will only increase. And unfortunately, so will the health disparities and instability that can result from allowing those needs to go unmet if Congress and the administration do not make this program a priority.”

Read more:

Read more on U.S. aid reform online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.


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Tuesday, October 25, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Disaster risk reduction is among the latest phraseologies to emerge in relation to climate change and sustainable development. What can the new dictum ‘reduce disaster risk’ offer then in terms of social technologies or ‘best practices’?

I am residing in the Philippines which is accordingly one of the top 5 most hazardous places to live in due to high percentage of eco-hazards. What can ‘disaster risk reduction’ offer beyond mere dictum and policy framework?

Too many clichés are emerging today as terminologies of the current context. They are getting to be more confusing to the common folks, as they redound to what the late CWright Mills claimed as ‘fetishism of the concept’. And, should we add, too many showbiz guys to glamorize the advocacies for the new concepts such as ‘disaster risk reduction’.

Below is a reportage about the International Day for Risk Reduction coming from the UN Habitat.

[Philippines, 26 October 2011]


Nairobi, 10 Oct 11

Message by Dr. Joan Clos, UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-HABITAT Executive Director

"The world today is facing ever increasing threats from a wide array of natural hazards which are increasing costs in human lives and loss of public assets. According to UN-HABITAT it is estimated that by 2050 there could be as many as 200 million people displaced by environmental disasters worldwide, many of whom will be forced from their homes by rising sea levels and the increased frequency of flooding and also drought.

Unplanned urbanization exposes more and more people every day to risk from natural hazards. The impacts of climate disruption will be particularly severe in low-elevation coastal zones where many of the world's largest cities are located. And always it is the urban poor, especially slum dwellers, who are most at risk when disaster strikes. We need to stress adequate urban planning to diminish the risk.

The Hyogo Framework for Action provides a strategy for national governments to integrate risk reduction policy into national development planning. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction's "Making Cities Resilient Campaign" translates this strategy into an approach for implementation in human settlements where the majority of disaster affected populations reside.

UN-HABITAT strongly supports the efforts of the Special Representative of the Secretary General in advancing the cause of resilient cities through both the campaign, and the Hyogo Framework for Action. Our programming continues to integrate risk reduction in all sustainable urban development initiatives including our post-disaster reconstruction portfolio.

On behalf of my agency, I encourage member states, local governments and civil society to increase their efforts for good urban planning and design to prevent climate disruption and to encourage disaster risk reduction.

"It is time to act before the cost in lives, and public and private capital accelerates. Cities are the greatest achievements of human civilization and it is our responsibility to protect them."


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Monday, October 24, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Human traffick is meant to exploit laborers. This is a commonsensical truth that even kindergarten minds can pretty understand well.

Following the trend for crimes that have become globalized, so has human traffick become globalized as mafia rings and petty criminals engage in the luscious trade of peddling illegal human resource. Some human traffick outfits utilize the labor recruits for transiting narcotics and precious metals & minerals (gold, diamond), with many of such ‘mules’ landing in jail eventually.

Below is an apt news reflection from the International Organization for Migration about the subject.

[Philippines, 25 October 2011]


Awareness Campaign against Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Marks World Day for Decent Work
Posted on Friday, 07-10-2011

Germany -

The IOM led Berlin Alliance against Labour Trafficking is today launching a nationwide campaign to raise public awareness on the issue of trafficking for labour exploitation.

The campaign, which will run until the end of November throughout Germany, urges the public to think about the links that exist between human trafficking and labour exploitation, which are largely driven by a relentless demand for cheap labour and services.

According to estimates of the International Labour Organization (ILO), at least 12.3 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour.

"Trafficking for labour exploitation is often not recognized at first glance," says Philipp Schwertmann, Head of the IOM Germany Counter-Trafficking Team. "This crime is nevertheless widespread in many different industries, including the restaurant and catering sectors, private household services and in the construction and agricultural sectors."

Victims of trafficking for forced labour have no other choice but to work unduly long hours with little to no pay, with high debts often owed to recruitment agencies and threats of violence from employers.

As part of the campaign, a dedicated website containing general information about trafficking for labour exploitation, information on the rights of employees and available counselling services in 14 different languages is also being launched today.

It includes industry-specific indicator lists to help identify trafficking and labour exploitation as well as a selection of case descriptions from within Germany and abroad.

Billboards underlying the hidden and harmful nature of trafficking for labour exploitation will be distributed throughout the country and a video will be shown in movie theatres in Berlin and on the Berlin subway screens.

The World Day for Decent Work is commemorated globally. It was established in 2008 by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to promote humane working conditions.

The Berlin Alliance against Labour Trafficking is a joint project between the IOM, the confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Berlin Senate Department for Integration, Work and Social Issues (SenIAS).

For more information, please go to:

For other information please contact:

Philipp Schwertmann
IOM Berlin
Tel: +49 30 27877818


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Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Mongolia is growing fast, and the growth trend is very earthshaking and appreciable. Just about 7 years ago, in 2004, the GDP per capita was at a poor US$638. By 2010’s end, that income level soared to $2,200 which practically qualifies Mongolia to the Middle Income Economy status.

Direct foreign investments or FDIs have likewise grown as the economy grew rapidly. Which means that investment climate has faired well, allowing Mongolia to flow with the Asian growth pattern. To cap it all, investments in mining have reached staggering proportions for this once sleeping nation.

The question we raise is: how far have the majority of Mongolians been benefiting from the growth trends? Will the Mongolian growth not follow a prosperity that is highly skewed towards the new elites, while the marginal herders and planters will continue to eke out a living in grinding poverty?

Below is a special report by the ADB about the subject.

[Philippines, 25 October 2011]


ADB President Kuroda: Mongolia's Development Should Benefit Everyone


10 October 2011

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA – Mongolia has a bright future but needs to continue economic reform and ensure that the fruits of development are extended to all its people, Haruhiko Kuroda, President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), said today.

Mr. Kuroda was speaking at the ADB-Mongolia Partnership Forum – A Roadmap for a Happy, Healthy, and Harmonious Mongolia – in Ulaanbaatar to mark 20 years of ADB-Mongolia partnership and the 10th anniversary of the establishment of ADB’s office in the country.

Mongolia is at “the threshold of prosperity” Mr. Kuroda said, noting that the Mongolian economy has grown by an average 7% a year since 2003, with the $4 billion Oyu Tolgoi mining agreement helping improve Mongolia’s economic prospects. Per capita gross domestic product has more than tripled to $2,200 in 2010 from $638 in 2004 and foreign direct investment has soared.

“While high economic growth is desirable, further efforts must be made to make economic growth more inclusive. This means ensuring that the benefits from high economic growth are distributed more broadly, and that people have equal access to opportunities and basic social services,” Mr. Kuroda said.

As of 2008, an estimated 35% of the population was still living below the official poverty line. Inequality remains high both within cities and between those living in urban areas and those in the countryside.

Mongolia’s longer-term future depends on how well it manages its mineral revenues. Mongolia must also promote policy and institutional reform anchored in good governance, and pursue closer integration with the global economy.

“This integration will help generate the private sector-led economic growth needed to sustain development,” Mr. Kuroda said.

Since Mongolia joined ADB in 1991, ADB has extended 45 loans totaling $794.7 million to Mongolia, as well as 12 Asian Development Fund grants of just over $170 million. ADB also provided technical assistance support amounting to $86 million and grants under the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction of $31.5 million.


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Sunday, October 23, 2011



Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Late as this salutation may be, let me express my own kudos to the three (3) women who recently won the Nobel Prize for Peace, to wit: Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and her compatriot Leymah Gbowee.

Polarity principles spawn a one-sided, exclusionary development everywhere, among which is the exclusion of women, urban & rural poor, and indigenous peoples from the development game. Exclusionary development also tends to breed violence, as those marginalized social sectors’ demand for equity and justice is met with violent repression from status quo forces.

It is surely very refreshing to witness women coming to the fore to promote peace and development in areas that are too male-dominated and war-torn. The 3 Nobelists for Peace have shown exemplary deeds in pursuit of such a precious peace, and so they deserved the international accolade and esteem.

[Philippines, 24 October 2011]


UNDP salutes Nobel Laureates

07 October 2011

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, compatriot Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman were jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work.

“We salute the 2011 Nobel Laureates Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman,” said Helen Clark, chief of the United Nations Development Programme. “They show us what can be achieved when women participate and take on decision making roles, and they serve as an example for us all.”

“We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society, ” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said the announcement.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa’s first democratically elected female president, and a former head of UNDP in Africa. She is widely praised for her role as a champion for women and development, as well as her contributions towards peace in Liberia.

Leyman Gbowee is an activist who has mobilized women to boost the peace process in Liberia, while Tawakkul Karman has been at the forefront of the campaign for women’s rights and democracy in Yemen.

This brings to 15 the number of women who have received the Nobel Peace Prize since it was first conferred in 1901.


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Erle Frayne D. Argonza

In a previous note, the study findings of which were culled from science development news, I cared to help disseminate the finding that sand can serve as water filter. Accordingly, the practice has been around as an indigenous technology for centuries now in Asia.

That holds true for surface water, a fact that can change as the ground water is pumped out from wells. As in the case of Bangladesh, where deep wells serve as common water utilities, many deaths have arisen due to the arsenic levels of the water.

What natural materials could serve as effective filter for arsenic? The news below, culled from, can help enlighten us about the question.

[Philippines, 24 October 2011]


Natural sediment may shield groundwater from arsenic

Syful Islam

10 October 2011

[DHAKA] Contamination of deep groundwater with arsenic from shallower sources may not be as serious as feared — if pumping deep water is limited to domestic use, a study has found.

Exposure to arsenic-contaminated groundwater has been linked to almost one in every five deaths in Bangladesh, and some 100,000 deep wells have been constructed to pump deeper, cleaner water. Recent modelling studies have suggested that these cleaner water sources are also being contaminated — from shallower water seeping down to replenish deeper wells.

But a study published in Nature Geoscience yesterday (9 October) found that natural adsorption of arsenic by sediment — sand in the aquifers — reduces contamination risk in most areas.

"Deep groundwater in Bangladesh is at risk from contamination by arsenic from shallow groundwater seeping downwards if not carefully managed," Yan Zheng, who co-authored the study while he was a senior scientist at Columbia University, United States, told SciDev.Net. "The risk is higher if deep groundwater is used for irrigation, which consumes a lot more water than [use for] domestic purposes."

Modelling studies have suggested that the contamination of deep groundwater results from shallower water seeping down to replenish pumped deep water. But these studies did not consider the influence of sediment, which can adsorb arsenic, Zheng and his team say.

They tested this adsorption in the field in Bangladesh, and used their results to estimate the vulnerability of deep groundwater to arsenic pollution from shallower water seeping down.

They found that sediment removes around 70 per cent of arsenic within a day, reducing the risk of contamination of deep groundwater in most, but not all areas; and more so when the water is pumped for domestic use only, rather than irrigation. This suggests that current contamination of deep wells is either natural or comes from individual cases of badly designed wells that allow more seepage, Zheng said.

He added that the recommendation for the policymakers "is not to use deep groundwater for irrigation", and to regularly and systematically monitor water quality in the areas identified as more vulnerable to contamination.

Zheng also said that the agricultural sector should urgently look for sources of surface water to use for irrigation instead of groundwater.

Wais Kabir, executive chair of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, agreed that irrigation leads to higher risk of arsenic contamination of groundwater and said that Bangladesh needs to "change its food habits" and produce crops that need less irrigation.

S M Ihtishamul Huq, the Department of Public Health Engineering's superintendent engineer, told SciDev.Net: "We have to be more cautious while using groundwater for irrigation where the presence of arsenic is much higher."

He suggested changing crop patterns to reduce dependency on groundwater for irrigation. For example, he said: "We cultivate paddy during the winter using the groundwater irrigation. If we instead produce wheat [in] that period we do not need to irrigate much."

Link to full paper in Nature Geoscience


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