by Beatrice Ouma, Communications and Networking Coordinator, Future Agricultures Consortium
The Green Economy in the South conference kicked off this morning, with over 90 participants from 22 countries gathering to share ideas of initiatives from around the Global South under the broad umbrella of the “green economy”.
From carbon forestry and wildlife conservation, to agroecology and biofuel developments, the event includes more than 70 academic studies taking a critical look at the successes and challenges faced by initiatives and local communities.
Voices from the South
With the transition from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2015 will be a significant year for global debates on how to enhance human development.
Critical perspectives from the Global South must be heard in these debates. Researchers from Southern countries will play an important role in revealing the connections and partnerships between private capital, governments and local actors, the political and economic forces that drive them, and their impacts on different communities.
Potential and problems
The green economy offers a broad frame for discussing the role of natural resources and how to value them. Initiatives in different parts of Africa are held up as an example of great potential – but critical debate is needed on who is included in green economy schemes and how the benefits are distributed. While “green grabs”, where land is appropriated for eco-tourism or biofuels developments, reveal a darker side of the green economy, there is much creativity and hard work to be harnessed for the common good. Access to energy through renewable technologies is a hot topic for lower-income countries, and overcoming the challenges of cost and distribution is vital.
In the opening keynote speech, the Vice Chancellor of University of Dodoma, Professor Idris Kikula, acknowledged that the conference is an opportune time to renew contacts and look at issues of mutual interest related to green economy policies and initiatives. He said that the results of the conference would benefit Africa as whole.
The conditions in developing countries, said Prof Kikula, provide a basis for pursuing a low carbon and resource-efficient path of economic growth and development. This, he argued, should be anchored in investment and policy reform designed to enhance livelihoods for poor people, create employment opportunities and reduce poverty.
“Because developing countries’ economies rely significantly on natural capital assets, the move towards a green economy should provide an opportunity to address the infrastructural challenges of developing countries to maintain the current low-carbon emissions,” he said.
He added that there was a large potential for renewable energy, and that optimisation of such assets for development is a critical issue.
3 crucial questions
Prof Kikula challenged the delegates to try and find answers in the next three days to three critical issues facing Least Developed Countries:
- how these countries can jumpstart the green economy transition;
- what policies and investments can aid in achieving a green economy, and
- how these countries can address structural constraints – such as dependence on fragile agriculture and limited access to energy, which have previously impeded the reduction of poverty and achievement of higher rates of development.
“This conference comes at the right time to address issues that Least Developing Countries are currently facing,” he said.
Dan Brockington (University of Manchester), thanking the organising committee, said the conference will strengthen and enrich networks of scholars and provide credibility and authority to a critical voice. Thabit Jacob and Mathew Buhki (University of Dodoma) said that the conference provided a much-needed forum to reflect on the many issues that countries in the South are grappling with in implementing green economy initiatives.
You can follow the conference on Twitter using the hashtag #GreenEconSouth.