Monday, December 30, 2013

Debt and disaster recovery

I first came across this report a few days ago. I still can't quite reconcile the madness of the scenario facing a country so recently devastated by super storm Haiyan. Under the Marcos dictatorship, the Philippines took out tens of millions of dollars in loans, much of which was embezzled. These corrupt politicians are then able to relocate to countries that will harbour criminals with money.

So first of all, why are there still places like this available in the world? In the digital age, it would be very simple to bring such perpetrators to justice...or at least recover the funds. I would suggest that there is no political will to deal with this.

Secondly, if a corrupt government embezzles borrowed money, why is that country paying off the debt and interest for many years after the government changes? This debt is chewing up 20% of national income. A country cannot be expected to develop under this burden. And then Haiyan hits.

At the same time as Philippines has received hundreds of millions in aid following Haiyan, they have paid 3 times as much out in debt repayments! The main creditor is the World Bank. This is insane. How can the country ever recover from this disaster when the aid is minuscule compared to the amount that is potentially available if some sense was brought to the debt negotiation table.

The Philippines is the most vulnerable nation on earth to hazards, and climate change is massively real for the people living there. Recovery from Haiyan will take some time, but the next storm will not be far behind. We need to consider the wider causes of such disasters and the potential avenues for change and more sustainable development.

Anyone have thoughts on how our global economic systems can change to decrease disaster vulnerability?

Monday, December 9, 2013

CIB W120 - Disasters and the Built Environment

A new CIB working commission was formally revealed today, W120 Disasters and the Built Environment. It will be my honor (Jason von Meding) to act as coordinator of such a dynamic research network. You can view the official newsletter release here. Dr Lee Bosher (Loughborough University, UK) will also act as coordinator of this Commission, and together we released the following statement through the CIB,
“As we move further into an age of rapid urbanisation and increased vulnerability to hazards, this commission will engage with some of the key dilemmas facing humanity. Considering the complex and highly volatile nature of disaster contexts, the commission will advocate a trans-disciplinary and culturally sensitive approach to research. To facilitate such research we aim to build a network of members spanning all global regions, bringing together academics, practitioners and leaders of business and communities.

We are delighted to build upon the rich research network and collaborative efforts initiated by TG63 over the past 6 years with the establishment of W120. We are confident that this commission can address the research agenda around ‘Disasters and the Built Environment’ in a significant way and provide a forum for cutting-edge research dissemination and dialogue.” 
The Commission will be working towards a series of objectives and outputs, and we would welcome new members or collaborators to get in touch.