What will make headlines in 2014?


February 6th, 2014

Last month Thomson Reuters Foundation asked its correspondents what stories they thought would make headlines in 2014.

In response I asked directors at Practical Action to draw up 10 pressing issues they thought would make headlines in 2014. Here is their list. I’d welcome any feedback on the points or any issues that you think should have been included.

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  1. Climate change and economic growth will collide

Our changing climate will bring yet more extreme weather events. The trend started by record cold temperatures in the USA and severe flooding in the UK will continue unabated with more countries affected by climate related disasters like Typhoon Haiyan. By contrast world leaders will continue to ignore the crisis and instead push for universal and sustained economic growth.  In 2014 this divergence will become more pronounced with increasing voices starting to question what price we are willing to pay to protect the climate.

  1. ‘Technology justice’ will come of age

‘Appropriate new technology’ will help lift many more people out of poverty. Until recently in rich countries technology has been something to consume, not to discuss. 2014 will see the role of technology highlighted in global meetings culminating in the United Nations climate change talks in Peru in December. This will help start an important debate about whether we can deliver ‘technology justice’ for the poor.

  1. 22397Projects not meeting the Millennium Development Goals will struggle to get funding

With the deadline for the MDGs now just over a year away we will see resources directed towards getting as close to the targets as possible. Large scale projects delivering large numbers of beneficiaries will be favoured. Small scale work – even vital work – which does not meet the targets will find it increasingly hard to attract funding.

  1. Political instability, insecurity and conflicts will continue in Bangladesh and other developing countries

Developing countries will make headlines around the world but again for the wrong reasons. In Bangladesh nearly 60%  of the days between October and December 2013 were marked by political strikes, closures, violence and insecurity. These trends will continue in 2014 with many developing countries suffering heavy economic losses and the poorest being the most hard hit.

  1. The poor in middle income countries will be forgottenclean water

As more nations become middle income countries, donors will understandably withdraw their financial support and instead focus on the poorest.  But there are many poor people who live in middle income countries.  In 2014 if more international development organisations withdraw, there will be generations of people who will not escape poverty.  Southern national governments will try to step in but how effectively?

  1. Deaths associated with uncollected urban waste in Africa will rise

In Southern Africa, over 22 million people have no access to a clean water supply and sanitation facilities, especially in urban areas. In urban slums between 30-60 per cent of all the solid waste goes uncollected, a figure which will increase in 2014. As a result many more people will die of associated diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and dysentery.

  1. Mobile technology will help transform the lives of the poor

Mobile phone technology will continue to rapidly change the face of communication in poor countries. By the end of 2014 out of the seven billion people in the world, approximately six billion will have a mobile phone and most will be in developing countries. In response companies, governments  and NGOs will use phones to do everything from transferring money to letting people know of an impending disaster using a text alert.

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  1. Renewable energy will struggle to attract the investment it needs

Progress in exploiting shale oil, shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuel sources will erode any incentives the big oil companies have to work on renewables as future alternative revenue streams. At the same time this will tempt governments to focus on short term energy security issues rather than long term environmental sustainability issues such as climate change. In this atmosphere further progress in climate talks or the management of carbon will be very difficult.

  1. The inter-dependency between food, water and energy will become more pronounced

The need to think about food, water and energy in a holistic manner will  become ever more apparent as trade-offs between food and energy crops, agricultural inputs and food prices and the scarcity of water in many parts of the world increase. In developing countries this will result in continuing conflict over resources and globally more environmental refugees seeking a better life.

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  1. More poor people will get energy

The recent focus on energy access issues at an international level will reduce the numbers of people lacking electricity or still cooking over open fires. However, the current over reliance of markets and private sector finance to solve the problem will leave big holes in cover for the rural poor, where returns on investment for much of the needed infrastructure will not be high enough to attract private investment.

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