Best of 2017: blogs

As 2017 draws to a close, we're showcasing some of the content we've published during the last 12 months. Our blogs offer IIED staff and guest authors the opportunity to share their personal views on the issues that matter to them. Here are our top 10 most-read blogs of the past year.

Article, 22 December 2017
We must protect the world in which we live (Photo: Steve Guzzardi, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

We must protect the world in which we live (Photo: Steve Guzzardi, Creative Commons, via Flickr)

Fighting for the future – sustainable development and the battle for ideas in 2017

January: IIED's director, Andrew Norton, wrote our most read blog of 2017. Looking back at the political developments of 2016, Norton asked whether the world would be able to sustain its hard-fought momentum on sustainable development

Norton highlighted issues requiring collective effort in the year ahead, including climate action and the energy transition, the future of work, the role of civil society, land rights and inequality. Was he right – you decide!

Progress in 2017 will have to be earned, not taken for granted.

Worm attack! Making the case for diversity

February: As 2017 began, a plague of army worms was attacking maize crops in Zambia, moving rapidly through fields and devouring young plants. Guest blogger William Chilufya argued that the devastation left by the worms makes a strong case for Zambia's government to stop promoting maize and start supporting a more diverse and traditional range of crops such as cassava, millet and sorghum.

Since 2007, the Zambian government has spent an average of 80 per cent of its agricultural budget supporting the production of maize.

In a related blog, Seth Cook and Feliia Boerwinkel reported on a meeting in Lusaka which brought together farmers, entrepeneurs, and policymakers to advocate for more sustainable, diverse and healthy diets. The Food Change Lab is a dialogue convened by Hivos and IIED to look at issues in Zambia's food systems and generate ideas for change. 

Stop listing 'vulnerable groups' – start taking action

April: In his blog about risks in urban areas, David Satterthwaite noted that now it seems obligatory for UN declarations to list 'vulnerable groups'. But UN texts rarely go beyond these lists to ask why these groups are vulnerable and what is needed to reduce their vulnerability. Satterthwaite argued that it is time to take action and start removing risks.

A key step is ensuring provision of risk-reducing infrastructure and services to all neighbourhoods (such as safe, sufficient, affordable water, and good-quality sanitation, electricity, healthcare and waste collection).

In a related blog Satterthwaite looked at three crucial factors in urban health and safety: competent local government, locally collected data and support for local action. He argues that to effectively reduce risks in urban centres, international agencies must recognise they need to support local action by local governments and civil society organisations.

Sustainable cities: linking resilience and resource efficiency

May: Sarah Colenbrander and Sharon Gil blogged about the tension between making cities resilient while ensuring that they use resources efficiently. With their concentrations of people, infrastructure and economic activity, cities are highly vulnerable. They also use a huge amount of resources, consuming up to 70-75 per cent of the world's natural resources. A report by IIED and UN Environment, 'Resilience and resource efficiency at the city level', explores the links between resilience and resource efficiency in urban spaces.

Successfully aligning these two agendas may be a challenge – but it is also an opportunity that cities cannot afford to miss.

Denying denial: a call for more climate action

February: In their joint blog, Andrew Norton and Clare Shakya, who heads IIED's Climate Change research group, delivered a strong call for more action on climate change. To counter those wanting to sow doubt about the effects of climate change, they set out a list of proven climate impacts and called on readers to arm themselves with facts and work together to build ambition on climate action.

Do we want our children to inherit a disastrously depleted environment, in a world of dangerous climate extremes where climate change drives growing inequality?

Were the 2017 UN climate talks enough to keep the Paris Agreement on track?

November: Achala Abeysinge is legal and technical adviser to the chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) group at the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She has expert insight into the key issues at international climate negotiations. Her blog on the outcomes of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) to the UNFCCC reviewed the successes and failures of the 2017 negotiations, as well as the most important tasks for the coming year.

Global solidarity and support from the international community to complete this work and ensure more ambitious actions on the ground will be critical for keeping the promise of Paris on track.

Are impact investors missing a trick?

September: The term 'impact investing' refers to investments that bring about social and environmental benefits as well as financial returns. Impact investors mobilise capital to grow local businesses; the sector is worth an estimated US$77 billion. 

But without basic infrastructure such as water, sewers, electricity and roads, few businesses can thrive. Guest blogger Katharina Neureiter called on impact investors to engage with poor communities.

It's time to make the promise of impact investing a reality, where investments in infrastructure transform informal settlements and empower local communities to make their businesses grow.

Coping with forced displacement: lessons from cities

May: There are 65.3 million forcibly displaced people around the world. Displaced people used to live in camps, but now most live in urban areas. How are cities coping with this influx?

Diane Archer reported on an event at which city representatives from Africa, Asia and the Middle East discussed how they are responding to the arrival of large numbers of displaced people.

It was clear that these complex issues and varying contexts require a delicate balancing act to achieve outcomes that are sustainable, that work for everyone, and are resilient to further shocks.

'Eyes in the sky' are monitoring forests - do they get it right?

January: Africa is home to 25 per cent of the world's remaining rainforests, but the continent is losing natural forests to agriculture at an alarming rate. African governments are using satellite remote sensing technology to monitor forest erosion – but Xiaoting Hou Jones and Samuel Bowers highlighted the limitations of remote sensing technology for accurately monitoring agriculture's impact on African forests.

But, for now, our 'eyes in the sky' can only offer limited answers, and spatial information should be used with caution.

Ecosystem-based adaptation as a tool for climate resilience

January: Policymakers are increasingly recognising that ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA) can be an valuable strategy for mitigating the impacts of climate change. EbA is an approach that harnesses biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people to adapt to a changing climate. It is especially important for the world's poorest people, who often rely on the natural environment for their livelihoods.

IIED associate Hannah Reid looked at the policy issues and described a project that is gathering key evidence about EbA implementation from around the globe.

Having been overlooked in the past as a viable tool for adaptation and mitigation, EbA is finally gaining recognition in the international climate policy arena.