Author Archive

For the love of…

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

…tadpoles in springtime, snorkelling, swallows, coffee, cricket, coffee, chocolate…  

For the love of…’ is asking us what we hold dear that is threatened by climate change.  

Coordinated by The Climate Coalition, the campaign started a few month ago and is aiming to raise awareness on climate change, to encourage people to show that they care in order to push politicians to act.  

The Climate Coalition has been involved in lots of political lobbying, much of which has been successful, but it knows that in order to achieve political change now, our governments need to see that society is passionate about stopping climate change.  

People can take up the campaign themselves, and indeed many have already: the website is full of people’s personal stories of things they love, and the many member organisations of the Climate Coalition have been producing their own videos and posters based on the theme.  

What is also interesting is the thinking behind the campaign: the Climate Coalition aims to avoid a perhaps typical and somewhat abstract rhetoric on ‘environmental issues’ and instead looks to be more tangible, highlighting personal concerns and the effect climate change will have for these, embracing the diversity of interests of our population instead of projecting a single unifying voice.  

For the moment, ‘For the love of’ has been primarily UK based, but it is looking at expansion into other countries as it continues to motivate people to show why they care.

You can visit their website here, find out about what others love and add your own story.

Environmental Sustainability in Fiji

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

2014 is the year that the UN celebrates the contribution of Small Island Developing States. This group of 39 countries characteristically host a range of biodiversity often including endemic species, one of the drivers for their often flourishing tourist economies, they have an important relationship with the seas that surround them, but are also threatened by the same waters, as they are acutely vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters [1]. Fiji is no exception to any of these features: the rich range of biodiversity hosted over its 332 islands is among the attractions for the numerous tourists who visit the country, but the tourism industry itself, and many other sectors, put considerable pressure on the island, all of which is exacerbated by the effects of climate change.  

Fiji’s coastal and marine environments are of much importance in both economic and social terms; they are key to tourism, transport and food provision and also hold significant cultural values. However marine biodiversity is endangered by unsustainable fishing practices (the use of poisons and explosives for example) [2], overfishing and the introduction of alien species [3]. Pollution in these environments is also a threat, to which various sectors contribute: agricultural chemicals escape into waterways through run-off [2], solid waste accumulates on beaches and coastal areas in part due to a lack of municipal waste collection strategies [4], irresponsible management of tourist developments means sewage and other waste is dumped into the sea along with industry and mining waste [2], and given Fiji’s importance as a transport hub, oil spills can be observed almost daily around the large ports, with shipwrecks and abandoned marine vessels not uncommon [4].  

Moreover, the degradation of mangrove ecosystems and coral reefs, important habitats and homes for biodiversity in themselves, is set to intensify the country’s environmental concerns. Both of these environments provide protection against coastal erosion and mangroves absorb excess nutrients from treated sewage effluence, thereby reducing the impact of waste water. WWF has deemed Fiji’s coral reefs “historically healthy” but notes the threat posed to them by activities such as pollution, bleaching and coastal development. Mangrove ecosystems are also threatened by coastal development and by waste disposal and firewood collection [5].  

With the degradation of these natural coastal protection systems, the effects of climate change are all the more severe. Sea level rise is already a reality; some crop areas have already been contaminated by salt water and the government has moved populations from certain islands to the mainland [6]. The lack of coastal protection also makes Fiji increasingly vulnerable to the extreme weather events associated with climate change. Many reports point out that island nations like Fiji are the first to suffer from climate change, despite being insignificant contributors.  

On land, both tourist development and urbanisation put stress on Fiji’s environment, all the more so when unplanned as rapid urbanisation this has led to the emergence of squatter settlements [7]. The widespread practice of waste incineration is a major contributor to air pollution in the country, as are vehicle emissions in urban areas [8]. Deforestation and soil erosion have also been significant problems; a contributory factor to erosion is the clearing of land by bush burning, a widespread practice which awareness campaigns have seemingly been unable to prevent and which threatens bird species and the endemic ground frog [9].  

Of course, these issues of environmental sustainability cannot be abstracted from their social, economic and political context. Environmental practice has a significant impact upon the economy and social situation, and vice-versa.  

Fiji remains highly dependent on the tourism industry, and environmental degradation threatens to spoil the paradisiac beauty that attracts foreigners, and with it the source of income for a significant part of the Fijian population. The obvious irony is that much environmental damage is caused by the tourist industry itself, as it feeds the coastal erosion and associated loss of tourist developments and homes, the pollution and aesthetic degradation of coastal areas and the damage to the exotic biodiversity so attractive to tourists. Clearly unsustainable, even self-destructive, practice is not unique to the tourism industry: unsustainable agricultural and fishing techniques jeopardise the resources for future generations.  

And not only is environmental degradation detrimental to the economy, it also poses a social risk. Coral reefs, for example, constitute an important source of food and income for many people globally and their loss thus threatens livelihoods. Water contamination is a risk to the health of Fiji’s population.  

Fiji shows some signs of moving towards a more sustainable environment. Its potential capacity for renewable energy generation is promising and currently over 50% of its electricity is supplied from hydropower [10]. There have also been initiatives to promote the use of biofuels [11]. The island of Koro, the sixth largest in Fiji [12], hosts one of the country’s Biofuel Mills; the biodiesel it produces, cheaper than straight diesel, is enough for the entire island and allows increased energy independence, meaning communities can still access fuel and electricity if boats do not arrive from the capital Suva [13]. The country has benefited from ecotourism and from conservation initiatives by resorts and tour operators, in some cases facilitated by the Fijian government [9], as well as signing numerous international protocols.  

But efforts towards sustainability have been hampered especially by political and economic instability. Fiji’s weak growth rate has led the country to focus more on economic recovery than on environmental issues [11]. It has often relied on overseas aid to realise environmental programs [11], but this is arguably made difficult by international isolation as a result of political instability and weak democratic structures [14]. The country underwent 4 coups in 20 years, the last of which in occurred in 2006, led by the current ‘Interim Prime Minister’ whom the United States currently refuses to recognise as leader. Racial tensions run high in the country and there is much animosity between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians. Just as income inequalities in society create barriers to sustainability by hindering the capacity for collective action, so it would seem logical that racial tensions impede collaboration.  

In a context where the marine environment seems so key to Fiji’s sustainability, Nektarina is proud to be supporting ‘Sustainable Sea Transport in the Pacific Talanoa’ as part of our partnership with the University of South Pacific. This 5-day conference, which concludes today and is the second event of its kind, is taking place in Fiji with the theme “Celebrating the Past – Sailing into the Future”. It brings together those connected with seafaring (stakeholders such as seafarers, communities, NGOs, government agencies and industry) in order for them to share expertise and research, celebrate the region’s seafaring heritage and plan for a sustainable future [15].  

References:
1. UN SIDS Information
2. Presentation by Malakai Finau, Fiji Ministry of Lands and Minerals Resources at International Workshop on Environmental Management Needs for Exploration and Exploitation of Deep Seabed Minerals (2011)
3. WWF on Fiji Barrier Reef
4. Integrated Coastal Management Plan (2011)
5. WWF leaflet
6. New York Times report on sea level rise (2014)
7. Fiji entry on Encyclopaedia Britannica
8. Information on air pollution from Fiji Department of Environment
9. Thomas 2007, Fiji Department of Environment 2007, Davies 1998 referenced in Integrated Coastal Management Plan
10. Review of the Fiji National Energy Policy (Draft Energy Policy – July 2013)
11. Fiji National Assessment Report
12. Information on Koro Island
13. UNDP Report on Koro island’s biofuel project
14. 2010 report on MDG progress in Fiji
15. SSTT Page from University of South Pacific

Crowdfunding to provide bicycles and school supplies for children in Thakarwadi, India

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

As many of you know we are running a lot of activities in India, as part of our Education for Sustainability project.

You can see some of the best moments from the project so far on our flickr page.

We are currently fundraising for children in the community of Thakarwadi in Maharashtra state, India. Money raised will enable us to buy materials for school such as books, shoes, clothes and study materials to enable children to benefit from school, as well as bicycles so that the children can travel the 6km to school more easily. Our crowdfunding page can be found here

Please help us reach our goal by donating, if you are able to; or by spreading the word about this campaign to your friends, family and colleagues. We would be very grateful for any support.
 

Pobreza a pesar del crecimiento en la Republica Dominicana: la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

For the English version of this post, please click here

A nivel nacional, las señales económicas para la República Dominicana parecen alentadoras. Es un país adinerado en relación a otros en la región y ha disfrutado de un crecimiento rápido; la tasa promedio anual de crecimiento durante los últimos 48 años ha sido un impresionante 5,4%. La economía se ha diversificado, librándose de una dependencia de la agricultura, hoy en día el país es una de las destinaciones turísticas más populares en el Caribe, tiene fuertes vínculos comerciales con los EEUU, se beneficia de los acuerdos comerciales y el PIB aumentó casi un 50% de 2000 a 2011.

Sin embargo, un informe del Banco Mundial dado a conocer a principios de este año subraya las características paradójicas de este crecimiento rápido: a pesar de estos avances, las cifras de pobreza no han disminuido tanto como lo previsto y los niveles de pobreza extrema siguen siendo altos. De hecho, según cifras de 2011, la tasa de pobreza se sitúa en torno al 40,4%, más que el nivel en 2000 de 32%, una tasa debida en parte a un incremento a raíz de la crisis bancaria de 2003-4; aunque el crecimiento se reanudó posteriormente, no se ha reducido en gran medida la pobreza.

Además, el informe del Banco Mundial señala que la sociedad dominicana sufre de mucha desigualdad, sobre todo en las zonas urbanas. El informe describe un país en el que los pobres siguen siendo pobres, atrapados con pocas oportunidades de escaparse. La sociedad dominicana es sumamente inequitativa aún en el contexto de la región latinoamericana, conocida por sus divisiones crudas entre rico y pobre; durante la década, mientras que un promedio de 41% de la población en Latinoamérica y el Caribe avanzó a un grupo de ingreso más alto, la cifra era un mero 2% en la Republica Dominicana. Y esto a pesar de que se juzga que una parte importante de la población definida como pobre tiene los medios de generar un ingreso más alto.

La desigualdad parece ser un tema importante hoy en día; líderes desde Barack Obama hasta el Papa se han pronunciado sobre el asunto y el movimiento 1% ha buscado destacar la locura de una elite rica y no responsable en los países occidentales. Además, los líderes mundiales y los medios empiezan a reconocer la relación entre la igualdad y la sostenibilidad. El año pasado, el secretario-general de las Naciones Unidas, Ban Ki-moon dijo que “Si las desigualdades siguen ampliándose, puede que el desarrollo no sea sostenible”, comentando que “la equidad surge como punto central en las discusiones sobre el programa de desarrollo post-2015”.

Es evidente la conexión entre la desigualdad de ingreso y el desarrollo social. Una polarización de rico y pobre que ofrece pocas oportunidades de movilidad económica suscita un círculo vicioso de pobreza. Y los efectos psicológicos de la pobreza deben de aumentarse no solo dada la presencia de una elite rica, sino también, en el caso de la Republica Dominicana, a causa de la llegada constante de extranjeros acaudalados que buscan disfrutar del esplendor turístico de la isla.

Lo que es quizás menos manifiesto, pero no menos importante, es el efecto que surte la desigualdad en el desarrollo sostenible. Un informe de 2013 subrayó las múltiples maneras en las que una sociedad inequitativa contribuye a la degradación ambiental, entre las cuales la posibilidad reducida para la acción colectiva y la capacidad de los ricos de ‘externalizar’ practicas destructivas al medio ambiente a zonas más pobres. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuten la idea de que la competencia, como resultado de la desigualdad, empuja a un nivel de consumo insostenible y aumenta la importancia social del dinero. Aunque se concentran en los países más económicamente ricos, sus conclusiones parecen ser aplicables en cierta medida a todos países y mantienen que una sociedad más desigual es una sociedad más egoísta, menos preocupada por la acción colectiva para el bien común.

Tras la reciente crisis financiera, se han cuestionado las perspectivas hacia el crecimiento económico. Mientras que se ha identificado tradicionalemente al crecimiento como señal de una sociedad floreciente, y se lo ha considerado necesario para el progreso, los comentaristas han comenzado a preguntar si el crecimiento permanente es sostenible. Cuando no va acompañado de un aumento importante en la calidad de vida para la población de un país, habrá que preguntar nuestra obsesión con el crecimiento y considerar si es sano o deseado.

Entonces ¿por qué la Republica es un país con tanta desigualdad? Los juicios de grupos tales como Christian Aid o Social Watch atribuyen la situación a un nivel bajo de gastos públicos sociales y un acceso inadecuado a los servicios básicos, además de un sistema de impuestos ineficaz. El consenso general es que existe una relación importante entre un gasto social reducido y la desigualdad. Así que un gasto publico más alto y dirigido parecería una manera de comenzar a abordar el problema. El informe del Banco Mundial apela también a más acceso al mercado laboral para los pobres y más demanda para su trabajo, además de “política fiscal equitativa, eficaz y sostenible”.

Cualquiera que sea la manera para lograrla, parece esencial una reducción de la brecha entre rico y pobre en la Republica Dominicana, no solo para mejorar la calidad de vida inmediata de su población, sino también para promulgar la sostenibilidad a largo plazo. Y la coyuntura de este país es un indicio de los problemas de desigualdad a escala nacional en otros países y de los desafíos globales representados por la diferencia entre ricos y pobres.  

Fuentes / vínculos para más información

1. Informe del Banco Mundial (2014): Cuando la Prosperidad no es Compartida Los Vínculos Débiles entre el Crecimiento y la Equidad en la República Dominicana

2. Introducción por Christian Aid a la República Dominicana

3. Informe de Christian Aid (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Evaluación de UNICEF (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Informe de Social Watch (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. Artículo del Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. Informe de la ONU sobre el progreso hacia las ODM en la República Dominicana (2013)

8. Artículo del Independent por Toby Quantrill y Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. Resumen del país por el PNUD

11. Reportaje del Centro de Noticias de la ONU (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

Poverty despite growth in the Dominican Republic: the links between equality and sustainability

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

Para la versión española de este artículo, pulse aquí.

At a national level, economic signs for the Dominican Republic seem highly promising. It is a relatively wealthy country compared to others in the region and has enjoyed rapid economic growth; its average annual growth rate for the past 48 years has been an impressive 5.4%. The economy has diversified, escaping a dependence on agriculture, the country is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean, it has strong trade links with the US, benefits from Trade Agreements and its GDP rose nearly 50% from 2000 to 2011.  

However, a World Bank report released earlier this year highlights the paradoxical nature of this rapid growth: despite these advances, poverty has not fallen as much as expected and extreme poverty levels remain high. In fact, 2011 figures put poverty levels at around 40.4%, higher than the 2000 level of 32%, due in part to an increase as a result of the 2003-4 banking crisis: although growth resumed healthily following the crisis, poverty has not been greatly reduced.  

Moreover, the World Bank report points out that Dominican society suffers from much inequality, particularly in urban areas. The report paints a picture of a country in which the poor remain poor, trapped in their situation with little chance of escaping. Dominican society is highly unequal even in the context of the Latin American region, well-known for its gaping divisions; whilst over the decade an average of 41% of the overall population in Latin America and the Caribbean moved up to a higher income group, this figure was a mere 2% in the Dominican Republic. And this despite the fact that a significant proportion of the population defined as poor is judged to have the means to generate higher income.  

Inequality seems to be very much a focus topic of current times; leaders from Barack Obama to the Pope have commented on the subject and the 1% movement has aimed to highlight the absurdity of a rich and unaccountable elite in Western countries. Moreover, world leaders and media commentators, are recognising the links between equality and sustainability. Last year, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that “If inequalities continue to widen, development may not be sustainable”, commenting that “equity is emerging as a central plank in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.”  

The links between income inequality and social development are clear. A polarisation between rich and poor which offers little chance of economic mobility creates a vicious cycle of poverty. And the psychological effects of deprivation must be heightened not only by the presence of a rich elite, but also in the case of the Dominican Republic by the constant influx of wealthy foreigners eager to enjoy the touristic splendours of the island.  

What is perhaps less evident, but no less important, is the effect that such inequality has on sustainable development. A 2013 paper highlighted the multiple ways in which an unequal society contributes to environmental degradation; among these were the reduced capacity for collective action and the ability of the rich to ‘outsource’ environmentally harmful practices to poorer areas. Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson discuss the notion that competition stemming from inequality drives an unsustainable level of consumption and increases the social importance of money. Although focusing on economically rich countries, their conclusions seem to be applicable at least in some measure to all countries around the world and they maintain that a more unequal society is a more selfish society, less concerned with collective action for the common good.  

In the wake of the recent financial crisis, perspectives on economic growth have been questioned. Whilst growth seems to have been traditionally identified as a marker of a flourishing society, and seen as necessary for progress, commentators have begun to question whether permanent growth is really sustainable. Surely when it is unaccompanied by a significant increase in quality of life for a country’s population, we must question our obsession with growth and consider whether it is really healthy or desirable.  

So what makes the Dominican Republic such an apparently unequal country? Assessments from groups such as Christian Aid and Social Watch attribute the situation to low social spending by the government, inadequate access to basic services, as well as an inefficient tax system. There is a general consensus that low social spending and inequality are very much linked. It would thus seem that increased and targeted social spending by the government would go some of the way to challenging the situation. The World Bank report also calls for increased access to labour markets for the poor and more demand for their labour, as well as “equitable, efficient and sustainable fiscal policy”.  

However it is achieved, a reduction of the gap between rich and poor in the Dominican Republic seems essential, not only to improve the more immediate quality of life of its population, but also to promote long-term sustainability. And the issues demonstrated by this country are indicative not only of the problems of inequality on a national scale in other countries, but also of global challenges presented by the gap between rich and poor.

Sources / Links for further information:

1. World Bank Report (2014): When Prosperity is not Shared: The Weak Links between Growth and Equity in the Dominican Republic.

2. Christian Aid’s Introduction to the Dominican Republic

3. Christian Aid Report (2012): The Scandal of Inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean

4. UNICEF Review (2011): Global Inequality: Beyond the bottom billion

5. Social Watch Report (2012): Inequality is the biggest obstacle

6. The Christian Science Monitor Article (2012): The beach: sun, sand, and inequality in the Dominican Republic

7. UN report on MDG progress in the Dominican Republic (2013) (in Spanish)

8. Independent article by Toby Quantrill and Richard Wilkinson (2009): How global and societal inequality heats the planet

9. Éloi Laurent (2013): Inequality as pollution, pollution as inequality

10. UNDP Country Summary

11. UN News Centre Report (2013)

12. Guardian Poverty Matters Blog (2011): Global inequality: tackling the elite 1% problem

13. Guardian poverty Matters Blog (2014): Mind the gap: why UN development goals must tackle economic inequality

República Dominicana

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

Este artículo quiere dar una breve introducción a la Republica Dominicana, uno de los países en los cuales se concentra el proyecto Educación para la Sostenibilidad.  

For the English version of this post, please click here  

Parece ser un país poco conocido para muchas personas, a pesar de ser una de las destinaciones turísticas más populares en el Caribe[5]. Ubicada en las Antillas Mayores, ocupa la isla La Española, junto con Haití, más allá se encuentran Jamaica y Cuba. La Republica Dominicana forma la parte mayor y oriental y allí viven unos 10 millones de personas[3], entre los cuales 2 millones viven en la capital Santo Domingo[3].  

El país se independizó de España en 1821, pero posteriormente fue anexado por el presidente del país vecino Haití. Declaró su independencia otra vez en 1844, antes de ser ocupada brevemente otra vez por los españoles. Durante el siglo XX, los Estados Unidos ocuparon el país dos veces, la primera de esas siendo de 1916 a 1924 (después de tomar el control de la agencia de aduana en 1905) y la segunda durante los años 60. El periodo entre las dos ocupaciones comprende la dictadura de Rafael Trujillo, durante la cual se vivió la masacre de inmigrantes haitianos y el control absolutista de Trujillo[5].  

Aunque hoy en día la República Dominica es completamente independiente, mantiene fuertes vínculos con los EEUU. El país es el socio principal de la RD[4] y muchos dominicanos han emigrado allí desde los años 1960[5]. Las remesas de los EEUU contribuyen de manera importante a la economía; la RD depende en gran medida de estas y del sector de servicios[1], sobre todo el turismo. Tal orientación señala un cambio en la economía: se ha transformado durante los años recientes, teniendo hasta hasta finales del siglo XX una economía basada en la agricultura , exportando productos como el azúcar y el café[5].  

Durante las últimas décadas, se han visto un crecimiento económico y un proceso de urbanización vertiginosos[1] y hoy en día la economía tiene una de las tasas de crecimiento más altas en la región[2]. Sin embargo, sufre de una distribución de riqueza inequitativa; en torno a un tercio de la población vive en pobreza[2], y el 10% más rica recibe el 40% de los ingresos del país[4].  

La Republica Dominicana ha sufrido varios desastres relacionados con el tiempo severo. El hecho de ser una isla pequeña aumenta su vulnerabilidad a amenazas tales como el incremento en el nivel del mar. De hecho, el Índice Global de Riesgo la sitúa en el lugar 8 entre los países más afectados por sucesos de tiempo extremo durante los últimos años.[9]  

Hoy en día, se dice que cientos de miles de haitianos residen en el país sin permiso[4] y en varias ocasiones, se han realizado deportaciones masivas[4]. Se ha criticado al país por su decisión de negar la ciudadanía dominicana a las personas nacidas de inmigrantes haitianos ilegales (nacidas después de 1928)[8]. A pesar de esto, los dos países mantienen vínculos comerciales importantes y la RD dio auxilio a Haití después del terremoto devastador de 2010; el succeso no afectó a la DR tanto como a su vecino [8].  

Junto con India, Trinidad y Tobago y las Islas Fiji, forma parte de la segunda fase de E4S, siguiendo el éxito del proyecto en varios países a través de Europa central y oriental y Asia oriental.  
 


Fuentes / vínculos para más información:
1. Resumen para la Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo
http://www.do.undp.org/content/dominican_republic/es/home/countryinfo/
2. Resumen para el proyecto PEI de las Naciones Unidas (en inglés)
http://www.unpei.org/what-we-do/pei-countries/dominican-republic
3. Datos del CIA (en inglés)
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/dr.html
4. BBC: Reseña del País (en inglés)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/country_profiles/1216926.stm
5. Entrada en la enciclopedia británica (en inglés)
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/168728/Dominican-Republic
6. Resumen en el sitio del Banco Mundial
http://www.bancomundial.org/es/country/dominicanrepublic/overview
7. La Embajada de la Republica Dominicana en los EEUU
http://www.domrep.org/gen_info.html#1
8. Un artículo de The Guardian sobre la situación entre la RD y Haití (en inglés)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/dominican-republic-haiti-long-history-conflict
9. Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (en inglés)
http://www.unep.org/ccac/Media/PressReleases/TheDominicanRepublicStory/tabid/133393/Default.aspx

The Dominican Republic

Written by Sarah on . Posted in Uncategorized

This post aims to give a brief introduction to the Dominican Republic, one of the countries on which Education 4 Sustainability is now focusing its attention.

Para leer la versión española de este artículo, pulse aquí.

It is a seemingly little-known country to many, despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean[5]. Situated in the Greater Antilles, it occupies the island of Hispaniola jointly with Haiti, beyond which lie Jamaica and Cuba. The Dominican Republic makes up the larger, Eastern section and is home to some 10 million people[3], 2 million of whom reside in the capital Santo Domingo[3], the first Spanish colony in the region[4].

The country became independent in 1821, but was then annexed by the president of neighbouring Haiti. It declared independence once again in 1844, before being occupied again briefly by the Spaniards. During the 20th Century, it saw itself occupied twice by the United States, the first time from 1916-24, after the US took control of its customs agency in 1905 and secondly during the 1960s. The period between these two occupations included the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, which saw the massacre of Haitian immigrants and Trujillo’s absolutist control[5].

Although the Dominican Republic is now fully independent, it maintains strong ties to the US; they form the Dominican Republic’s main trade partner[4] and many Dominicans have emigrated there since the 1960s[5]. Remittance money from the US contributes significantly to the economy; the country is heavily dependent on this and services[1], in particular tourism. This economic orientation marks a change from what was, until the late 20th Century, a country based on agricultural production, exporting products such as sugar and coffee[5].

Recent decades have also seen rapid economic growth and urbanisation[1] and the economy remains one of the fastest growing in the region[2]. However, the country suffers from a highly unequal distribution of wealth; around a third of its population live in poverty[2] and the richest 10% have 40% of the country’s income[4].

The Dominican Republic has also suffered periodically from extreme weather events, although it was not hit as hard as neighbouring Haiti by the 2010 earthquake. Its vulnerability to threats such as sea level rise is increased by its island position and in fact it was placed 8th in the Global Risk Index’s list of countries most affected by extreme weather events in recent years[9].

Today hundreds of thousands of Haitians are said to be residing illegally in the country[4] and on several occasions mass deportations have been carried out[4]. The country has recently been criticised for its decision to deny Dominican citizenship to children of illegal Haitian immigrants born after 1928[8]. Despite this, the two countries maintain significant trade links and the DR provided relief to Haiti after the devastating earthquake[8].

Along with India, Trinidad & Tobago and Fiji, the Dominican Republic falls under the second wave of E4S, following on from the project’s success in many countries across Central and Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia.

  Sources / Links for further information:
  1. UN Development Programme summary (in Spanish)
  http://www.do.undp.org/content/dominican_republic/es/home/countryinfo
  2. UN PEI
  http://www.unpei.org/what-we-do/pei-countries/dominican-republic
  3. CIA World Factbook
  https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/dr.html
  4. BBC Country Profile
  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/country_profiles/1216926.stm
  5. Entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica
  http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/168728/Dominican-Republic
  6. World Bank overview (in Spanish)
  http://www.bancomundial.org/es/country/dominicanrepublic/overview
  7. Embassy of the Dominican Republic in the US
  http://www.domrep.org/gen_info.html#1
  8. Article from the guardian on situation between DR and Haiti
  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/dominican-republic-haiti-long-history-conflict
  9. UN Environment Programme
  http://www.unep.org/ccac/Media/PressReleases/TheDominicanRepublicStory/tabid/133393/Default.aspx