The “Least Developed Countries” (LDCs) constitute a group of countries that are highly susceptible to external economic shocks, natural and manmade disasters, and that suffer from structural handicaps that require special international attention. The focus of this synthesis is on these countries, particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region. LDCs face myriad problems such as extreme poverty, immense pressure on land and natural resources and a lack of integration into global markets. As efforts to alleviate poverty and build infrastructure naturally dominate the agenda of these nations, environmental concerns tend to be put on the back burner. However, in the medium to long term, environmental changes caused partly by a changing climate are likely to become severe, and there is a danger that the LDCs will be unprepared: the consequences of such a scenario are likely to be global.
There is a need, therefore, to comprehensively assess the socioeconomic consequences of global environmental change and the responses to such changes. Moreover, such an assessment needs to be cognisant of the existence of rich local knowledge systems – a factor that is often overlooked – and evaluate how such knowledge can be harnessed to face the environmental challenges faced by these countries. Relevant science outputs generated by IGBP, its partners and other international organizations have the potential to contribute towards addressing issues pertinent to LDCs. But such information is usually provided on a broad scale, is fragmented and lacks an immediate local context for policy applications. This IGBP synthesis seeks to integrate scientific findings on global environmental change issues that are pertinent to the policy needs of LDCs, and explore the potential role of indigenous/local/traditional knowledge systems in addressing such issues.
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