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Peter Guest

Journalism & Photography

Bali struggles to ‘normalize’ life under volcano

On the wall of East Bali Bamboo Bikes’ workshop in Desa Ban, a big yellow sign declares: “Safety First.” Just around the corner, a starker warning has been pinned to the roadside: “Volcano Hazard — No Entry.” Now abandoned, the site is just 6km away from the crater of Mount Agung, which has been threatening to erupt since September. Even now, the volcano is still spewing ash into a halo of storm clouds, and the ground still shakes now and again.

Read more in Nikkei Asian Review

Indonesia’s indigenous voices turn on Jokowi

The image of Indonesian President Joko Widodo still gazes out from billboards along the dirt road that leads from the North Sumatran capital of Medan to Tanjung Gusta. On a recent weekend the town — a scrappy suburb to the west of the city — took on the air of an unusual rock festival, with thudding music, craft stalls and food carts, as thousands of representatives gathered for the quinquennial congress of the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago, which is known by its Bahasa Indonesian acronym, Aman.

The president was supposed to be the guest of honor at the gathering, but he cancelled at the last minute, choosing instead to travel to West Kalimantan to open a new border post. He sent his environment minister and chief of staff but his absence was taken as a snub by many delegates, who were mulling over whether to endorse “Jokowi,” as he is known, for a second presidential term.

“If I was a president who had promised so much, and delivered so little, I wouldn’t come,” said Abdon Nababan, who just retired as Aman’s secretary general after leading the organization for 18 years.

Read more in Nikkei Asian Review

Dubai Carves Out Pivotal Role in Regional Crisis Response

In the desert, southwest of a cluster of skyscrapers that forms Dubai’s central business district, a long stretch of hangars sit in the empty space between the emirate’s airport and Jebel Ali port.

The warehouses are stocked with medical kits and boxes of high-energy biscuits. Outside, a mobile hospital vehicle sits on the tarmac, waiting to be dispatched at a few hours’ notice to the as-yet-unknown location of the world’s next humanitarian crisis.

This is Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, a “free zone” where United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations can store goods and equipment for emergency dispatch to crisis areas. Officials behind the hub, which has sent aid to Asia, the Middle East, the Pacific islands and the Caribbean, hope it can play a vital role in coordinating global responses to growing numbers of natural and man-made disasters.

Read More in Nikkei Asian Review

Leuser’s Last Stand

Singkil, in South Aceh, is where the swamp meets the sea. The road from Subulussalam snakes through it, following the course of the Alas River to its mouth, then veering left along the coast.

On the southern side, the Indian Ocean breaks against Sumatra’s shore, the spray from the wave tops just visible through the trees; on the other, a dark-red mud track runs into the peatland forest. It is early November, and the near-daily rainstorms have soaked the earth, making it a brutal struggle through the thigh-deep peat to reach solid ground. At the end of the track, a tunnel has been smashed through the trees, leaving broken trunks and turned-over soil.

“That’s just happened today,” says Ahmadi, a chain-smoking, whip-thin activist who seems able to skate over the top of the peat, pausing only to light up. A local informant has tipped off an Acehnese environmental organisation that Ahmadi belongs to, and he has come to investigate. It is barely noon.

Read more in Raconteur

Erik Solheim: China Can Take the Lead on Climate Change

In December 2015, negotiators emerged exhausted but triumphant from all-night negotiations in Paris with an ambitious global climate change treaty. Buoyed by an uncharacteristically sympathetic U.S. administration and a willing Chinese government, traditionally progressive countries got a deal that committed its signatories to reduce carbon emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

It was a high point after years of stalemate. A year on, the election of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump — who has stated on several occasions that he does not believe in man-made climate change, and will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement — has stunned the international community.

Erik Solheim, a former leader of Norway’s Socialist Left party who took over as head of the United Nations Environment Programme in June, is one of those tasked with rallying climate change campaigners demoralized by America’s dramatic reversal.

Read More in Nikkei Asian Review

Fixing Housing on Cambodia’s Urban Frontiers

The Dangkor dumpsite, on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, is ringed by small settlements of stilt houses, covered in salvaged plastic sheeting and squatting above stagnant floodwater. Cardboard has been flattened into sheets to dry along the roadside. The dump has been covered with earth, ready for closure, but scavengers have dug through, exposing veins of trash.

It was from a settlement like this that Ngeal Sophal moved in March 2015. Now she lives with her husband and seven of her eight children in one of 48 colorful Khmer-style houses that make up Smile Village, a social housing project operated by a French nongovernmental organization, Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (For a Child’s Smile), in collaboration with a Singaporean partner, Solutions to End Poverty (STEP).

Read More in Nikkei Asian Review

Bust, Boom and Bust: Betting on Angola’s Crashing Economy

Georges Choucair steps out onto his 20th floor balcony and flings a half-empty glass of Möet over downtown Luanda. Spread out below is the heartland of Angola’s political and economic class; government buildings, nightclubs and restaurants amongst the concrete trunks of half-finished skyscrapers, the legacy of a property boom that has transformed the capital’s skyline.

“It’s warm,” Choucair says, freshening the glass. “Champagne needs to be cold.”

The wine has been flowing freely in the Frenchman’s apartment as he plays host to a constant carousel of friends, family and colleagues, alongside members of Angola’s small but fantastically wealthy business elite. After more than 20 years in the country — which emerged from a 27-year civil war in 2002 to become Africa’s second-largest oil exporter — Choucair has just announced his biggest venture yet, a $300 million steel mill that he believes will kick-start the country’s industrial revolution.

Read More in Forbes

Botswana Is Running Out of Water

The Gaborone Dam sits in a short stack of hills on the outskirts of Botswana’s capital. Today it is parched silt, the punishing heat having burned off the little water left behind after a storm last week snapped a dry spell that has felt endless to many residents.

A sleepy, low-rise city of 230,000 people, Gaborone is the heart of the global diamond industry, which is fed by the giant Jwaneng and Orapa mines to the east and north. It is a prosperous place by regional standards, but a deep drought across most of Southern Africa has meant that the city has been experiencing rolling water outages for the first time in living memory for most Batswana.

It is an unprecedented and frightening situation in a country that has a reputation as one of Africa’s best-run economies — a rare place that has successfully translated its diamond wealth into genuine development — and one which illustrates how climate change is undermining progress and creating new challenges for societies in the developing world. As extreme weather events become more severe and more frequent, experts warn that decades of work and billions of dollars spent in bringing populations out of poverty in Southern Africa could be undone.

Read More in VICE

For Botswana, Diamonds Aren’t Forever

“I visited a single client in India that employed more people than the whole industry in Botswana,” Tshebetso Teekay Kgatlwane says as he steers his SUV around the road that circles Gaborone’s Diamond Technology Park, on the way to the first new factory to open since the downturn began. The DTP is a dusty industrial estate, ringed by high fences and security posts. A helipad on a tower juts out of the courier’s office in the center, and signs around the perimeter warn of the penalties for trespassers.

As a broker for I Henning & Co and a former director in the government’s planning and land agencies, Kgatlwane — known simply as ‘Teekay’ — is a Mr-Fix-It for the global diamond industry in Botswana, smoothing out the speed bumps for companies looking to secure licenses, premises or access to policymakers.

Read More in Forbes; See Photos on CNN