You’ve seen the scenario on “Law and Order” many times: the defense lawyer tosses out a wild accusation that the person on the witness stand (or someone else related to the case) is the real killer – with no evidence whatsoever behind it. Jurors have now heard about an alternative suspect for the crime. The judge proclaims that the jurors “must disregard the last statement.” But, can they?
On Thursday I had the honor and privilege to make a presentation on issues of sustainable urbanization and urban poverty at a small summit organized by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in New York City. Vice President Gore is writing a book about drivers of global change that will cover a range of topics including population and demographics, which was the focus of the meeting.
His team identified about 12 experts from a range of disciplines—a sociologist; demographer; geographer; researchers working on issues of family, aging, and gender; a writer; and an economist to explore patterns, trends, and current research. I was on a panel along with Saskia Sassen of Columbia University and David Owen of the New Yorker magazine. We all sat in a small room for 9 hours, presenting different perspectives on demographic change, each contributing from our own disciplines.
Gender inequality and discrimination can affect many areas of life, from a women’s access to basic health services to her prospects for education and future earnings. Accordingly, in order to overcome these disparities, development practitioners have begun to collect gender-disaggregated data and address gender elements in the design and implementation of aid programs.
Remember the famous joke about an economist who believes so much in rational expectation theory that he would not pick up a $100 dollar bill off the sidewalk under the pretense that if it were actually there someone would have already picked it up? A similar excuse may be invoked to justify why low-income countries that are currently facing high underemployment are not organizing themselves to seize the extraordinary bonanza of the 85 million manufacturing jobs that China will have to shed in the coming years because of fast rising wages for unskilled workers.
Economic development is a process of continuous industrial and technological upgrading in which each country, regardless of its level of development, can succeed if it develops industries that are consistent with its comparative advantage, determined by its endowment structure. As I explained in an earlier blog post for China to maintain GDP growth of nearly 10 percent a year in the coming decades, it must keep moving up the value chain and relocate many of its existing labor-intensive manufacturing industries to countries where wage differentials are large enough to ensure competitiveness in global production networks.
Each year almost 4 million children die within the first four weeks of life, many from preventable or treatable causes. Much programmatic aid is now devoted to devising ways to ensure that simple effective health practices, such as ensuring a more sterile birth environment, are adopted on a wide scale. A number of recent evaluations from South Asia suggest that the active involvement of local women’s groups in problem solving can be among the most cost-effective interventions to prevent deaths.
Energy poverty cripples development prospects. Where people don’t have access to modern energy services, like reliable electricity, their ability to earn a livelihood is sabotaged. That’s why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called — admirably — for “a revolution that makes energy available and affordable for all” in 2012, designated the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
This sense of urgency is needed, especially in Africa, as current International Energy Agency forecasts project that the number of people in sub-Saharan Africa without access to modern energy services will grow by almost 100 million between now and 2030 (see the figure below).
Isolated geography, customary practices and gender roles often limit rural populations, particularly women and indigenous groups, from accessing relevant information and gaining adequate skills to effectively participate in development interventions. As a consequence, the wealth of knowledge that these communities possess goes unsolicited and undervalued. In fact, gender activists argue that rural women rarely serve as the primary source of information in communication for development initiatives and that such practices risk perpetuating elite capture and exacerbating existing inequalities.
India’s health system faces some major challenges. In some respects, the hill India’s health system has to climb is steeper than that facing other developing countries. The good news is that the innovation that India is famous for in other sectors, as well as in health technology, is now starting to make itself felt in the health system. Not only may these ideas benefit India’s poor; they may also provide food for thought for other countries.
In this post, we sketch out the challenges facing India’s health system. In the next two, we outline two innovative approaches—one government, one private—in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
coauthored with Alaka Holla
As we argued last week, we need more results that tell us what works and what does not for economically empowering women. And a first step would be for people who are running evaluations out there to run a regression that interacts gender with treatment. Now some of these will show no significant differences by sex. Does that mean that the program did not affect men and women differently? No. Alas, all zeroes are not created equal.
The Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation recognizes individuals whose technological innovations improve the lives of impoverished people in the developing world. The Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation celebrates outstanding technology-focused innovators who have improved quality of life in the areas of health, shelter, energy, agriculture, quality of air, water, soil, education, or ecosystem management in developing nations and have disseminated technology that is scalable or replicable.
- The World Region