In many areas of contemporary development practice–from the formulation of local budgets to the delivery of education services–social accountability mechanisms are being employed to assist citizens in holding the state accountable and thus, hopefully, to improve development outcomes.
Today the world seems to hold its breath again amidst the sudden hike in food prices caused by a historical drought in the US and lack of rain in Eastern Europe. It is a thorny task to predict whether the very recent increases in food prices will unfold into magnitude of the crises seen in 2007-08 and again in 2010-2011: differences between now and then in the price of energy, a critical driver of food prices, give a reason for optimism; as does the hope that governments now better understand the painful consequences of some panic policies that have been put in place during previous episodes. On the other hand, months of volatility in global food prices, low food stocks and food security crisis alerts in parts of East and West Africa all paint a gloomy picture.
- Urban Development
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
The World Bank is actively expanding its portfolio in the world’s most troubled conflict zones. This invites the question: What can the Bank accomplish in countries riven by conflict? I would flip this question around and ask: What steps are needed by the country to rebuild itself?
Whenever I have asked in-country practitioners (whether Bank staff or local NGOs or journalists) what the country really needs, the answer I have heard most often has been: “Jobs.” Get them good jobs, higher incomes, and break the vicious trap of poverty and violence, is the common refrain.
On June 6th, CGAP launched its annual and ever-growing photo contest that highlights the diversity and dynamism of microfinance around the world. Each year, the CGAP Photo Contest receives stunning photographs from around the world that help tell the story that CGAP’s work addresses.
Now in its 7th year, CGAP has asked entrants to focus on the broader issues that surround financial inclusion to help show the variety of formal and informal ways in which finance is woven into the fabric of poor people’s day-to-day activities. CGAP is continually trying to build upon the Contest’s success by challenging photographers to use their imaginations to capture microfinance in distinctive ways and diversify the representations of microfinance. In particular, photographers from South Asia that have consistently dominated the top prizes will need to continue wowing the judges for place as a finalist as more and more photographers from Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East deliver compelling work.
Over the last couple of years, the International Budget Partnership has published a set of fascinating case studies of campaigns on issues of government accountability, budget transparency and access to information. I finally sat down and read them all recently (the summer lull is a wonderful thing). What conclusions do they draw (see end of post for links to the case studies)?
As always, good case studies endorse some of your thinking, but also add some new ideas and insights (at least for me). The common ground is that multi-pronged approaches and alliances have more impact. Successful campaigns often work across multiple layers of government (village, district, state, federal), using multiple strategies (research and insider advocacy, street protest, media). The most effective alliances often bring together unusual suspects (eg radical grassroots CSOs and nerdy thinktanks in the Mexico subsidies campaign).
As food prices creep up again for the third time in five years, concerns about global food security are also on the rise. Right off the bat, three questions come to mind: Why this is happening? How does this affect Latin America and the Caribbean? What should we do about it?
The open agenda took a new twist a few weeks ago when Jamie Drummond, the Executive Director of ONE, talked about the open agenda at TEDGlobal by suggesting that post-MDG goals be “crowd-sourced,” i.e., people around the world should have a say in what they think the new MDGs should be. In a recent op-ed in the Globe and Mail, Drummond refers to this as the “bottom-up” poverty plan and notes, “A new plan can avoid the pitfalls of past top-down approaches – if it supports a more bottom-up citizen-led strategy for sustainable development.”
A paper, called Growing Cities Sustainably, was recently published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, which generated much debate on the benefits and disadvantages of the “compact” city model. The paper argues that for three studied regions in Britain, the current policy trend of promoting compact cities is actually economically and environmentally unsustainable. Britain has been very successful in implementing anti-sprawl policies, starting with the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. The new paper compares the compaction model with planned expansion models in three urban regions and concludes “Smart growth principles should not unquestioningly promote increasing levels of compaction. In many cases, the potential socioeconomic consequences of less housing choice, crowding, and congestion may outweigh its very modest CO2 reduction benefits.”