South Asia’s Commerce Ministers meet in Thimphu on July 24. Getting there would not have been easy for many of them, with no direct flights between Thimphu and four of the seven capitals. In June, when some of us convened for a regional meeting in Kathmandu, our Pakistani colleagues had to take a 20 hour flight from Karachi to Dubai in order to get to Kathmandu! This is symptomatic of the overall state of economic engagement within South Asia—in trade in goods and services, foreign direct investment and tourism.
South Asian countries’ trade policies remain inward-looking compared to other regions, and there are even bigger barriers to trade within the region. Today, South Asia today is less economically integrated than it was 50 years ago. Figure 1 below shows that intra-regional trade in South Asia accounts for less than 5 percent of total trade, lower than any other region.
Next up in this series of case studies in Active Citizenship is some inspiring work on women’s empowerment in Nepal. I would welcome comments on the full study: Raising Her Voice Nepal final draft 4 July
‘I was just a baby making machine’; ‘Before the project, I only ever spoke to animals and children’
‘This is the first time I have been called by my own name.’ [Quotes from women interviewed by study tour, March 2011]
While gender inequality remains extreme in Nepal, Oxfam’s Raising Her Voice (RHV) programme on women’s empowerment is contributing to and reinforcing an ongoing long-term shift in gender norms, driven by a combination of urbanization, migration, rising literacy and access to media, all of which have combined to erode women’s traditional isolation.
During the past 20 years, Nepal has also undergone major political changes. It has moved from being an absolute monarchy to a republic, from having an authoritarian regime to a more participatory governance system, from a religious state to a secular one, and from a centralized system to a more decentralized one.
There were more than 7 billion people on earth in 2013. While this is the highest number ever, the population growth rate has been steadily declining, in part due to declining fertility rates. Tomorrow, Friday, July 11, is World Population Day, and in this spirit, I'd like to talk about a key component of population growth: fertility rates.