“I am always hungry, as oftentimes my family and I skip meals. I want to go to school like my friends, but my parents always say it is too expensive. If I go to school, then I can’t work to help them buy food, and then I am hungry again. I am helpless when it comes to changing my situation, I have no voice and there are few people that see things the way I do.”
There is increasing convergence between the goals that human rights advocates aspire to, and the development work of the World Bank. This was the consensus reached at a panel discussion on Integrating Human Rights in PREM's work, organized as part of the Conference organized by the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management (PREM) network on May 1 and 2, 2012. The panel included Otaviano Canuto, Vice President of the Network, and other experts at the Bank working on labor, justice, poverty, and governance issues from a rights-perspective. It was moderated by Linda van Gelder, Director of the Public Sector and Governance group.
The panel showcased innovative ways in which a human rights perspective is being integrated into the Bank's work. In Vietnam, the governance team has engaged the country in looking at how right to information can further transparency and how awareness of rights can make the state more responsive to citizens. A team in PREM is looking at the Human Opportunity Index as a means of assessing inequality of opportunity among children. The World Development Report on Jobs emphasizes the concept of ‘better jobs’ that improve societal welfare, not just ‘more jobs’. Several of these programs are supported through the Nordic Trust Fund that furthers a human rights approach to development issues.
Given the urgent need for policymakers in Europe and other advanced economies to tackle current debt challenges, there is a frantic scramble for suitable policy tools that will help resolve the Greek conundrum.
One policy tool – a form of debt restructuring known as ‘financial repression’ that focuses on establishing a tighter relationship between government and the financial industry by setting caps on interest rates and regulating cross-border money flows – has largely been overlooked. The Petersen Insitute’s Carmen Reinhart recently delivered a
Children haveing a meal at school. Ghana. Photo: © Arne Hoel/The World Bank
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
This profoundly important—and seemingly-simple—definition of food security from the World Food Summit of 1996 actually has four elements:
1. Enough food must be available to meet people’s needs.
2. People must have access to the food that is available under normal circumstances.
3. Volatility in production or prices must not threaten this availability, and
4. The quality of food that people consume must be adequate for their needs.
Ahmed Galal is currently Managing Director of the Economic Research Forum, a regional research institution covering the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey.
As someone who values the role of knowledge and strong endogenous research capacity in advancing the cause of development, I was very impressed by the speech Robert Zoellick, World Bank President, gave on September 29 at Georgetown University. The speech, on development economics research and the role of the World Bank, stimulated an interesting debate, with Dani Rodrick being favorable, Bill Easterly critical and Nancy Birdsall somewhere in between.
From my perspective, the speech is refreshingly critical of the “one size fits all” approach to reform, honest about the evolution of thinking within the Bank, and open-minded about the new research agenda for development. It hits target by advocating research that is policy relevant. And it calls for “Democratization of Research” and a new role for the Bank as a knowledge broker and facilitator. All these are in line with the views of many researchers in the developing world, myself included.
Having followed the debate on welfare and economic policy prior to the Swedish parliamentary election, the arguments from both the ruling center-right alliance as well as the left-of-center opposition seemed convincing enough to be considered for the next political leaders of the country. The opinion polls were predicting a tight outcome in slight favor of the ruling coalition. On Sunday the votes were counted and the results surprised everybody: 2010 ended up being a historic election with no clear winners, but only one big setback. Even though the ruling alliance got a renewed mandate as the largest coalition, it failed to get the majority of the seats in the parliament. The leading opposition party, the Social Democrats, preserved its status as the largest party in the country, but thanks to the strong alliance formed by the center-right coalition, it will be unable to take over the country’s political leadership. The real winner of the election, however, was the anti-immigrant ultra-right wing party Sweden Democrats. The party got 5.7 percent of the votes that guarantees it the swing vote in the parliament making both the established party coalitions dependent on their support. Even though all established parties have categorically stated that they will not seek support from the Sweden Democrats, their passive support will be required for any majority decision.
(With Roberto Ponce)
Migration issues have been at the center of discussion in the international agenda, mainly because of the financial crises and the new protectionism measures implemented by developed countries. Despite these current issues, there are several long-term topics that will require further research and attention within next decades.
Regarding demographic changes, developed countries (Europe, Japan) are aging whileAfrica, Middle East, and South Asia still experience a transitional demographic change. The challenge will be to meet the needs of migrants with their specific requirements of skills in developed countries, and the offer of youth labor with their specific stock of skills from developing countries. Countries need to be ready to meet these demands.
The very name “brain drain” suggests that high-skilled migration can be nothing but bad for developing countries. Indeed, the prospect of a harmful effect of brain drain is often one of the first concerns raised in policy discussions around migration, and every day the news is filled with statements such as “the Philippines is suffering a crippling brain drain”, “brain drain still a big concern” in India; and that Bangladesh “must stop brain drain to take the country forward”.
However, recently there has been a surge of more optimistic views of highly skilled migration, ranging from theories of “brain gain” in which the prospect of migration in the future induces people (including those who end up not migrating) to get more education; the idea of “brain circulation”, in which migrants are meant to do wonders for their home countries once they return with knowledge and ideas from abroad; and the “create-your-own Silicon Valley” view of diaspora as a source of trade, investment funds, and inspiration.
A liberal trade regime is regarded by most economists as being necessary for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction over the long term. One of the main reasons for this is that trade liberalization helps to boost incentives for export growth, and in turn exports are one of the main drivers of long term economic growth. Most of the fastest growing developing countries in the last three decades, such as the East Asian tigers, have also sustained very rapid export growth. Exporters usually face greater competitive pressure than do suppliers of goods to the domestic market, and so must constantly innovate to improve efficiency and the quality of their products. Hence exports usually lead the economy in upgrading technology and improving factor productivity, both of which are crucial for long term growth.
For the World Bank's internal website, I was asked to list the three most important developments of the past decade. To elicit a broader discussion, I am sharing it on this blog. In a subsequent post, I will list the three most important challenges and opportunities for the coming decade. One or two of my items are also reflected in Bono's excellent piece in yesterday's New York Times, "Ten for the Next Ten." Here are my top three: