In our previous blog post, we wrote about how getting a good head start in brain development builds the foundation of our cognitive abilities. It puts us in a path towards socio-economic success and makes us more resilient to aging and mid-life adversities. In this post, we’ll discuss how early-life experiences influence the development of socio-emotional abilities and of a more resilient brain, and how this new evidence can help development professionals design cost-effective policies that take into account a person’s human development during his/her lifetime.
Optimal brain development can in turn make healthy aging possible. As Jack Shonkoff and colleagues have put it: “Many adult diseases are, in fact, developmental disorders that begin early in life.”
It is 8 AM. The winter sun begins to appear over the gray-green mass of trees above the village of Tritriva in Madagascar’s central highlands. The courtyard of a stone church is already filled with women, many holding still-sleeping children in their arms. They have assembled for the first time in two months to receive a cash payment from the Malagasy state.
The women are poor and all live on less than $2 per day. The money they receive from the government amounts to about a third of their cash income for the two months in between each payment: it will go a long way in helping them support their families for the rest of the winter.
Initiated by the Madagascar government, with support from the World Bank, the payments are part of a new program implemented by the Fonds d'Intervention pour le Développement (FID) to combat poverty in rural Madagascar and provide sustainable pathways to human development.
“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.”
Earlier this year, I attended a first-rate workshop on the Post-2015 Development Goals, hosted by Barry Carin (Centre for International Governance Innovation) and Wonhyuk Lim (Korean Development Institute). The event took place in the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center on the shores of Lake Como in Italy, a truly idyllic place for productive brainstorms. The groundwork for the workshop was flawless. CIGI and KDI had prepared an excellent report that outlined 11 goals, ranging from inclusive growth and environmental sustainability to security and political rights. The report put flesh on the bones of that skeleton by specifying multiple targets per goal and numerous indicators per target. It is difficult to find something on the post-2015 development agenda that is more comprehensive, more convincing, or more operational.
We’ve become accustomed to talk about the rise of the “global South” in business and economic circles—as these past several years have seen developing countries (mostly BRICs, but also others) surging economically while the global North has retrenched. I’ve discussed in this blog space how outbound investment from developing countries is one indicator that we can point to confirm this trend.
The UN Development Program (UNDP) recently released its annual Human Development Report that takes as its theme the rise of the global South. I attended the Washington launch of the
report which was held, for the first time, at the World Bank. World Bank chief economist Kaushik Basu noted during the event it’s a welcome move. The World Bank and UNDP have much information, tactics, resources, and energy to share.
Of the big reports that spew forth from the multilateral system, some break new ground in terms of research or narratives, while others usefully recap the latest thinking on a given issue. The recently launched 2013 Human Development Report, The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, falls into the latter category, pulling together the evidence for a tectonic North-South shift in global economic and political affairs, summarizing new thinking on inequality, South in the North etc and asking what happens next. If you’re currently sunk in the depths of Europessimism or US political stalemate, you may find such an upbeat story refreshing (or even disturbing). You can read the exec sum online, but it doesn’t seem to allow you to cut and paste (v annoying for lazy bloggers like me).
Some useful numbers to demonstrate the extent of the shift: From 1980 to now, developing countries’ share of global GDP rose from 33% to 45%, their share of world goods trade from 25% to 45%, and South-South trade as a % of the world total rose from 8% to 26%.
My colleague and (I hope still) friend, Chico Ferreira recently took the trouble to write a comment on my earlier LTD post on measuring inequality of opportunity in the context of human development. Early on in his comment, Chico also paid me the compliment of a being a “clever guy”, which was nice until I read on and found that while he agreed with some of what I said there was a lot he didn’t like. Now Chico is a really clever guy, and this is an area he knows a lot about. So I realize I’m treading on thin ice when I say I’m not completely convinced about his ripostes. But let me take the risk. Chico’s not just super-clever – he’s also very nice. So if the ice cracks and I fall in, I think there’s a good chance he’ll pull me out.
I was asked recently to advise on some ongoing work on human development, equal opportunities, and universal coverage. The work was building on previous work undertaken by the World Bank in its Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region that had developed a new index known as the Human Opportunity Index (HOI).
The core idea underlying the HOI isn’t new. The argument is that inequalities are inequitable insofar as they’re the result of circumstances beyond the individual’s control (inequality in opportunity), but not if they reflect factors that are within the individual’s control. The object of the exercise is to separate empirically the two.