In recent years, we’ve seen sweeping change across the world’s economies; formal systems have broken down and become informal. My home region of South Asia is no exception: more than 90 percent of the workforce is made up of informal workers—street vendors, home-based workers, construction workers and smallholder farmers, many of whom aren’t certain of their incomes from week to week.
The previous post in this blog discussed the positive dynamic effects of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs in Mexico and Nicaragua – in particular on asset accumulation and the incidence of entrepreneurship by the rural poor.
Mid-morning in the little village of Om Albadry in Sudan’s North Kordofan state, and it is market day. But a curiously dull market, eerily silent but for the occasional sounds of livestock. In a few minutes, I realize why. All the village children are safely in school, and that accounts for the peace. In other Sudanese villages that we typically visited late in the afternoon, the first sounds of greeting were always whoops and cries from a horde of excited little boys, while the girls hung back, shy of strangers.
We carry on for half a mile past the market, passing large camel pens, in search of the school. We find a collection of small shacks that houses the older boys and girls, while preschoolers sit in a dusty group under a shade tree. The preschool teacher is seated on a plastic chair, and the children are repeating their lesson after her. It is a while before I notice the teacher is nursing a baby, even as she recites to her pupils. When the lesson ends, some of the girls begin to skip, using ropes that the teacher fishes out of her bag. The others play listlessly in the soft, warm sand, some lying down in it and falling asleep. None leave the shade of the tree, not even the little skippers.
The stories of two families in a new video produced for the Spring Meetings illustrate how safety nets can change lives.
Social protection programs have proven critical to stop the most vulnerable Latin Americans from falling into extreme poverty during the recent economic crisis, argues an Independent Evaluation Group Report. World Bank expert Rafael Rofman explains in this video blog how these programs have benefitted the poor in Argentina.
‘Social protection for inclusive development’ is a timely topic. The G20 ‘Seoul Development Consensus (2010)’, identified growth with resilience as a key pillar. Furthermore, the recent prevailing uncertainty (economic, political and environmental) reinforces the needs for measures, such as social protection, to both safeguard as well as promote development. More broadly, a consensus is emerging that social protection is an important instrument in supporting progress towards inclusive growth and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially in those situations (covariate shocks, imperfect markets) where remittances and other private safety nets might be insufficient (see Nyarko).
The session Social protection for inclusive growth (based on contributions to the European Report on Development 2010) reviews new generation programmes, emphasising reasons for success and failure. It highlights the features which make social protection possible, affordable and feasible even in low-income countries. Evidence presented shows that social protection programmes can mitigate risks and reduce chronic poverty and vulnerability without producing significant distortions or disincentives (Klasen on South Africa). Besides South Africa and the well known cases of Brazil, Mexico, other recent programmes have been effective in reducing poverty and inequality (cf Table 1 and ERD 2010 for evidence).
Social protection, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation – how do they relate to one another? Are they still largely separate communities of practice or ‘tribes’ within development or humanitarian contexts? Are there signs that they are beginning to work together to help us deal with the increasingly risky and uncertain world in which we live – one in which life comes at you fast?
The devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan have reminded us just how precarious people’s lives and well-being can be, even in the world’s richest countries. But in the world’s poorest countries and communities, the threat of drought, floods and other climate risks looms large in everyday life, and is a major reason why many people are held back from transforming their livelihoods and permanently escaping poverty.
|Rehabilitating degraded lands by water harvesting in Lemo Woreda, Ethiopia. Picture by Cecilia Costella|
Last week in Addis Ababa, 120 people from 24 countries gathered in UNECA’s historic Africa Hall – an architecturally significant symbol of African independence and optimism – to learn from each other how best to make social protection work for pro-poor disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Ethiopia was the ideal venue for this international workshop. One in three people in Ethiopia lives in poverty, largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture for a living, and is highly susceptible to droughts, floods and other climate vagaries.
As the President of Ethiopia, H.E. Girma W/ Giorgis, remarked in his welcome address, Ethiopia is also proud to be breaking new ground in social protection for climate risk management through the flagship Productive Safety Nets Project (PSNP). In his video message to the workshop, the World Bank’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Andrew Steer, applauded Ethiopia for its part in being a “pioneer in the revolution that is under way in social protection programs for the poor”. Ethiopia also displays global leadership in the ongoing climate change negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As Andrew Steer observed, just as the Government of South Africa is determined that the Durban Conference of the Parties (COP) in December this year be seen as “Africa’s COP – just like the World Cup”, the agenda discussed in this workshop was very much “Africa’s agenda, and the agenda of all vulnerable countries everywhere”.
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.
|Photo © iStockphoto.com|
In the last few years, many Indian migrants (non-resident Indians or NRIs) have experienced strangers and even relatives taking over their land, tenants refusing to vacate their apartments, and sometimes being cheated by real estate developers. Complex and long judicial procedures have not helped matters. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which has been flooded with complaints, organized a session on this issue at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, an annual meeting of NRIs in New Delhi this January (see session description and story). India’s buoyant real estate market prior to the current financial crisis appears to have contributed to this phenomenon (see story).
The extent of these problems in the Indian state of Punjab and effective advocacy by NRI Punjabi migrant associations led Punjab’s government to designate certain police stations for NRIs in six districts, set up special revenue counts, and more recently, to create a State Commission, to speed up the resolution of their land and property disputes. Punjab’s Rent Act has been amended to make it easier for NRIs to evict tenants. India’s central government has asked states to appoint nodal officers for civil, judicial and police matters to respond to similar complaints. Although the effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen, these steps are a welcome recognition of the contribution that India’s emigrants make to its economy.
The Bank said today it is mobilizing over $7 billion for health and education to help poor countries battle threats to their social services during the crisis. The new health and education numbers follow an announcement earlier this week that its investments in social protection programs, including social safety nets, are expected to rise dramatically for 2009-2010 to $12 billion.
As part of this announcement, the Bank released a report titled, Averting a Human Crisis During the Global Downturn, which examines how previous financial downturns affected countries’ social protection programs.
Crisis Can Affect Social Services Programs
Evidence from previous crises in Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand, and Russia shows that governments were forced to cut health services as a result of shrinking budgets and that returning health spending to pre-crisis levels took up to 10-15 years to achieve, according to the report.
"We cannot afford a 'lost' generation of people as a result of this crisis," said Joy Phumaphi, the World Bank's Vice President for Human Development and former Health Minister for Botswana. "It is essential that developing countries and aid donors act now to protect and expand their spending on health, education and other basic social services and target these efforts to make sure they reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups."
AIDS Treatment Programs in Jeopardy
The report also warns that according to preliminary findings from 69 countries, which offer treatment to 3.4 million people on antiretroviral treatment (ART), suggests that 8 countries now face shortages of antiretroviral drugs or other disruptions to AIDS treatment. Twenty-two countries, home to more than 60 percent of people worldwide on AIDS treatment , expect to face disruptions over the course of the year.
"We cannot afford a 'lost' generation of people as a result of this crisis," Phumaphi said. "It is essential that developing countries and aid donors act now to protect and expand their spending on health, education and other basic social services and target these efforts to make sure they reach the poorest and most vulnerable groups."