‘Oh you’re going to Lima? I’ve heard the food is supposed to be amazing’. So goes the typical comment I get from friends and family when I would mention my work related travel plans. And in this sense the city does indeed live up to what is now internationally recognized. In my short amount of time in Lima I discovered it has a gorgeous historic downtown area, a stunning coastline peppered with manicured parks in the upscale parts of town, and a largely flat topography coupled with a near complete lack of rain.
Consider this: By the time you had breakfast this morning, the world’s urban population grew by some 15,000 people. This number will increase to 180,000 people by the end of the day and to 1.3 million by the end of the week. On a planet with such a vast amount of space, this pace of urbanization is like crowding all of humanity into a country the size of France.
Cities are where most of the world’s population lives, where more and more of population growth will occur, and where most poverty will soon be located.
But why do so many people choose cities? Poor people constantly pour into Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi and Mumbai in search of something better. The poorest people who come to cities from other places aren’t irrational or mistaken. They flock to urban areas because cities offer advantages they couldn’t find elsewhere. The poverty rate among recent arrivals to big cities is higher than the poverty rate of long-term residents, which suggests that, over time, city dwellers’ fortunes can improve considerably.
In the photo, a beautiful woman named Radha holds her young child in a bleak landscape strewn with refuse. The photo caption reveals she is a rag-picker in Jaipur, India, one of millions making a living from collecting and selling the things other people throw away. We learn that shortly after the photo was taken, her husband died.
Radha’s image and story, captured by photographer and artist Tierney Farrell (@tierneyfarrell) in June 2014, was one of 10 photographs selected by National Geographic Your Shot as winners of the #endpoverty hashtag challenge this summer.
In a note to the photographer, National Geographic’s Erika Larsen explained why the photo was chosen: “This is a beautiful image but more importantly you have given us a story. You have followed her life for an amount of time and made us care about her situation.”
Last week, I shared the experience from Myanmar’s CDD program and the role it is playing in making the country’s growth more inclusive for all.
Before I set foot in this beautiful country, I was told the story of Siv Mao and her newborn baby.
Last year, Siv Mao, a young woman from a village in northern Cambodia gave birth to a boy after an emergency Caesarean section at a new hospital in her province’s capital.
The boy was named Rith Samnang “Lucky” for a good reason: without the doctors and modern equipment in the new 16 Makara Hospital in Preah Vihear, he wouldn’t have been able to survive.
The traditional midwife had difficulty assisting the birth at her home, and other hospitals were far away.
Baby Lucky is a symbol of Cambodia’s development success in the last decade: the country has gone a long way in improving economic and social conditions for its people, especially the poorest.
ACCRA, Ghana — Energy rationing is popularly nicknamed “dum-sor,” or “on-off” in Ghana, an expression that people use to talk about the country’s frequent power outages. This is a challenge faced by countries across the region — sub-Saharan Africa loses 2.1% of gross domestic product from blackouts alone — and across the developing world.
While the lack of a consistent electricity supply is one of Ghana’s largest economic challenges, the truth is that the country has made progress in increasing access to energy. Today, about 75% of the country is connected to the national electricity grid. This is significantly higher than the regional average: only one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa has access to electricity.
The development industry has focused mainly on the question of absolute poverty over the past decades of neo-liberal reform. Given the levels of deprivation that continue to exist in poorer regions of the world, this focus is not entirely misplaced. But it only tells us part of the story. The growing concern about economic inequality adds an important missing piece. We are better able to understand the persistence of absolute deprivation in the world when we compare the share of the world’s income and wealth that goes to its richest citizens with the share that goes to its poorest.
The story becomes more complex when we factor in questions about social inequality because this tells us that certain groups are systematically over-represented at the bottom of the income distribution and among the ranks of the absolute poor, while others are over-represented at the other end of the income distribution. The current issue of Gender and Development reminds us that gender inequality is one of the most significant of these group-based inequalities – and also one of the most distinctive.
Unlike other groups facing social discrimination, men and women are probably equally represented among the world’s wealthiest households, but women’s presence tends to be predicated on their relationships to wealthy men. According to Forbes magazine, there are currently 1826 billionaires in the world of which 197 are women or 11% of the total. Only 29 of these women are ‘self-made’ billionaires. The rest inherited their wealth from fathers or husbands.
Attention to the distribution of individual earningsrather than household income gives us a better picture of how gender inequality plays out at the wealthier end of the spectrum. The gender pay gap among leading Hollywood movie stars is among the more publicized recent examples of this.
But the gender gap in earnings is larger at the poorer end of the economic spectrum and its consequences far more severe.
With the ink barely dry on the Sustainable Development Goals, naturally the just-completed Open Government Partnership annual summit focused on how greater openness can accelerate progress toward the goals.
The open government agenda is most closely linked to the ambitious Goal 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, which among other targets includes the objective of ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Though progress in this area is maddeningly difficult to quantify, evidence increasingly shows that participation, the next transparency frontier, matters to development outcomes. Making the target explicit, it is hoped, will galvanize efforts in the right direction.
There are many issues one could propose to tackle with citizen engagement strategies, but to narrow the topic of discussion, let’s consider just one: enabling smart growth in the world’s exploding cities and megacities.
Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In October 2015, the featured blog post is "Bill Easterly and the denial of inconvenient truths" by Brian Levy.
So I just returned from a terrific mission to Myanmar and Laos, two countries experiencing strong annual growth rates, and both facing challenges of making rapid growth inclusive and just for all its citizens.