Syndicate content

March 2013

The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Synthesis > Novelty in a Big New UN Report

Duncan Green's picture

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%.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Linda Raftree
Mobile technology and workforce development programs with girls and young women

“The March NYC Technology Salon offered an opportunity to discuss how mobile technology can transform workforce development and to hear how mobile is improving the reach and impact of existing initiatives working with girls and young women. Attendees also raised some of the acute, practical challenges and the deeper underlying issues that need to be overcome in order for girls and women to access and use mobile devices and to participate in workforce development programs and the labor market.”  READ MORE

Kevin Watkins on Inequality – Required Reading

Duncan Green's picture

If you want an overview of the current debates on inequality, read Kevin Watkins’ magisterial Ryszard Kapuściński lecture. Kevin, who will shortly take over as the new head of the Overseas Development Institute, argues that ‘getting to zero’ on poverty means putting inequality at the heart of the development debate and the post2015 agreement (he doesn’t share my scepticism on that one). As a taster, here are two powerful graphs, showing how poverty will fall globally and in India, with predicted growth rates, in a low/high/current inequality variants. QED, really.

 

Imposing Conditions or Adding Value? Smart Ways to Manage Risk and Improve Performance

Amar Inamdar's picture

"Why do you want people to complain about our project?"  Jacques Buré, a Senior Highway Engineer in the World Bank, faced his incredulous client.  They were building a major road in Kazakhstan, with a $2.13 billion World Bank investment and over 1,000 kilometers across Central Asia. Jacques had just broached the subject of a grievance mechanism and he could hear the skepticism behind the question: yet another condition imposed by the World Bank.  And this one seems too much: what could possibly be the rationale for soliciting complaints?

This story kicked off a day-long deep dive which brought together over 40 staff from the World Bank and its private sector lending arm, the International Finance Corporation. It touched core issues about how to better manage complex risks on development projects; improve client relations; build on country systems; and shift the way the World Bank presents its policies and standards from 'because we tell you' to 'here's how this adds value and improves performance'.  Building on experienced practitioners and outside experts, the session was run by the Dispute Resolution and Prevention team – part of the World Bank’s Risk Management unit. It emphasized how to overcome operational challenges related to implementation of grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) and make the business case to our clients on how a GRM can add value. It struck a deep chord with many of the project teams in the room.

Crossing Borders: Social Remittances & ICTs

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

For some time now, I have been fascinated with the concept of social remittances, a term coined by sociologist Peggy Levitt, who argued that, in addition to economic contributions, migrants export ideas, behaviors, identities, and social capital back to their home communities.  These exchanges occur in a number of ways: through the interpersonal communication, letters, videos, blogs, phone calls, television and other forms of communication. This concept has not received as much attention as economic remittances, as pointed out in an interesting piece published by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) entitled, “It’s Not Just About the Economy, Stupid: Social Remittances Revisited.” The paper provides some compelling examples of how social remittances have contributed to development, including influencing ideas around good governance. In this blog post, I will examine the impact that social remittances can have on diaspora communities that are using communication technologies to develop their home countries, especially those engaged with social media and other online forums.

Quote of the Week: President Barack Obama

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"And let me say this as a politician – I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks. You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things."

-Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

Quoted from Remarks of President Barack Obama to the People of Israel, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Should Real Leaders Ignore Public Opinion?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Many policy entrepreneurs and technocrats waving sundry blueprints dislike uncooperative public opinion. Sometimes the dislike is intense. But since you cannot go around insulting mass publics on television what they do is turn on leaders and they ask these leaders to show true leadership by ignoring public opinion…or transforming it with a feat of oratory.

We have at least two instances playing out right now. First, we have deficit slashing, austerity zealotry running amok. In country after country, governments are being asked by experts to slash budgets no matter who is hurt (but, naturally, common people bear the brunt of the hurt).  Unelected prime ministers are being used to push through painful budget cuts and then the establishment is surprised when people refuse to vote for these technocratic ‘saviors’. And we get the reaction: ‘What is wrong with the people of that country?’

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Mashable
Will Killing Google Reader Increase Global Censorship?

“After Google unceremoniously announced it would be killing Reader later this year, much of the outraged response focused on its use in the U.S.

But there's a whole other aspect to the service: for thousands of users around the world, it's one of the few ways they can get around their country's censors.”  READ MORE

How to Build Local Government Accountability in South Africa? A Conversation with Partners

Duncan Green's picture

This is what a good day visiting an Oxfam programme looks like. I skim the interwebs (and this blog) to put together some thoughts on a given issue from our experience or what others are writing (‘the literature’). Then sit down with local Oxfamistas and partner organizations (who are usually closer to the grassroots than we are) to compare these bullet points with their reality. Last Friday, it was ‘how can NGOs build the accountability of local government.’ My ten minutes covered:

Media (R)evolutions: What Happens in an Internet Minute?

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
 

 

Aadhaar Enabled Service Delivery to the Poor in India

Tanya Gupta's picture

The poor are nameless, faceless, and therefore, powerless.  Throughout history, the act of naming is linked to power.  In 2010, the poor of India were named.  Aadhaar is a unique 12 digit identification number that can used to get social benefits from the Central Government and the State Government by Indian citizens. 

Most importantly, perhaps, direct cash benefits are supported.  The ability of the poor to withdraw their direct cash not only empowers them, but also minimizes corruption-based leakages of entitlements from the system. Moreover, the delays in receiving the money they are entitled to will also be reduced through the use of micro ATMs.  A micro ATM is basically a mobile phone with a fingerprint device for real time authentication. 

How Can South Africa Promote Citizenship and Accountability? A Conversation with Some State Planners

Duncan Green's picture

How can states best promote active citizenship, in particular to improve the quality and accountability of state services such as education? This was the topic of a great two hour brainstorm with half a dozen very bright sparks from the secretariat of South Africa’s National Planning Commission yesterday. The NPC, chaired by Trevor Manuel (who gave us a great plug for the South African edition of From Poverty to Power) recently brought out the National Development Plan 2030 (right), and the secretariat is involved with trying to turn it into reality.

I kicked off with some thoughts which should be familiar to regular readers of this blog: the importance of implementation gaps, the shift in working on accountability from supply side (seminars for state officials) to demand side (promote citizen watchdogs to hold the state to account) and the challenge from the ODI-led Africa Power and Politics Programme that accountability work needs to break free of such supply/demand thinking and pursue ‘collective problem-solving in fragmented societies hampered by low levels of trust’, which seems a pretty good description of South Africa, according to the NPC. I gave the example of the Tajikistan Water Supply and Sanitation Network as an example of how this can be done through ‘convening and brokering’.

Once I shut up, it got more interesting (funny how often that happens). Some of the most interesting questions (and responses from me and others).

Quote of the Week: Simon Schama

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Essay writing and reading is our resistance to the pygmy-fication of the language animal; our shrinkage into the brand, the sound bite, the business platitude; the solipsistic tweet. Essays are the last, heroic stand for the seriousness of prose entertainment; our best hope of liberating text from texting."

- Simon Schama, Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of numerous award-winning books, and has written more than thirty documentaries.

Quote from the Financial Times, September 13, 2012. Why I write, by Simon Schama.

Ending Poverty and "Factivism"

Maya Brahmam's picture

Can factivism push us closer to the edge of ending extreme poverty? This was the subject of Bono’s latest TED Talk on ending poverty. Simply put, according to Bono, technology can help us end extreme poverty in a variety of ways, from creating new drugs for AIDS to empowering people via openness and transparency. And numbers from the World Bank’s Research Group show this shift: 22% of the developing world’s population – or 1.29 billion people – lived on $1.25 or less a day in 2008, down from 43% in 1990 and 523% in 1981.

So how do we accelerate this progress? One answer may be in moving the focus to empowering people to develop their own solutions using new technologies and using data to make better decisions. We’re hoping that the Data Dives for our “Big Data Exploration” this weekend—being done jointly with UNDP, Global Pulse, and Qatar Computing Research Institute – will help us get a little bit closer to solving larger development questions. This pilot will explore whether the Bank and other development organizations can use big data to deliver better operational results and increase development effectiveness.

Should the Poor Depend on Heroes?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Recent events bring to mind a phenomenon we witness once in a while: a national leader dies and many citizens of that country - particularly the poor  - grieve on an operatic scale. They mass onto the streets and weep openly and uncontrollably. They will not be consoled. It is a though the bottom had fallen out of their lives totally and completely.

To outsiders, these are moving scenes. No matter your views about the leader that has just died you cannot but be struck by the vastness and genuineness of the reaction of the masses of the people. The departed leader must surely have done something to earn such adoration.  But you also wonder if the weeping masses believe the leader is irreplaceable; that what he contributed to their lives cannot be done by anybody else; that, above all, he was a fluke, an accident.  Do they ask: who is going to look after us now? You even hear some of them say: We have lost our father.

These scenes of monumental grieving remind me of the famous scene in the Bertolt Brecht play 'The Life of Galileo'. Here is the key exchange:

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The Washington Post
An incredible map of which countries e-mail each other, and why

“The Internet was supposed to let us bridge continents and cultures like never before. But after analyzing more than 10 million e-mails from Yahoo! mail, a team of computer researchers noticed an interesting phenomenon: E-mails tend to flow much more frequently between countries with certain economic and cultural similarities.

Among the factors that matter are GDP, trade, language, non-Commonwealth colonial relations, and a couple of academic-sounding cultural metrics, like power-distance, individualism, masculinity and uncertainty. (More on those later.)”  READ MORE

What if We Allocated Aid $ Based on How Much Damage Something Does, and Whether We Know How to Fix It?

Duncan Green's picture

I usually criticize development wonks who come up with yet another ‘if I ruled the world’ plan for reforming everything without thinking through the issues of politics, power and incentives that will determine which (if any) of their grand schemes gets adopted. But it’s been a hard week, and today I’m taking time out from the grind of political realism to rethink aid policy.

Call it a thought experiment. Suppose we started with a blank sheet of paper, and decided which issues to spend aid money on based on two criteria – a) how much death and destruction does a given issue cause in developing countries, and b) do the rich countries actually know how to reduce the damage? That second bit is important – remember Charles Kenny’s book ‘Getting Better‘, which argues powerfully that since we understand how to improve health and education much better than how to generate jobs and growth, aid should concentrate on the former.

A Better Baghdad?

Caroline Jaine's picture

This morning I tapped “Baghdad News” into Google and over half of the first 40 results were about bombing and violence. A further 12% of results were political analysis (mostly about bombing and violence). And there was a smattering of more positive news, mostly on Iraqi news channels: three stories on the reinstatement of flights between Baghdad and Kuwait; one story about art; and another about nice pavements.  Hardly dynamic, dramatic news and negative news appears to dominate.

In 2012, Pakistan's biggest English language news agency Dawn helped me to conduct a survey, which looked at how people build perceptions of nations.  With an academic interest in nation branding, and public diplomacy, I was staggered to see that 83% of respondents drew their perceptions of Iraq from the media.  And not surprisingly, these were largely negative.

As the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq draws near, the political pundits swarm and draw their conclusions about Baghdad and Iraq, and Blair and Bush are challenged with the rhetoric of “was it worth it?”  Having penned a modest account of “A Better Basra” I too am drawn into the discussion, canvassing my Iraqi friends for their opinion.

Quote of the Week: Georges Pompidou

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There are three ways to spoil a public man: women, gambling, and listening to experts. The first is the pleasantest, the second is the fastest, but the third is the most certain."

- Georges Pompidou (1911 – 1974). Prime Minister of France from 1962 to 1968, and President of the French Republic from 1969 to 1974.

Are Global Gender Norms Shifting?

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been thinking a bit about norms recently – how do the unwritten rules that guide so much of our behaviour and understanding of what is acceptable/right/normal etc evolve over time? Because they undoubtedly do – look at attitudes to slavery, women’s votes, racial equality or more recently child rights.

So in advance of International Women’s Day, I ploughed my way through a really important new World Bank study, On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries. Like the Bank’s path-breaking Voices of the Poor or the more recent Time to Listen, it’s an attempt to take the global temperature on a big topic through a process of rigorous and deep listening involving 4000 women and men around the developing world.

Such studies are lengthy, complex and expensive, but are incredibly revealing and useful, especially as they start to accumulate. We’re trying a mini version with the Life in a time of Food Price Volatility listening project – first year results out soon.

The report is 150 pages and pretty heavy going – subtle, nuanced and complex, and very hard to extract easy headlines. A close reading will yield much more than a skim, but for the time-poor blog reader, here are some of the findings that jumped out at me.

Open Government sees Promise after Kenya Elections

Robert Hunja's picture

After an impressive turnout in Monday’s presidential elections, one thing is clear about Kenya: citizens are energized and ready to participate in shaping the future of their country.

Despite concerns of violence, voters in Kenya were undeterred and turned out in historic numbers Monday - over 70% participation - to cast ballots in the country’s first presidential election since 2007.

The remarkable level of participation had election officials calling the turnout “tremendous,” as polling places were kept open hours later than scheduled to accommodate lines that stretched “nearly a mile long.” Voters formed lines at polling places well before 6:00 a.m. when the polls opened, and many waited for up to 10 hours to cast their ballots.

While this election is a significant success, its true impact on the everyday lives of Kenyans will depend of how the new administration governs. Kenyans should be able to participate in the decision-making processes of their new government in as robust of a manner as they did when electing it.

This will be particularly important as Kenya embraces fairly radical decentralization of political and resource management to the county level as mandated by the new constitution. More open and participatory processes will be crucial to maintaining accountability and effectiveness at the county level.

Innovation Means Never Looking to Your Own Field for New Ideas

Milica Begovic's picture

Several months ago a colleague of mine wrote about our idea to legalize thousands of informal homes in Montenegro using energy efficiency measures (or see the infographic for a visual show off the idea).  We have been working on urban planning issues in Montenegro for almost a decade, but it was only when we had colleagues of different background looking at the problem- energy, economy, urban planning, communication, community engagement- that the solution came out.  In short:

  • Problem: over 100,000 illegal homes in Montenegro (if normally distributed would imply that every other household lives in an illegal home) that household don’t have an incentive or funds to legalize. 
  • UNDP idea: savings on energy bills would be re-invested into legalization and energy efficiency measures that created savings in the first place.  Directly, we tackle informal settlements and high energy intensity in Montenegro (8.5 times higher than in the EU).

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week

Biz Community
How to speed up change for women in the workplace

“The theme of International Women's Day 2013, on 8 March, is "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum". There are many signs of this momentum in Africa - from female entrepreneurship, which is driving growth in the region, to the fact there are female government ministers or heads of state in South Africa, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi and Rwanda.

In fact, Rwanda, with 56% of seats in its House of Deputies held by women, is currently the only government in the world dominated by women, putting the East African country well ahead of the United States, United Kingdom and Japan, which all fall below the 25% mark.

So, there is momentum, but not enough of it. For instance, the global downturn appears to have worsened gender gaps in employment, according to the International Labour Organisation.”  READ MORE

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile-only Web Users

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Realizing the Potential of Right to Information

Anupama Dokeniya's picture

Right to Information (RTI) laws can be a useful instrument for improving transparency – if the political will for implementation is sustained, and if the broader governance environment provides the enabling conditions for the exercise of the law. A research project that studied the implementation of RTI laws in a number of countries showed that implementation has been very uneven across countries. In some countries, RTI laws had been leveraged effectively for extracting information in a number of important areas, ranging from public expenditures, to performance and procurement, and exposing instances of corruption. In other countries, the existence of an RTI law had little impact in any of these areas, and oversight and capacity building mechanisms had either not been set up, or not functioned effectively.

The findings of the study are not surprising. The implementation gap between de jure and de facto reforms in countries faced with capacity constraints and political economy challenges is well-known. Yet, international agencies have pushed policy reforms without adequate attention to the constraints and challenges of implementation. The pressure to win support and legitimacy with international aid agencies has been an important driver of the adoption of RTI laws. The right has also been recognized in international human rights conventions, and more recently has gained increasing international attention (for instance, the existence of a law is one of the considerations for membership in the Open Government Partnership). Further, pressure from domestic constituencies has also propelled political actors to champion the law. But, once passed, capacity limitations, the erosion of political will, and active resistance have been important impediments to realizing the potential of RTI.

Quote of the Week: John Gray

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“The idea that humans may one day be more rational requires a greater leap of faith than anything in religion.”

- John Gray, Emeritus Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics. Author of the best seller Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, and most recently, The Silence of Animals: On Progress and Other Modern Myths.

As quoted in the Finincial Times, February 22, 2013, The Demolition Man, by Julian Baggini.