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Delivery Challenges for India’s National Food Security Act 2013

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

The recently enacted National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) is being described as a ‘game changer’ to strengthen food and nutritional security in the country. It goes without saying that, be it basic staples (wheat and rice) or other foods (edible oil, pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, egg, meat, fish etc), India has been quite successful in ensuring their ample availability to its population. But in addition to food availability, there are two more critical factors in ensuring food security to the citizen’s - access to food and its absorption for better nourishment.

Despite robust economic growth in recent years, one-third of India’s population, i.e. more than 376 million people in 2010 still lived below the poverty line, as per World Bank’s definition of $1.25 a day. Besides, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) of 2005-06 highlighted that amongst children under five years, 20% were acutely and 48% chronically undernourished. The above facts definitely underline the continued relevance for safety net targeting that makes the poor and vulnerable food secure in terms of nutrition, dietary needs and changing food preferences.
 

What Will it Take to End Poverty in Cities?

Abha Joshi-Ghani's picture

Postcards from the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia

From April 5th to 11th, in Medellin, the World Urban Forum (WUF) brought together a diverse group of urban thinkers and doers to discuss the world’s most urgent urban challenges. With participants meeting under the theme of “Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life,” the overall atmosphere was one of cautious optimism. On the one hand, participants were highly aware of the vast challenges facing cities and their inhabitants. Cities remain home to shocking levels of inequality and highly pernicious forms of social and economic exclusion. In that respect, hosting the Forum in Medellin helped drive the point home—as UN-Habitat Executive Director Jon Clos observed before the event, “We want a realistic world urban forum, we want a forum in a real city that has real issues.” On the other, attendees were buoyed by the conviction that today’s rapid urbanization represents an unprecedented demographic and economic opportunity. Medellin itself has made astounding progress in recent years, focusing on improving transport and mobility, inclusive governance, and education.

Competing Approaches to Social Accountability

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture
Advocates of social accountability approaches believe that regular elections are not enough to bring about a change in service delivery

Seeking accountability from public service providers remains one of the most prominent governance challenges in developing countries. In recent years, there has been a burst of social accountability tools, and NGOs and governments have promoted their use widely. Broadly, social accountability refers to approaches that seek to foster accountability through enhanced civil society engagement.

The advocates of social accountability approaches believe that the regular cycle of elections—in spite of the near continuous cycle of elections for the village councils, state and centre—are not enough to bring about a substantive change in service delivery. In this context, there is the opportunity to experiment with alternative mechanisms of fostering social accountability. Researchers at the Centre for Future State of the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK, conclude from their field studies in Delhi and Sao Paulo, Brazil, that social accountability tools can be used to set the minimum required standard of public services by “highlighting deficiencies in existing provision or entitlements”. This also works when citizens’ demands are “framed in terms of legal or moral rights”.

As a set of approaches for “good governance”, social accountability tools represent an interesting collection of hypotheses. One, that involving citizens in local planning, budgeting and spending decisions will ensure that the design and implementation of public services is pro-poor. Local governments and decentralized systems for local planning and service delivery are the usual form in which this approach manifests itself.

Exit, Voice, and Service Delivery for the Poor

Robert Wrobel's picture

Inspired by Jeremy Adelman’s wonderful biography of Albert Hirschman (Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman, Princeton University Press, 2013), I’ve read and reread Hirschman’s masterpiece, Exit, Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, (Harvard University Press, 1970) and his follow up essay “Exit, Voice, and State” (reprinted in The Essential Hirschman, Princeton University Press, 2013). Although Hirschman produced these works over 40 years ago, his simple model of flight (“exit”) or resistance (“voice”) in the face of unsatisfactory economic, political or social conditions remains highly relevant for policymakers and development practitioners concerned with eliminating extreme poverty, reducing inequality, and improving basic services accessible to the poor.
 
Hirschman’s ideas provide much cause for reflection within the context of present-day Indonesia. Indonesia has enjoyed over a decade of macroeconomic stability and economic growth. From 2000 to 2011 GDP expanded by 5.3 percent per year, and the official poverty count halved from 24 percent in 1999 to 12 percent in 2012.  This period also saw notable improvements in health and education. Access to education has become more widespread and equitable. Girls are now as likely as boys to graduate from secondary school. In health, Indonesia is on track to meet Millennium Development Goals for reducing both the prevalence of underweight children under five years old, and the under-five mortality rate.
 

#9 from 2013: Using Social Media for Good Governance

Jude Hanan's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by readership in 2013
This post was originally published on Jaunary 14, 2013


2011 was a year of turmoil. Internationally, economic meltdown deepened and continued, massive earthquakes struck New Zealand and a tsunami hit Japan. But 2011 will be also remembered for a different type of earthquake – the Arab Spring – an event that shook the Middle East, causing regimes across the region to totter and fall. Unlike other revolutions, this one used relatively new tools and technologies – networked or social media.

Much has already been written about the Arab Spring but what is already clear from the current body of work being produced is that it was the use of social media that acted as the catalyst for change in an already unpredictable environment. The use and availability of social media easily created connections between prominent thought leaders and activists to ordinary citizens, rapidly expanding the network of people willing to take action.

Strengthening the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India to Foster Participation, Access and Accountability

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

The initiation and countrywide implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) represents a milestone in social policy and employment creation with its right based approach and focus on livelihood security. The flagship program has benefitted millions of marginalized rural households by providing them unskilled work and led to prevention of stress migration from rural areas in lean agricultural seasons. A UNDP/Carnegie Endowment for Peace study points out that from the scheme’s first year of operation in 2006-2007 till 2010-2011, job creation accelerated from less than 1 billion workdays distributed amongst 20 million households to 2.5 billion workdays for 50 million households.
 
In the above context, the 2013 performance audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) should be a timely opportunity to analyze the immense management and convergence challenges that a program of MGNREGA’s size poses. This is especially relevant in view of CAG’s observation that undertaking of non permissible works, non completion of works and lack of creation of durable assets during the period 2007-2012 indicated that the poorest were not able to fully exercise their rights under the program. 

One of the ‘bottom up’ features’ of the program is its reliance on rural local self government structures i.e. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to reinvigorate community driven participation and decision making in service delivery.  The first key institutional challenge, therefore, is to make MGNREGA’S program implementation effective by enforcing PRI ‘activity mapping’ (unbundling subjects into smaller units of work and assigning these units to different levels of government) that was set in motion after the historic 73rd Constitutional Amendment, 1993.  Herein, the Central Government and the States of the Union, have to jointly actualize the principle of subsidiarity- what can be best done at lower levels of government should not be centralized at higher levels. Empowering PRIs especially Gram Panchayats (last mile units in villages) with funds, functions and functionaries (3F’s) is a critical incentive to build their institutional capacity for service delivery. This, in turn, would provide them the teeth to carry out their core responsibilities under MGNREGA such as planning of works, registration of beneficiaries, allotting employment, executing works, making timely payments, maintaining records of measurement and muster rolls.

Accountability is Based on Relationships, but Data Helps Too

Fletcher Tembo's picture

"Imagine this: A health care worker or parent in a village, with a laptop or mobile device, can access development knowledge in real time through geocoding and geomapping. She can see which schools have feeding programs and which go without, and what is happening to local health... She can upload her own data, throw light on the likely effect of new interventions and mobilise the community to demand better or more targeted health programs." Robert Zoellick, Former President of the World Bank

I found this quote while attending a World Bank facilitated discussion on open data and development at the World Bank/ IMF Annual Meetings in Tokyo, Japan, a few weeks ago. There, and elsewhere, increased interest in the potential of open data is spreading from high level ‘open’ initiatives, such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), to tools for enabling local accountability and service provision. These projects aim to introduce greater availability of the most needed ingredient for citizen engagement with their governments: access to public information.

The common assumption in all these initiatives is that ordinary citizen, armed with copious information, can mobilise others and generate resolve to demand better public services. Implicit behind this assumed ‘demand’ is that information will be put to work in an ‘us versus them’ process of holding government to account (us being the mobilised, informed community, and ‘them’ being the holders or monopolisers of public information, often governments).

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.

International IDEA
Do Accountability Mechanisms in Safety Nets Improve Access to Social Services? The case of Brazil’s Bolsa Família

"This paper was part of International IDEA’s work on “Democracy and Development” in 2011. It was selected as a contribution to stimulate debate on and increase knowledge about the impact of democratic accountability on services. A summary of the papers selected and an analysis on some general trends are provided in “Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery: A Synthesis of Case Studies”

The study analyses a semi-governmental mechanism for accountability called social control councils. Through this mechanism beneficiaries are supposed to provide feedback on health and education services. However as beneficiaries have been heavily underrepresented in these councils and membership tends to be skewed towards the local government, they have not been able to function as intended." READ MORE

Mashable
How the Arab World Uses Facebook and Twitter

“Social media has been often touted for the role it played in the popular uprisings that have spread across the Arab world since December 2010. Despite the buzz, you may be surprised that only 0.26% of the Egyptian population, 0.1% of the Tunisian population and 0.04% of the Syrian population are active on Twitter.

Of all the countries in North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter is most popular in Kuwait, where 8.6% of the population is active users, defined as those who tweet at least once per month. Facebook’s more popular throughout the region. In its most popular country, the U.A.E., some 36.18% of the population is on Facebook.” READ MORE

Is Education for All Finally Possible?

Tanya Gupta's picture

The tragedy of our times is that access to quality education is limited.  Whether in the US, internationally, education remains a privilege that only select few are entitled to, whereas a majority of this without financial resources are forced to compromise on the quality of education or go without. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and illiteracy which condemns the poor to stay poor. In the past few years technology has emerged as the single biggest game changer in the field of education.  As computing has become cheaper and more powerful, access to technology has increased proportionately. Another trend has been led by those who question traditional education methods and structure. For example many feel that teachers unions lead to a shift in focus away from the child to the pecuniary interests of the teachers. Others argue that the traditional classroom lecture where teachers talk and students listen is no longer effective. These trends have led to some interesting developments. Of these one is the focus of nonprofit organizations on supplying cheap tablets for free in the developing world. Another is the interesting possibility of eliminating school systems and teachers via innovative use of technology.

How Can Aid Agencies Promote Local Governance and Accountability? Lessons from Oxfam’s Work in Five Countries

Duncan Green's picture

Community discussion class participants in Bardiya village talk about their plans for building a community clinic.Oxfam is publishing a fascinating new series of case studies today, describing its programme work on local governance and community action. There are case studies from Nepal (women's rights, see photo), Malawi (access to medicines), Kenya (tracking public spending), Viet Nam (community participation) and Tanzania (the ubiquitous Chukua Hatua project), and a very wise (and mercifully brief) overview paper from power and governance guru Jo Rowlands. Here are some highlights:

“Governance is about the formal or informal rules, systems and structures under which human societies are organised, and how they are (or are not) implemented. It affects all aspects of human society – politics, economics and business, culture, social interaction, religion, and security - at all levels, from the most global to the very local."

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