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international development

Giving the Poor What They Need, Not Just What We Have

David Evans's picture
Recently, this blog discussed a study on cinematic representations of development, highlighting notable films such as Slumdog Millionaire and City of God. Over the weekend, I was reminded that even forgettable films can underline key development lessons. In The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, a professional magician engages in international charity work. He explains, “I go to places where children have neither food nor clean water, and I give them magic,” as he passes out magic kits in an unidentified low-income rural community. A journalist asks, “Do you also give them food and clean water?” “Well, no. I’m a magician. I bring magic.” Later, his endeavor failed, the magician returns to the United States and meets an old friend:

“What about the poor?”
“Turns out they didn’t want magic: They just wanted food and clean water.”
“Ugh. Fools!”
 
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

I’m Sorry. Let Me Make It Up to You - Is There a Role for Apologies in International Development?

Shamiela Mir's picture

Public figures often choose to publicly apologize for their actions, whether the actions relate to their public or personal lives. Most recently, a renowned cyclist, Lance Armstrong was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey where he admitted and apologized for using illegal performance-enhancing substances during his cycling career. The quality and the intention of his apology are up for debate; however, he (or his publicist) felt the need to publicly confess and apologize.

Why Won’t Babu Move?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Much of what we do in international development as a field of practice is designed to make Babu move, yet more often than not Babu does not make the move we would like her to make, a move that we are convinced is clearly, evidently, certainly, demonstrably in her overall best interest. As a result, we are, at turns, surprised, frustrated, angry, resigned, cynical even.  The fault is with Babu, we are convinced, and not with us.

As you must have guessed by now, Babu is the prototypical intended beneficiary of many of our development programs and initiatives. Depending on how you pronounce her name, she could be from any of the continents to which most developing countries belong. We work in development largely because we want to improve Babu’s life. We have a passionate concern; we want to do the very best that we can for her. We bring money, expertise and oodles of benevolence to Babu’s hometown. But we know that for the initiative to go well (and produced those magical ‘development results’) we need Babu to play her part. We need her to make a move of some kind. Perhaps we want her to:

Quote of the Week: Anthony Lake

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“All those who work in the international community on development tend to overstate the impact of what we’re doing. What’s far more important is the performance of governments.”

Anthony Lake, Executive Director, Unicef. As quoted in the Financial Times, May 19, 2012. How aid got smarter, by Simon Kuper.

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.

USAID
Two Guides You Must Read Before Using Mobile Technology for Behavior Change

“As the desire to utilize mobile phones in international health projects has increased in the last few years, organizations continually ask a similar question, “We want to use mobile phones. Now what?” But the decision to introduce or start a mhealth project needs to come after answering many questions before “now what?” especially when dealing with behavior change communication projects. Enter Abt Associates, FrontlineSMS, and Text to Change. Two guides have recently been released to help organizations assess whether or not mobiles are the right tool, and if they are, the process moving forward. One is from Abt Associates and is entitled mBCC Field Guide: A Resource for Developing Mobile Behavior Change Communication Programs. The other one was created in collaboration between FrontlineSMS and Text to Change and is entitled Communications for change: How to use text messaging as an effective behavior change campaigning tool.”  READ MORE

Is There Support for International Development?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Foreign aid has always been a contentious issue – especially when donor countries are in recession or trying to struggle out of one, while (some) formerly developing countries emerge with a stable and growing economy. From the viewpoint of policy makers in donor countries, the issue certainly has two sides: allocating support to the poorest countries in the world or those plagued by hunger and conflict, or stocking up much needed domestic programs for the poor and disadvantaged at home. Pressure from national interest groups is likely to push policy-makers toward domestic programs.

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 Economist
The Open Government Partnership

“UGANDA is not best known as a testbed for new ideas in governance. But research there by Jakob Svensson at the University of Stockholm and colleagues suggested that giving people health-care performance data and helping them organise to submit complaints cut the death rate in under-fives by a third. Publishing data on school budgets reduced the misuse of funds and increased enrolment.

Whether dewy-eyed or hard-edged, examples abound of the benefits of open government—the idea that citizens should be able see what the state is up to. Estonians track which bureaucrats have looked at their file. Indians scrutinise officials’ salaries painted on village walls. Russians help redraft laws. Norwegians examine how much tax the oil industry pays. Many see openness as a cure for corruption and incompetence in public administration. The problem is how to turn the fan base into an effective lobby.”  READ MORE

Is Sue Unsworth Right about Donors and Politics?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

For anybody who thinks about governance as an issue in development, Sue Unsworth needs no introduction. She used to be the main intellectual force behind DFID's 'drivers of change analysis', an approach to political economy analysis. She is now with the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, in the United Kingdom. She has just published an  article in the Journal of International Development  titled 'What's Politics Got to do with It?: Why Donors Find It So Hard to Come to Terms with Politics, and Why it Matters' (a free version can be found here).

The article deserves wide attention. In it, Unsworth points out that donors are paying more attention to politics these days than they used to, and some are even applying political analysis to aspects of development practice, but huge barriers remain that ensure that all this is having little influence on  mainstream debates about how to do development . Mainstream approaches remain apolitical and the 'implicit assumption is still that the obstacles to better governance and development performance are primarily financial, technical and managerial...'

'I'll Be Gone and You'll Be Gone'

Sina Odugbemi's picture

There was an article in the New York Times recently with the title 'What's Really Wrong With Wall Street Pay?'  In the article, the writer discusses a problem world leaders want to do something about but are not sure how. How do you stop compensation packages for bankers and traders in global markets from encouraging them to take the kinds of wild risks that have done so much damage to the global economy?  I wish the leaders the very best of luck in dealing with that one. Success in the endeavor is far from certain...to put it gently.

What caught my eye as I was reading the piece is what the writer says bankers call the "I.B.G-Y.B.G." problem, as in 'I'll be gone and you will be gone'. It is the moral hazard problem. Traders in global markets take incredible risks and recklessly, they collect their bonuses and move on. The firm takes all the risk. Well, it turns out that taxpayers take risks as well, since governments have had to bail out so many banks deemed too big to fail.

Results, Effectiveness, and Good Old Pragmatism

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Technocracies change very slowly, if at all. Why? I have come to believe that people are both enabled and imprisoned by the frameworks and paradigms of their technical disciplines, the subjects in which they have earned advanced degrees from top universities. It is how they tend to see the world. It is also how they approach problems in international development.

Let's take an example. Suppose you are thinking through how to improve the governance of the transport sector in Gugu Republic. Engineers will see an engineering challenge. Economists will see markets and incentive systems. Political scientists will look for the underlying 'rules of the game', the politics of why the sector does not function the way it should. Social development specialists will worry about affected 'communities'. And communication specialists? They want to think about the attitudes, opinions and behaviors of key stakeholders. So, you ask each of these specialists: How do we fix the problem? The tendency is for each one to apply the frameworks and paradigms of the academic discipline he or she has emerged from. This is where power comes in. If one of these professional groups is in power in a particular development institution or sector then the temptation is to impose the frameworks and paradigms of that discipline.