Last week I spoke at a Brussels conference on inequality, organized by the Belgian NGO coalition 11.11.11. Inequality is flavour of the month right now, showing surprising staying power within the post-2015 process and elsewhere. Inequality gabfests usually involve violent agreement that inequality is indeed a Bad Thing, lots of evidence for why this is the case, and polite disagreements on what inequality we should target first – often along the lines of ‘because inequality is really important, we should all work on X’, where X just happens to be the thing that person works on anyway. A more retro variant involves ritual combat between supporters of equality of opportunity (aka American Dream) v equality of outcome (Socialist Paradise). Cynical, moi?
But in Brussels, I had a more difficult, but interesting job: what, if anything, should we do differently if our focus is on inequality rather than, say ‘getting to zero’ on poverty? So let’s imagine. It’s 2015, the UN has signed off on a shift in focus from poverty (MDGs) to inequality (post-2015). True, the commitment is a little vague (hey, this is the UN we’re talking about), but now NGOs and official donors are charged with the task of turning this into a viable campaign and lobbying exercise. What might a Make Inequality History campaign look like?
Community driven development (CDD) has been a key operational strategy supported by the World Bank for more than a decade – averaging about $2 billion in lending every year and now covering more than 80 countries. By emphasizing empowerment and putting resources in the direct control of community groups, CDD’s rapid spread stems from its promise of achieving inclusive and sustainable poverty reduction. Yet despite its popularity, evidence on whether these programs work still remains limited and scattered. Recently, two significant efforts have been made by the Bank to pull together the different strands of evidence there is on CDD and provide a summary picture of what we know and what we don’t (please see What Have Been the Impacts of World Bank Community-Driven Program? and Localizing Development – Does Participation Work?). The reviews find on the positive end that CDD-type programs, when implemented properly, do well on delivering service delivery outcomes in sectors like health and education, improve resource sustainability, and help in constructing lower cost and better quality infrastructure.
International rock star Bono recently visited the World Bank where he was hosted by Bank President Jim Kim (see photo). In a packed and electrifying session, moderated by CNN news anchor Isha Sesay, Bono and Kim talked about corruption, transparency, food security, and gender inclusion. Bono called on the Bank to join civil society efforts to fight for the end of poverty. While praising the Bank’s recent open development reforms, he noted that open data and transparency would “turbo-charge” the fight against extreme poverty as it will shine a light on this urgent problem. He jokingly referred to Bank economists as “jedis for development” and said that he never thought he would say publicly “I want to go work for the Bank.” As the head of One, Bono has been an effective advocate for greater aid to Africa over the years. One reason for his success has been his willingness to work with both donor and recipient country governments to push for greater aid. In the US, he has reached out to both Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress to lobby for foreign aid, and is credited for having convinced the Bush Administration to sharply expand funding for Africa and HIV/AIDS in the mid-2000s.
Social Accountability is getting more and more innovative these days. A recent event organized by Justice for the Poor (J4P) showcased a pilot program in Sierra Leone where a group of development practitioners are exploring new ideas on social accountability and how legal empowerment tools, such as community paralegals can play a complementary role by helping communities navigate the murky waters of administrative accountability and hold the government and the healthcare service providers accountable.
I’ve got a paper I want you to read, particularly if you work for an NGO or other lobbying outfit. Not because it’s good – far from it – but because reading it and (if you work for an NGO) observing your rising tide of irritation will really help you understand how those working in the private sector, government or the multilateral system feel when they read a generalized and ill-informed NGO attack on their work.
The paper in question is from a reputable institution (Manchester University’s Brooks World Poverty Institute) and authors (Nicola Banks and David Hulme), and is about ‘the role of NGOs and civil society in development and poverty reduction’. Here’s the abstract:
The open agenda took a new twist a few weeks ago when Jamie Drummond, the Executive Director of ONE, talked about the open agenda at TEDGlobal by suggesting that post-MDG goals be “crowd-sourced,” i.e., people around the world should have a say in what they think the new MDGs should be. In a recent op-ed in the Globe and Mail, Drummond refers to this as the “bottom-up” poverty plan and notes, “A new plan can avoid the pitfalls of past top-down approaches – if it supports a more bottom-up citizen-led strategy for sustainable development.”
Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011
Originally published on February 8, 2011
Frank Rich, op-ed columnist at the New York Times, made a very important point this week: Revolutions are not about Facebook and Twitter. Revolutions are about human dignity and hunger. It seems that a few journalists are trying to push the (mainstream) media's fascination with the role of (social) media in Egypt, Tunisia, and Iran toward a more realistic point of view. After a prime-time CNN talking head stated that social media are the most fascinating thing about the events in Egypt (!), some senior journalists seem to have had it with the ICT hype. Rich tries to pull attention to why people rise up against their government: "starting with the issues of human dignity and crushing poverty."
- Iran, Islamic Republic of
- Egypt, Arab Republic of
- Middle East and North Africa
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Richard Engel
- Public Sentinel
- New York Times
- Lawrence Pintak
- Jim Clancy
- Independent Media
- Frank Rich
- Al Jazeera
The gender dimensions of corruption have typically been approached from the point of view of whether women are less corrupt than men and whether women are disproportionately affected by corruption. While the concept of women inherently possessing a higher level of integrity has been challenged, studies have confirmed that women do indeed bear significant negative consequences from corruption, at least in fragile states and weak institutional settings. In an article published on Transparency International's Anti-Corruption Research Network, Farzana Nawaz discusses these issues, the highlights of which I will cover in this blog.
Access to safe and reliable drinking water is not only problematic in rural areas but is becoming a growing concern in rapidly urbanizing cities in developing countries. Often, utilities do not get extended in low income areas and, even if they do, they are generally of poor quality. As a result, the poor are impacted the most. In recognition to this, The UN General Assembly recently passed a regulation (2010) that declared access to safe drinking water and sanitation a human right. However, to enable proper implementation of this declaration, meaningful participation is required from citizens to secure service delivery that meets their needs. Here is a case experiment in Kenya that sheds some light on the advantages and challenges involved in promoting citizen participation in water service delivery.