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Are International Conferences Getting Any Better? A Bit - Thanks to Some Sparky New Tech

Duncan Green's picture

For a ‘club of rich countries’, the OECD spends a lot of time thinking about development. It’s Development Cooperation Directorate does the number crunching on aid; the OECD Development Centre publishes annual Economic Outlooks on Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, or Latin American revenue statistics.

Last week I spent a couple of chilly days at its Paris HQ at the 5th Global Forum on Development discussing the inevitable topic – post2015 and what comes after the MDGs (background papers here). I’m trying to resist the post2015 bandwagon, but it’s generating a hell of a slipstream.

But why did they even invite me? After all, my main reaction to the last OECD conference I attended was to write a post on the awfulness of such international events (a series of soporific panels in a lightless room), and whether they can be salvaged.

So was this one any better? Yes in a few important ways. OK, it was still 300 people in an underground bunker flicking through their emails and half-listening to panels that over-ran and ate up question time, but the organizers had added some nice IT spice to the mix.

Do Hunger and Malnutrition Make You Want to Cry? Time to Get Your HANCI Out

Duncan Green's picture

Yesterday marked the launch of the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), produced by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) with funding from Irish Aid and DFID. It looks like it could become one of the more useful annual league tables.

It may not be seen as a progressive view in the UK, but I’m a big league table fan, especially when they’re combined with access to new information. They use political rivalry to motivate politicians, the media love them, they allow good guys to be praised, as well as under-performers to be slapped, and they hand civil society some useful ammunition. The post2015 circus might be well advised to spend more time designing an effective league table, rather than adding yet more issues to its Christmas tree.

The Rise of Brazil’s 'Marqueteiros'

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Did you know that Brazil is now exporting political campaign strategists? According to a fascinating profile published in the New York Times, Brazil’s top political campaign consultants are now working on elections in other Latin American countries, and they are even beginning to venture into Africa. Written by Simon Romero, the profile focuses on the work of Joao Santana, apparently a colorful and controversial figure. Key quotes:

In the past year, Mr Santana, a hypercompetitive 60-year-old former lyricist for an avant-garde rock band who refers to elections as “almost bloody combat,” accomplished the uncommon feat of simultaneously running winning campaigns for three presidents: Danilo Medina, in the Dominican Republic; Hugo Chavez, in Venezuela; and Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in Angola.

He [Mr Santana, that is] described politics as an activity involving theater, music and even religious rites since “primordial” times, and, with a dash of humor, said about his field, “Just as psychoanalysts help people to have sex without guilt, we help people to like politics without remorse.’

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.

ijnet
How InfoAmazonia is taking data storytelling to the next level

“Last year, InfoAmazonia launched a new website that began tracking environmental threats to the Amazon region, such as deforestation and wildfires, and displaying them in maps. Now, we're taking it to the next level by using interactive photo galleries and video mashups as a unique storytelling tool.

In addition, we are adding functionality to the site with the “distribution widget,” which will allow journalists and NGOs to customize their own maps and data layers.”  READ MORE

What Is the Point of the European Report on Development 2013?

Duncan Green's picture

The 2013 European Report on Development was published yesterday, with the title Post 2015: Global Action for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future. I’ve been rude about previous ERDs, and I’m afraid I’m going to be rude about this one, but a conversation at last week’s OECD gabfest (more on that tomorrow) at least made me think differently about the ERD’s purpose and value.

If you read the ERD as a thinktank document, it is pretty underwhelming. The 20 page exec sum (which is all they sent me in advance) contains no killer facts, no big new ideas and not much new reseach. When I asked one of the report’s authors for his 30 second elevator pitch on what was new, he couldn’t answer. So far, so bad (and they really need to get some media people involved on that elevator pitch).

The Key’s in the Keyboard: New Technologies Can Help Enhance India's Agricultural Productivity

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

Agriculture in India still remains the main source of livelihood for the majority of the rural population and more importantly the small holding farmers. With an average annual growth rate of 3.3%, the major challenges facing this sector include a shrinking land base, dwindling water resources, the adverse impact of climate change, shortage of farm labour, increasing costs and uncertainties associated with the volatility of international markets.

A pertinent factor that continues to impinge upon these challenges is the lack of timely information about market prices, crop varieties, production techniques, seasonal risk and disease control strategies. The critical question thus is — how can we effectively apply information and communication technologies (ICTs) in agriculture to mitigate the factors that lead to the physical isolation of the rural smallholder during the ensuing 12th Five Year Plan period.

Quote of the Week: Michael Sandel

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Right at the heart of market thinking is the idea that if two consenting adults have a deal, there is no need for others to figure out whether they valued that exchange properly. It’s the non-judgmental appeal of market reasoning that I think helped deepen its hold on public life and made it more than just an economic tool; it has elevated it into an unspoken public philosophy of everything.”

-- Michael Sandel, Professor of Government, at Harvard University. He's the author of numerous books, his most recent includes What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.

Mortal Combat in the Public Sphere

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The nature of the relationship between (elected) political leaders and the elite reporters dedicated to reporting on their activities is insufficiently studied, and its importance is inadequately appreciated. Yet that relationship says a lot about a political community, particularly:

  • the public political culture;
  • the nature of press/government relations generally;
  • some of the strengths of the governance system in that country;
  • some of the pathologies bedeviling governance in that country, and so on.

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