But who wins and who loses as rising numbers risk everything to reach safety?
No Turning Back
"In those mountains, you are not sure if something will eat you or attack you," said Mahmoud, 38, in Arabic through an interpreter at a migrant centre in the Serbian capital Belgrade.
"My two children got very scared. They used to tell me, 'No father, we don't want to go with smugglers, we don't want to go to the forest.' We suffered in the mountains."
Scared and helpless, in those dark moments Mahmoud said he wrestled with his decision four years ago to gamble everything - his money and the lives of his wife and children - to pay nameless strangers to smuggle them to safety, becoming another pawn in the global people trade widely known as "The Game".
"If you go, you succeed. If you don't go, you lose. That's why they call it a game," said 20-year-old Afghan migrant Ahmad Shakib who made it to Serbia from Bulgaria after three 'games'.
It’s often a good sign when you rock up at a conference and hardly know anyone there. That was my experience at a recent, rather grandiosely-named, ‘Digital Development Summit’, hosted by IDS, Nesta and the Web Foundation, which clearly got people’s attention – the places were fully booked within a day of going live. Participants were diverse: developing country ministers, donor officials, tech company execs, AI pioneers, and civil society types like me.
The topic was ‘the future of work in the digital age’ (see the IDS background paper for more details), and I got to listen to a day of presentations, taking in both the substance and the mood of the discussion. This topic, more than most others, attracts both tiggers and eeyores (for Winnie the Pooh fans – optimists and pessimists, if you’re not). The tiggers bounce around telling stories of amazing start-ups in African slums, or how drones are about to start delivering aid; the eeyores sigh and say ‘every driver in America is about to lose their job to driverless vehicles, and developing country jobs are even more at risk’. Both were represented in roughly equal numbers (and some people seemed to move from one to the other at a startling rate). Who’s right?
“Forgetting the importance of national landscapes, cultures, national behaviours, reactions and reflexes is a big, big mistake. I am against nationalists, but I am very much in favour of patriots.”
Jean-Claude Juncker - The President of the European Commission.
Quoted in Financial Times print edition March 25, 2017 "Lunch with the FT" by Lionel Barber.
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform. In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
How much do we really know about inequality within countries around the world? Adjusting Gini coefficients for missing top incomes
The topic of inequality has been trending globally for the past several years. Attention has focused especially on the very top of the income distribution in each country, which traditional measures of inequality, drawn from representative household surveys, struggle to capture accurately. In place of surveys, researchers have made use of tax data, which provide a more robust account of incomes of the richest segment of society. In a handful of countries, analysis reveals that the share of income accounted for by the top 1 percent has grown sharply. This presents a quandary. The more new information we uncover about top incomes, the less faith we have in traditional survey-based inequality measures, and the less knowledge we can claim to have about the distribution of income across an economy’s entire population.
The “5Ds”: Changing attitudes to open defecation in India
World Bank Water blog
In the village of Bharsauta in Uttar Pradesh, India, construction worker Vishwanath lives with his wife, four children and their elderly parents. Three years ago, the government paid to build a toilet in their house. But the job was not done well: the pit was too shallow, it overflows frequently, and the smell makes it suffocating to use. Cleaning the toilet requires carrying water from a community tap. Vishwanath and his family have decided it isn’t worth the hassle. Mostly, they continue to defecate in the open. Vishwanath’s family is not alone. Research has shown that that households which constructed their own toilets, rather than receiving a government subsidy, are more likely to use them. But what are the most effective ways to persuade people to construct their own toilets?
- Weekly Wire
Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For March 2017, the featured blog post is "Future Jobs for youth in Agriculture and Food Systems: Learning from our backyard in DC" by Iftikhar Mostafa and Parmesh Shah.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally more than 300 million people suffer from depression. However, less than half of these affected seek and get help. In addition to stigma surrounding depression, one of the biggest barriers why people are unable to seek and get help is the lack of government spending worldwide for mental health services. “According to WHO’s “Mental Health Atlas 2014” survey, governments spend on average 3% of their health budgets on mental health, ranging from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in high-income countries.”
Mental health needs to be at the forefront of the humanitarian and development agenda, in order to achieve the set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments around the world must scale up their investment in mental health services, as the current commitments are inadequate. The study published by “The Lancet Psychiatry” calls for greater investment in mental health services. “We know that treatment of depression and anxiety makes good sense for health and wellbeing; this new study confirms that it makes sound economic sense too,” said Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “We must now find ways to make sure that access to mental health services becomes a reality for all men, women and children, wherever they live.”
Earlier this week I spent a day with Oxfam’s biggest cheeses, discussing how we should react to the rising tide of nationalism and populism (if you think that’s a Northern concern, take a look at what is going on in India or the Philippines). One of the themes that emerged in the discussions was how to engage with social norms – the deeply held beliefs of what is natural, normal and acceptable that underpin a lot of human behaviour, including how people treat each other and how they vote.
It’s pretty common to hear progressive types (in which category I include Oxfam) worry that while they have been busy having geeky conversations on the evidence on this or that intervention/project, or the case for this or that policy change, they have ignored the tide of disillusionment with politics-as-usual that underpins the rise of populism. We need to engage the public in a wider conversation aimed at encouraging progressive norms, or opposing exclusionary ones.
Fair enough, but what struck me is just how much would need to change for that to become reality. What would a ‘guide to shifting norms’ cover? Here are a few thoughts; please add your own.
There doesn’t seem to be much evidence on how to change norms. Eg what lies behind the increasing acceptance of the rights of people with disabilities? Or the age at which we deem chlldhood to end? Or even why dog owners routinely pick up their pooches’ pooh in my local park, something that was unimaginable a generation ago? How do deliberate attempts at change interact with the forces of demographic, technological or cultural change that also help drive norm shifts? This is one area where we really do need more research, both historical and current.
Spreading the word about the need to get ahead of climate change and disasters, linking people and organisations so they can tackle problems better together, discovering new knowledge and resources to build resilience - apart from that, 'what have networks ever done for us?' we might ask, to steal the famous Monty Python line.
It's a question we set out to answer at a panel discussion I moderated at the RES/CON gathering in New Orleans earlier this month. With Zilient.org, we are aiming to build an online "network of networks" - and so understanding the value of networks and the challenges of creating effective ones will be key to what we do.
At the conference, a diverse line-up of panelists - from the non-profit, private and public sectors – gave their insights. Here are some of the key ideas that emerged:
1. New forms of collaboration: The huge challenges posed to societies and economies by global problems like climate change require an "all hands on deck" approach. The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), set up in 2008 by The Rockefeller Foundation, now helps some 50 cities in the region devise and implement strategies to help urban communities address climate change. Shannon Alexander, a senior director at development agency Mercy Corps, which has also supported the network, said ACCCRN had enabled civil society to have a voice, and work with local governments and business to figure out what the problems are, and how best to solve them.
Mohsin Hamid - novelist and writer. His novels include Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and Exit West.
Photo credit: By Mr.choppers (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
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