These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Foreign aid is a shambles in almost every way
NOT long ago Malawi was a donor darling. Being dirt poor and ravaged by AIDS, it was needy; with just 17m inhabitants, a dollop of aid might visibly improve it. Better still, it was more-or-less democratic and its leader, Joyce Banda, was welcome at Westminster and the White House. In 2012 Western countries showered $1.17 billion on it, and foreign aid accounted for 28% of gross national income. The following year corrupt officials, businessmen and politicians pinched at least $30m from the Malawian treasury in just six months. A bureaucrat investigating the thefts was shot three times (he survived, somehow). Germany said it would help pay for an investigation; later, burglars raided the home of a German official and stole documents relating to the scandal. Malawi is no longer a donor darling.
The capabilities of finance ministries
All countries have a finance ministry. If one organizational feature defines what makes a state a state, it is a central unit that handles income and expenditure – or aspires to. This remains remarkably consistent irrespective of the huge variations in the purpose and institutional shape of government. Finance ministries are also at the centre of many current policy discussions, whether on how to respond to the 2008 financial crisis, how best to fund global development goals, or how an emerging economy should go about establishing a welfare state. Virtually every policy decision that involves the raising and spending of public money involves a finance ministry at some stage. Yet despite their almost self-evident importance, very few studies focused on finance ministries as objects of study.
Democracy Is the Answer to Climate Change
The Paris agreement of December 2015 raised new hopes that the worst effects of climate change might yet be averted. This agreement, whose signatories have agreed to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a voluntary basis, marks the first major international pact to combat climate change since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. In contrast to Kyoto, however, whose signatories accounted for only about 14 percent of global emissions, the countries that signed the Paris deal account for a whopping 96 percent. Of course, the outstanding question is whether the agreement will actually be implemented. As its critics are quick to point out, the Paris climate pact is a “soft law” that lacks the legal clout to impose sanctions and penalties, but rather attempts to change behavior through norm-building and consensus. And past attempts by individual nations to control greenhouse gas emissions have produced scant results.
Global Multidimensional Poverty Index
Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative
The global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is an international measure of acute poverty covering over 100 developing countries. It complements traditional income-based poverty measures by capturing the severe deprivations that each person faces at the same time with respect to education, health and living standards. The MPI assesses poverty at the individual level. If someone is deprived in a third or more of ten (weighted) indicators (see left), the global index identifies them as ‘MPI poor’, and the extent – or intensity – of their poverty is measured by the number of deprivations they are experiencing.
Comment: World Humanitarian Summit Roundup
The underpinnings of the World Humanitarian Summit that took place in Istanbul on May 23-24 can be traced to years of vexation among NGOs, governments and U.N. agencies over failed humanitarian interventions in both conflict and non-conflict contexts. The international community’s inability to cope with the global migration flows “is glaring evidence of this failure,” claim organizations such as Oxfam. A majority of the civil society actors, including Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council who attended the conference, called for change at all levels of bureaucracy, within governments and the humanitarian sector, for a palpable difference.
Is Good Governance Key To Eliminating Poverty?
Inter Press Service
For over a decade, much of the international development community, led by the OECD and the World Bank, promoted ‘good governance’ as a pre-requisite for economic development and poverty eradication. Good governance became the explanation for the failure of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) to deliver economic growth and poverty reduction. The link between good governance and poverty eradication is premised on the presumption that good governance promotes economic growth and development. It was presumed that SAPs were good for growth and the poor. But the disappointing results of SAPs had to be explained away, and blaming poor or bad governance provided a convenient explanation which did not challenge the economic rationale for the SAPs. Bad governance was also convenient to blame to excuse poor aid effectiveness.
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