Here are some fact and figures:
The business case for using social media in communications is clear: Social media is faster, often cheaper and, for the most part, offers a better way to connect. For communicators, social media is (or should be) an intrinsic part of every campaign or project.
Early in the morning on Saturday, January 19, 2013, negotiators from around 140 countries completed negotiations for the Mercury Treaty that will be adopted later this year in Japan. It will be known as the Minamata Convention, in deference to the victims of mercury poisoning from industrial pollution that occurred when residents of the Minamata Bay ingested contaminated fish and shellfish in the 1950s.
The Convention that took four years to negotiate under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) joins the ranks of a number of treaties that address chemicals and wastes. It is the first treaty to specifically address heavy metals.
Why is the international community concerned about mercury? Mercury is typically released into the environment in metallic, or “elemental”, form, or as an inorganic salt. In elemental form, it easily vaporises and can be transported great distances worldwide. When deposited in the environment, mercury eventually can be transformed to its organic forms, including Methylmercury, which is highly toxic and readily accumulates and bioconcentrates in animals and humans. Eventually, mercury settles in cold climates and bioconcentrates up the food chains to the point that Indigenous Peoples in the North that rely on traditional foods are exposed to damaging high levels.
One of the reasons heavy metals are difficult to address is that they are mobilised through human activities, but they are also released in the environment through natural processes, for example through volcanic eruptions or in deep-sea vents. Nevertheless, estimates are that at any given time, 90% of the mercury cycling in the environment is linked to human activities – hence the need for action. The recently released UNEP Global Mercury Assessment 2013 outlines major sources of emissions, geographic and temporal trends, and behaviour in the environment.
Moreover, international action is warranted because of the transboundary dimension of the issue. In the United States for example, it is estimated that half the mercury in fish caught in rivers comes from anthropogenic Continental sources – predominantly from coal burning – whilst the other half represents emissions from Asia. At the same time, by some estimates, approximately 50% of US releases are deposited beyond the country’s border. This is textbook justification for international action.
In this final post (Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon have opted not to write a second installment), Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche reply to their critics. And now is your chance to vote – but only if you’ve read all three posts, please.The comments on this have been brilliant, and I may well repost some next week, when I’ve had a chance to process.
Let’s start with what we seem to agree upon:
- Unhappiness with ‘experts’ – or at least the kind that pat you patronizingly on the arm,
- The importance of understanding context and politics,
- Power and political institutions are generally biased against the poor,
- We don’t know much about the ability of aid agencies to influence transformational change,
- Mixed methods approaches to producing ‘evidence’ are important. And, importantly,
- We are all often wrong!
We suggest the principal difference between us seems to concern our assumptions about: how different kinds of change happen; what we can know about change processes; if how and when evidence from one intervention can practically be taken and sensibly used in another; and how institutional and political contexts then determine how evidence is then used in practice. This set of assumptions has fundamental importance for international development practice.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“While sharing its financial results for the fourth quarter, Facebook on Wednesday announced a number of new milestones. The social network has now passed 1.06 billion monthly active users. Of those, daily active users passed 618 million on average during December 2012 and the number monthly active mobile users hit 680 million.
Here’s the breakdown from the release:
- Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.06 billion as of December 31, 2012, an increase of 25% year-over-year.
- Daily active users (DAUs) were 618 million on average for December 2012, an increase of 28% year-over-year.
- Mobile MAUs were 680 million as of December 31, 2012, an increase of 57% year-over-year.
- Mobile DAUs exceeded web DAUs for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2012.” READ MORE
Co-authored with Richard Akresh and Harounan Kazianga
For nearly a month, I have not read a single newspaper without an article on the harassment of women in the public space and transport. In newspaper articles across the world, there is a brewing sentiment echoing the story of violence that a woman recently faced on a bus in Delhi.
There is one simple answer to the “what-will-it-take-to-end-poverty” question: it will take courageous politicians who actually implement the policies we already know are needed. Politicians, even the well-intentioned ones, are too often unable to implement good policies, because bad policies are needed for their political survival. For example, vote-buying, the direct exchange of “gifts” or money for political support during elections is widespread in many developing countries. For the first time, new research provides direct empirical evidence that where vote-buying practices are more prevalent, governments invest less in pro-poor services.
Yesterday Chris Roche and Rosalind Eyben set out their concerns over the results agenda. Today Chris Whitty (left), DFID’s Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Adviser and Stefan Dercon (right), its Chief Economist, respond.
It is common ground that “No-one really believes that it is feasible for external development assistance to consist purely of ‘technical’ interventions.” Neither would anyone argue that power, politics and ideology are not central to policy and indeed day-to-day decisions. Much of the rest of yesterday’s passionate blog by Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche sets up a series of straw men, presenting a supposed case for evidence-based approaches that is far removed from reality and in places borders on the sinister, with its implication that this is some coming together of scientists in laboratories experimenting on Africans, 1930s colonialism, and money-pinching government truth-junkies. Whilst this may work as polemic, the logical and factual base of the blog is less strong.
Rosalind and Chris start with evidence-based medicine, so let’s start in the same place. One of us (CW) started training as the last senior doctors to oppose evidence-based medicine were nearing retirement. ‘My boy’ they would say, generally with a slightly patronising pat on the arm, ‘this evidence-based medicine fad won’t last. Every patient is different, every family situation is unique; how can you generalise from a mass of data to the complexity of the human situation.” Fortunately they lost that argument. As evidence-informed approaches supplanted expert opinion the likelihood of dying from a heart attack dropped by 40% over 10 years, and the research tools which achieved this (of which randomised trials are only one) are now being used to address the problems of health and poverty in Africa and Asia.
Empirical evidence on the effectiveness of productivity incentives in the public sector is sparse. However donor enthusiasm is growing for this general approach and certain lessons are emerging.