As part of our discussion on creating jobs and expanding social protection in post-conflict and fragile states, we focus in on the Middle East — specifically Yemen. As is the case in sub-Saharan Africa, fragile states must contend with high youth unemployment, scarce formal sector jobs, weak institutions, and a lack of social protection, on top of the loss of lives, assets, education, and disruption from the conflict itself. The JKP recently spoke with Abdullah Al-Dailami, Acting Managing Director of the Social Fund for Development (SFD), who says that a major emphasis now is providing access to financial and non-financial services to help people engage in self-employment.
Bangladesh's economy is currently subject to probably the harshest test of resilience it has faced in recent memory. In the past, growth continued to be resilient despite several external shocks that slowed exports, remittance, and investment. Bangladesh’s resilience to global shocks came from strong fundamentals at the onset of the crisis, competiveness of exports and migrant labor, relatively under-developed and insulated financial markets, and a pre-emptive policy posture. Bangladesh has a robust disaster management capacity to deal with natural disasters, undertake rescue operations, and conduct post-disaster relief and rehabilitation.
Over the past two decades, citizen-led initiatives to hold power holders to account have taken the world by storm. The promise embedded in such efforts – that more enlightened and engaged citizens demanding greater accountability around issues that they care about can have a decisive impact in improving development effectiveness, the quality of (democratic) governance and the nature of state-society relations – has led to a mushrooming of transparency and accountability initiatives (TAIs). TAIs operating at the domestic, regional and/or international levels now cover a plethora of issues ranging from corruption, access to information, and budget processes, to natural resource management, service delivery, and aid.
It's a place of darkness. People are poor and hail from tribes and clans. They live in basic shelters in remote villages, with no running water or electricity, and no access to clinics. Subsisting on seasonal work, hunting and fishing to stock up food for the lean months, they worship nature's beauty. They consider themselves hardy, descendants of those who suffered war, famine, and religious persecution. They resent that their part of the earth gets attention only through the prism of movies or when natural or manmade disasters strike. Then oil is found and they are blessed.
Nope, this isn't one of the many countries we all associate with poverty. It is not a "fragile state" the term often used for the richest in oil and gas and other mineral resources countries in Africa with the poorest citizens affected by the curse of resources: foreign meddling, conflict, war, corruption and autocratic dictators. This is Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in the 1970s.
In 1975 the Alaska legislature asked itself: Was it morally acceptable or ethical for the generation whose presence in Alaska coincided with the oil boom to get all the benefits, leaving the following generations to deal with the decline and fall? No said the majority who thought the Alaskans of the future should have a nest egg and be allowed to share in a temporary windfall from the finite oil resource.
Alaska set up the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APF). In 1987, the APF was worth US$11 billion, and by 1997 it was US$24 billion, exceeding total state oil and gas revenues. As of March 2013 it was US$45.5 billion. The lesson is that managed professionally, a national asset can grow into the future beyond the finite resource. You can read the whole case study by Steve Cowper, a former Alaska Governor (no, not that one), in a book edited by the World Bank's Jennifer Johnson Calari. In neighboring Alberta in Canada the Alberta Heritage Fund had been set up a year earlier.
Iran's Citizen Income Scheme, along the lines of the APF, is the largest in the world providing cash transfers to all its citizens, universally from its oil revenues. Per capita $500 is transferred to over 75.3 million citizens costing about $45 billion a year and will amount to 15 percent of national income, while Alaska's average is 3-4 percent .
A huge and chaotic conversation over how to respond to the appalling Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh (where the death toll has now passed an unprecedented 1100) is producing some important initial results, in the form of the international ‘Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh’, launched last week.
I got a glimpse of the background on Wednesday at a meeting of the Ethical Trading Initiative, which brings together big brand retailers, including garment companies, trades unions and INGOs like Oxfam to work on wages and conditions in company supply chains. The Accord got some pretty rave reviews – ‘absolutely historic’, said Ben Moxham of the UK Trades Union Congress; comparable to the 1911 Chicago factory fire, according to one of the big clothes retailers at the meeting.
So what does it say? The Accord covers independent safety inspections, publicly reported; mandatory repairs and renovations; a vital role for workers and trade unions, including a commitment to Bangladesh’s Tripartite Plan of Action on Fire Safety (a national initiative). A key, and controversial aspect is that the Accord will include a legally binding arbitration mechanism, which wins a lot of trust from civil society and trade unions, but has spooked a number of companies based in the litigation-tastic USA (not all though – part of Tommy Hilfiger’s in there, while Abercrombie and Fitch have said it they will join).