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Policy Networks

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

How the other tenth lives
The Economist

WHAT is the most important number in global economics? Judging by the volume of commentary it excites, America’s monthly payrolls report (released on October 7th) might qualify. Other contenders include the oil price or the dollar’s exchange rate against the euro, yen or yuan. These numbers all reflect, and affect, the pace of economic activity, with immediate consequences for bond yields, share prices and global prosperity—which is what economics is ultimately all about.  But if global prosperity is the ruling concern of economics, then perhaps a more significant number was released on October 2nd by the World Bank. It reported that 767m people live in extreme poverty, subsisting on less than $1.90 a day, calculated at purchasing-power parity and 2011 prices. The figure is not up-to-the-minute: such is the difficulty in gathering the data that it is already over two years out of date. Nor did the announcement move any markets. But the number nonetheless matters. It represents the best attempt to measure gains in prosperity among the people most in need of them.

Post-war Political Settlements: From Participatory Transition Processes to Inclusive State-building and Governance
Relief Web

The last decade has seen a growing convergence of policy and research discourses among development, peace and conflict, and democratisation experts, with regards to the assumed benefits of inclusive transition processes from conflict and fragility to peace and resilience. The realisation that the social, economic or political exclusion of large segments of society is a key driver of intra-state wars has prompted donor agencies, diplomats and peacebuilding practitioners, as well as the respective academic communities, to search for the right formula to support inclusive and participatory conflict transformation mechanisms and post-war state-society relations. While these various stakeholders profess rhetorical commitment to inclusivity, the term is used in very different and sometimes even in contradictory ways.

Ebola: How a people’s science helped end an epidemic

Duncan Green's picture

Guest book review from Anita Makri, an editor and writer going freelance after 5+ years with SciDev.Net. (@anita_makri)

I’m sure that to readers of this blog the Ebola epidemic that devastated West Africa a couple of years ago needs no introduction (just in case, here’s a nice summary by the Guardian’s health editor). So I’ll cut to the chase, and to a narrative that at the time was bubbling underneath more familiar debates about responding to health crises – you know, things like imperfect governance, fragile health systems, drug shortages.

All of them important, but this narrative was new. It was about fear, communication and cooperation – the human and social side of the crisis (explored in a SciDev.Net collection I commissioned at the time). There was also an unsettling undercurrent to it – one that conveyed ‘otherness’ and ignorance on the part of West Africans, fuelled by reports of violence against health workers and of communities resisting expert advice against risky funeral rites.

But if you listened closely, you could just about make out the voices of anthropologists trying to dispel notions that these reactions were about exotic or traditional cultures. Paul Richards was one of those voices, and luckily he’s put together a rare account of evidence, theory and experience in a book that should trigger real reflection on how we can do better in handling similar crises (hint: more listening).

Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic tells the story of the epidemic through the eyes of someone with intimate knowledge of the region and the rules that influence human interactions – very much an anthropologist’s perspective, not an epidemiologist’s. The book turns the mainstream discourse on its head, putting what Richards calls “people’s science” on an equal footing with the more orthodox science behind the international response. It captures how people and experts adapted to each other, falling into a process of knowledge co-production.

Are Policy Networks Insiders or Outsiders?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

As readers of this blog will have realized, we have been watching with keen interest the effort to reform the health care system in the United States in order to pull out generalizable lessons for reform efforts elsewhere. As you must also know, over the month of August that reform effort ran into some turbulence, with lively town-hall meetings, and the rise of a blocking coalition. The outcome remains in the balance as I write.

Now, other students of the process have offered one explanation of the current challenges faced by this particular reform effort. They say that much of the effort concentrated for a long time on the Inside Game, that is getting the United States Congress to act, and keeping the discussion within authoritative state institutions. According to these observers, reformers ignored the Outside Game...building a reform coalition within the broader society, and shaping public opinion. That supposedly gave opponents of reform the chance to build what they hope will be a  blocking coalition, frame the reform effort negatively and so on. These observers believe that the Outside Game is now on, but some damage was done.