Less than a month after the adoption of the new global development agenda – Agenda 2030 – the question “A Legal Identity for All by 2030: What Will It Take?” brought together 32 development practitioners and scholars for a three-day workshop to discuss an answer to this question, and how progress towards a legal identity for all could be measured. The workshop was co-hosted by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) based in New York and the Civil Registration Centre for Development (CRC4D) of The Hague, The Netherlands.
At this workshop, a variety of social scientists, historians, policy researchers and development practitioners examined the various forms of civil registration and identification currently used and introduced around the world. Participants considered the opportunities and implications of the choices that poor states, in particular, currently face.
An interesting outcome of these eclectic discussions was the need to disentangle the terms “legal identity,” “citizenship,” “identification,” “registration” and “ID documentation.” This will not only allow the international community to properly understand the development problems we are seeking to address, but also help to better identify the ways to achieve them.
Indeed, in some limited respects, people possess a legal identity whether or not they are registered — for example, a criminal suspect’s right to get a lawyer or to remain silent. Registration, in turn, may not be an entitlement to citizenship. Many countries still see citizenship as based on local or clan-based knowledge and personal attestation.
The number of people with indeterminate citizenship in Africa is probably far larger than the number of stateless people now identified. Sophisticated ID programs cannot resolve such questions and may exacerbate the difficulties of those excluded. They need to be preceded by political dialogue and, where necessary, legal reforms to reduce the risk of exclusion. An understanding that legal identity exists in many forms encourages us to first ask which legal identity/identities we are seeking to advance and for what developmental ends .
For a ‘club of rich countries’, the OECD spends a lot of time thinking about development. It’s Development Cooperation Directorate does the number crunching on aid; the OECD Development Centre publishes annual Economic Outlooks on Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, or Latin American revenue statistics.
Last week I spent a couple of chilly days at its Paris HQ at the 5th Global Forum on Development discussing the inevitable topic – post2015 and what comes after the MDGs (background papers here). I’m trying to resist the post2015 bandwagon, but it’s generating a hell of a slipstream.
But why did they even invite me? After all, my main reaction to the last OECD conference I attended was to write a post on the awfulness of such international events (a series of soporific panels in a lightless room), and whether they can be salvaged.
So was this one any better? Yes in a few important ways. OK, it was still 300 people in an underground bunker flicking through their emails and half-listening to panels that over-ran and ate up question time, but the organizers had added some nice IT spice to the mix.
The 2013 European Report on Development was published yesterday, with the title Post 2015: Global Action for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future. I’ve been rude about previous ERDs, and I’m afraid I’m going to be rude about this one, but a conversation at last week’s OECD gabfest (more on that tomorrow) at least made me think differently about the ERD’s purpose and value.
If you read the ERD as a thinktank document, it is pretty underwhelming. The 20 page exec sum (which is all they sent me in advance) contains no killer facts, no big new ideas and not much new reseach. When I asked one of the report’s authors for his 30 second elevator pitch on what was new, he couldn’t answer. So far, so bad (and they really need to get some media people involved on that elevator pitch).
As the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals approaches, much thought is being devoted to what should succeed that framework for measuring global progress against hunger, disease, and poverty. Any successor framework must reflect global aspirations and arise from a rich consultative process. I believe that the new framework must embrace a broader understanding of development — one that is relevant for all countries, rich as well as poor.
The world today looks very different from a few years ago. Many countries have high levels of debt that could make it difficult to undertake spending initiatives for many years. Financial sector incentives and regulation may have to be rethought, existing growth models refined to deliver sufficient new employment opportunities, and the functioning of the international monetary system revisited.