Extreme poverty in the world has decreased considerably over the past three decades. In 1981, more than half of citizens in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate has dropped dramatically to 21% in 2010. Moreover, despite a 59% increase in the developing world’s population, there were significantly fewer people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010 (1.2 billion) than there were three decades ago (1.9 billion). However, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty—an extremely high figure, so the task ahead of us remains herculean.
This blog post is co-authored by Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel, and Dilek Barlas, Executive Secretary of the Inspection Panel.
The World Bank Inspection Panel this week released the first in a series of reports that draw on the main lessons from its caseload over 22 years. The lessons identified in the “Emerging Lessons Series” are intended to help build the Bank’s institutional knowledge base, enhance accountability, foster better results in project outcomes and, ultimately, contribute to more effective development.
The Panel was created in 1993 by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank as an independent mechanism to receive complaints submitted by people suffering harm allegedly caused by World Bank projects. Since then, the Panel has received 105 requests for inspection, of which it has registered 85 and investigated 32. Two additional investigations are underway.
The “Emerging Lessons Series” will include reports on the most recurrent issues in the Panel’s caseload: involuntary resettlement, environmental assessment, projects involving indigenous peoples, and requirements for consultation, participation and disclosure of information.
It seemed logical to start with involuntary resettlement as the topic of the first report because it has been an issue in 21 of the Panel’s 32 cases. The report identifies seven lessons from those cases:
The scale of the global land grab is staggering. While international actors have made excellent progress establishing complaint boards, issuing principles for responsible investment, and securing commitments from multinational corporations, these protections do not chart a clear course of action that communities can follow to protect their lands and natural resources before an investor arrives seeking land.
The problem is that once an investor arrives to “consult with” a community, it may be too late. After a deal has been made in capital city conference rooms or in clandestine meetings between chiefs and company representatives, communities are forced on the defensive. At this point, all they can do is try to mitigate the negative impacts of investors' plans rather than assertively proclaiming their legal rights, demanding that the investor abide by FPIC principles, and then choosing whether to reject the investment or accept it on terms that ensure that the community benefits and prospers.
Meanwhile, many of the “investors” grabbing land are national or local elites unaccountable to international institutions – the cousin of the President or the nephew of the Minister – who operate with complete impunity, protected by powerful connections to government, the judiciary and the police. Such individuals do not answer to shareholders or complaint boards, and are not the least bit concerned with principles of corporate social responsibility. If a community’s land claims are unrecognized or undocumented – and if the community’s leadership is weak or corrupt – the easier it is for these elites to manipulate their power to claim what land they want.
To have a fighting chance against elites’ badfaith actions, communities must proactively take steps to know and enforce their rights, prevent their leaders from transacting land without community approval, and seek legal recognition of their land claims. And they must do so before elites and investors arrive.
Nevertheless, they are too small in size and quality to make the kind of dent in jobs and employment that is needed. Agriculture accounts for 32% of total employment globally, according to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends Report 2014. In 2013, 74.5 million youth – aged 15-24 - were unemployed, an increase of more than 700,000 over the previous year. That same year, the global youth unemployment rate reached 13.1%, which was almost three times as high as the adult unemployment rate. One contributing factor in these rates is the lack of interest in agriculture among youth cohorts. Simply put, agriculture is not a preferred job and livelihood option for young people.
Last week I visited Oxfam’s Philippines programme. Such trips follow a pretty standard format - our national staff and relevant partners with the moringa farmers whisk me through a series of site visits and conversations with farmers, civil society organizations, local government officials and anyone else who’ll talk to you. For a few days, I’m engrossed, wrestling on multiple levels, first to understand the intricacies of the projects, and then to try and get at the meta-questions: what are the strengths and weaknesses in our work? What could we be doing better? Is there a clear power analysis and theory of change? Discussions continue in vehicles to and from the visits, over dinner and (sometimes) in the bar, as everyone grapples with the incredibly difficult business of ‘doing development’. It’s intense and definitely the best bit of the job.
I went to Mindanao, one of the poorest and most conflict-ridden islands in the Philippines archipelago, and home to 23m of its 94m population. The focus was our livelihoods work (I hate the term, but can’t think of anything better to describe the complex ways poor people find to put food on the family table). Such work forms the backbone of many of Oxfam’s programmes. In Mindanao, we’re working with women farmers to introduce new crops or upgrade existing ones: