Syndicate content


A nice example of how government-to-government peer pressure can lead to innovation

Duncan Green's picture

John HammockGuest post from John Hammock of the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative

In Duncan Green's thought-provoking blog ‘Hello SDGs, what’s your theory of change?’ he rightly identifies peer pressure as a potentially very effective means of governments coming to internalise the SDGs in their domestic processes and influencing others to follow suit. Let me give an instructive case study based on our experience at OPHI.

I think there is common ground that effective change must be owned by the implementers of change, not by donors or academics, not by consultants or think-tanks, not by well-wishers (or even bloggers).  Change happens in government when the change is owned and this happens when the policy maker sees how the policy will help both deal with the problem in real time and help the government in power.

Let’s take the case of multidimensional poverty and its measurement.  OPHI—an academic centre—developed at the end of 2008 the Alkire Foster method to measure multidimensional poverty, giving the world a practical tool to measure many deprivations that poor people face at the same time. Four years later, three ‘vanguard’ governments [to borrow Dunanc's phrase!], Mexico, Colombia and Bhutan, had adopted the measure but take-up elsewhere was painfully slow. Statisticians and geeks loved it, but governments were not following the starting three.

Where has the global movement against inequality got to, and what happens next?

Duncan Green's picture

Katy Wright, Oxfam's head of Global External AffairsKaty Wright, Oxfam’s Head of Global External Affairs, stands back and assesses its campaign on inequality.

The most frequent of the Frequently Asked Questions I’ve heard in response to Even it Up, Oxfam’s inequality campaign is “how equal do you think we should be?”

It’s an interesting response to the news that just 80 people now own the same wealth as half the world’s population put together, and the best answer was that given by Joe Stiglitz to a group of UN ambassadors: “I think we have a way to go before we worry about that.”

The Inequality BusSo how far do we have to go, exactly? The good news is that inequality is no longer just the concern of a small number of economists, trades unions and social justice campaigners. It’s now on the agenda for the international elite.

That partly reflects a growing realisation that inequality may be a problem for us all, not just those at the bottom. The Spirit Level  raised questions about the impact of inequality on societies, and the rise of Occupy pointed to a growing political concern.

More recently, research papers from the IMF have demonstrated extreme inequality is at odds with stable economic growth, and that redistribution is not bad for growth. Significantly, this shift in focus from the IMF has been driven by Christine Lagarde. To the outside world, the IMF now officially cares about inequality, as do Andy Haldane at the Bank of England, Donald Kaberuka (outgoing head of the African Development Bank), and Alicia Barcena of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, to name a few.

Davos: New Briefing on Global Wealth, Inequality and an Update of that 85 Richest = 3.5 Billion Poorest Killer Fact

Duncan Green's picture

This is Davos week, and over on the Oxfam Research team’s excellent new Mind the Gap blog, Deborah Hardoon has an update on the mind-boggling maths of global inequality. 


Wealth data from Credit Suisse, finds that the 99% have been getting less and less of the economic pie over the past few years as the 1% get more. By next year, if the 2010-2014 trend for the growing concentration of global wealth is to continue, the richest 1% of people in the world will have more wealth than the rest of the world put together.

Measurements of wealth capture financial assets (including money in the bank) as well as non financial assets such as property. It is not just inefficient to concentrate more and more wealth in the hands of a few, but also unjust. Just think of all the empty properties bought by wealthy people as investments rather than providing housing for those in need of a home. Think of the billionaire chugging out carbon emissions flying around in a private jet, whilst the poorest countries suffer most from the impacts of climate change and the poorest individuals living want for a decent bicycle to get to school or work.

Now That’s What I Call Social Protection: The Chile Solidario Programme

Duncan Green's picture

Another one of the fascinating case studies dug up by Sophie King for my recent UN paper on ‘The Role of the State in Empowering Poor and Excluded Groups and Individuals’. This one looks at how Chile manages its integrated social protection programme and is based on a paper by the excellent Stephanie Barrientos. Reading it really brings home the rapid erosion of any real distinction between North and South. Not at all sure UK provision is as good as this.
The Chile Solidario integrated anti-poverty programme was introduced by Government in 2002 as part of a wider drive to eradicate extreme poverty. It was designed according to a multi-dimensional understanding of poverty and capabilities to target 225,000 indigenous households using national socio-economic survey data.

Kevin Watkins on Inequality – Required Reading

Duncan Green's picture

If you want an overview of the current debates on inequality, read Kevin Watkins’ magisterial Ryszard Kapuściński lecture. Kevin, who will shortly take over as the new head of the Overseas Development Institute, argues that ‘getting to zero’ on poverty means putting inequality at the heart of the development debate and the post2015 agreement (he doesn’t share my scepticism on that one). As a taster, here are two powerful graphs, showing how poverty will fall globally and in India, with predicted growth rates, in a low/high/current inequality variants. QED, really.