These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Does talking about corruption make it seem worse?
What do most people immediately think of when you ask them why poor countries are poor? We’re pretty confident that it will be corruption. Whether you ask thousands of people in a nationally representative survey, or small focus groups, corruption tops people’s explanations for the persistence of poverty. Indeed, 10 years of research into public perceptions of poverty suggests that corruption “is the only topic related to global poverty which the mass public seem happy to talk about”. Which is odd, because it’s the absolute last thing that people actually working in development want to talk about.
Africa’s moment to lead on climate
Climate change is the greatest threat facing humanity today. To avoid catastrophe, we must dramatically reduce the carbon intensity of our modern energy systems, which have set us on a collision course with our planetary boundaries. This is the challenge leading up to three key international events this year: a July summit on financing for new global development goals, another in September to settle on those goals and — crucially — a global meeting in December to frame an agreement, and set meaningful targets, on climate change. But focusing on ambitious global climate goals can mask the existence of real impacts on the ground. Nowhere is this truer than in sub-Saharan Africa. No region has done less to cause climate change, yet sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing some of the earliest, most severe and most damaging effects. As a result, Africa’s leaders have every reason to support international efforts to address climate change. But these leaders also have to deal urgently with the disturbing reality behind Africa’s tiny carbon footprint: a crushing lack of modern energy.
How do social norms affect behaviors? How can development programs benefit from a clearer understanding of them? David Jodrell of BBC Media Action offers insight on the influence of social norms and the potential role that media can play in promoting positive changes.
Interventions targeting social norms have long been part and parcel of the international development landscape. But following on the heels of the World Development Report 2015, how to measure – and capture the impact – of these interventions is the subject of rising attention.
There is particular interest in research around how social norms can contribute to behavioural change in the governance sector – in areas such as conflict resolution and women’s empowerment – as well as to help realise health objectives such as reducing open defecation or ending female genital mutilation. At BBC Media Action, where I work, we explore how media and communication intersect with social norms around some of these issues.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.In contrast to previous anti-poverty music campaigns that have been criticised for overlooking African musicians and misrepresenting the continent, a new video from One’s poverty is sexist campaign features nine female musicians from seven African countries.
The song, “Strong Girl” is an anthem calling for women and girls to be central to the fight against poverty with targeted investments in areas such as education and health to overcome barriers that disproportionately affect women. The song is also a call to action for citizens worldwide to put pressure on their leaders to empower girls and women in the poorest countries, so that they can lift their own communities out of poverty.
Most sociologists consider the family unit to be a fundamental building block of society. However, it is largely absent as a topic in international development goals. Should this be the case?
"The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish." - Pope John Paul II
A recent report led by Stanford, Princeton, and Berkeley universities said vertebrates are disappearing at a rate 114 times faster than normal. These findings echo those of a similar report published by Duke University last year. One of the new study’s authors said: “We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event.” The last such event was 65 million years ago, when dinosaurs were wiped out, in all likelihood by a large meteor hitting Earth.
In light of this apocalypse-like news, I would like to take a closer look at yet another endangered, but a bit more tangible element of life on planet Earth, namely, the family. As humankind, along with plants and animals approach what is being called the sixth great mass extinction, I wonder if it will be an event that humans go through en masse as loners, (the atomistic man as the only unit in society), or as people knit together by ties to a nuclear and extended family. I often think that the role of the family is too-often neglected and has been taken for granted in our day. The all-consuming drive and ambitious personal priority of the individual in today’s world makes me worry that families may one day go, and, as the family goes, so will go civilization.
Few people doubt the merits of pausing to "think things through" before making a decision. Without doing so, we fear we may end up making a decision that leads to harm and misfortune. However, this process is itself a double-edged sword that can lead us astray.
We've all been forced to make tough decisions in life. From career progression and where to live to which route to take on a trip, we navigate life's choices by considering our options and weighing them against each other. In the context of these decisions, we attempt to predict the negative consequences from an action or decision and the likelihood that those consequences will actually occur.
Regret- we seek to avoid it when we can
In a famous study on Regret Theory, Loomes and Sugden present the idea that in making decisions, individuals not only consider the knowledge they have and the resources at their disposal, but also the likely scenarios that will result from their choices. They further suggest that the pleasure associated with the results of their choices depends not only on the nature of those results but also on the nature of alternative results. Individuals consider the regret their future selves may feel if they know they would have been better if they had chosen differently. Likewise, they consider the joy their future selves may feel if the consequences of their decisions turn out to be optimal. Thus, both a cause and a consequence of our desire to avoid losses (loss aversion) is our desire to avoid the pain of regret.
According to researchers, individuals exhibit “regret aversion” when they fear their decision will turn out to be wrong in hindsight. Sometimes, we engage in regret aversion before making a decision, leading us to hem and haw and lose out on opportunities. Other times, we engage in regret aversion after a decision is already made, leading us to hold on to losing assets or undesirable positions because we don’t want to admit our choice was not the best one. Many of the interventions that behavioral economists suggest, such as automatic enrollment, default options, and providing information to consumers, are set up to reduce the ex post regret individuals will face for not doing something that’s in their interest.
Economic transformation is necessary for growth that can lead to poverty reduction. However, economic transformation in low-income countries is changing as recent evidence suggests countries are running out of industrialization options much sooner than once expected. Is this a cause for concern? What does the past, present, and likely future of structural transformation look like? Read on to find out why leading economist Dani Rodrik is pessimistic and what some possible rays of light are.
Dani Rodrik was in town his week, and I attended a brilliant presentation at ODI. Very exciting. He’s been one of my heroes ever since I joined the aid and development crowd in the late 90s, when he was one of the few high profile economists to be arguing against the liberalizing market-good/state-bad tide on trade, investment and just about everything else. Dani doggedly and brilliantly made the case for the role of the state in intelligent industrial policy. But now he’s feeling pessimistic about the future (one discussant described it as ‘like your local priest losing his faith’).
The gloom arises from his analysis of the causes and consequences of premature industrialization. I blogged about his paper on this a few months ago, but here are some additional thoughts that emerged in the discussion. He’s also happy for you to nick his powerpoint.
Dani identified two fundamental engines of growth. The first is a ‘neoclassical engine’, consisting of a slow accumulation of human capital (eg skills), institutions and other ‘fundamental capabilities’. The second, which he ascribed to Arthur Lewis, is driven by structural differences within national economies – islands of modern, high productivity industry in a sea of traditional low productivity. Countries go through a ‘structural transformation’ when an increasing amount of the economy moves from the traditional to the modern sector, with a resulting leap in productivity leading to the kinds of stellar growth that has characterized take-off countries over the last 60 years.
Manufacturing has been key to that second driver. It is technologically dynamic, with technologies spreading rapidly across the world, allowing poor countries to hitch a ride on stuff invented elsewhere. It has absorbed lots of unskilled labour (unlike mining, for example). And since manufactures are tradable, countries can specialize and produce loads of a particular kind of goods, without flooding the domestic market and driving down prices.
But that very dynamism has produced diminishing returns in terms of growth and (especially) jobs. Countries are hitting a peak of manufacturing jobs earlier and earlier in their development process (see graph). And it could get much worse – just imagine the impact if/when garments, the classic job-creating first rung on the industrialization ladder, shift to automated production in the same way as vehicle production.
“When I give food to the poor, I am considered a saint. But when I ask why they are poor, I am called a communist."
- Hélder Pessoa Câmara, the Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, serving from 1964 to 1985 during the military regime of the country. He was an advocate of liberation theology, and is remembered for the above aphorism.
Quoted in the Financial Times on June 20, 2015, "A rock-star Pope puts his faith in science" by David Gardner
James Callaghan, Labor Party Prime Minister of Great Britain (1976-1979), is reported to have quipped: “You leak, but I brief”. In other words, while the politician that he was addressing leaked official documents to the media (a wrong, probably illegal move) he merely briefed the media. His practice, he was implying, was less blameworthy. The question is: is it?
Leaks of official documents and the leakers involved are in the news a lot these days. Some of these leakers are leaking documents on an epic scale, exploiting the weaknesses of modern electronic document management systems. Documents that in the past you would have had to break into safes in a thousand different locations around the world to access you can now find in a single online repository…if you have the right hacking or document stealing skills. While in the past a leaker would send a single document by mail to the editor of a leading newspaper, now we are getting thousands of pages stolen and shared all at once.
There is a romantic, Hollywood view of the epic leakers, and movies are also being made about them, usually hagiographies. The epic leakers are seen as heroic figures, doughty champions acting in the overall public interest. Perhaps. I have no doubt that there are leakers who are genuine whistle blowers, determined to expose wrong doing by public officials. But one also suspects that some of these leakers are complexly motivated individuals. And some of the epic leakers are egomaniacs who fancy themselves as world-historic figures.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
How the pace of technological progress is redrawing the political map
From power stations to factories, thermostats to smartphones, information to entertainment, the world is driven—and controlled—by digital technology. So it's no surprise that political and economic success, for businesses and nations, depends on how current they are with advances in technology. That's why Bhaskar Chakravorti and colleagues at the Fletcher School have created the Digital Evolution Index, a first-of-its-kind map of how, where and at what speed the use of digital technologies is spreading across the globe.
Global MPI 2015: Key findings
Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative
The Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) provides a range of resources. The Global MPI was updated in June 2015 and now covers 101 countries in total, which are home to 75 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.2 billion people. Of this proportion, 30 per cent of people (1.6 billion) are identified as multidimensionally poor. In June 2015, our analysis of global multidimensional poverty span a number of topics, such as destitution, regional and sub-national variations in poverty, the composition of poverty.