Economic and Social Development Issues

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ON DEVELOPMENT, ON MIGRATION: Humankind’s Ability to Feed Itself, Now in Jeopardy | Inter Press Service

Mankind’s future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new United Nations’ report. Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, “expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report

Source: Humankind’s Ability to Feed Itself, Now in Jeopardy | Inter Press Service

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Humanitarian Crisis, Result of Decades of Globalization with No Concern for Social Justice | Inter Press Service

GENEVA, Feb 21 2017 (IPS) – The distressing images of desperate people making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea and the Balkans to escape armed conflict, social tensions, discrimination and poverty harm the preconditions to achieve social harmony.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

This humanitarian crisis is the result of decades of freewheeling globalization with no concern for social justice in all countries. One of its consequences is social upheavals and mass exodus.What remains today of the peace and its dividends that were supposed to accrue to the poorer countries as a consequence of the ending of the East-West conflict?

Source: Humanitarian Crisis, Result of Decades of Globalization with No Concern for Social Justice | Inter Press Service

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: How This Social Entrepreneur Is Moving Haiti Away From Aid Toward Trade

Haitian social entrepreneur and impact investor, Daniel Jean-Louis, is working on multiple fronts to reduce Haiti’s reliance on aid and increase employment in the country where 70 percent of adults lack a proper job.

Source: How This Social Entrepreneur Is Moving Haiti Away From Aid Toward Trade

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ON DEVELOPMENT: How successful were the Millennium Development Goals? | Brookings Institution

John McArthur and Krista Rasmussen examine if the Millennium Development Goals made any difference by comparing the trajectories of MDG indicators and targets.

Source: How successful were the Millennium Development Goals? | Brookings Institution

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ON DEVELOPMENT, ON MIGRATION: A Perspective on Migration, Agriculture and Rural Development | Inter Press Service

Migration is part of the process of development. It is not a problem in itself, and could, in fact, offer a solution to a number of matters. Migrants can make a positive and profound contribution to the economic and social development of their countries of origin, transit and destination alike.

Source: Beyond Calais: A Perspective on Migration, Agriculture and Rural Development | Inter Press Service

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Privatization Cure Often Worse Than Malady | Inter Press Service

KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, Nov 3 2016 (IPS) – Privatization of SOEs has been a cornerstone of the neo-liberal counterrevolution that swept the world from the 1980s following the economic crisis brought about by US Fed’s sharp hike in interest rates. Developing countries, seeking aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, often had to commit to privatization as a condition for credit support.

Source: Privatization Cure Often Worse Than Malady | Inter Press Service

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ON DEVELOPMENT, IMMIGRANT/REFUGEE: What Happens When a Small Farmer Migrates?

Kenya - Maasai pastoralists, who participate in the Farmer Field School, taking their cattle to a local livestock market. ©FAO/Vitale

Kenya – Maasai pastoralists, who participate in the Farmer Field School, taking their cattle to a local livestock market. ©FAO/Vitale

ipsnews.net, by Baher Kamal, ROME, Oct 13 2016 – Now that world attention is focused on the fast growing process of urbanisation, with 2 in 3 people estimated to be living in towns and cities by the year 2030, an old “equation” jumps rapidly to mind: each time a small farmer migrates to an urban area, equals to one food producer less, and one food consumer more.

Such an equation especially impacts developing countries, where small farmers produce between 60 and 80 per cent of all food.It also affects the living conditions in urban centres, with negative repercussions on the policies aimed at achieving the sustainability of world’s cities, which is scheduled to be top on the agenda ofHABITAT III conference in Quito, Ecuador on October 17-20.

IPS interviewed Dr. Peter Wobst at the United Nations leading agency dealing with food and agriculture, to assess the impact of rural migration on food production.

“Every smallholder moving out is one producer less – that’s for sure… But the reality is complex…,” says Wobst, who is senior advisor on the Strategic Programme on Rural Poverty Reduction at the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Dr. Peter Wobst

Dr. Peter Wobst

According to Wobst, migration (mobility of people, largely comprising of labour mobility) is a common phenomenon that occurs during the economic and social transformation of societies/economies.

“We want this to happen for economies and regions to develop. Today, in a more integrated world economy, more than ever. And the numbers speak for themselves – one billion people not living in the communities where they were born.”

Hence, as the rural areas (including agriculture) transform, new production systems require different compositions of skills, which in turn needs to be taken into account in the relevant education systems (basic education as well as vocation training), Wobst adds.

While some people find new opportunities in the changing rural economy, others are seeking opportunities in nearby towns or cities or ultimately move abroad. This is all fine as long as people improve their relative livelihoods condition, he says.

“What obviously we do not want to see is that people move because of economic distress, because they cannot cope with the changing rural (economic) environment and do not see any other viable livelihoods opportunity in their communities of origin. To be beneficial, migration should be a choice, not a necessity.”

Wobst then explains that “we at FAO are therefore working on ‘addressing the root causes of distress migration’, dealing with the socio-economic issues that drive people out of rural areas.”

Now, back to the farmer moving to the city. According to Wobst, for an individual, that “equation” seems obvious… But in a time continuum and over a large number of farmers it does not hold.

people-escaping_

Pakistan – People escaping flooded areas by tractor. ©FAO/Hafeez

Wobst goes further to explain why the equation “each time a farmer migrates to an urban area, means one food producer less and one food consumer more” does not necessarily hold.

“As economies undergo structural transformation, the movement of people in search of better employment opportunities elsewhere is inevitable. Farmers can migrate to an urban area, but also to other rural areas, and can do this on a short-term (including seasonal/cyclical migration) or long-term basis.”

However, even in the case of rural-urban migration, generally the “equation” (rural migration to urban centres implying less food production and more food consumption) does not hold, Wobst adds.

“If properly managed, safe and regular migration can reduce pressure on local labour markets and foster a more efficient allocation of labour and higher wages in agriculture.”

“Some farmers may find a much more productive occupation in urban areas. Some may still have a farm back home that they support to become more productive through the remittances they send as well as the new knowledge and skills they have acquired.”

Some of those remaining farmers in the rural areas become more productive over time (fostered by agricultural transformation, advancement in technologies, agricultural investment, better vocational training, extension services, etc.), says Wobst.

And adds that agricultural and rural transformation will lead to more integrated food systems, with further occupational opportunities up the value chain (including processing, packaging, transport, wholesale, and retail).

Wobst also explains that remittances from family members who migrated can relax liquidity constraints and foster investments in agriculture and other rural economic activities with potential for job creation in rural areas of origin.

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Burundi – Refugees fleeing civil conflict. ©FAO/Linton

“Further, migrants can acquire new knowledge, skills and networks which will allow them to engage in more productive and attractive employment and entrepreneurial opportunities linked to agriculture upon their own return or simply facilitate those opportunities for the remaining farm household or community members.”

IPS asked Wobst about the latest figures. In 2015, there were 244 million international migrants, including 150 million migrant workers. About one third of them are aged 15-34, he said.

Internal migration is an even larger phenomenon, with 740 million internal migrants in 2013. Around 40 per cent of international remittances are sent to rural areas, reflecting the rural origins of a large share of migrants, Wobst further explained.

Moreover, in 2015, 65.3 million people around the world were forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution.

Regarding the impact of migration, Wobst believes it brings both opportunities and challenges for countries of origin, transit and destination.

In countries of origin, diaspora, migrant networks and return migrants can foster the transfer of skills, know-how and technology, as well as investments to promote agriculture and rural development, he says. In countries of transit and destination migrants can help fill labour shortages.

“However, large movements of people present complex challenges. Rural areas of origin risk losing the younger and often most dynamic share of their workforce, while in transit and destination countries migration can constitute a challenge for local authorities to provide quality public services for migrants and host populations, and further strain the natural resource base.”

Hence, the FAO has been working to create alternative and sustainable livelihood options in rural areas, with a special focus on women and youth, and harness the developmental potential of internal and international migration.

“Hence, the FAO has been working to create alternative and sustainable livelihood options in rural areas, with a special focus on women and youth, and harness the developmental potential of internal and international migration”.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Making the Goals: Why Sustainable Development Must Be Integrated Development

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Roger-Mark De Souza is the director of population, environmental security, and resilience for the Wilson Center. Sono Aibe is Pathfinder International’s Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives.

Malala Yousafzai (centre) addresses the General Assembly during the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015.

Malala Yousafzai (centre) addresses the General Assembly during the launch of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015.

Washington, DC, Sep 28 2016 (IPS) – By recognising how closely connected the different aspects of sustainable development are, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) create an important opportunity – and challenge – for a more coordinated approach to implementing development policies.

The multi-faceted, interlinked nature of the 17 categories represented by the SDGs reflects our complicated world. We will need to work together to meet these goals while facing an increasingly complex set of challenges to human rights, equity, and security. The battle against terrorism and its horrors, for example, requires people working together across each and every one of the 17 categories.

However, traditional policy responses to these challenges have been divided into distinct policy sectors. If we are to achieve these goals, build peace, and increase world security, we must recognise that past efforts that were confined to individual sectors have failed. We must use new but proven tools that move the integrated SDG framework from concept to action. If the implementation phase of the SDGs defaults to the same old methods, the new goals will be meaningless.

One successful tool – what a World Bank expert called a “do-able miracle” in a speech at the Wilson Center — is the integrated Population, Health and Environment (PHE) approach, where many of the SDGs are addressed simultaneously in a coordinated, strategic manner.

PHE projects work concurrently to improve access to health services (especially family planning and reproductive health), protect and manage natural resources, generate income from alternative livelihoods, and provide women and men with the skills and tools to plan for a sustainable future. Key to its success is the strong buy-in from and engagement with local communities and their leaders, which is credited with its unusually rapid, widespread success in East Africa, Madagascar and the Philippines.

The battle against terrorism and its horrors, for example, requires people working together across each and every one of the 17 categories.

For example, Pathfinder International’s “HoPE-LVB” (Health of People and Environment in Lake Victoria Basin) project, based in Kenya and Uganda, is an integrated, community engagement initiative providing primary health care (including sexual and reproductive health, and maternal and child health services), along with the supply of clean water, training on sanitation and hygiene practices, natural resource management, and sustainable income generation opportunities.

Pathfinder and its partner organizations work to make the farms and fisheries that the communities depend on more sustainable, support environmentally friendly alternative livelihoods, and increase gender equality. Throughout the project, partners emphasize the inter-relatedness of people, their health, and their environment. The project is helping other organizations to replicate HoPE’s model and supporting local governments to plan integrated activities that meet the needs of their communities in a holistic way

The rapid acceptance of the PHE approach from concept to scalability in just five years has now created strong regional momentum for its expansion in East Africa. In fact, at a recent meeting, the Lake Victoria Basin Commission included a recommendation to its members to “mainstream PHE programming into national and institutional plans and set aside funds for PHE Integration and the implementation of the EAC PHE strategic plan.”

The results from these projects offer strong evidence that the PHE approach is working, growing, and primed for scale-up across other regions. PHE programs provide compelling, real-world, grounded evidence that UNGA policymakers would do well to consider as they seek to achieve the SDGs.

PHE can also be a powerful pathway to fight extremism and improve stability. By increasing communities’ resilience in a rapidly changing economic, environmental, and political landscape, integrated development can provide the foundation for increased security. For example, PHE programs focus on engaging youth in building their own sustainable futures, and thus building their resilience to recruitment by extremists. In this way PHE can also be considered a peacebuilding strategy in fragile and developing states. Research by Wilson Center experts has found that the PHE approach addresses challenges often missing from other resilience-building efforts, such as social dynamics, power structures, gender and reproductive health.

As world leaders meet to decide how to shift from goals to action, they should look at what is already working. PHE increases environmental sustainability, economic opportunity, reproductive health, women’s empowerment, climate resilience, and regional stability—at the same time, for less investment, and with more success. A proven tool for implementing this ambitious agenda, PHE is a win-win-win for the sustainable development team.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Poverty Cut by Growth Despite Policy Failure

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAOipsnews.net, by Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

– At the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders committed to halve the share of people living on less than a dollar a day by 2015. The World Bank’s poverty line, set at $1/day in 1985, was adjusted to $1.25/day in 2005, an increase of 25% after two decades. This was then re-adjusted to $1.90/day in 2011/2012, an increase by half over 7 years! As these upward adjustments are supposed to reflect changes in the cost of living, but do not seem to parallel inflation or other related measures, they have raised more doubts about poverty line adjustments.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The number of people living on less than $1.90 a day in developing countries is estimated to have fallen from close to two billion in 1981 to 1.95 billion in 1990 to just under 1.4 billion in 2005 and 902 million in 2012, projected to 702 million in 2015. The share of poor people has thus declined from 44% in 1981 to 37% in 1990, 24% in 2005 and 12.8% in 2012, projected to 9.6% in 2015.Uneven progress
Much of the progress has been due to sustained rapid growth in several large developing countries, notably China and India, and higher commodity prices for over a decade until 2014. However, outside of East Asia, progress has been modest, with actual setbacks in some countries and regions. For those earning just above the extreme poverty line ($1.90 a day), progress can be temporary as economic and other shocks threaten hard-won gains, forcing them back into poverty. Progress in reducing poverty has been generally slower using higher poverty lines. Over 2.1 billion people in the developing world lived on less than $3.10 a day in 2012, compared to 2.9 billion in 1990.

Extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa has hardly declined, standing at around 42.6% in 2012. Moreover, many of the poor in this region are estimated to be very far below the poverty line as the average consumption of Africa’s poor is only about 70 cents a day—barely more than twenty years ago. Thus, even 20 more years of progress at recent rates will not end poverty in Africa, with a quarter of Africans expected to still be deemed poor in 2030.

Besides income, wide ranging deficits in the human condition remain widespread, not only in most low income countries, but also in many middle income countries. Access to basic education, healthcare, modern energy, safe water and other critical services — often influenced by socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity and geography — remain elusive for many.

Claiming credit

There is little evidence that the professed commitments by the global community to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and what was done in the name of the MDGs was critical to poverty reduction. This does not bode well for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially with the protracted economic slowdown since 2008, the declining commitment to economic multilateralism and the constrained fiscal and policy space most developing countries have.

In decoupling poverty reduction from economic development, various ‘silver bullets’ – microcredit, ‘bottom of the pyramid’ marketing, land titling, ‘good governance’ – were touted, but failed, as miracle cures. In most developing societies, economic reforms and policies imposed or advised by international financial institutions, did not deliver promised growth, but instead often exacerbated growing inequalities, both within and among nations. And even where economic growth – typically despite, rather than because of the conventional wisdom – lifted most boats, it often did not raise the leaky, fragile ones of the poor.

This nuanced record of poverty reduction challenges the conventional policy prescriptions identified with the Washington Consensus – the norm outside East Asia since the 1980s. Reductions in public investments – in health, education and other social programmes – have adversely affected billions. The poor have also been more vulnerable to economic downturns, as unskilled workers tend to lose their jobs first, while job recovery generally lags behind output recovery.

Ideology, crisis and poverty

The counter-revolution against development economics, and the ascendance of the Washington Consensus since the 1980s, significantly transformed the development discourse. Reforms such as macroeconomic stabilization, defined as low single digit inflation, as well as microeconomic market liberalization, associated with structural adjustment, were all supposed to accelerate economic growth and poverty reduction, presumed to follow from growth. These typically failed on both counts – to spur growth and to eliminate poverty.

Little attention was given to structural causes of poverty, including gross inequalities of resources and opportunities, and the consequences of uneven development. While the Washington Consensus economic reforms were supposed to unleash rapid growth, social protection was reduced to social safety nets targeted at a few supposedly falling between the cracks, often victims of temporary setbacks such as natural catastrophes and economic crises.

The Washington Consensus reforms, often imposed as conditionalities, have significantly constrained policy space for national development strategies. Failure to sustain growth, regressive tax reforms and reduced government revenues have also constrained developing countries’ fiscal space. Developing countries also significantly reduced state capacities and capabilities while under pressure to liberalize and globalize on unequal and debilitating terms. Such reductions of both fiscal and policy space have undermined sustainable and equitable development.

Poor policies

Conventional policy approaches to poverty eradication are clearly insufficient, if not worse. Meanwhile, obstacles to reducing global poverty remain formidable, numerous and complex. Targeting – often demanded by many donors – is not only typically costly, but also inadvertently excludes many who are deserving. Furthermore, many poverty programmes favoured by donors have not been effective in reducing poverty, although some have undoubtedly helped ameliorate poverty.

The 2008-2009 global financial and economic crisis has prompted some reconsideration of appropriate economic policies, even by the international financial institutions. There is now greater recognition of the need for inclusive, pro-growth and counter-cyclical macroeconomic policies as well as prudent capital account management, but institutional prejudices and prescriptions have been slow to change at the country level.

The overall global economic situation and prospects have deteriorated with the ongoing economic slowdown. While the timing and sustainability of economic recovery remain uncertain, job prospects and work conditions continue to deteriorate, with adverse consequences.

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HAITI: Only Haitians can save Haiti

AFP_FJ4XO
washingtonpost.com, Opinion by Joel Dreyfuss, 

Joel Dreyfuss is a Washington Post Global Opinions contributing columnist.

Haiti won a rare victory on the international stage last week. After five years of evading accountability, the United Nations finally admitted that its peacekeepers were responsible for a deadly cholera epidemic that killed 10,000 men, women and children and sickened 700,000. Long after scientists traced the disease to the poor sanitation practices of Nepalese troops stationed in Haiti, the U.N. rejected the findings, claimed diplomatic immunity and enlisted Obama administration support to block efforts by Haitians to hold the agency accountable in U.S. courts. The U.N. backed down after a report by New York University law professor Philip Alston, an adviser on legal and human rights, became public. Alston called the U.N.’s stonewalling “morally unconscionable, legally indefensible and politically self-defeating.”

The U.N.’s arrogant stance was just the latest example of how Haiti’s friends are so often its worst enemies. The U.N. military mission has been in Haiti since 2004, presumably to “stabilize” the country and nurture its fragile democracy. Yet that democracy is barely breathing, with a “provisional” president and a group of dubiously elected officials who can barely agree on a date for presidential elections.

Consider the aftermath of the massive earthquake that killed 200,000 to 300,000 Haitians on Jan. 12, 2010. The international community did responded generously. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presided over a reconstruction commission that won $14 billion in international pledges and posed to help transform Haiti into a modern nation. However, what money was actually delivered was sucked into a morass of Beltway consultants, failed projects and nongovernmental organizations. “Valuable studies and assessments conducted by Haitians themselves were largely ignored,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported in a postmortem study. Six years later, the rubble in downtown Port-au-Prince has been cleared, but little has been rebuilt. The nation’s center of commercial activity has moved to suburban Pétionville. Plans to revive the capital remain as vague as the early-morning fog that drifts across the majestic mountains that serve as a backdrop to Haiti’s tortured history.

The Clintons have expressed a fondness for Haiti ever since they honeymooned there in 1975. Bill and Hillary have been up to their elbows in Haiti ever since 1994, when President Clinton used U.S. military power to restore Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Clinton, whose home state of Arkansas is the No. 1 rice producer in the United States, extracted an agreement from Aristide in 1995 to drop tariffs on imported rice. The resulting influx of cheap American rice destroyed Haitian’s near-self-sufficiency in food and sent thousands of poor farmers and their families into the overcrowded capital. Clinton has since apologized for his “devil’s bargain.” Fast-forward to today, and Haitians know that the United States’ presidential elections will have a profound effect on their future: A Hillary Clinton victory could mean more interference in Haiti’s affairs.

The current political crisis was precipitated by the heavy-handed manipulation of Haitian politics by the “Core Group,” (the United States, Canada, France, Spain, Brazil, the European Union and the Organization of American States). In 2011, they excluded the most popular political party from presidential elections and discarded one of the top vote-getters, and Haitians ended up with former bandleader Michel Martelly as president. They tried the same tactics this year, putting heavy pressure on Haitians to complete a tainted second round of ballots. Fed up, thousands of Haitians took to the streets to reject that advice and force a new round of elections over strong American objections.

Haitian identity at home and abroad is tightly linked to our native country’s status as the world’s first free black republic. Every August UNESCO commemorates the secret ceremony in Haiti’s Bois-Caiman in 1791 that triggered a successful slave uprising, which in turn fomented the revolution that led to its independence. I know I will offend many of my fellow Haitians by saying this out loud — but I wonder if Haiti will ever truly regain its independence. The reality is that Haiti, more than 200 years after it gained its freedom, has spent large chunks of its existence under the military, political or economic control of foreign powers.

Haiti paid twice for its freedom, first with blood and then with money. Haitians handed Napoleon his first significant military defeat by repelling the 50,000 troops he sent to restore slavery. But fearing a new invasion, Haiti signed an agreement with France’s Charles X in 1825 to pay former owners of plantations and slaves tens of millions of francs (variously estimated by historians at between $3 billion to $25 billion in today’s dollars) as the price for recognition. The deal doomed Haiti to 80 years of distorted budgets focused on paying off foreign debt and starving its people of the infrastructure and educational facilities that might have set the young nation on a more prosperous path. The United States began its military occupation of Haiti in 1915 and remained there for 19 years. But even before American Marines landed in the country, Haiti’s many authoritarian and corrupt leaders plunged the country into debt and exacerbated the domination of the many by the few. Rosalvo Bobo, an early-20th-century Haitian politician, noted that Haitian leaders had replaced the liberating achievement of their ancestors for “slavery of blacks by blacks.”

The ultimate challenge for Haiti — and many other small countries — is how to gain a measure of control over their own destinies, especially when they are in the “back yard” of powerful nations, dependent on foreign aid and are forced to deal with internal divisions. One way the U.N. could make restitution is to fulfill its pledge to rebuild Haiti’s sanitation system and begin planning a removal of the peacekeeping force. Those who want to help Haiti should begin consulting and involving Haitians at home and abroad in their grand plans.

But the best incentive for change will come from Haiti itself. A new chapter for the embattled nation will come only when Haiti’s rapacious business and political elites and its masses of neglected poor learn the lessons from 200 years ago — that no one is coming to save them.

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ON THE MEDIA: Impact of Media on Health in Bangladesh

p01ysrbl
bbc.co.uk, July 21, 2016

BBC Media Action conducted its first ever randomised control trial (RCT) on the impact of our health programming on audiences. In this blog, we explore some of the methodological challenges of conducting an RCT and ensuring randomisation in the field based on our work with pregnant mothers and women of childbearing age in Bangladesh.

This is the second blog in a two-part series on BBC Media Action’s Bangladesh RCT, read more about the results of the study in the first blog.

The ‘gold standard’ approach for being able to talk about an intervention causing an effect comes from the world of medicine: the randomised control trial (RCT). In this kind of study, one set of people – ‘the intervention group’ – receives the treatment while the other group – ‘the control group’ – gets a placebo. Only using this tightly controlled research methodology can we be certain whether or not the intervention caused the desired outcome.

Our RCT was interested in investigating how watching our Bangladeshi health programmes affect the key ‘drivers’ of healthy behaviour among women of childbearing age. These drivers include things like people’s knowledge of antenatal and early newborn care, their attitudes and beliefs around, for example, what to feed a newborn baby, and their intention to do things such as attending antenatal care sessions.

Our study involved 900 women of reproductive age as this group is the key audience we are aiming to influence with our programming, and took place over six weeks in February/March 2016 in two areas (Comilla in the South East and rural Mymensingh). Each day, a group of 30 women was sub-divided into groups of 10 (two treatments and one control) and were with us for around four hours. One treatment group watched our health drama Ujan Ganger Naiya (UGN) (Sailing Against the Tide), another group watched a closely related discussion programme that reinforced the health topics covered in the drama and a third control group viewed a television programme about a non-health topic.

Since mass media can reach anyone and everyone, evaluating whether a mass media intervention has had any causal effect on audience behaviour is notoriously tricky. Let’s look at some implementation challenges that our research team had to overcome:

First, we had to recruit a control group – one that had not been exposed to the treatment – which meant only recruiting participants who had never seen or heard anything about these shows. (See our previous blog for a description of the research design for this trial).

Another challenge was avoiding contamination – ensuring that people did not discuss what they had viewed. Each day, women were collected from different unions (local Bangladeshi political districts) so that there was no risk of anyone going home and speaking about the trial with a future participant. If participants needed to leave the room during the trial, they were escorted to make sure that no one conversed with each other.

The biggest challenge – ensuring randomisation – i.e., making sure the groups were more or less alike on all key variables – is a common difficulty in RCTs. To address this challenge, we created a randomisation matrix so that women were randomly assigned to the three groups and given a colour-coded wristband. There were three colour possibilities which referred to three treatment groups, i.e. one group was shown UGN and a non-health related programme, the second was shown UGN and Natoker Pore (NP) (After The Drama), the follow up discussion show, and the third group was shown an educational drama and discussion show – both on topics unrelated to health. Moreover, which colour band stood for which group was not revealed either to the participant nor the researchers at any stage and was also changed every day. This is known as a double blind process where neither the researchers nor the participants are aware of the treatment allocation to ensure there is no chance for bias.

This means we can be confident that the changes we saw were not due to some pre-existing selection bias such as education level or age.

“It was the most tense part of the study because everything hinged on achieving the randomisation which is difficult with 900 women and their children running around. We allocated most of our attention and resources to this during the fieldwork,” said Sanjib Saha, former Head of BBC Media Action Research, Bangladesh.

Besides all this, it is also vital to ensure comparability. To do this in our study, a health service provider gave the women a standard briefing on maternal health issues – the same as the one given by health workers when visiting women in their homes – to assure that there was a pre-trial standardisation of health knowledge. The briefing was identical each day across all groups. Those in the control groups were given a non-health related briefing.

Finally, a word is in order on ethics. As with any research we conduct, we took all steps possible to ensure that this research upheld the highest international ethical standards, at all phases of the research. Ultimately, we sought to ensure that all participants were protected from harm that might result from their participation in the study. This was a time-consuming study to be involved in, particularly for women with small children. We tried to smooth the process by arranging transport to and from the testing facility, making provisions for chaperones and providing lunch and child care at each of the test centres. All participants provided informed consent, were guaranteed anonymity and were apprised of their right to withdraw from the study at any point. We also made sure that a frontline health worker was available on site throughout the study to answer any questions.

The study was successful. We now know that our health programmes in Bangladesh are having a significant effect on some of the key drivers of health-related behaviours – especially knowledge and intent – in a laboratory setting. We are also reassured that, for knowledge and behavioural intent, watching a factual programme alongside a drama seems to be beneficial.

The BBC Media Action Research and Learning team manages a global cohort of more than 100 researchers around the world who inform, evaluate and generate evidence on BBC Media Action projects across the countries in which we work.

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: This volatile Haiti slum is undergoing a makeover — now what?

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Workers carry buckets in a construction site as they build new houses in Fort National, Port au Prince, Haiti. Fort National is a neighborhood that was partially destroyed during the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Andres Martinez Casares.

 

miamiherald.com, BY JACQUELINE CHARLES, 8/12/16  —  At the top of the hill where an old colonial fort overlooks the immaculate grounds of a razed presidential palace, newly built sidewalks and widened alleys lead into new residential communities being shaped by tree-lined courtyards, indoor plumbing and towering condominium-style apartments.

Below, bulldozers move listlessly from one partially-built concrete structure to another along a once battered Rue Estiméas construction workers beat back scorching heat and hammer as fast as they can.

“Imagine if all of the houses were like this,” Ulrick Gilles, a 40 year-old unemployed husband and father, said from the confines of his newly constructed government-subsidized second floor apartment in one of this capital’s most quake-ravaged neighborhoods. “Even if you couldn’t call it a paradise, it would still allow people to live better lives.”

A haphazardly-built and volatile slum that foreign donors and international aid groups once shunned, Fort National is getting a long-overdo makeover courtesy of a little-used co-property law that finally allows Haitians like Gilles, who lost his house in the cataclysmic Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, to be homeowners again.

Though the law initially came into existence in 1974 and was strengthened in 2009, it wasn’t until former President Michel Martelly issued more protections in a 2011 executive order that the government and international community dared use it.

“You’re slowly seeing the transformation of a neighborhood,” said Claude-André Nadon, senior program manager with theUnited Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), which has built 600 new housing units and repaired more than 1,200 in eight neighborhoods since the earthquake left 1.5 million homeless. “This place was a disaster zone.”

Fort National’s transformation comes as 61,302 Haitians continue to live underneath squalid tents, and as Haiti and foreign donors continue to face enormous challenges in providing permanent housing amid dwindling aid dollars and a deepening political crisis.

The country’s failure to replace the 100,000 houses leveled by the quake by all accounts has been the biggest failure of the reconstruction response. Haiti and U.S.-financed housing projects have been slammed for shoddy construction and unaccountable contractors, while both governments also have come under fire for failing to follow through on housing goals.

Haitians are no different from a guy in Miami or Canada. They want to live in a decent home. Claude-André Nadon, senior program manager with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS)

But if there’s anything close to a model of the lessons learned over the years, it is Fort National. The construction of almost 300 single and condo-style units, installation of street lights and the rehabilitation of water kiosks and streets may seem small. But supporters note that it’s changing the facade of an informal settlement, and providing employment and training to locals in proper and anti-seismic construction techniques.

“I am not just hiring five guys; I am hiring everyone from the neighborhood,” Nadon said. “So when that guys asks for an extension [on his single unit] he’s going to ask the foreman and that foreman now knows how to do it properly. Their way of building has completely changed.”

Said Clément Bélizaire, executive director of Haiti’s Housing and Public Buildings Construction Unit: “The housing is very nice; well-built; the engineering? A-plus. But the real success of Fort National and everything that has had to do with housing is the change of mentality.”

Nadon and his team first visited National in 2011. They spent three years negotiating with gang leaders and community residents to launch the project, and then with skeptical residents to give up their plots and shacks — sometimes barely larger than a bedroom — in exchange for decent corridors, public spaces and a 376-square-foot apartment.

In lot of cases people didn’t want to move,” he said. “All would say, ‘Haitians don’t like living on the second flood; they don’t want to live together.’”

Eventually, many would agree. Some would even donate as much as 80 percent of their land back to the community in order to allow the chaotic landscape of vacant plots and sweltering tin and tarp-covered shacks to be transformed.

“Haitians are no different from a guy in Miami or Canada. They want to live in a decent home,” Nadon said. “[Eventually] they understood that in order to have something like this, you need space. You need space to put septic tanks, you need space to have water pipes coming in, you need space to have the trees. After a while they get it.”

When people see them they say, ‘These houses should be on the main street.’ They aren’t the kind of homes you hide in a corridor. Fritzner Oriol, 49, Fort National resident

Bélizaire, the housing czar, said the co-property law makes a lot of sense in a densely populated Haiti, but “the social mobilization to get people to think rationally and not selfishly” is quite a challenge.

“We’re living in the city and we want to live in rural mode,” he said. “Everybody wants to have their own yard; everybody wants to have their own house; nobody wants to share walls with neighbors. When you share a wall, you cut the costs. We have to start thinking multilevel housing.”

The concept first surfaced months after the quake when then-President René Préval vowed to rebuild Fort National. Préval dispatched government bulldozers to remove rubble. He also asked international aid organizations to re-direct cash-for-work dollars to the slum, and he tapped the head of his state construction agency — and eventual presidential pick — Jude Célestin to build two-by-three-feet wide units for 6,000 displaced families.

Célestin, an engineer who is once more seeking the presidency, proposed constructing multistory apartments instead. Some $174 million was approved for Fort National’s reconstruction by the parliament as part of the budget, and the no-bid contractwas given to a firm owned by powerful Dominican Sen. Felix Bautista.

But 2010 presidential elections would bring chaos and a broken promise. A newly elected Martelly scraped the Fort National project, and reallocated the funds to initiatives. Among them:3,000 units at Morne-a-Carbrit on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince that were so poorly built by one of Bautista’s firms that Bélizaire’s housing division refused to accept many of them.

Everybody wants to have their own yard; everybody wants to have their own house; nobody wants to share walls with neighbors. When you share a wall, you cut the costs. Clément Bélizaire, executive director of Haiti’s Housing and Public Buildings Construction Unit

In recent weeks, the original Fort National project has come under scrutiny as a Haiti Senate Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission raises questions about the awards, and Bautista’s relationships with Martelly and some Haitian officials.

Headed by Sen. Youri Latortue, a one-time Martelly adviser, the probe is supposed to focus on a decade’s worth of government disbursements under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe discounted-oil program. Most of the focus, however, has been on the already investigated Bautista contracts.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who awarded the Fort National contract to one of Bautista’s firms, has said it was done so legally under an emergency law. He calls the Senate inquiry a “political witch hunt,” and has accused senators of trying to make him a scapegoat because no one can say what happened to the $174 million, including $22 million he disbursed under Martelly for the homes.

“Do you see 20,000 [new] homes in Fort National?” Bellerive said on Vision 2000 radio station. “That is what I contracted for.”

The challenges of building in an existing community are visible along Rue Estimé where new construction is interrupted by pockets of empty lots.

“There is nothing there because one guy has refused, for many reasons,” Nadon said as construction workers move up and down the main street. “Sometimes it’s because they are scared it’s not going to happen, or it’s pressure from other people who don’t want the project to succeed.”

Unfortunately, the project is nearing its end even as the needs remain “endless,” Bélizaire said, because the $20 million in funding from Canada, the U.N. and two other donors has run out. Despite Haitians reluctance to share a wall, he said, the government is finding success with multistory dwellings. Similar constructions were done in the low-income communities of Morne Hercule and Morne Lazarre. The U.N. first applied the co-property law in Morne Lazarre to build three-story condominiums.

“Fort National benefited from what we did in Morne Hercule and Morne Lazarre,” Bélizaire said, hoping donors keep the revitalization going. “There’s a big difference between showing somebody something on a nice layout plan, 3-D designs and pictures and when you actually take the people, put them on a bus and bring them to … talk to the beneficiaries.”

Fritzner Oriol’s two-story tin shacks sits in the middle of a palm tree-lined courtyard of yellow and lime colored apartments. He proudly boasts that he turned several of his distrusting neighbors from skeptics into believers that the program was good for the long-neglected community.

Ultimately, there was one person Oriol, 49, could not convince.

“One of my sisters doesn’t agree because she wouldn’t get any benefits out of it,” Oriol said, explaining why his shack is the only un-built structure in the courtyard.

“There are a lot of beautiful houses inside these corridors,” he said. “When people see them they say, ‘These houses should be on the main street.’ They aren’t the kind of homes you hide in a corridor. I am a product of the neighborhood, I know what I am talking about because I know what kind of neighborhood we had.”

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ON THE MEDIA: Can mass media cause change?

p01x1rhy
bbc.co.uk, July 14, 2016

Can the mass media cause changes in an audience’s knowledge, attitudes and intention to practice behaviors? At BBC Media Action, we have just successfully conducted a randomized control trial (RCT) to investigate this chain of causality in a prime time health TV drama in Bangladesh.

This is the first blog in a two-part series on BBC Media Action’s Bangladesh RCT, read more about the methodology underpinning the study in the second blog.

Do BBC Media Action programmes cause changes in our audiences? Do our television and radio shows increase knowledge, make people think differently or change their actual behaviour? In short, what is happening as a direct result of our programmes?

The answer is: we could never be sure. Our research has long shown that our audiences become more knowledgeable, change their attitudes and take different courses of action. However, we weren’t previously able to scientifically prove that our shows caused these changes. Yet now we definitively know our programmes made the difference – thanks to the use of a‘randomised control trial’ (RCT).

Why use an RCT to answer this question? To explain, an RCT is an experimental research design, in which people are assigned, at random, to groups. One set of people, the ‘treatment’ group, receives the intervention, while a second set, the ‘control’ group, gets a placebo. All other conditions are held constant so that the only difference between the groups is whether or not they receive the intervention. Only using this tightly controlled research methodology can we be certain whether or not the intervention caused the desired outcome.

What does that look like when you are studying the media? Our RCT was interested in investigating how watching our Bangladeshi health programmes affects the ‘key drivers’ of healthy behaviour among women of childbearing age. We consider key drivers to be precursors of behaviour, like people’sknowledge of antenatal and early newborn care, their attitudes and beliefs around, for example, what to feed a newborn baby, and their intention to do things such as attending antenatal care sessions.

In Bangladesh, we are currently airing a health-based drama called Ujan Ganger Naiya (UGN) (Sailing Against The Tide). This programme resembles many prime time family dramas, with storylines around the themes of falling in love, marriage and the important role that mothers-in-law play in Bangladeshi marriages. But the production team also weaves key elements of health knowledge into the dramatic arc, such as the recommendation that four antenatal child care visits are ideal for a pregnant mother. UGN is closely linked to a follow-up discussion show called Natoker Pore (NP) (After The Drama), in which some of the characters from the show, a medical expert and a real-life contributor review some of the key issues explored in the episode.

So one treatment group watched UGN while the control group watched another show produced by the BBC Media Action team in Bangladesh with an educational focus. This helped ensure that production values were consistent.  A second treatment group was also included in the study to investigate whether watching the discussion show alongside this drama has more of an effect than just watching the drama on its own. In short, our research questions were focussed around the short term impacts caused by watching the drama alone vs. watching it together with the discussion programme.

The results from BBC Media Action’s first-ever RCT are very encouraging:

  • Women who watched the drama – particularly those who saw the drama and factual discussion programme – showed significantly higher levels of knowledge across all of our measures of antenatal and early newborn care than the control group.
  • Women in both treatment groups (i.e. all those who watched either one or both of the health programmes) reported improved attitudes on several of the reproductive and maternal health statements we asked them about.
  • Women who watched both programmes reported higher levels of ‘efficacy’– in other words, they had greater self-belief in their ability or capacity to do something – than those who watched the drama alone, who in turn reported higher levels of self-efficacy than those in the control group.
  • When women who watched the drama were asked about a hypothetical future pregnancy, they were more likely to say they intended to pursue a number of healthy behaviours than those in the control group. Women who also watched the factual show responded positively to even more intended behaviours than those who only saw the drama.
  • In order to be effective, the clarity and consistency of messaging across the two programmes needs to be carefully managed. Programmes were less successful at shifting negative attitudes and increasing self-efficacy regarding certain antenatal and early newborn care practices such as attending at least four antenatal care sessions and exclusively feeding breast milk to a new-born.

So, why does all of this matter?

From a methodological standpoint, the RCT constitutes an important piece of evidence for isolating the impact that media and communication can have within the development sector. In this particular instance, we can now say that our health programme caused positive change in the short-term knowledge, confidence, behavioural intent and attitudes of women of child-bearing age in Bangladesh – precisely the audience we are trying to reach. We also now have evidence that watching the health programme alongside a closely related discussion programme has further positive effects – an important learning for production teams.

As BBC Media Action’s Senior Health Advisor Sophia Wilkinsonnotes:

“Often, there is a lack of funding to enable really strong study designs that tell a clear story. So it’s really exciting to have this evidence from Bangladesh that shows that entertaining television drama can indeed increase people’s knowledge and their intention to do something. Even more exciting, is that we seem to have proved our theory that exposure to more than one format will have a greater effect than just one programme! This all helps to strengthen the case for communication for development.”

The BBC Media Action Research and Learning team manages a global cohort of more than 100 researchers around the world who inform, evaluate and generate evidence on BBC Media Action projects across the countries in which we work. Former BBC Media Action Quantitative Research Manager Paul Bouanchaud was a key contributor to this piece.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Can we get out of the private sector bad, public sector good trap?

Small business are part of private sector-led development, not just multinational corporations. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

Related: I quit my development job and ate some humble pie: this is what I learned

My inherent cynicism isn’t without evidence: there is an endless list of corporate wrongdoing in the developing world. The private sector has different incentives from the public or NGO sector and markets don’t necessarily reward good behaviour. Indeed, quite often, at least in the short-term, they offer the strongest incentives for those who can find ways to cut standards and lower costs, exploiting anyone and everything in their wake.

But nonetheless, I still think its time to get beyond the rhetoric. The arguments have hardly changed in fifteen years, and, quite frankly, I’m bored. The lines are pitched as an argument between the pragmatists and the idealists: those who partner with the private sector, and those who campaign against them. On the one side, you get Care’s partnership with Cargill, or Wateraid’s partnership with Diageo. For this camp, collaborating with the private sector is perceived as necessary and inevitable. Governments have failed people, they might say, and NGOs can’t deliver to scale. Putting a private-sector lens to the challenge of development has brought innovation and the newly worn phrase “disruption” to a tired industry.

For others, however – let’s call them the idealists – private sector-led development removes people’s rights and individual freedoms, while further embedding corporate control of everything. For this camp, NGOs who partner with the private sector have undermined our mutual, long-term cause.

The pragmatists are certainly more in favour with the government of the day. The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID)’s new minister, Priti Patel, the former tobacco lobbyist who once wanted to axe the entire department, will continue the priorities already set by her predecessor. Private-sector led development will be her calling card, and collaborations between NGOs and the private sector will be at an even greater premium. Any NGO wanting a future funding relationship with DfID will be expected to tow the line. They were already giving roughly a third of their budget away to the private sector or private sector partnerships with NGOs. This could easily rise.

The idealist in me is concerned. Development agendas centred around rights and freedoms have been taking a back seat to the business of economic development – the pragmatists seem to have won. DfID’s statement of purpose says, among other things:“we’re ending the need for aid by creating jobs” as if development were just a matter of employment.

Related: Forget ‘developing’ poor countries, it’s time to ‘de-develop’ rich countries

So who is right? The pragmatists or the idealists? Are those who eschew private-sector partnerships just ideologues, blind to modern realities? Or has the NGO sector really sold out to the highest bidder, throwing their ideals out the window?

It’s worth pointing out that in roughly the same period as we’ve seen a rise of private-sector led development, we’ve also seen some worrying trends: rising levels of inequality over the past 15 years, more insecure work, environmental degradation and tax evasion on a massive scale. NGOs who enter into partnerships are clearly not to blame for these outcomes, but should we be asking: have they aided and abetted their rise, concentrating power into the hands of the wealthy?

Frustratingly, it’s not that simple. Moral clarity makes campaigning easier, but as Duncan Green pointed out to me recently: NGOs, even more radical ones, spend a lot more time working with the private sector than they care to admit. “Small farmers and SMEs or cooperatives are as important a part of the private sector – if not more so – than big irrelevant corporations,” he said. We need to reframe this debate, he argued: it’s not about private v public, but about size, scale, and form.

Related: We won’t conquer the mountains of the SDGs without humility

The crux of the matter is the relevant role of NGOs. A DfID model sees NGOs as just one vehicle to deliver economic growth, to help raise standards in the private sector or to provide some basic services to the poor. Where NGOs sing, however, is in their ability to challenge unfair structures, not to pander to them. Can NGOs really be both partner, and provocateur? Instead of bringing influence and innovation, have relationships with the private sector rendered NGOs role as advocate, watchdog and change agent, marginalised and ineffective?

Sunita Narain, the chief executive of India’s Centre for Science and the Environment, speaking recently at the Institute of Development Studies’ 50th anniversary conference, said that many in development believe that over the past period, we’ve empowered society through the growth of the market. Instead, she asked us provocatively: “Which society? The poor or the rich?”

If private sector-led development, and the partnerships it brings, can be about genuine power shifts, then I would shout from the rooftops. But for now, that small, cooperative private sector that Green refers to is hidden in the shadows, lacking power and toothless. Most NGOs will continue to take big corporate cash, while holding their critical tongues of dissent. All private sector development is certainly not bad – but the type of private-sector led development, I fear, that Patel foresees, is far from this type of genuine shift.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Is the End of Global Poverty Closer than You Think?

cgdev.org, Center for Global Development, 8/5/16, 9780198703525Andy Sumner

In a new CGD paper we find that:

  • The poor, on average, live at about the same level: they are not necessarily better off in developing countries with higher average incomes
  • Most developing countries could speed up the end of poverty dramatically without waiting years for economic growth to do the job
  • Up to 77 percent of global poverty could be ended via new taxation and the reallocation of public spending

Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that a nation’s people died not because of a food shortage but because some people lacked entitlements to that food. In a new CGD working paper with Chris Hoy, we ask if a similar situation is now the case for global poverty: are national resources available but not being used to end poverty?

The short answer is yes (but don’t stop reading…). We find that approximately three-quarters of global poverty, at the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day, if not higher poverty lines, could now be eliminated—in principle—via redistribution of nationally available resources. We argue that the findings provide a rationale for a stronger consideration of some national redistribution for purely instrumental reasons: to reduce or end global poverty faster, rather than waiting years for growth.

Three Key Findings

First, we argue in the paper that global poverty lines ought to be extended beyond $1.90 per day. That’s not too controversial we know. We note that about $2.50 or $5 per day are respectively the approximate value of the average of national poverty lines ofall developing countries and the average of national poverty lines of all countries—so a truly global poverty line for the latter. Even those may be insufficient as a World Bank paper points towards a line of $10 per day as the daily consumption associated in longitudinal studies with permanent escape from poverty.

Second, surprisingly, we find that the poor in general live at about the same level. The poor are not necessarily better off if they live in developing countries with higher average incomes or consumption. Indeed, we find for example, the average poor person in extreme poverty in Brazil is actually worse off than in the DR Congo, meaning that the average consumption of a poor person under the $1.90 global poverty line in Brazil is less than the average consumption of a poor person in DR Congo (yes, you read that correctly). The average poor person in Ethiopia is only slightly worse off than the average poor person in China or India.

Third, and this is the controversial bit, it is generally assumed that most, if not all developing countries have insufficient domestic capacity to raise taxes or reallocate public spending to fully address extreme poverty let alone higher poverty lines. In general, this is no longer the case at $1.90 or $2.50 per day and even at $5 per day potentially for much of global poverty. In short, most developing countries have the financial scope to dramatically speed up the end of poverty based on national capacities without necessarily having to wait for economic growth. We find that three-quarters of global poverty could be ended via new taxation and reallocation of public spending (yes you read that right too).

Now the controversial bit. The reallocation of public spending would be away from regressive fossil fuel subsidies which cover for example cheap petrol and largely benefit richer groups in society and towards cash transfers to the poor. We also consider what we call ‘surplus’ military spending and its relocation to cash transfers to the poor. We know this is going to be contentious but we define ‘surplus’ in our paper as ‘more guns than the neighbours,’ meaning annual military spending above the country with the regional lowest per person. If that sounds just too controversial, don’t worry, the regressive fuel subsidies alone would cover seventy percent of global poverty.

In terms of new taxation alone, we find that almost all countries with a GNI Atlas per capita over $2000 per capita could end $1.90 poverty, or even $2.50 poverty.

What happened? Since the beginning of the millennium, high growth rates in many parts of the developing world have not only reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty, but have also significantly increased the number of people who live in a group who aren’t poor. In fact a group who wouldn’t even be poor in the US as they live above the US poverty line. This has created a new capacity for redistribution through the potential to raise taxes. And the next surprise is those taxes aren’t necessarily high. The marginal tax rates would be in the order of 1-2 percent in some populous developing countries like Brazil and China. Again, if this all sounds too radical, just recall the regressive fuel subsidies alone would cover seventy percent of global poverty.

All of the above would suggest one could revisit the classifications of countries by low and middle income in favour of thinking about countries in terms of their capacity to end poverty. This could entail something fairly simple: just double the low income to middle income threshold from approximately $1000 GNI Atlas per capita to about $2000 per capita.

The conclusion of our paper is that these findings demonstrate an instrumental case for redistribution—to ultimately speed up the end of global poverty. Of course the political economy of redistribution would not be easy even if the maths are convincing. The good new is over 100 developing countries already have cash transfer schemes in place so the mechanisms are there in principle to get the cash directly to the poor and theevidence on impact on monetary poverty is compelling.

We think our findings may come as a surprise because the data points towards the fact that the causes of much of global poverty are increasingly a question of national political economy rather than resource scarcity. In fact, that very idea on the shifting causes of much of global poverty is one that I’ve been exploring in a new book out soon but more on that in a future blog.

In short, fiscal policy—and who pays and receives what—is a political choice or contract that governments or elites make with the rest of the population. So if you care about ending global poverty, there is now a case for looking more closely at national redistribution for purely instrumental reasons: to end global poverty quicker than waiting for growth alone to do the job.

In the same way that Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that people died from lack of entitlements—and not lack of food availability—our data underscores that while national resources are available to help end poverty, they are not being used for this purpose. Time to ask the question of what matters most: cheap gasoline for the richest groups, more guns than the neighbours, or giveaways to end three-quarters of global poverty?

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ON DEVELOPMENT: African Leaders Driving Push for Industrialisation: UN Official

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa on July 25. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2016, ipsnews.net, by Lyndal Rowland – Industrialisation in Africa is being driven by African leaders who realise that industries as diverse as horticulture and leather production can help add value to the primary resources they currently export.

This is an “inside driven” process, Li Yong, Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) told IPS in a recent interview. “I’ve heard that message from the African leaders.”

The African Union ‘Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want’ sets out a plan to transform the economy of the 54 countries in Africa based on manufacturing, said Li.

The process received support from the UN General Assembly on Monday with a new resolution titled the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (2016-2025).

The resolution was sponsored by the Group of 77 (G77) developing countries and China in collaboration with the African Union, said Li.

“These steps create a momentum that all “industrialization stakeholders” in Africa must take advantage of,” said Li.

The resolution called on UNIDO to work together with the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and the Economic Commission for Africa to work towards sustainable industrialisation in Africa over the next 10 years.

The types of industrialisation African countries are embracing often involves adding value to the primary commodities, from mining or agriculture, that they are already producing.

It includes horticultural industry, notably in Kenya, Ethiopia and Senegal, beneficiation, adding value to minerals mined in Botswana, and shoe and garment manufacturing in Ethiopia, said Li.

However Li noted that in order to attract foreign investment in industrialisation, developing countries need to “do their homework.”

This can include building the necessary business infrastructure required for new industries in industrial parks.
“We have already seen some countries move ahead with attracting investments into industrial parks (including) Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa,” said Li.

Li pointed to recent examples from Ethiopia and Senegal, where the respective governments have invested millions of dollars in building industrial parks to attract foreign investors that create jobs and exports for these two Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

Currently, there are 48 LDCs around the world, of which 34 are in Africa.

Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

The decent work and value addition that come with industrialisation are considered a key way that these LDCs can grow, transform and diversify their economies and become middle income countries. Most LDCs rely on a handful of primary resources for exports, such as gold or the so-called black golds: oil, coal and coffee.

LDCs in Africa have had “very low and declining shares of manufacturing value added in GDP since the 1970s”, noted Li.
By investing in industry, these countries can add value to their primary exports, including through agro-industry, as is the case in Ethiopia, whose main exports include coffee, gold, leather products and live animals. “Manufacturing connects agriculture to light industry” noted Li, such as through food processing, garments and textiles, wood and leather processing.

Moreover, industrialisation does not necessarily have to be incompatible with the shift to a low carbon economy, said Li, since use of resource and energy efficient production methods and renewable energy in productive activities such as agro-industry, beneficiation, and in manufacturing, in general, will lead the economy onto a low carbon path.

The world’s least developed countries are following in the footsteps of other countries which have already achieved development, in part due to the industrialisation of their economies.

LDCs are “really eager to learn from those countries (that have) already gone through this process so that is why we have established South-South cooperation,” said Li.

However industrialisation does not only benefit the developing countries which want to attract it.

“Firms in today’s manufacturing powerhouses such as China, India and Brazil that are faced with rising wages at home are searching for locations that offer competitive wages, and appropriate infrastructure,” said Li.

With populations in many countries around the world beginning to age, Africa also has a comparative advantage to offer with growing young populations in many African countries.

“With its young and growing population, some indications show that Africa has the potential to become the next region to benefit from industrialization, particularly in labor-intensive manufacturing sectors,” said Li.

By providing employment and opportunities for these young people at home, industrialisation can also address other issues, including migration, inequalities and climate change, noted Li.

“Industry means creating jobs and incomes and industrial jobs partially reduce the pressure on migration and also resolve the root causes,” he said.

The Role of the G77

Li noted that UNIDO works closely with all developing countries, often through the Group of 77 and China, which represents 134 developing countries at the UN.

“The G77 and China has diverse membership, including Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Islands Developing States, and Middle Income Countries, located in almost all regions of the world and with diverse range of priorities with respect to industrial development,” he said.

“In LDCs, labor-intensive manufacturing is promoted to create jobs.”

“In middle-income countries moving up the technology ladder into higher value added manufacturing is targeted.”
This can include collaborations with “science, technology and research and development institutions, targeted foreign investment promotion, and other relevant services,” said Li.

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HAITI, ON DEVELOPMENT: OAS Needs New Leadership

OAShuffingtonpost.com, by Mark Weisbrot Co-Director, Center For Economic And Policy Research, Washington, D.C., July 11, 2016

Luis Almagro, the current Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) has abused his position and authority more flagrantly and outrageously than any predecessor in recent years. In his lack of judgment and disregard for political and diplomatic norms he resembles Donald Trump. And like Trump, he is increasingly seen as an embarrassment within the organization for which he is the standard bearer.

The OAS has been manipulated by Washington many times over the years in the service of regime change. Twenty-first century examples include Haiti (2000-2004, and 2011), Honduras (2009), and Paraguay (2012). It was in response to Washington’s manipulation of the OAS, in the process of consolidating the 2009 military coup in Honduras, that the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was formed. It includes all countries in the hemisphere except the United States and Canada.

But in these other cases, Washington had to pretend it was doing something other than carrying out a political campaign against a sovereign government. Almagro is much more brazen. Like the communists of Karl Marx’s time, he “disdains to conceal his views.” He is a radical and seeks to win his goals by any means necessary.

His main goal at present is to get rid of the current government of Venezuela. In the run-up to the congressional elections there last December, he worked tirelessly to try and convince the media and the world that the government was going to rig the elections. When the vote count was universally acknowledged as clean, he made no apologies but simply switched tactics.

Almagro’s latest offensive involves invoking the OAS Democratic Charter, which allows the organization to intervene when there is an “unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic order in a member state.” Never mind that Venezuela still has an elected president, unlike Brazil, where a cabal of corrupt politicians has manipulated the legislative and judicial branches of government to suspend the head of state in a desperate effort to protect themselves from investigations for corruption. Almagro’s offensive is about politics, not democracy. It’s about what Washington and its right-wing allies want for the region.

Exhibiting a profound lack of respect for the political norms of Latin America, Almagro posted an article by Washington Post editorialist Jackson Diehl on the OAS website. The articlepraised Almagro for “revitalizing the OAS” with his crusade against a member state. It is no more appropriate for the head of the OAS to campaign against a member country than it would be for the head of the European Commission to do so in Europe.

In Latin America there is a deep historical tradition that values national sovereignty and self-determination, however incomprehensible and arrogantly dismissed those concepts may be in Washington. Diehl is a hard core neoconservative, an American supremacist who uses the editorial pages of the Washington Post to trash almost all of the left governments of the region, and to support military intervention anywhere that it might vaguely serve “American interests.” He was one of the most prominent and vocal supporters of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with the Post running 27 editorial board pieces supporting the war in the six months prior to the invasion.

Basking in the praise of someone like Jackson Diehl, for any literate Latin American, is the equivalent of Trump’s infamoustweet quoting Mussolini.

There are immediate and risky consequences of Almagro’s malfeasance and abuse of power. Venezuela is confronting an economic and political crisis and the country is politically divided. The political opposition in Venezuela is also divided; as throughout its 21st century history, some want to advocate peaceful and electoral change, while others want to overthrow the government. A normal leader of the OAS would do what the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is doing — try to promote dialogue between the two opposing forces. Since the main opposition group (MUD) and other opposition leaders refuse to meet with the government, UNASUR has enlisted José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (former prime minister of Spain), Martín Torrijos (former president of Panama), and Leonel Fernández (former president of the Dominican Republic) to meet with both sides in order to facilitate dialogue.

But Almagro is not interested in promoting dialogue; he is more interested in using the OAS, and its reach in the media, to delegitimize the Venezuelan government, a goal that Washington has pursued for most of the past 15 years.

Impatience with Almagro within the OAS is mounting. Many governments have publicly criticized him, and several have called for his resignation. He had previously been denounced by former president Pepe Mujica of Uruguay, whom he had served as foreign minister.

Most importantly, in June, 19 countries (a majority of the OAS membership) ordered that the Permanent Council of the OAS discuss his behavior. This is long overdue, and hopefully will lead to a change of leadership.

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and the president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of the new book “Failed: What the ‘Experts’ Got Wrong About the Global Economy” (2015, Oxford University Press).

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ON DEVELOPMENT: The Next UN Secretary General Should Be a Woman – and Must Be a Feminist

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

Opinion by Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International.

Oxford, UNITED KINGDOM, Aug 3 2016 (ipsnews.net) – The process for arguably the top political job on the planet is well underway.  And the time is right for a woman and a feminist to take the helm.

The United Nations (UN) Security Council is continuing its consideration of candidates for the next UN Secretary-General, with the next “straw poll” due to take place on Friday August 5th.

Backed by public debates and online campaigns, this selection process for the Secretary-General has been the most transparent and accessible yet – driven in part by tireless efforts from civil society.

But the decision to appoint essentially rests with the Security Council’s five permanent members in what has been, since 1946, a remarkably secretive selection procedure, one which has given us three Europeans, two Africans, two Asians and one Latin American – all men – in 70 years.

This process has never produced a female secretary general.

In 2006 the Secretary-General selection process included only one woman in seven candidates. This time round, half the current candidates are women. There is no shortage of talent. Yet the initial signs are not promising. The Security Council’s first straw pollon July 21st saw only one woman among the top five.

The absurd male monopoly on the UN’s top job must come to an end. The next Secretary-General must be both a woman and a feminist, with the determination and leadership to promote women’s rights and gender equality.

The long selection process ahead must reverse this. The absurd male monopoly on the UN’s top job must come to an end. The next Secretary-General must be both a woman and a feminist, with the determination and leadership to promote women’s rights and gender equality.

Growing up as an activist under an oppressive dictatorship in Uganda, the UN was a friend to those of us who fought our way to freedom, as it was for the millions that joined decolonization struggles in the African continent. Today, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Climate Agreement agreed in 2015 are testament to the UN’s global role and reach, and a legacy of Ban Ki-moon’s outstanding leadership.

Yet the UN is failing to meet its founding tenets to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”and uphold human rights for those who are powerless. For the UN’s new leader, reversing this sounds near-impossible amidst protracted conflicts, a lack of respect for international humanitarian law and a massive global displacement crisis.

Fulfilling the pledge to “leave no one behind” is perhaps the biggest political challenge. The new Secretary-General must grapple with the spiralling crisis of extreme economic inequality that keeps people poor, undermines economic growth and threatens the health of democracies. And a low carbon pathway will not happen without strong UN leadership to drive drastic reductions from the richest in our societies, whose lifestyles are responsible for the majority of them.

Choosing a woman goes far beyond symbolism and political correctness. The discrimination of women and girls goes to the core of any and all analyses of the world’s economic, political and environmental problems.

A feminist woman Secretary-General will, by definition and action, ensure gender equality is put at the heart of peace, security and development. In doing so, she will truly champion the UN’s core values of human rights, equality and justice.

Such an appointment – far too long in coming – would fulfil promises given by world leaders 21 years ago at the historic UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing to nominate more women to senior posts in the UN. In the past decade, women have filled less than a quarter of senior roles at the organization, according to UN Women. Shockingly, as recently as last year women made up less than 17 percent of Under- and Assistant Secretary-General appointments.

A new feminist UN Secretary General will ensure that more women serve as heads of UN agencies, peacekeeping missions, diplomatic envoys, and senior mediators who collectively can strengthen the global peace and security agenda. Without women’s equal access to positions of decision-making power and a clear process to get there, gender equality, global security and peace will never be realized.

And it will take a woman feminist Secretary-General to advance the bold, comprehensive women’s human rights agenda in intergovernmental fora that is needed to address the multiple and intertwined challenges facing us in the 21st century. Only a woman feminist Secretary-General can ensure financial support reaches women’s rights movements – proven to have made progress on addressing the challenges of violence against women and girls, climate change, conflict and economic inequality. They can ensure that feminist and civil society movements are not just observers in policymaking, but active and equal participants.

She should, too, boost international efforts to empower women economically – thus strengthening national economies and prosperity for all – and tackling the harmful social norms that trap women in poverty and powerlessness.

The new Secretary-General must also reimagine the role of the UN in a world radically different to the one it was set up to serve and be bold in leading its reform.

The UN must be made more inclusive, accountable, democratic, effective, and reflective of a world in which political and economic power has shifted. And the UN must be able to protect its unique role as a genuinely multilateral institution that acts in the interests of all people and all countries. Integrity must not be undermined by the influence of private sector actors and their money.

The Security Council, particularly the five permanent members, must choose change and progress over continuity. They must have the foresight to ensure they listen to the voices of the public and select the Secretary-General that the world and the UN needs today: a woman and a feminist.

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ON DEVELOPMENT: School out of reach for nearly one in 10 children worldwide, UNESCO says

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Many children out of school live in areas of conflict, others are girls living in societies that do not advocate educating women

By Sebastien Malo

NEW YORK, July 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Some 263 million children worldwide, nearly one in 10, do not go to school, posing a daunting hurdle to the United Nations’ efforts to educate all children by 2030, the U.N.’s cultural agency UNESCO reported on Friday.

The number is “staggering,” yet marks an improvement from 2000 when some 374 million children did not attend school, UNESCO said.

Many children out of school live in areas of conflict, others are girls living in societies that do not advocate educating females and others live in countries that do not make secondary school compulsory, the report said.

Children in their late teens are four times more likely to be out of school than younger children, it said.

“Our focus must be on inclusion from the earliest age and right through the learning cycle, on policies that address the barriers at every stage, with special attention to girls who still face the greatest disadvantage,” said UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova in a statement.

U.N. member nations last year adopted a set of global goals for 2030 that included a call for children around the world to complete primary and secondary school.

“These new findings show the hard work ahead if we are to reach this goal,” Bokova said.

Armed conflict poses a major barrier to education, UNESCO said.

Around the world, 22 million out-of-school children of primary education age live in conflict areas, it said.

Also, many children not in school live in sub-Saharan Africa, where three out of five children of secondary school age are not in classes, it said.

UNESCO said while primary and lower secondary education are compulsory in nearly every country, upper secondary school is not. Also, it said older children are often of legal working age.

It said globally 15 million girls of primary school age will never attend classes compared with about 10 million boys, and more than half those girls live in sub-Saharan Africa.

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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ON DEVELOPMENT: Too hot to work: global warming to cost $2 trillion in lost productivity

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The first three months of 2016 have broken temperature records and 2015 was the planet’s warmest year since records began in the 19th century;

By Beh Lih Yi, https://twitter.com/@BehLihYi

JAKARTA, July 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rising temperatures caused by climate change may cost the world economy over $2 trillion in lost productivity by 2030 as hot weather makes it unbearable to work in some parts of the world, according to U.N. research published on Tuesday.

It showed that in Southeast Asia alone, up to 20 percent of annual work hours may already be lost in jobs with exposure to extreme heat with the figures set to double by 2050 as the effects of climate change deepen.

Across the globe, 43 countries will see a fall in their gross domestic product (GDP) due to reduced productivity, the majority of them in Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, China, India and Bangladesh, researcher Tord Kjellstrom said.

Indonesia and Thailand could see their GDP reduced by 6 percent in 2030, while in China GDP could be reduced by 0.8 percent and in India by 3.2 percent.

“Current climate conditions in tropical and subtropical parts of the world are already so hot during the hot seasons that occupational health effects occur and work capacity for many people is affected,” said Kjellstrom, a director at the New Zealand-based Health and Environment International Trust.

He said the increasing need for rest “is likely to become a significant problem” as climate change makes the hottest days hotter and leads to longer periods of excessively hot days.

Kjellstrom authored one of six papers on the impact of climate change on health that were put together by the United Nations University’s International Institute for Global Health in Kuala Lumpur and published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health.

Kjellstrom warned that the lowest-paid workers – those in heavy labour, agricultural and manufacturing – were most at risk of exposure to extreme heat.

He urged countries to take “decisive action” to tackle global warming.

“Failure will cause the frequency and intensity of disasters to worsen dramatically beyond 2050, and the situation at the end of this century will be especially alarming for the world’s poorest people,” the researcher said.

The other papers in the series showed around 2.1 million people worldwide died between 1980 and 2012 due to nearly 21,000 natural catastrophes such as floods, mudslides, extreme heat, drought, high winds or fires.

In Asia Pacific, 1.2 billon people have been affected by 1,215 disasters – mostly flood, cyclones and landslides – since 2000.

In April, 175 countries signed a Paris climate deal to restrain the global rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The first three months of 2016 have broken temperature records and 2015 was the planet’s warmest year since records began in the 19th century.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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