Economic and Social Development Issues

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Haiti: How Not to Report on an Earthquake

A police officer looking on as an excavator digs through rubble in search of bodies in Katmandu, Nepal, on April 27. Credit: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
As of Tuesday morning, exactly three days have passed since a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook Nepal, killing thousands and leaving millions in need of help. In disaster response, the end of the first 72 hours is often considered an inflection point: the unofficial moment when the most acute phase passes, the odds of finding trapped survivors plunge and the relief effort tends to really pick up steam.

Three days into a crisis, roads and airports are often reopening, and outside responders and journalists are arriving in droves. The decisions made at this time can determine the course of the response. A misstep now can have ramifications lasting years, even decades.

I know this because I lived through a moment of just this sort five years ago, in Haiti. I was in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010, when a powerful quake rippled outward from an epicenter 15 miles from the capital. In 40 seconds, the shock waves, according to some estimates, literally decimated the population, killing 100,000 to 316,000 people in an overcrowded, overbuilt metropolitan area that was home to more than three million. Governments and aid groups mobilized cargo planes and ships, deploying thousands of soldiers, search-and-rescue teams and medical responders. I was the lone correspondent in the country’s lone full-time foreign news bureau when the quake hit, but I wasn’t on my own for long. By the 72-hour mark, hundreds of reporters — if not more — had joined me in town, beaming images and accounts of the destruction around the world.

Time seemed to stop during the earthquake, and only gradually picked up speed in the days that followed. The first night felt as if it would never end. Aftershocks roiled the ground. People were scouring the rubble for loved ones and neighbors, but the quake had hit in the late afternoon, and in a country with little infrastructure and electricity, it was impossible to continue the search once darkness fell. Nearly everyone who could be was outdoors that night, many of them singing and praying, waiting to see if help would come from outside.

It did, though slowly at first. A trickle of aid convoys arrived overland from the Dominican Republic the next morning. A United States military advance team landed at the damaged airport and took over its operations, setting up an emergency air-traffic-control system.

Then, on the third day, the skies filled with planes and the harbor with ships. Soon United Nations peacekeepers and American soldiers were scrambling to hand out food and water. My editors at The Associated Press made sure that my colleagues and I traded shifts covering the search-and-rescue efforts; they wanted to be certain we did not miss out on images of survivors being pulled from the rubble.

The old standby narratives of disaster coverage picked up from there. We watched for panic and desperation to turn to looting and violence. When aid groups began issuing warnings of impending post-disaster disease outbreaks, we repeated them.

Similar story lines are now emerging from Nepal (although, as of this writing, rumors of looting and violence have been confined mainly to social media). But in Haiti, as is often the case, those story lines turned out to be dead wrong. Most embarrassing for a journalist, they were wrong in ways that would have immediately been made clear had we taken the time to ask some basic questions.

Food and water, for example. When I was in Haiti two years later, to research the relief effort for a book, I was shocked to discover that no one could tell me with any precision if there was ever a food or water shortage in the first place. No one among the responders had even contacted the Coordination Nationale de la Sécurité Alimentaire — the Haitian government agency overseeing food security — to find out what might be needed. Indeed, earthquakes tend to inflict the worst damage on cities, not farms — especially in countries that already have limited infrastructure — and Haiti’s urban areas didn’t have any sewers or piped drinking water to begin with.

People indeed lost their homes and incomes, and markets closed. But theWorld Food Program had enough supplies in its Port-au-Prince warehouses — which survived the quake — to feed 300,000 people one full meal for three weeks. There was no acute food or malnutrition crisis after the quake; that much we know. But it seems very likely that the city could have avoided one even without the frenzied aid push.

Our focus on the organized rescue efforts was similarly misplaced. The constant media coverage and well-financed, specialized rescue teams created the impression in many viewers’ minds that large numbers of people were being saved by outside responders. In fact, according to a report by the French Defense Ministry’s Haiti mission, no more than 211 people were saved by all of the international search-and-rescue efforts combined, in a disaster in which hundreds of thousands were trapped.

This isn’t the responders’ fault; they worked as hard and as fast as they could. But disaster experts routinely note that a vast majority of rescues after an earthquake take place within the first 24 hours, and are almost always done by people from the area using their hands or simple tools. By contrast, the first American search-and-rescue team didn’t arrive in Haiti until nearly a full day after the disaster.

As for the notion of post-disaster disease outbreaks, epidemiologists have gone looking for evidence of epidemics resulting from calamities like earthquakes, and they have generally concluded that they don’t happen. (“The news industry is prone to emphasizing more dramatic and simplistic messages, and unjustified warnings will likely continue to be spread on the basis of an approximate assessment of risks,” the authors of a 2006 study wrote in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) If you look closely, news reports tend to cite unspecified “fears” or “threats” of disease, often sourced to nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross. But those sources are rarely asked to produce any actual evidence.

There is violence after disasters, just as there is violence every day wherever humans live. But taking a hard look back puts the lie to the idea that societies somehow become less cohesive after a natural shock, at a moment when most people are busy trying to put their lives back in order. After Hurricane Sandy, in 2012, crime fell in nearly every category in New York City. (The murder rate in Nepal’s capital, Katmandu, when it was last measured nearly a decade ago, was higher than New York’s but comparable to Chicago’s in recent years.)

There is no way to know for sure if that was true in Port-au-Prince; crime statistics were unreliable before the quake and nonexistent after. The escape of prisoners from the city’s national penitentiary did lead to a series of murders over turf in the slum Cité Soleil, and there were reports of increased sexual violence in the months after the disaster. But there was no widespread civil unrest of the magnitude that would justify keeping 20,000 United States troops on call. Having been there at the time, I recognized the sentiment expressed by Donatella Lorch, a Katmandu-based writer, in The Times this week: “I am buoyed by the generous spirit of [Nepal’s] people. My son and I know that life here will get worse in the days and weeks ahead as fuel and water run low. But we also know we are in this together.”

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Afghanistan Reconstruction: Fact vs. Fantasy

John F. Sopko , Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction
Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City , May 5, 2015

Full Speech

Conclusion

For both humanitarian and national-security reasons, the U.S. mission to reconstruct Afghanistan is critical. And with $15 billion currently awaiting disbursement, with billions more to follow, there is both need to improve the effectiveness of the effort, and time to make a difference in the outcome.

We must not kid ourselves about Afghanistan. It will be a long struggle. Defeating a determined insurgency, improving health and education, altering attitudes toward women, reducing corruption, and building governmental competence are not casual, short-term undertakings. Impatience driven by temperament, election cycles, or fiscal-year budgeting can only impede progress.

We can also safely say that the struggle in Afghanistan won’t be shortened, much less won, by official happy talk and cheerleader-style press releases. Improving the likelihood of mission success requires, as a start, accurate, verifiable, and pertinent data-accompanied by a recognition that some key indicators require subjective evaluation by experienced and independent observers in the field. Let me emphasize the independence issue. Poor data and disregard of nonquantitative assessments that is biased by self-interest and turf protection can only lead to unrealistic judgments, unjustified hopes, and outright fantasies with no link to reality.

The 19th-century American humorist Josh Billings said, in the manner of Socrates, “I honestly believe it is better to know nothing than to know what ain’t so.”[28] SIGAR’s clinical examination of American reconstruction operations in Afghanistan has persuaded me that we know a lot more than nothing, but a lot less than we think. Budgeting, planning, oversight, course corrections, and decisions to adjust the targets, duration, and intensity of U.S. efforts there all require reliable information. At the moment, that is all too often a scarce commodity and, accordingly, our programs as we go forward may be based more upon fantasy than reality.

SIGAR will press on in the years ahead to carry out its assignment of pinning down facts; calling out fluff, felonies, and fantasies; and recommending improvements. We welcome your interest and support in that mission, as I welcome your comments and questions. Thank you.

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Development Issues: Development Aid Flows to Poorest Countries Still Falling

Original article found at: IPS News Agency

ROME, Apr 8 2015 (IPS) – Development aid flows were stable in 2014, after hitting an all-time high in 2013, but aid to the poorest countries continued to fall, according to new figures released on Apr. 8 by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Net official development assistance (ODA) from DAC members totalled 135.2 billion dollars, level with a record 135.1 billion dollars in 2013, though marking a 0.5 percent decline in real terms. Net ODA as a share of gross national income (GNI) was 0.29 percent, also on a par with 2013.

However, bilateral aid – which equates to roughly two-thirds of total ODA – to the least developed countries fell by 16 percent in real terms to 25 billion dollars, according to provisional DAC data.

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is made up mainly of European countries plus the European Union as a member in its own right, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.

Five of the DAC’s 28 member countries – Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom – continued to exceed the United Nations target of keeping ODA at 0.7 percent of GNI, while 13 countries reported a rise in net ODA, with the biggest increases in Finland, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland.

On the other hand, 15 DAC members reported lower ODA, with the biggest declines in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Poland, Portugal and Spain.

“ODA remains crucial for the poorest countries and we must reverse the trend of declining aid to the least developed countries. OECD ministers recently committed to provide more development assistance to the countries most in need. Now we must make sure we deliver on that commitment,” said DAC Chair Erik Solheim.

Reacting to the latest DAC figures for Europe, Oxfam said that “the leadership of a handful of countries is masking the failure of the majority of European governments to deliver on their overseas aid promises”, with aid stagnating, leaving millions of poor people at risk

“In times of ballooning challenges for the world’s poorest, it is striking that European overseas aid has stagnated”, said Hilary Jeune, Oxfam’s EU Policy Advisor.

“This picture would be worse if it were not for the leadership of a handful of countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, Luxembourg and Denmark, masking the poor performance of the majority. Wealthy countries, such as France and Austria, have failed to uphold their commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

France has cut its aid budget for the fourth year in a row and Spain’s overseas aid spending is at its lowest level since 1989, said Oxfam. Germany and Finland have made some progress but they are still off track on reaching their commitments, while the Netherlands is no longer contributing 0.7 percent of its GNI.

“European governments first promised to deliver 0.7 percent of their national income to support poor countries when Richard Nixon was President of America and the Beatles were topping the charts,” added Jeune.

“In the 45 years since, only a handful of European Union countries have delivered on this promise. Yet with some one billion people still living in poverty and climate change posing huge new development challenges, the need for overseas aid is greater than ever before.”

Oxfam called on the global community to agree ambitious new development goals and a new deal for tackling climate change this year, including at the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, in July.

“In Addis, EU Finance Ministers should demonstrate genuine leadership by being the first ones to re-commit to providing 0.7 percent of national income as overseas aid and outline how they will deliver on this promise, including setting a clear timetable.”

Oxfam said that they must also “put new money on the table from their budgets and from new sources like financial transaction taxes and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme to help poor countries cope with the devastating impacts of climate change.”

Edited by Phil Harris

Original article found at: IPS News Agency

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Development: Only 40 percent of Ebola funds reached target countries

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

By Kate Kelland

A fan holds an Equatorial Guinea flag with an anti-Ebola message written on it during the team's Group A soccer match against Burkina Faso at the African Cup of Nations in Bata January 21, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

A fan holds an Equatorial Guinea flag with an anti-Ebola message written on it during the team’s Group A soccer match against Burkina Faso at the African Cup of Nations in Bata January 21, 2015. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

LONDON, Feb 3 (Reuters) – Almost $2.9 billion was pledged by the end of 2014 in donations to fight West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, yet only around 40 percent had actually reached affected countries, researchers said on Tuesday.

A study by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that tracked international donations showed barely $1.09 billion had reached the worst affected countries by the end of last year, they said.

“These delays … may have contributed to spread of the virus and could have increased the financial needs,” said Karen Grepin, a global health policy expert at New York University who led the study and published it in the BMJ British medical journal.

The West Africa Ebola epidemic, the worst in history, has killed more than 8,800 people since it began more than a year ago, decimating already weak health systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Its spread now appears to be slowing, especially in Liberia which now has just five cases.

Grepin analysed the level and speed of pledges made to fight Ebola and how they aligned with estimates of funds required to control the epidemic.

She found not only that more than half of funds pledged by international donors had not reached the target countries, but also that global agencies had failed to reliably estimate the amount of money needed.

While Guinea first informed the World Health Organization of a “rapidly evolving outbreak” of Ebola on March 23, 2014, the first major international appeal was not until August, when some $71 million was asked for.

By mid-September 2014, around six months after the epidemic started, the United Nations estimated $1 billion would be needed, only to raise that in November to an estimate of $1.5 billion.

“Clearly, international leaders have found it challenging to estimate the financial requirements to tackle this rapidly spreading outbreak,” Grepin said in a commentary about her findings. “The problem has not been the generosity of donors but that the resources have not been deployed rapidly enough.”

U.N. Ebola chief David Nabarro said last month a further $4 billion — equivalent to all aid committed so far — was needed by relief agencies and authorities in the worst affected countries to end the epidemic, with U.N. agencies alone needing $1 billion of that to fund their part in the fight. (Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

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Development: World has not woken up to water crisis caused by climate change – IPCC head

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

By: Nita Bhalla, Feb 3 2015

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A farmer removes dried grass from his sugarcane field in Muzaffarnagar, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which is on the verge of drought because the monsoon rains are several weeks late. Picture July 19, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee

 

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Water scarcity could lead to conflict between communities and nations as the world is still not fully aware of the water crisis many countries face as a result of climate change, the head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists warned on Tuesday.

The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a rise in global temperature of between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius (0.5 to 8.6 Fahrenheit) by the late 21st century.

Countries such as India are likely to be hit hard by global warming, which will bring more freak weather such as droughts that will lead to serious water shortages and affect agricultural output and food security.

“Unfortunately, the world has not really woken up to the reality of what we are going to face in terms of the crises as far as water is concerned,” IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri told participants at a conference on water security.

“If you look at agricultural products, if you look at animal protein – the demand for which is growing – that’s highly water intensive. At the same time, on the supply side, there are going to be several constraints. Firstly because there are going to be profound changes in the water cycle due to climate change.”

Development experts around the world have become increasingly concerned about water security in recent years.

More frequent floods and droughts caused by climate change, pollution of rivers and lakes, urbanisation, over-extraction of ground water and expanding populations mean that many nations such as India face serious water shortages.

In addition, the demand for more power by countries like India to fuel their economic growth has resulted in a need to harness more water for hydropower dams and nuclear plants.

The dry months of June and July, during which there are frequent power cuts and water shortages, offer a snapshot of the pending water crisis in India.

Hospitals in New Delhi cancelled surgery at one point in 2013 because they had no water to sterilise instruments, clean operating theatres or for staff to wash their hands. Upmarket shopping malls selling luxury brands were forced to switch off air conditioners and shut toilets.

Pachauri said it was necessary to bring in technology to help harness water more efficiently, particularly in agriculture where there is a lot of wastage.

“Naturally, this (water crisis) is also going to lead to tensions – probably some conflict between riparian groups and riparian states,” he said.

India, as both an upper and lower riparian nation, finds itself at the centre of water disputes with its eastern and western downstream neighbours – Bangladesh and Pakistan – which accuse New Delhi of monopolising water flows.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Tim Pearce)

Original article found on: Thompson Reuters Foundation

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U.N. Rights Chief Says He’ll Shine a Light on Countries Big and Small

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, is a member of the Jordanian royal family. CreditFabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
 GENEVA — IN a 20-year career at the United Nations, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has had more than a few opportunities to witness the human capacity for cruelty, but nothing seared his memory quite like two scenes from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

In one, he is traveling in a United Nations convoy when the car of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary fighter pulls alongside, and on its hood is the severed head of a Bosnian Muslim child adorned with a United Nations peacekeeper’s blue helmet.

That episode and the plight of two young girls shot by a sniper in Sarajevo have left him decades later, as the new United Nations high commissioner for human rights, still asking, “How can you comprehend this?”

“I mean there’s a degree of villainy that is so disturbing and so beyond our ability to process it mentally that it leaves you asking questions,” he said in a recent interview. “It leaves you with the feeling that you’ve got to try and do what you can at some stage to prevent this.”

A prince in Jordan’s reigning royal family, Mr. Zeid struck some human rights activists as an improbable choice for a job upholding the rights of the world’s downtrodden. It could be seen as an unusual outcome for someone who had started professional life as a policeman, with five years in Jordan’s desert police before joining the United Nations.

Yet those familiar with his career applauded the choice. “He had all the attributes we wanted,” Kenneth Roth, the Human Rights Watch executive director, remarked of the prince, who has agreed to drop his royal title in his new post. “He is a man of stature and principle with a long and demonstrated commitment to human rights.”

“He’s someone who was seared by the experience of the U.N. in Bosnia,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, a close friend and former adviser to the former secretary general, Kofi Annan. “Zeid came out very much with a view that if the U.N. was to stand for anything, it would have to stand for the victims of aggression.”

He is also “an absolutely cool-blooded realist about what is politically possible,” added David Harland, a former United Nations colleague who now heads the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, a Geneva-based conflict mediation organization, attributing some of Mr. Zeid’s achievements to “charm, clarity and a sharp knife.”

The question among human rights experts was whether Mr. Zeid would use his office as a pulpit to publicly criticize the misdeeds of nations, as did his predecessor, Navi Pillay, a doughty South African jurist, or opt for the more traditional approach of discreet back-room conversations.

Mr. Zeid’s answer, four months into the job, seems to be pragmatic use of all available levers. By working diplomatic channels, he will make his first official country visit next week to the United States, which, according to Ms. Pillay’s staff, never even replied to her repeated requests for a visit. He believes negotiations are making headway on a visit to China, another prominent country that never found a convenient date to receive Ms. Pillay during her six years in the office.

Still, Mr. Zeid saw the controversy stirred up by Ms. Pillay as a “telling signal that this was an office on the rise,” and living up to a pledge given in his first statement on the job, his public comments have been unflinching: condemning the “meanspirited house of blood” of the Islamic State’s extremists; denouncing Sri Lanka’s outgoing government for obstructing the work of an inquiry into war crimes allegations and bluntly reminding the United States of its obligation under international law to prosecute all those responsible for C.I.A. torture, including the policy makers and higher-ups who gave the orders as well as those who carried out the interrogations.

LIKE his predecessors in the office, Mr. Zeid has taken criticism for his stands, including personal attacks. “If it’s anything it’s childish, it’s a cheap shot and it’s not acceptable,” he said. “‘Deal with the substance’ is the message I would like to focus on.”

He resists the efforts of some nations to hold his office to a narrow interpretation of its mandate. “I think they don’t necessarily understand how the international system has come about and how it exists,” he said. “If all of us stuck rigidly to mandates given us by governments, there would be no peace on this planet.”

It’s a view shaped by his years of experience of multilateral negotiations in the United Nations and a conviction that individuals, not governments, have played the key part in creating the international order. “Everything we see in agreements across the spectrum comes from the space between where your instructions end and you as a thinking negotiator invest your own thought,” he said.

Mr. Zeid’s record at the United Nations illustrates the point. He spent years pushing it to account for its missteps in the Balkans, specifically its failure to avert the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims at Srebrenica. “He was the one who absolutely didn’t let it go, who said we have to understand what happened and we have to understand what we can learn from this, that it doesn’t happen again,” recalled Mr. Harland, who worked with Mr. Zeid on the report that eventually was completed.

Later, Mr. Zeid led negotiations that would lead to creation of the International Criminal Court in 2002, and as president of the Assembly of States Parties — the court’s managing body — fended off the Bush administration’s effort to emasculate the fledgling court. “It’s not governments that brought this court about, it really was 60 individuals who decided they wanted this court,” he said. “I’m not sure if there had been 60 other individuals representing the same governments you would have had it.”

“I still look back and think it was the most intense, wonderful experience,” Mr. Zeid remarked. “One realized early on that this is what those who had established Nuremberg had aspired for,” he recalled, referring to the trials of Nazi war criminals after World War II. “This was going to be a permanent feature that would limit the excesses of humankind in war or peace, regarding the violence they visit on each other.”

THAT remains a work in progress, but in taking over the human rights portfolio, Mr. Zeid now has the task of holding countries to account across the full spectrum of economic and social rights.

Ending conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, stand out as human rights priorities, Mr. Zeid said, but so are the government failures that allow six million children under 5 years old to die of preventable diseases every year. “If ISIL killed six million people a year, you wouldn’t be able to talk about anything else,” he said, referring to the extremist Islamic State, “so why is it that we don’t look aggressively at the right to better health.”

One minor detail no one bothered to tell Mr. Zeid before he took up the job was that the office was running out of money. It depends on the voluntary contributions of member countries for 60 percent of its funding, and some see little merit in helping to bankroll a critic. So as one of his first actions, even before he could turn to the cause of defending rights, he had to cut 50 posts. “Not a great start. Mr. Popularity from Day 1,” he said.

This year he will find himself embroiled in budget battles, trying for a slice larger than the 3 percent, or $265 million, the United Nations now devotes to human rights and peacekeeping, despite their outsize role in the organization’s activities.

“It’s a trifle,” Mr. Zeid said. “You can hardly convince yourself that it’s a serious commitment by states, given the enormity of the task before us.”

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Development, On the Media: The Great Debate – Freedom of Information and Media in the UN’s New Global Development Goals

Original article found on: The Source
Posted on January 20, 2015Bill Orme
UN Representative, Global Forum for Media Development

This Monday, the UN General Assembly began its final phase of negotiations over the UN’s next set of global development goals, which will succeed the expiring Millennium Development Goals and guide international development priorities and aid funding for the next 15 years.  The debates will continue in weekly sessions every month through July, with the new “Sustainable Development Goals” to be adopted in September.

These new goals could provide an unexpected long-term global boost to public access to what should be public information, from official and private sources alike.

Or they may not – but we’ll know within a few months.

The ‘SDGs’ differ from the MDGs in that they are intended to be universal, applying to the developed North as well as to the South, with goals ranging from poverty eradication and disease prevention to gender equity and environmental protection.

They also differ notably from the MDGs in that they include – as currently drafted, despite objections from many UN member states   – several quite specific obligations intended to promote just and effective governance.

Among those proposals, to the surprise of many UN observers, is a commitment to public access to information, as one of the 169 proposed SDGs ‘targets,’ which still need to be backed up by agreed factual ‘indicators.’  Those yet-undetermined indicators could include legal guarantees and the actual observance of the right to “seek, receive and impart information and ideas, through any media and regardless of frontiers” – to cite the prescient but nonbinding language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

World leaders and development experts advising the UN on the post-2015 goals have stressed the need for freedom of expression and independent media in monitoring and ultimately achieving these goals.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his official recommendations to the General Assembly on the post-2015 agenda last month, pointed to “press freedom, access to information and freedom of expression” as essential “enablers of sustainable development.”

Yet as debate gets underway this week, it remains uncertain whether any clear commitment to the public’s right to all relevant information – from governments or elsewhere – will be included in the 2015-2030 “Sustainable Development Goals” that the UN General Assembly will adopt in September.

In the 18 months of UN negotiations over the 17 proposed  “SDGs” that are now being debated, draft references to “independent media” and “freedom of expression” were deleted in response to objections from several influential UN members, including Security Council powers Russia and China. Yet surviving in the agreed final text, in the 16th of the 17 recommended goals, is a “target” requiring all countries to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

As UN diplomats convened for the post-2015 negotiations Monday, there was clearly growing resistance to any major redrafting or reduction of the painfully achieved compromise proposal for 17 goals, out of concern that any gains in precision or practicality would be outweighed by losses in substance and impact.

But the 169 aptly named ‘targets’ remain very much in the crosshairs, vulnerable to rewriting or elimination for a variety of practical and substantive reasons.  As an Austrian diplomat noted at the UN Friday, the current SDGs proposal would in effect obligate UN agencies to monitor 32,617 different data sets from 193 governments on 169 targets on an annual basis – a task that would be politically and technically daunting, if not impossible.

Technically, however, progress on access to information is not that hard to track, UN officials acknowledge. Moreover, many governments and civil society activists from North and South alike have strongly endorsed the proposed target on access to information, improving its chances of survival.

Leading international human rights groups, in a joint message to the UN Friday as civil society representatives met with UN officials in New York to discuss the post-2015 deliberations, stressed the need for “transparent monitoring and accountability mechanisms at the national level which are underpinned by a safe and free environment for civil society, and access to information.”

Also on Friday, the team of statisticians and economists advising the UN on indicators for the proposed SDGs released its penultimate draft report, with newly added recommendations for Target 10 of SDG 16.   The experts in the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network proposed that UNESCO monitor the adoption and implementation of legal guarantees of public access to information, as well as cases of journalists killed in the line of duty. Separately, under goals aimed at economic development, the report proposed indicators from the International Telecommunications Union on progress toward universal access to online information.

That’s a significant advance. The soberly phrased inputs of UN technocrats in this contentious area – showing that freedom of information and media is not only important but measurable, and in fact already measured by the UN in many ways – may overcome political and practical concerns in some wavering countries.  But diplomats stressed to NGO representatives at the UN Friday that transparency and accountability provisions in the SDGs remain vulnerable without sustained public support from civic activists in coming months – and more active coverage of the issue by the journalists whose interests an access-to-information commitment would help protect.

Original article found on: The Source
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Development: European Citizens Call for Increased Aid to Developing World

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

Written by Thalif Deen

Edited by Kitty Stapp

In Tapoa, Burkina Faso, a region bordering Niger, the European Commission's humanitarian aid department (ECHO) funds the NGO ACF to provide health and nutrition care as well as food assistance including cash transfers for the poorest families. Credit: © EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie/cc by 2.0

In Tapoa, Burkina Faso, a region bordering Niger, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) funds the NGO ACF to provide health and nutrition care as well as food assistance including cash transfers for the poorest families. Credit: © EC/ECHO/Anouk Delafortrie/cc by 2.0

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 12 2015 (IPS) – An overwhelming majority of citizens in the 28-member European Union (EU) – which has been hamstrung by a spreading economic recession, a fall in oil prices and a decline of its common currency, the Euro – has expressed strong support for development cooperation and increased aid to developing nations.

A new Eurobarometer survey to mark the beginning of the ‘European Year for Development,’released Monday, shows a significant increase in the number of people in favour of increasing international development aid.

The survey reveals that most Europeans continue to “feel very positively about development and cooperation”.

Additionally, the survey also indicates that 67 percent of respondents across Europe think development aid should be increased – a higher percentage than in recent years, despite the current economic situation in Europe.

And 85 percent believe it is important to help people in developing countries.

“Almost half of respondents would personally be prepared to pay more for groceries or products from those countries, and nearly two thirds say tackling poverty in developing countries should be a main priority for the EU.”textbox

Presenting the results of the survey, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said, “I feel very encouraged to see that, despite economic uncertainty across the EU, our citizens continue to show great support for a strong European role in development.

“The European Year will give us the chance to build on this and inform citizens of the challenges and events that lie ahead during this key year for development, helping us to engage in a debate with them,” he added.

Jens Martens, director of the Bonn-based Global Policy Forum-Europe, told IPS the Eurobarometer demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of EU citizens support global solidarity and strengthened international cooperation.

“This is good news. Now, EU governments must follow their citizens,” he said.

EU positions in the U.N.’s upcoming post-2015 development agenda and Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations will become the litmus test for their global solidarity, said Martens, who is also a member of the Coordinating Committee of Social Watch, a global network of several hundred non-governmental organisations (NGOs) campaigning for poverty eradication and social justice.

EU governments must translate the increased citizens support for development now into an increase of offical development assistance (ODA), but also in fair trade and investment rules and strengthened international tax cooperation under the umbrella of the United Nations, he declared.

According to the latest available statistics, only five countries – Norway (1.07 percent), Sweden (1.02), Luxembourg (1.00), Denmark (0.85), United Kingdom (0.72) and the Netherlands (0.67) – have reached the longstanding target of 0.7 of gross national income as ODA to the world’s poorer nations.

In an interview with IPS last November, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon singled out the importance of the upcoming International Conference on FfD in Ethiopia next July.

He said the ICFD will be “one of the most important conferences in shaping the U.N.’s 17 proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs)” which will be approved at a summit meeting of world leaders next September.

Ban cautioned world leaders of the urgent need for “a robust financial mechanism” to implement the SDGs – and such a mechanism, he said, should be put in place long before the adoption of these goals.

“It is difficult to depend on public funding alone,” he told IPS, stressing the need for financing from multiple sources – including public, private, domestic and international.

Speaking of financing for development, Ban said ODA, from the rich to the poor, is “is necessary but not sufficient.”

Meanwhile, the economic recession is taking place amidst the growing millions living in hunger (over 800 million), jobless (more than 200 million), water-starved (over 750 million) and in extreme poverty (more than one billion), according to the United Nations.

In a statement released Monday, the European Commission provided some of the results of the Eurobarometer on development: At 67 percent, the share of Europeans who agree on a significant increase in development aid has increased by six percentage points since 2013, and a level this high was last seen in 2010.

One in two Europeans sees a role for individuals in tackling poverty in developing countries (50 percent).

A third of EU citizens are personally active in tackling poverty (34 percent), mainly through giving money to charitable organisations (29 percent).

Most Europeans believe that Europe itself also benefits from giving aid to others: 69 percent say that tackling poverty in developing countries also has a positive influence on EU citizens.

Around three-quarters think it is in the EU’s interest (78 percent) and contributes to a more peaceful and equitable world (74 percent).

For Europeans, volunteering is the most effective way of helping to reduce poverty in developing countries (75 percent). But a large majority also believe that official aid from governments (66 percent) and donating to organisations (63 percent) have an impact.

The European Commission says 2015 promises to be “hugely significant for development, with a vast array of stakeholders involved in crucial decision-making in development, environmental and climate policies”.

2015 is the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the year in which the ongoing global post-2015 debate will converge into a single framework for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

2015 is also the year that a new international climate agreement will be decided in Paris.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

Original article found on: Inter Press Service News Agency

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Development, Haiti: Art, an economic stake in the country’s development

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

11/30/14

 

Photo

As part of the implementation of the Strategic Plan for the Development of Haiti (PSDH) developed by the Government, the Council for Economic and Social Development (CDES), an agency of the Primature, recently completed a three-day workshop on the theme “The world of arts and trades through the credit system”, which took place around three fundamental axes: the valuation of arts, trades and occupations according to the various trades; accompanying mechanisms for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and the financial system and its adaptation to new economic challenges.

The Office of the Deputy Minister (Marie Carmèle Rose Anne Auguste) responsible for human rights and the fight against extreme poverty is involved in this project together with other government ministries and public agencies.

In her speech, the Minister Auguste highlighted the importance of arts and culture in the development of the country “The arts should be the engine of our economic development. Our culture, the talent of our artists and our craftsmen is our greatest wealth,” appealing to investment in the arts the Minister added “Our artists of sensitive neighborhoods need sustained coaching, good tools to work, adequate environment that enables them to work in peace.”

The Minister Delegate believes essential to build of integration centers in disadvantaged neighborhoods that will be, according to her “places of high culture where will will meet and will will commune all social strata of the Nation.”

At the end of the forum, a series of recommendations was formulated concerning inter alias : the development of a social credit system to finance the activities of artistic creation, the supervision of artists and craftsmen, a strong training in marketing management and customer service and the creation of tens of Community integration Centers, across the country.

 

Original article found on: Haiti Libre 

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Development: It’s Time to Rethink How We Do Development

A group of development experts issues a plea for reform.

BY MATT ANDREWS , LENI WILD , MARTA FORESTI, NOVEMBER 25, 2014

Last month, a group of experts tried to set a different tone. Coming together in a workshop entitled Doing Development Differently, we tried, rather unusually, to focus on what the development community has been doing right — to share stories about projects, policies, and reforms that fostered real change by not doing development in the usual way.

Rather than getting stuck on what doesn’t work, the workshop participants set out to examine recent development successes, and attempted to understand precisely why they worked.

Check out Natalia Adler describing how she worked with a team to promote a “user- centered” approach to public sector reform by giving public servants in Nicaragua a 100 day challenge to experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of services (by registering a child’s birth or visiting a health clinic, for example). Or take a look at Zac Brisson‘s work on coming to grips with the realities of fiscal behavior in Nigeria (as a prelude to trying to reform this behavior), or at Jaime Faustino‘s presentation about transformational change in the Philippines, achieved through clever work with teams and coalitions to change the status quo on issues like property rights or public health tax.

These and other examples are inspirational. When presented alongside each other, however, they generated more than inspiration. Attendees at the workshop identified a number of core principles that seem to characterize successful development initiatives across very different country contexts and program objectives. The findings highlight that, while development comes in many shapes and sizes, the success stories offer some overarching lessons about how change happens, providing valuable clues to how development support can have the most impact:

First, these initiatives tackle local problems by inviting local people to debate, define, refine and address the issue at hand in an ongoing and iterative process.

Second, they involve agents at all levels (political, managerial, and social), which legitimizes the initiatives by building ownership and momentum into the process. They are “locally owned” in reality, not just on paper.

Third, the initiatives work through local conveners who mobilize all those with a stake in progress (in both formal and informal coalitions and teams) to tackle common problems and introduce relevant change.

Fourth, they blend design and implementation through rapid cycles of planning, action, reflection, and revision (drawing on local knowledge, feedback, and energy) to foster learning from both success and failure.

Fifth, these approaches manage risks by making “small bets,” pursuing activities with promise and dropping others.

And finally, these initiatives foster real solutions to real problems that have real impact, thus building trust, empowering people, and promoting sustainability.

These principles aren’t entirely new, having been central to the “structured flexibility” and “learning process” approaches produced by people like Derek Brinkerhoff and David Hulme in the 1980s and early 1990s. They are found in recent work as well, including the Overseas Development Institute’s Politically Smart, Locally Led work and theProblem-Driven Iterative Adaptation approach currently being adopted in research projects Harvard’s Building State Capability program.

We recognize that many might find the above principles to be common sense. Unfortunately, however, common sense is not always the most common of the senses.Indeed, what is striking is that many development projects, policies, and reforms still do not adhere to such principles. This is true for many initiatives that are externally supported and for many that are driven by developing country governments. We therefore see the need to identify these principles clearly. We also believe it is vital to state our belief that development initiatives will have more impact if these principles are followed.We aim to keep identifying initiatives that follow these principles and to help diffuse their positive impacts more broadly than is currently the case. We will work together as an emerging community of practice and welcome any and all who agree that development can and should be done differently. To start in this direction, our community at the workshop ambitiously decided to capture all this in a statement — the Doing Development Differently manifesto — that reflects the views of those at the workshop, many of whom have signed onto it. It reaffirms commitments for locally led problem solving, for mobilizing multiple stakeholders to take action, for managing risks by taking “small bets” and, above all, maintaining a focus on real results — tangible improvements that have real impact.

Our hope is that this is just the beginning.

Starting small, we want to expand. Limited by time, resources, and our locations, the workshop brought together a group that was necessarily small. But it’s clear that there are people and groups around the world already doing development differently, and their voices deserve to be heard. Practically, our manifesto includes an open invitation to all those who share our principles to join a growing community of practice that can share experiences and strategies adopted in the field of development. As part of this, we made the commitment to host our next convening in a developing country, with much more representation from different regions.

The workshop generated a rich set of cases and examples of doing development differently. They’re now available on the Harvard and ODIwebsites (where you can watch individual talks, or link to related reports). But we’re all too aware that this can look like cherry picking. To overcome such reservations, we aim to launch a dedicated “library” and to crowdsource evidence from around the world on programs that have achieved results (and those that haven’t) based on these principles. We also want to bring in historical experience, too — there’s a long history of at least the past 40 years of attempts to work in this way. This should provide a practical resource for anyone wanting to know more.

We are also dedicated to supporting others. We’ve already begun to work with some of the major donor funders on changing how they do development. We want to support much more peer-to-peer learning, too — connecting Nigerian “small bet” innovators with those who’ve already tried and succeeded (or failed) elsewhere. So watch this space.

It’s time to build on development’s positives, rather than singing an old and sad song about its failure. We are committed to becoming builders, by identifying agents and organizations doing great work, often at the margins and at great risk. Will you join us by signing the manifesto and sharing your experience?

UNICEF/Nicaragua-2013/ Terán

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Development: International Development Is Broken. Here Are Two Ways to Fix It.

Original article found on: New Republic

By Michael Hobbes, Nov 18 2014

 

So I just wrote this essay about all the reasons I think international development, as we currently carry it out, can never achieve its own objectives. One thing I didn’t have room for was the ideas I’m excited about, development projects that meet, at least partially, our outsized expectations of them. Here are two such ideas, and why I think projects like these—technical, slow, un-viral—are the future of development.

Payment by Results

For those of you who’ve never implemented a development project, here’s how it works: You write a proposal to a donor. They agree, in principal, to fund your idea. Then you negotiate what your ‘indicators’ will be. These are the data points the donor will use to determine if you did what you set out to do, whether your project was successful.

Let’s say you’re proposing a project in Zambia, you want to decrease malaria rates. You get the European Commission (EC) to give you $1 million to train Zambian nurses to go house to house handing out malaria treatments, training mothers on symptoms and doses.

You and the EC come up with some indicators they’ll use to evaluate your project after it’s finished: You have to provide 10 training sessions per year, they have to be attended by at least 20 nurses, and all the nurses have make 1,000 home visits within a year of the training.

These sound pretty robust, right? The donor is saying, if we’re gonna give you money, you have to spend it like you told us you would.

But look how each of those indicators is tied to the process, not the outcome. Maybe 20 nurses attended your training, but none of them worked in clinics in high-malaria regions, or they read the newspaper during the training, or they only attended because they wanted the per diems. None of those indicators are related to the thing you actually set out to do.

I’ve done projects in Sub-Saharan Africa where our indicators were the number of Facebook likes we got, how many pages our summary reports were, how many trips to the field we made. Donors send auditors to get the sign-in sheets from our events and copies of PowerPoints we gave.

It’s not just individual projects that fall into the gap between inputs and results. Lant Pritchett’s The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning documents how the international push for improved school attendance—as opposed to improved literacy, professional skills, and cognitive ability—led to overburdened teachers and crowded schools. According to a 2012 UNECSO study, 130 million kids—about one-quarter of the total worldwide—finished elementary school without basic literacy and math skills. In Nigeria, 52 percent of girls who finished six years of education were still illiterate, a rate that actually increased from 2002, right in the middle of the worldwide push for universal enrollment.

Payment by results does this upside-down: You’re paid for the result. How you get there is up to you.

So if the same project was administered under payment by results—sometimes called pay-for-performance aid or cash-on-delivery aid—you’d do a baseline survey before you started the project. One thousand Zambian kids, let’s say, die of malaria each year in the region where you’re carrying out your project. If, after you’re finished, that number has fallen to 500, you get the $1 million. If it doesn’t, you don’t.

As an employee of an international NGO, someone who spends a lot of time saving, scanning, and filing receipts for coffees in African airports, I love this model. I like that it gives us space to be creative. If we were being judged on our outcome rather than our process, we’d be free to pivot midstream. Maybe the training events aren’t working, and we should meet with nurses during their shifts at the hospitals. Maybe home visits aren’t reaching working mothers, so we should do village-wide weekend events. Because our indicators are related to activities rather than outcome, we couldn’t change our approach if it wasn’t working.

It also gives us the incentive to be cost-effective. If we spend $800,000 on the project and we get the $1 million grant, we can spend the surplus hiring more people, tweeting about our results, doing a fundraising drive. Under the current model, it’s the exact opposite: I have to go to the field, I have to give those training sessions; otherwise, I don’t get reimbursed.

The charity GiveDirectly has gotten a lot of attention lately for simply giving cash to poor people, no questions asked. The idea is that poor Kenyans have the best information on how poor Kenyans should spend their money, and aid agencies and Western donors should just them the means to do so and get out of the way. Payment by results is a step toward applying the same model to development charities themselves.

Not that payment by results is perfect. We could fake those improved death statistics, for one thing. Or we could spend half our budget bribing a politician to increase spending in our district, get our better death rates through graft.

In a survey of the evidence for and against payment by results (spoiler: there isn’t much), the NGO coalition Bond pointed out that this model puts all the financial risk on NGOs, and would encourage them to favor “tested” development projects rather than trying something riskier or more innovative. “One UK NGO,” the report notes, “reported having internal discussions on whether to include disabled children in the target group for an intervention funded through payment by results when their contract would not have paid them the additional cost required.” For me, it’s the untested-ness of payment by results that gives me the greatest trepidation about using it on a large scale. It sounds great, sure, but so did all the other development projects in the unmarked shed behind where they give the TED Talks.

Still, results-faking, profit maximizing, stat-juking, it’s not like those are new risks. Facebook likes aren’t exactly a perfect measure of impact, after all, and I could already be faking my sign-in sheets and my hotel receipts. The reason I don’t has nothing to do with accountability to my donor. It’s because I genuinely want my projects to succeed, not just to look like they do. I’d love it if a donor gave me the freedom to find that out for myself.

The ‘Data Revolution’

A friend of mine works at Amazon.com. Her job is to monitor the activity on the site and make tweaks, down to the millisecond, to maximize how much people buy. Thousands of people at Amazon do the same thing: This is how they know exactly which shade of yellow the “buy” button should be to make you click it. Every time we talk about work, I feel this chasm between how much she knows about her job and how much I know about mine.

Like I say in my essay, we basically have no idea what makes kids in poor countries go to school or not, why their moms vaccinate them or don’t. While Amazon is making tweaks to its business model, we’re reversing ours every time a new study gets published.

Much of the reason for this, boringly, is that we simply do not have very good data on the developing world. Statistics from poor countries are notoriously noisy and imprecise, clouded by political incentives and baseless external projections. In Madagascar, for example, a census hasn’t been carried out since 1993. The 2006 Nigerian census was mired in controversy, politicians accused of inflating numbers to increase political, ethnic and religious representation for their districts. “We do not really know our population,” the chairman of the country’s National Population Commission said at the time.

Morten Jerven’s book Poor Numbers (wonks only please) notes that many of the economic statistics you read from Sub-Saharan Africa—GDP, prices, income levels—are bold extrapolations from meager data points. The UN has price figures, for example, for 47 Sub-Saharan African countries, covering 1991 to 2004. But less than half of 1,410 observations have actual data behind them. The rest are projections, assumptions, a finger in the wind. For 15 of the countries, the UN has never received any data at all. This is how Guinea is either the seventh poorest country in Africa (out of 45) or the eleventh richest, depending on which source you’re using. Jerven compares the three main rankings of per capita GDP and sees Liberia jump 20 places.

Here’s the World Bank’s chief economist for Middle East and North Africa in 2011, calling Africa a ‘statistical tragedy’:

Today, only 35 percent of Africa’s population lives in countries that use the 1993 UN System of National Accounts; the others use earlier systems, some dating back to the 1960s. … Consider the case of Ghana, which decided to update its GDP last year to the 1993 system. When they did so, they found that their GDP was 62 percent higher than previously thought. Ghana’s per capita GDP is now over $1,000, making it a middle-income country.

Nigeria did the same thing in 2013, rebased its economic statistics, and saw its GDP jump up by 89 percent. These are the statistics development projects are based on, what they are trying to change. It’s like trying to lose 20 pounds without a mirror and stepping onto a different scale every day.

This is where “the data revolution” comes in. Amanda Glassman, a member of the Data for Africa Working Group, notes that most of the development statistics—how many people can read, who is at risk of starvation—come from household surveys, many of which are carried out by international monitoring and evaluation teams checking to see whether NGOs are spending donor money wisely (there’s those indicators again).

The problem with these surveys is that they’re not aligned between donors. So the Gates foundation team comes to a village, asks everybody their age and their weight and what they’ve been vaccinated for. Next month, Oxfam comes and asks them their height and their education level and how well they can read. The next month the World Bank comes and … you get the idea.

Meanwhile, the clinics and schools and local statistics offices, the bodies that are actually mandated to gather this kind of information, are cut out of the process. They don’t have the staff or budgets to carry out their own investigations, and none of the donors report their findings back. If Bill Gates or the World Bank or whoever finds high rates of TB, they’re not obligated to give this information to the agencies responsible for addressing it. The official line is basically “we’ll take it from here, guys.”

This is understandable in the short-term. Local agencies don’t have the staff to solve large-scale problems, and they might be undertrained, corrupt, or flapping in the political winds. In this Development Drums podcast, the interviewees mention that statistics offices get calls from politicians, ordering them to make the numbers look like they’re improving.

But in the medium- and long-term, it means that African authorities stay under-resourced, de-capacitated, out of the loop. Replacement of local authorities by international NGOs might even be partly responsible for Liberia and Sierra Leone’s slow response to the Ebola outbreak: After decades of being bypassed by international health charities, local public health services didn’t know about, and weren’t able to respond to, conditions in their own country. When international foundations come in with their own statistical programs and skip the local authorities, the locals are cut out of information about their own countries.

But now we know about this problem! Since Jerven’s book, the dearth of development data has gone from obscure and insoluble to urgent and achievable. The Data for Africa Working Group report identifies efforts by the Gates Foundation, USAID, Rockefeller Foundation, UN, and World Bank to improve statistical agencies all over Africa.

Like the last idea, this one also warrants some skepticism. This is not the first time rich countries have sent experts to poor countries with the aim of improving their institutions. Technical assistance, as they call it in development lingo, has been found to be one of the least effective forms of aid.

But the potential of a more unified approach to gathering data is profound. Statistics are how development agencies diagnose problems and identify effective solutions. “Big data” gets overhyped these days, and real-time data collection in rural areas sounds like exactly the kind of development gimmick that will become the next One Laptop Per Child. But when it comes to the basic numbers—population, economics, living conditions, many parts of Africa would benefit from any improvement at all.

Neither of these ideas is all that sexy, they’re not going to get shared on UpWorthy or make you reach into your pocket for your PayPal password or whatever. They’re methodological, technical, there’s no fancy new technology or smiling celebrity at their prow. We’re not talking game-changers here, more like game-slightly-tweakers.

But the more I look at development, the more I think the age of the game-changer is over. Sixty percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries; only 14 percent of them are in fragile of conflict-prone ones. The countries still getting aid are getting less and less of it. Charles Kenny, who wrote an entire book about how much better the developing world is now than it used to be, points out that in the 1990s, 40 percent of aid-receiving countries relied on donations for more than one-tenth of their budgets. Now, that’s below 30 percent, and dropping.

Not that we should ignore the Afghanistans and Burundis of the world, but by 2030, up to 41 countries are going to move into the middle-income bracket. Increasingly, their challenge, as ours, will be the distribution of resources, not the creation of them. The development technologies of the future aren’t going to be boreholes and school buildings. They’re going to be labor inspectors, census bureaus, government administrators, state pensions: All the boring stuff that makes our own countries function.

So yeah, that’s why I like these ideas. One of them says, either help us or go home. The other says, if you’re going to be here, know the problem and whether what you’re doing is solving it.

In 1998, Amartya Sen won a Nobel Prize, in part, for showing that a famine had never occurred in a functioning democracy. It’s never that there isn’t enough food to go around; it’s that authoritarian governments don’t set up the mechanisms to provide it, at a decent price, where it’s needed.

The more I learn about development, the more I think the same principle applies to prosperity itself.

 

Original article found on: New Republic

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Afghanistan, Development: Pentagon’s Economic Development in Afghanistan ‘Accomplished Nothing’

Defence News, Nov. 18, 2014 – 03:45AM   |  By JOE GOULD   |

An Afghan construction worker makes concrete tubes on the outskirts of Kabul. A U.S. inspector general is investigating Pentagon reconstruction efforts in the country. (WAKIL KOHSAR/ / Agence France-Presse)

WASHINGTON — The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says he is investigating the Pentagon’s efforts to spark that country’s economic development, which cost between $700 million and $800 million and “accomplished nothing.”

SIGAR’s chief, John Sopko, told reporters Tuesday, that the agency has opened an “in-depth review” into the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a Defense Department unit aimed at developing war zone mining, industrial development and fostering private investments.

“We have gotten serious allegations about the management and mismanagement of that agency, as well as a policy question about what they were doing and whether they should have existed,” Sopko said.

More broadly, Sopko faulted the US government’s economic development efforts in Afghanistan as “an abysmal failure,” saying it lacked a single leader, a clear strategy or accountability. An avenue of inquiry for SIGAR’s investigation into TFBSO could be Afghanistan’s underdeveloped mining industry.

“We have seen hit-and-miss efforts to develop the [Afghan] economy,” Sopko said of the US. “You, the development experts, should have had a plan to develop the economy and you haven’t, so now we’re stuck.”

Untapped mineral wealth in Afghanistan is estimated at $1 trillion, but Sopko noted that Afghanistan has only recently passed mineral laws and legal gaps make investment unattractive. Critics say the law lacks transparency regarding contracts and ownership, and strong rules for open and fair bidding.

The task force did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sopko has said the US’ unprecedented $120 billion reconstruction investment there is at risk because Afghanistan is rife with corruption and lacks the security, technical prowess and economic health to sustain much of the work the US has done. He cited the case of $486 million the Defense Department spent for 20 G222 transport planes intended for the Afghan Air Force that sat idle in Kabul before they were sold for $32,000 and scrapped.

While the perception on Capitol Hill is that the US commitment is over, Sopko said, it has promised a decade of funding in its bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan.

“We need to make a commitment there because they can’t afford the government we’ve given them, and if our intended goal was a government that would keep or kick the terrorists out, we’re going to have to fund it,” Sopko said.

Afghanistan’s domestic revenues do not cover its total public expenditures, 90 percent of which are funded by the US and international partners, according to a report last year from another government watchdog, the Government Accountability Office.

Corruption continues to feed the insurgency and drain the economy, Sopko said, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s focus on anti-corruption and regaining money from the 2010 Kabul Bank failure are positive signs. Sopko was optimistic for freedom of movement and better security within 10 years.

“It is better, but the question I’m asking is, ‘Could it have been better,’” he said. “This is the most money we have spent on reconstruction of a single country in the history of our republic. Shouldn’t it have been better?” ■

Email: jgould@defensenews.com.

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Afghanistan, Development: The West Made Lots of Promises to Afghan Girls, Now It’s Breaking Them

Original article found on: The Daily Beast

By Heather Barr, 10/20/14

One reason given for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan was to educate girls. But as the Western military shrinks there, so does the funding for those schools.

Shah Marai/AFP/Getty

Shah Marai/AFP/Getty

KABUL, Afghanistan — The girls of Afghanistan have been betrayed. When Taliban rule ended almost 13 years ago, international donors rushed in to promise that young women would no longer be denied an education. Western governments spent a decade patting themselves on the back for what they touted as exceptional work supporting schools for the beleaguered girls of Afghanistan. They talked about bringing women out of purdah, literally as well as figuratively, so they could help their families and their country to prosper.

But the closing of one school after another exposes the hollowness of those promises. In fact, the state of education in Afghanistan is still so shaky that only about half of Afghan girls manage to go to school, and those numbers are set to decline.

In the volatile southern province of Kandahar, for instance, an innovative school for teenage girls will soon close its doors. The Kandahar Institute for Modern Studies, established in 2006 with funding and encouragement from the Canadian government, has run out of donors. And it is only one of a number of Afghan schools to face the budget axe swung by distant governments and cost-cutting politicians.

Other schools have been shuttered because of attacks and threats stemming from the war that continues to engulf the country. In July, girls’ schools closed in one entire district, depriving 40,000 girls of education.

The website of the U.S. development agency proudly proclaims, “In 2013, one million Afghan learners are enrolled in schools with USAID assistance, and over 5 million primary grade students benefitted from USAID assistance.” But in January 2014, the U.S. Congress cut the U.S. government’s allocation of development aid for Afghanistan by half.

Then there’s the United Kingdom. “We agree that expanded access to good quality secondary education that produces skills for employment is essential for Afghanistan’s future prosperity,” the British government wrote in 2013. Yet in a 2012 report the U.K. government had already decided that it had “built too much” in terms of schools and health clinics in Afghanistan and that only “critical” facilities would remain open.

“The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women,” said Laura Bush, wife of then-U.S. President George W. Bush.
Getting Afghan girls into school wasn’t just a benign-but-unintended by-product of the international military intervention in Afghanistan. Soon after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. and the invasion of Afghanistan, world leaders explicitly cited the extreme oppression suffered by women and girls under the Taliban as a justification for the operation.

“The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women,” said Laura Bush, wife of then-U.S. President George W. Bush, in November 2001, giving the weekly presidential radio address in place of her husband.

“The women of Afghanistan still have a spirit that belies their unfair, downtrodden image,” said Cherie Blair, wife of then-U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, also in November 2001. “We need to help them free that spirit and give them their voice back, so they can create the better Afghanistan we all want to see.”

But today, as crises in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Central African Republic, South Sudan, and West Africa compete for attention, Afghanistan is not even yesterday’s news—it’s last year’s news. Journalists are leaving Kabul, embassies are downsizing, and donors are quietly and drastically scaling back.

“How’s it going?” I asked a friend who runs aid programs at the U.S. embassy in Kabul not long ago.

“Oh, you know,” he said. “Just shutting things down.”

Military disengagement from Afghanistan is advancing; the newly signed Bilateral Security Agreement with the U.S. and Status of Forces Agreement with NATO pave the way for a continued, but very limited, international military involvement in Afghanistan.

Donor involvement is more important than ever, however. President Hamid Karzai handed over to Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, not just the reins of power but also a badly overdrawn checking account. Ghani’s government has been forced to seek a $537 million bailout from donors just to continue paying civil servant salaries. There are hopes that this new government, fronted by Ghani, a technocrat who was formerly Afghanistan’s finance minister and spent several decades with the World Bank, will bring much-needed fiscal stability to the Afghan economy. But that won’t happen tomorrow.

Afghanistan will have to pay for its own schools one day, and one hopes it is moving in that direction. But it can’t possibly do so right now. The ones who will pay first and worst are the country’s girls as they slide back toward the devastation of illiteracy.

A November donor conference in London will bring together all of Afghanistan’s donors to take stock of commitments made at the 2012 Tokyo Conference and to craft a new partnership going forward. Donors should come to the conference mindful not just of commitments they have made to the Afghan government, but also the solemn pledges they first made to support Afghan women and girls in 2001, and have made over and over since then.

Earlier this month, after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two children’s rights activists, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Yousafzai, a 17-year old from Pakistan, would be travelling to Canada to accept honorary Canadian citizenship, an honor only five others, including Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, have ever received. U.S. President Barack Obama was quick to congratulate the Nobel winners as well, saying, “As we celebrate their achievements, we must recommit ourselves to the world that they seek—one in which our daughters have the right and opportunity to get an education; and in which all children are treated equally.”

That’s what Afghan girls want. And that’s what the countries that marched into Afghanistan 13 years ago promised them. This is no time to break that promise.

Original article found on: The Daily Beast

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Development, Afghanistan: Afghan malnutrition – the search for solutions

JALALABAD, 11 November 2014 (IRIN) – Abdullah’s wails of pain are punctuated only by his rasping cough. His arms bound to his body, he is five months old but weighs just 3.2kg, lighter than some newborns. In the next bed, three-month old Shukoria looks withered and worn, her face wrinkled and pained.

Both are suffering from malnutrition, which affects more than 40 percent of Afghan children, killing thousands every year and leaving millions with permanent disabilities.

“Malnutrition is the main reason for deaths of children under five in this province,” Homayoun Zaheer, head of the Jalalabad hospital, said, pointing to the children.

A government-backed report highlighted the extent of malnutrition in the country, yet experts say efforts to tackle the problem are hampered by cultural norms, shrinking health budgets and the short-term nature of aid donations.

Slow starters

While Afghan malnutrition rates have long been high, until recently they had, many aid workers agree, been something of a hidden problem as there was – and still is – a lack of evidence about the scale of the problem.

The issue was therefore often neglected when aid was doled out. Since 2007 the country has been the world’s leading recipient of development assistance as a percentage of its national income, with US$6.2 billion in 2012 alone. Yet that spending has focused on governance and security, and while new health infrastructure has been created, the extent of malnutrition has received little study.

Franck Abeille, country director at Action Against Hunger (known by its French acronym ACF) said that in the early years after the 2001 US-led invasion there was little focus on malnutrition. “ACF, for example, hardly worked on nutrition from 2003 up until 2006-07,” he said.

The most recent National Nutrition Survey – the first in the country since 2004 – released late last year, showed that over 40 percent of Afghan children under the age of five suffered from permanent stunting as a result of malnutrition, while 9.5 percent of children suffered from wasting.

The number of children with severe acute malnutrition had more than tripled from 98,900 in 2003 to 362,317, while the estimated number of pregnant and lactating women requiring nutrition interventions had nearly doubled to 246,283. Acute malnutrition typically kills more quickly than chronic malnutrition, which is the world’s leading cause of preventable mental disability.

Budget issues

The survey, coming alongside other new evidence, has helped prompt both the Afghan government and the UN to commit to focusing their resources on malnutrition, with the problem to be designated one of the three key priorities of the forthcoming Common Humanitarian Action Plan for 2015.

Yet the drive comes at a time when health resources are being squeezed. Under the country’s Basic Package of Health Services (BPHS) healthcare system, international NGOs act as contractors to take on the basic provision of health services in a given district. As the Afghan government has faced financial cutbacks the BPHS budget has decreased, undermining malnutrition outreach programmes. In one province, the monthly budget per patient for all services dropped from 7 euros up to 2013 to 4.7 euros per patient per year in 2014, according to a report from ACF.

“The contract has a set amount of money per patient and the nutrition amount is too small to be useful as it doesn’t allow for any outreach work to take place,” Mark Bowden, the UN Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and the Humanitarian Coordinator for the country. “So essentially nutrition has been ignored within the health system.”

Towards solutions

While all sides now agree on the severity of the malnutrition crisis, the solutions are less agreed upon.

Claude Jibidar, country director at the World Food Programme, said that one route he was pushing for is to fortify wheat – the staple of the Afghan diet – potentially with government subsidies.

“A lot of the micronutrient deficiencies would be immediately dealt with,” Jibidar said. “You fortify with a pack of minerals and vitamins [dealing with] anaemia, iron, vitamin A and vitamin D deficiencies.”

“To address the causes of malnutrition. the first [priority] is culture change – to change the mindset of people towards breastfeeding their children.”

“People say it has an effect on the price – I am told it would cost about $4-5 dollars additionally per kilo. Even if it is 10 times that the benefit is worth it,” he added.

Yet such a scheme, while potentially making older Afghans healthier, would only have a limited impact on the youngest.

Hamza Atim, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical coordinator for Boost Hospital in Lashkar Gar – in the contested Helmand Province where acute malnutrition is among the highest in the country – pointed out that many Afghan communities do not have a culture of breastfeeding their newly-born children.

Abeille pointed out that this can lead to stunting. “When a child is born, the first milk from the mother. is really the first thing the baby needs,” he said.

“We treat children who are acutely malnourished in hospital – but this is only addressing the symptoms of malnutrition,” Atim said. “If you need to address the causes you need to do a lot of things but the first [priority] is culture change – to change the mindset of people towards breastfeeding their children.”

“Breastfeeding will stop children from getting a lot of illnesses. But this has gone on for generations, so it is a hard sell to address.”

In Jalalabad, Zaheer said they had launched education schemes for the local population, including group sessions in which mothers are taught about health schemes, but admitted many women, particularly those in rural areas, cannot afford to come every week. “Poverty is the key issue here. Poverty and ignorance – it can be a vicious cycle,” he said.

Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator, agreed that more education schemes are needed. “The highest rates of malnutrition correlate to the highest rates of female illiteracy and lack of female education.”

From humanitarian to development

A shift in attitudes on malnutrition may also help. While emergency humanitarian actors have prioritized acute malnutrition, development agencies are needed.

“You have figures for acute malnutrition that are above emergency levels – which is why we treat it as a humanitarian issue – but there are also major issues of stunting, which is largely a development issue,” Bowden said.

Abeille echoed a number of other actors calling for long-term development funding to tackle the root causes of malnutrition.

“When you meet donors they say: ‘one year is perfect, let’s move forward.’ When you suggest three or four years they say: ‘I am not sure we can find the funds.’ So next year we come back with the same problem.”

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Development: The Peace Bridge to Nowhere

Original article found on: Foreign Policy

BY ANDREW BLUM SEPTEMBER 22, 2014

Changing how peacebuilding organizations measure success could save aid projects that are stuck trying to meet rigid, dated, and increasingly arbitrary goals in conflict zones.

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Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan — a depressing list, which seems to grow each day. It can be read as shorthand for human suffering and international tragedy. For the multitude of conflict prevention and humanitarian organizations that are committed to preventing the calamities that have struck these countries, the list is a sobering reminder of how much work needs to be done.

But it is also a reminder that this work demands continuous evaluation. The governments, foundations, and individuals that fund international aid work demand assurance that their money is being spent wisely; any hope for success demands being able to deploy smart, well-run programs. And doing that means being able to hold agencies and organizations accountable.

There’s a paradox, however. The challenges inherent to working in conflict zones means that strengthening the current approach to accountability — judging success against promises made years ahead of time — will create less effective programs, not better ones. The paradox is caused by a stable, slow-moving system, like the U.S. government, colliding with the unstable, rapidly changing conditions in conflict zones.

Virtually all of the work funded by the U.S. government or other international funders in areas of conflict follows a certain model: An agency identifies a problem and designs programming to address it, then hires a for-profit contractor or non-profit NGO to make it happen. Along with other independent agencies, such as inspectors general, the funding agency then tries to hold the hired organization accountable for achieving the objectives described in the original agreement. In the end, the results are supposed to check off the boxes from the initial plan, regardless of what might have happened in the interim.
Needless to say, this doesn’t always work out.

The rigid approach to implementing projects, not so surprisingly, has contributed to some well-documented failures. The final report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq (SIGIR) documented hundreds of abandoned projects that Iraqis are not using, including a $40 million prison that “will never hold a single Iraqi prisoner.” In her new book Peaceland, Severine Autesserre describes another illuminating failure: The United Nations sought to increase security in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by deploying additional police officers to the region. However, the police received no training, and the government of the DRC saw them as U.N. police, so refused to pay them. As Autesserre documents, the untrained, unpaid police became just another group preying on the local population, but at the end of the project, because the stated goal was to establish the force in the first place, the U.N. still claimed it as a success.

Lurking behind these failures is funding agencies’ normal accountability mechanisms, which simply don’t work when applied to conflict-affected areas because they make it very difficult to adapt programming to changing circumstances. As Andrew Natsios, the former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), has argued, the accountability system in Washington, which he calls the counter-bureaucracy, “misapplies a domestic management lens to aid programs.”

Holding an organization accountable for building a highway bridge in Minnesota, for instance, requires a different approach than holding an organization accountable for building a Ministry of Justice in Libya.

Holding an organization accountable for building a highway bridge in Minnesota, for instance, requires a different approach than holding an organization accountable for building a Ministry of Justice in Libya.

Still, the need for accountability won’t change — working in challenging places cannot mean that organizations get a pass for not doing the job. But the way that success is measured and applied needs to evolve. So how should the U.S. government hold peacebuilders, contractors and NGOs, accountable in a way that actually makes sense?

To oversimplify a bit, the current approach is built around two basic questions that funding agencies ask: Did you do what you promised you would, and did it achieve the results you said it would? As a result, in the field, the plan drafted by the government — called a “scope-of-work” — guides every decision that contractors and NGOs make. Given how long planning and procurement can take for projects like the prison in Iraq, this means that contractors are often trying to fulfill promises made up to three years before projects even start.

To fix this process — that is, make it more responsive and agile — those questions should be focused on how the project achieved results in an unstable environment. The first question to program directors should be: What results did you achieve? Then, how did the project adapt to be most effective, given the changing context in which you are operating? Finally, what evidence do you have that supports your decisions regarding adapting your project?

Given the rigid, detailed planning processes that are the norm in U.S. government-funded projects, that may sound like a radical departure, but many of the building blocks are already in place. There are already examples of NGOs, international organizations, and U.S. government agencies that have adopted the flexible, adaptive programming that is required to be effective in conflict zones. The NGO Partners for Democratic Change, for instance, often uses a model that is based on establishing a permanent partner “center” within a conflict zone, such as Yemen or Colombia, as opposed to implementing a project with a set of pre-determined activities. A recent evaluation of this model claimed that, “as process experts, the Centers were able to adapt their programs and services to meet new needs and take advantage of new opportunities.” Religious networks, in part because they have independent sources of funding, have been employing a similar, so-called “window of opportunity” model for decades. This model relies on continuous presence in an area and the ability to respond flexibly to opportunities as they arise.

The U.S. Institute of Peace, where I work, uses a similar model, implementing something called Justice and Security Dialogues in six different conflict zones. The project, which consists of ongoing discussions between police and community organizations, is organized as a platform, as opposed to a strict set of activities. The nature of the dialogue and the problems addressed are regularly adapted based on the feedback received from the community and security services. This adaptation makes the dialogues better, and it makes it more likely they will succeed.

The truth of the matter is that it is easier than ever to get reliable feedback on how projects are working. New tools, including SMS-based cell phone surveys, civilian-controlled satellites and drones, social media, and groundbreaking big data projects (such as the GDELT initiative), all provide new and powerful ways to gather data within conflict contexts on both program activities and broader context. And gathering this information will only get easier. The challenge, therefore, is creating a feedback loop, and the only way this can happen is if projects are allowed to adapt in response to the data they gather.

Finally, there is hard evidence that adaptive projects are simply more effective. In a recent blog post, Duncan Green, a strategic advisor for Oxfam Great Britain, discusses a study of the evaluations of 10,000 development projects. The paper reports that, in general, giving program implementers flexibility to adapt to changing realities makes their projects more effective. That impact is stronger in complex environments like conflict zones. A recent evaluation of USAID reconciliation programming similarly found that “programs are most effective when they are adaptively implemented.”

Peacebuilders thus know how to implement adaptive programming, and they know it works. But many of the organizations doing good programming are succeeding despite the demands of their funders, compliance officers, or inspectors general. They find ways to be more flexible, while at the same time doing just enough to keep the “counter-bureaucracy” happy. The shift that is needed is an approach to accountability that doesn’t just create space at the margins for creative organizations to do flexible programming, but which demands that all organizations do this sort of programming. It must then require that organizations provide evidence explaining programming decisions they made and the results achieved. (As a bonus, this approach can safeguard taxpayers’ money.)

As rallying cries go, “More, but different accountability!” probably won’t inspire the masses to march in the streets. For peacebuilders, though, who are used to the long, hard, often dangerous tasks involved in helping countries put themselves back together, it might resonate. It’s time to stop making the hard work even harder.

 

Andrew Blum is the vice president for program management and evaluation at the United States Institute of Peace. The views expressed here are his own.

Original article found on: Foreign Policy

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Development: World’s richest nations fail to meet aid pledges – report

Displaced Somali women arrive at a food distribution centre after moving to higher ground due flooding in areas around Jowhar, a town north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Faruk

Displaced Somali women arrive at a food distribution centre after moving to higher ground due flooding in areas around Jowhar, a town north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, December 9, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Faruk

Original article found on: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Posted on October 5th, 2014 by Astrid Zweynert

* Development aid at record $131.2 billion in 2013

* Only one third went to least developed countries

* African governments fail to prioritise spending on anti-poverty measures

By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON, Oct 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation)- – The majority of the world’s rich donor nations failed to meet their development aid pledges in 2013 and only one third of the money went to the poorest countries, a report said on Monday.

Aid by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) rose 5.3 percent year-on-year to a record $131.2 billion in 2013 after two consecutive years of decline, The One Campaign said in its annual aid data report.

Only a third went to the least developed countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, despite high-level support for a new target of 50 percent of all aid to be directed towards the poorest nations, said ONE, co-founded by Irish rocker Bono to end extreme poverty.

As world leaders prepare to agree a new set of development goals next year, ONE urged both rich and poor countries to address aid shortfalls to ensure the poorest people are at the heart of a renewed global drive against poverty from 2015.

“If donors don’t step forward and target at least half of their aid to those countries that need it most, the world’s poorest people risk being left behind,” Sara Harcourt, policy director at ONE and an author of the report, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Seventeen out of 28 DAC members increased their overseas development assistance (ODA) but despite these rises aid still only accounted for 0.29 percent of their national wealth, short of a United Nations target for aid spending of 0.7 percent.

Britain became the first country among the Group of 7 industrialised nations to meet the target last year, helped by a$3.95 billion boost to its aid budget.

Japan, Germany and Norway also stepped up efforts but others such as long-standing aid champions France, Canada and Australia showed marked declines in aid budgets amid cuts in overall public spending, along with the Netherlands.

The United States, the world’s largest bilateral donor, compared poorly with other G7 states in terms of aid spending relative to national wealth, with a ratio of just 0.19 percent.

AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS MUST PLAY THEIR PART

African governments are also failing to prioritise their spending on programmes to boost the fight against extreme poverty, ONE said.

Only six out of 43 sub-Saharan African countries met their own spending goals on health, and only eight met targets on agriculture, the report found.

An additional $54.8 billion would have been mobilised for health between 2010 and 2012 if all sub-Saharan African countries had kept their promises, ONE said.

“First and foremost, public spending by African governments should be targeted towards the fight against poverty,” Sipho Moyo, the campaign’s Africa executive director said.

The report also highlighted a need to change the rules on what counts as aid, saying that since 2000 some $250 billion, or a sixth of all ODA reported by governments, did not involve a real transfer of funds to developing countries.

In 2012, for example, the cost of looking after refugees totalled $4.3 billion, or 3 percent of ODA. Administrative costs stood at $6.7 billion, or 5 percent of ODA.

Aid levels have also been given an artificial boost by including inflated valuations of debt relief, ONE said.

More stringent guidelines are also needed on which loans to developing countries count as aid, ONE said. It reckons that if these had been in place in 2012, $19 billion of loans would not have qualified as aid.

It urged the DAC countries, due to hold a senior-level meeting in Paris this week, to ensure a new definition of aid means it reaches those who need it most. (Reporting By Astrid Zweynert; Editing by Ros Russell)

Original article found on: Thomson Reuters Foundation

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On the Media, Development: MDIF’s Impact Dashboard – A Case Study in Measuring MediaDev

Original article found on: The Source

Posted on September 30, 2014 by Mark Nelson

 

When it comes to measuring success or failure, media developers face many of the same challenges as the rest of the international development community.

Do you measure inputs, such as the amount of money that is invested in media development initiatives? Or do you track outcomes from projects—the number of people trained or the knowledge that they gained from training? Should we be looking at organizational performance of media enterprises, such as the increase in audience or reach, or their profit and loss accounts? Or should we be looking at broader impacts on society in terms of poverty reduction, improved governance or overall peace and economic growth that an independent media can help to achieve?

One creative attempt at answering thImpact dashboardese questions is the just-released Impact Dashboard 2014 from the Media Development Investment Fund. This document is a must-read for media developers because of the clear and graphic way that MDIF has tracked the results of its work.

MDIF is one of the most interesting and creative creatures of the media development field—an organization that makes loans and equity investments in, and offers technical support to promising media enterprises in developing countries. As such, it is already addressing one of the higher-level possible outcomes of media development, sustainable media enterprises. Compared with some of the early attempts at addressing problems in the media sector by simply training journalists, it is already yards ahead.

MDIF is also ahead in the results game. It looks at change at several levels, and it attempts to address the fundamental question of why high quality, independent media matters to developing societies. MDIF’s results framework measures its outputs, in terms of loans, equity investments and technical assistance; it looks at client outputs in terms of quality reporting and content production; and it suggests results at the societal level in terms of impact on reducing corruption and improving accountability.

MDIF’s solution to the results question mirrors closely the similar work carried out under the auspices of the Learning Network on Capacity Development , which is a network of development practitioners that has contributed to the last three global accords on aid effectiveness. LenCD has worked to build a stronger understanding of capacity development as more than just outputs—not just training and technical assistance—but a broader set of activities and focus on higher level results. These results can be tracked and measured at multiple levels. I have summarized one way of looking at these levels of capacity development outcomes in the diagram below.

MDIF’s Impact Dashboard is an important reminder about the importance of articulating the results of media development work. As the international community gears up for a new set of international development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals that expire next year, initiatives such as this one can help us make the case that media development can be measured, that money spent on media development is well used, and that high quality independent media really matters for developing societies.

 

Original article can be read at: The Source

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Development: Seven Million Lives Saved – Under-5 Mortality Since the Launch of the Millennium Development Goals

Original article found on: Brookings

By John McArthur
September 2014

Over the past decade, the Millennium Development Goals (hereafter MDGs or “Goals”) have become a central framework in organizing global health efforts. Many developing countries have made significant progress toward the official targets, including Goal 4, which is to achieve a two-thirds reduction in under-5 mortality rates (U5MR) by 2015 compared to 1990. According to the United Nations’ latest estimates, the developing world’s 2013 aggregate U5MR had declined 40 percent since 2000, and 50 percent since 1990.

But progress toward the Goals is not the same as progress because of the Goals. Nor can the mere setting of targets be considered the full scope of what might be called the “MDG agenda.” The broader agenda includes policy, organizational, and advocacy efforts to mobilize targeted resources in the practical pursuit of goals. It also includes the consolidation of common global reference points across diverse public, private, and non-profit actors, which might in turn have prompted incremental efforts toward results. As Manning (2009) has pointed out, “it is intrinsically difficult to distinguish the impact of the MDG framework itself from the strands of thinking that helped to create it.”

Although causal pathways are difficult to discern in aggregate, one highly correlated trend since the launch of the MDGs is a significant expansion in global health budgets. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2014) estimates that total development assistance for health nearly tripled, from U.S. $10.9 billion in 2000 to more than $30 billion in each of 2011, 2012 and 2013 (all in constant $2011). These resources have helped to launch and expand important new international institutions, including the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the U.S. presidential initiatives for both AIDS and malaria, all of which have helped to expand dramatically the country-level coverage of preventive and therapeutic health interventions.

Skeptics tend to question the MDGs based on four categories of critiques. One focuses on shortfalls in results. Many countries are not on course to achieve individual Goals, either because policy efforts or resources are inadequate. A second criticizes the establishment of political targets considered too ambitious to begin with. A third asserts that the developing world was making advances prior to the establishment of the MDGs, so the Goals should not be given credit for progress that would have been made in any case. A fourth argues that global aggregates might reflect success, but these are driven by results in the most populous developing countries, China and India, which made progress independently of the MDGs.

With these questions in mind, and as the international community considers the next generation of intergovernmental targets beyond the 2015 deadline, it is an appropriate juncture to examine the overarching “macro” hypothesis that the establishment of the MDGs and related efforts to support their achievement have been associated with accelerated progress on intended development outcomes. This paper does so with specific focus on MDG 4 for reducing under-5 mortality. The analysis focuses only on discerning long-term variations in outcomes that coincide with the establishment of the Goals. This is distinct from an investigation of “micro” hypotheses regarding how the MDGs might have been linked to variations in U5MR outcomes within countries.

The results are striking. They show that the period since the establishment of the MDGs has seen unprecedented rates of progress among the poorest countries, even when they are not on a path to achieve the formal MDG targets. As of the end of 2013, at least 7.5 million more children’s lives have been saved compared to the trajectory of progress as of 2001. The majority of these lives have been saved in sub-Saharan Africa. Moreover, the period since the turn of the millennium appears to show convergent rates of progress across developing regions. At a minimum, the period from 2002 to 2012 was the first to show a clear break in the previous long-run trend whereby countries with higher U5MR saw systematically slower rates of U5MR decline.

The paper is divided into ten sections. Following this introduction, the second section describes the core hypotheses used to test MDG performance. The third section describes the data used in the analysis. The fourth section describes key methodological assumptions, including the definition of pre-MDG reference periods and the distinction between On Track versus Off Track countries at the outset of the MDG period. The fifth section describes the results for the three key tests of MDG performance, including variations by region and country income group. Section 6 then considers whether U5MR reduction trends have been subject to deeper structural shifts. Section 7 presents longer-term regression results evaluating trends over more than five decades. The results suggest a structural change in global trends since the onset of the MDGs, so Section 8 estimates the number of children’s lives saved that could be plausibly linked to the MDGs. Section 9 considers future implications for new targets to 2030. A final section concludes.

Full paper can be found or downloaded here.

Original article can be read at: Brookings

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Afghanistan, Development: Less is More – International Intervention and the Limits of Afghan Growth

Original article found on: Heinrich Boll Stiftung

By Philipp Munch on September 17th, 2014

Construction workers at a roadside in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Neelab Hakim. Creative Commons LizenzvertragThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

Construction workers at a roadside in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo: Neelab Hakim. Creative Commons LizenzvertragThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License. 

Development projects and construction work around military bases make up an overwhelmingly large part of Afghanistan’s economy. With foreign troops withdrawing and declining aid, the country is looking for its future economic path.

Based on the financial scope, Afghanistan has clearly topped the list of recipient countries of international aid for many years now.[1] Since 2001, donors have been able to improve medical facilities and levels of education by a very considerable degree – to name but some of the most important accomplishments.[2] However, external funds make up an overwhelmingly large part of Afghanistan’s economic performance with little sign of self-sustained economic development.[3]

In addition, greater scrutiny reveals that those sectors of the Afghan economy that have been newly created or strengthened are tailored towards serving the conditions created by the international intervention. Above all, it is the construction and retail industries that have profited from the numerous development projects and military bases, with retail benefiting from the logistic needs of the intervention forces and the comparatively high spending power of those Afghans they employ. Afghanistan’s domestic agricultural production, on the other hand, has contracted.[4]

As a consequence it is to be expected that the sectors in question will collapse once the intervening forces have withdrawn. However, considerable parts of the population have become used to such standards of living. On top of that, the funds thus generated do prop up a political system that, until now, has prevented a relapse into large-scale civil war. Still, it is more than likely that the exceptionally high external subsidies will decrease in the long run, posing the question of how to achieve self-sustained economic development. As a first step I would like to sketch out the main reasons why this has failed to materialise until now – in spite of the unprecedented amount of spending. As a second step, and based on this, I would like to present a few possible attempts at a solution.

An overabundance of aid money

One of the main reasons Afghanistan lacks economic development certainly are its much cited “rentier state” features. The country’s most senior political actors are doing their best to skim off international funds and redistribute them to their camp followers via patronage networks. Funds provided by the donors are thus being turned into “rents” that subsidise parts of the population without ever being invested in profit-making businesses.[5] Although it is often claimed, this practice is not questionable per se, as these funds, however much misappropriated from the donors’ perspective, do still serve their purpose, that is, they create political stability that is much greater than anything witnessed during the 1990s.

Even when viewed from a micro-level perspective, it becomes obvious that the concern of the established political actors to keep the international subsidies alive is crucial in preventing the outbreak of widespread violence.[6] Clearly questionable however is the increased hoarding of international resources by some political actors who do not redistribute them to their clientele. Funds that are being invested in secure Dubai or transferred into Swiss bank accounts will not profit the country.[7]

Nevertheless, the many donors, too, will have to be investigated as possible culprits for the lack of economic development. The deluge of funds, unparalleled in the country’s history, has meant that Afghanistan’s currency is overvalued, something not apt to facilitate exports. As the donor countries’ organisations vie with each other for the most qualified sections of the labour force they are willing to pay inflated salaries. The most able Afghans are thus employed by foreign state and non-state organisations, a phenomenon only too familiar from other countries.[8]

Efforts to build up an effective Afghan administration are thus being hampered. On top of that, competition between international actors and their efforts to spend all budgeted funds within the respective fiscal year creates an overabundance of aid money. Accordingly, this has fostered a recipient mentality among Afghans, that is, a mindset that views international aid as the norm and any efforts to become autonomous or to preserve the achievements made as superfluous. The frequent donation of grain, moreover, has the effect that local agricultural produce is rarely profitable.

Counterproductive reforms

An equally decisive factor is the faulty sequence of developmental steps undertaken in Afghanistan. While it makes basic economic sense to build more roads, this also facilitates the influx of imported goods into a country without a domestic industry able to compete on international markets and lacking tariffs to protect it. Internationally sponsored education initiatives that have proliferated since 2001 are certainly well intentioned, yet without adequate jobs for graduates this will only fuel discontent.

Precisely this is what happened with Afghan education initiatives after World War II. Up until the 1970s government-affiliated client networks were able to absorb graduates, yet the rising national debt signalled the end of this system. Almost all the leading proponents of Jihadi organisations that began their uprising in 1975 or 1978-79 respectively belonged to this group of thwarted social climbers.[9] A similar dilemma arises from the fact that, since 2001, improved humanitarian conditions have enabled Afghan families to raise more children. Today the average age in Afghanistan is circa 15. Not least because this will exacerbate the problem of subdividing inherited estates, an issue already familiar from before the war, it is currently completely up in the air what employment opportunities there may be for the younger generation.[10] The consequence of such developments is instability, a situation hardly conducive to economic growth.

It can be argued, moreover, that many of the economic reforms favoured by the intervening powers since 2001, have been counterproductive. Mostly, they where based on neoliberal assumptions and other economic theories prevailing in the West, which view economic activity in ahistorical ways and without considering the actual power structures. This led to the expectation that a market with very few barriers would, by force of nature, create growth for all.[11] For Afghanistan the result has been that the overvalued currency along with a deluge of cheap imports has relegated formerly self-employed craftsmen into the ranks of day labourers.[12] Domestically the absence of a state monopoly on legitimate violence[13] and of a separation of powers between politics and economics, which gave rise to an unbridled market, have resulted in a few actors gaining economic monopolies.[14]

The dilemma of the donors

Solutions for the main obstacles identified in this paper have to be sought, above all, on part of the donors. They are faced with a dilemma: On the one hand, they will have to reduce their funding considerably, on the other, as seen with the fall of the Najibullah regime in 1992, this may in no case be allowed to occur too rapidly. Historically, whenever one group of the Afghan populace has been dropped from the patronage network, the result has been conflict – and the same may be expected to happen again. Instead, aid funds should be cut gradually and slowly – and this process will have to go hand in hand with boosting Afghanistan’s economic performance.

In order to make such developments viable the country should be allowed to close its markets against imports. A reduction in aid will reduce the overvaluation of the Afghan currency, thus cutting labour costs. In addition, the international community should agree on measures to stop the flight of capital from Afghanistan – although this phenomenon is closely linked to the country’s “system of rents.” Consequently, this may only be effected through external supervisory measures that will erode Afghanistan’s sovereignty even further. According to international law such an intervention would be dubious as well as difficult to implement – and it would likely turn out to be counterproductive as it would further undermine Afghanistan’s already weak statehood.

The lack of co-ordination between development projects as well as the excessive amount of money poured into the country are both generated by the donors’ interest-driven policies, that is, the donors are unwilling to subject their measures to any kind of central authority and they are defending their sizable budgets, no matter whether they are helping the country or not. Thus, the lack of co-ordination between donors is not a question better fine-tuning, it is an expression of the actual power structure. As a consequence, it is anything but realistic to expect changes in the near future.

Read the original article on  Heinrich Boll Stiftung.

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Development: Uncivil societies – Illiberal governments are blocking activists from receiving foreign cash

Original article found on: The Economist

Sep 13th 2014

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THE International Committee of the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch, Transparency International: to most people these and thousands of other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) sound like outfits whose work should be welcomed and encouraged. But that is not how it looks to plenty of governments. In the last few years, around 20 countries have planned or passed laws restricting the freedom of NGOs to raise funds abroad (see article). Some echo the language of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, and now require foreign-funded NGOs to register as “foreign agents”—a phrase that since the cold war has carried the connotation of espionage and treachery.

Many of the new laws grant officials wide discretion in applying them. Russian NGOs face surprise inspections seeking evidence of foreign influence; Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, is “auditing” groups that receive foreign money as part of his self-declared mission to turn his country into an “illiberal state”. Egypt plans to force NGOs to seek permission from a government panel before they can get money from abroad.

Insisting that NGOs are open about where their money comes from and how they spend it is reasonable—especially in the many countries where they receive favourable tax treatment. And proper oversight helps ensure that NGOs are neither fraudulent nor ineffectual. But today’s crackdown is about weakening NGOs, not making them more transparent or effective. It is being undertaken by leaders who, if they accept democracy at all, want it to amount to nothing more than a tame vote every few years. Foreign donations are an easy target for autocrats whose worst nightmare is a flourishing civil society. NGOs’ activities in the “colour” revolutions a decade ago in the former Soviet Union and, more recently, the Arab spring, have sharpened autocrats’ hostility to them.

It is hardly surprising that leaders like Mr Putin want to curb those who seek to promote democracy, but these laws reach far beyond free speech and human rights. NGOs also suffer if they criticise poor public services, stand up for reviled minorities or disclose facts that the powerful want to hide. Mr Orban has targeted a group that publicises discrimination against Roma and another that runs a hotline for battered women. Among those Mr Putin has dubbed foreign agents are a group of women seeking information about Russian servicemen injured and killed while covertly deployed in Ukraine.

Don’t give them cover

Persuading autocrats who have decided that NGOs pose an existential threat to ease up will be a struggle. But donor countries can help stem the illiberal tide.

Initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership, launched in 2011, which supports governments keen to increase transparency and cut corruption, should help to stop the trend spreading. Trade deals offer some bargaining power: many of the governments seeking to block foreign donations are falling over themselves to attract foreign investment, including by providing legal protection for inbound capital. In future it should be made clear that these extend to funds flowing not just to businesses but to non-profits too.

Rich-country governments also need to avoid building barriers themselves. Heavy-handed enforcement of laws aimed at stopping money-laundering and the funding of terrorism has made it harder to send money to NGOs doing good work in some of the countries where civil society is under attack. A bank that knows a single slip could make it liable to draconian penalties may decide simply to close accounts rather than carry out costly checks or risk an expensive misjudgment.

At last year’s UN General Assembly Barack Obama drew on his own experience as a community organiser to praise NGOs for “making governments more effective and holding leaders like me to account”. He should speak more forcefully at this year’s meeting, which will be held later this month. Most important, though, is for rich democracies to practise what they preach. A recent kerfuffle about foreign governments giving grants to think-tanks in Washington, which sparked talk of illegal meddling in America’s sovereign affairs, offered unhelpful cover for the autocrats who are cracking down on NGOs and activists. They would be delighted to be able to point out that the West does it too.

Correction: An earlier version of this article described Viktor Orban as Hungary’s president instead of its prime minister. This was changed on September 15th.

Original article found on: The Economist

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