31 March 2010

GCARD part 2, Partnerships

2 p.m. March 30

My session in the afternoon was on partnerships. This is a big theme in the reformed Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). But few have a clear idea of partnership for what. My take on this is that just as the CGIAR was a response to a market failure (the underprovision of technology for crops grown by the poor), there is a collective sense that partnerships for development are underprovided in by current incentives. But partnerships for doing what? I would suggest the partnerships should be for generating better international public goods (bringing a wider range of skills together at the international level) and for making it easier to contextualize research at all stages in the process (working with national partners). This should increase the breakthrough potential (working with those from lateral fields and lateral sectors) and increase the relevance potential (working with those along the value chain).

Another issue bubbling under was the reality that partnership with organizations outside the CGIAR will mean fewer resources captured by CGIAR institutions. If the centres spent less energy lobbying to keep the CGIAR funds ring-fenced, they could work with non-CG partners to increase their capacity to raise funds outside the CGIAR and have a bigger impact on poverty and food insecurity.

One group that tends to be left out of partnerships is farmers (and farmer organizations). My talk was about how genuine partnerships could be formed with farmers through direct farmer feedback systems for the assessment of implementer, donor (and farmer) performance. The presentation can be found here.

My parting shot was that the donors are the key agents of change—if they show the kind of leadership that sets up feedback systems for the greater good which may prove inconvenient for them at a later date then they can begin to create real partnerships. The hallmark of a genuine partnership is, after all, to be able to give honest feedback without fear of reprisal.

30 March 2010

Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, part 1

11am Tuesday March 30.

I'm in Montpelier for one of the days of this conference. I'm presenting in the afternoon on partnerships.

The global agricultural research community is reforming around 8 themes and 4 cross-cuts.

The 8 themes are
1. Agricultural systems for the poor and vulnerable
2. Enabling agricultural incomes for the poor
3. Sustainable crop productivity increases
4. Agriculture, nutrition and health
5. Water, soils and ecosystems
6. Forest and trees
7. Climate change and agriculture
8. Mobilizing biodiversity for food security and resilience

And the new cross-cutting foci are
* Results for poor communities
* Gender
* Agriculture's contribution to wider development challenges
* Wider partnerships

I am pleased with the profile of the nutrition and health linkages. I am also pleased with the focus on partnerships, farmer-focus, the need to link science to politics, institutions and anthropology.

We heard some key questions from the floor:

• What is in it for users to engage?
• Need to deepen engagement with farmers, but need to build a wider alliance too
• How do we bring in different cultural world views?

These concerns are very close to IDS’ new strategy—we are aiming for new alliances, and for the co-construction of research—so the resonance was interesting. I found it interesting that we have not yet talked about how impact will be assessed—who defines it, who assesses it, and who acts on it, and what incentivizes them to?

I'm now in Theme group 1. This theme group is seen as foundational by many. Can it frame the entire CGIAR-GFAR partnership? But the discussion in the theme group is pretty disparate and unfocused, hopefully not symptomatic of this theme.

One worry at this stage is that the CGIAR and GFAR leaders and members have not thought through the changes needed in skills, incentives, organizations, institutions to support this very different way of working (e.g. user orientation, new partners, awareness of political, cultural and institutional terrains).

More later.

27 March 2010

There is no single simple measure to defeat hunger

Taking a break from preparing for my presentation for the GCARD conference, I was surfing the BBC site and found an article by Richard Black, citing Uma Lele, one of the authors of the GCARD cornerstone paper.

I have not read the latest paper, but given that Uma is a colleague and an IDS Board member and that I work with another co-author, Jules Pretty on a Foresight project on the Future of Farming and Food, I have seen earlier copies. (Also another author, Yvonne Pinto, is the Director of ALINe, which IDS and Keystone Accountability support.)

What caught my eye was a quote from the article:

"There was no single, simple measure, she said, that could bring about the yield increases needed in poorer countries, and make sure that the increases were sustainable."

Brilliant. This is, in fact, the single simple message that should come out of the GCARD conference: there is no single simple measure to defeat hunger.

Is this a sign of despair? Absolutely not. It is a rallying call. For what we are all saying is that we need a sustained cross-society approach to dealing with the seemingly intractable problem of low productivity in farming in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Technology, infrastructure, knowledge, institutions, incentives, leadership. We need all of this, but only a driven collective effort can deliver it. Neither the private sector, the state or civil society can do it on their own--they need to work together.

But how? I hope much of GCARD is about how to build the irresistible force that makes the existence of hunger too uncomfortable to bear. At the moment, the discomfort does not extend too far beyond those directly affected by hunger.

26 March 2010

Movements for Nutrition

From bowel movements to social movements, the nutrition workshop I attended this week at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had it all. A group of about 40 top researchers met to exchange knowledge and ideas about how to accelerate declines in infant stunting (low height for age for those -9 months [in utero] to 24 months of age). There were gastroenterologists, doctors, epidemiologists, biologists, nutrition scientists, and me, the sole economist. We moved through the disciplines and the light they each shed on how to promote infant growth and prevent its faltering.

On measurement, we concluded that height for age is the best proxy for the things we really care about for infants—immune system development and brain development. This is different from the MDG 1 indicator—underweight—but we decided that recommending this be changed before 2015 would be counterproductive—the nutrition community would just look indecisive.

On achievements – we recognized that nutrition specific interventions (those that have nutrition improvement as the key goal) could currently deal with approximately one third of stunting and that (potentially) nutrition sensitive interventions (such as agriculture [the topic of my presentation], cash transfers, and sanitation) would need to contribute more and that they have the potential to do so.

On country experiences of sustained nutrition reduction, we heard about the good (Brazil and Mexico) and those waiting for nutrition lift off despite strong income growth (India, Ghana). Political movements were the key to success, lack of leadership the block for those waiting on the launch pad.

The priority action point (determined by a vote) was to strengthen the capability of individuals, organizations and institutions to (a) make the existence of undernutrition more uncomfortable to those in power and (b) do something to accelerate undernutrition reduction. Without drivers from civil society making a lot of noise about undernutrition and without leaders able to take the initiative to do something about undernutrition, all the other actions will be weakened.

The priority research issue (also voted in) was to rigorously design, implement and evaluate integrated, holistic and comprehensive interventions for nutrition. I wondered how equipped the nutrition research community is to achieve this ambitious goal. This requires politics, anthropology, communication and management skills being added to the mix. And even then we have to work across disciplines—and strangely enough boundary spanning is not one of the nutrition community’s strengths.

The workshop will no doubt influence the Foundation’s future work and, hopefully, the priorities and ways of working of many others. I enjoyed it. It reconnected me to a community I am very fond of and an issue I care passionately about. The workshop was organized superbly—a great mix of participation and decisiveness.

The Foundation could do much more of this kind of expectation setting and recalibrating of key topics—they have the independence and clout to influence the field, and this nutrition team were very keen to listen, learn and reflect.

25 March 2010

An unsystematic look at the DFID systematic reviews

DFID recently put out a call for 49 systematic reviews on policy related topics as part of a pilot to “help practitioners and policymakers increase the use of rigorous evidence in decision making”. At a medium size of 25k the total resource envelope amounts to an approximate 1.25 million spend.

I spent a couple of hours reviewing the list of 49 questions. They have to be a good source of tea-leaves for researchers interested in mapping perceived policy knowledge gaps.

So what did I read into the tea leaves?

1. The area with the largest number of questions was growth and investment. As with any of these observations, this may reflect many things—the size of the team, the size of the portfolio, the state of knowledge, and the knowledge of the state of knowledge to name a few. In this case it might also signal a fast tracking of questions that the new Growth Centre will not yet be geared up to address. This large number probably also reflects catch up in DFID investment in these research areas. Agriculture and aid delivery had the fewest number of questions at 3 each. Health, perhaps understandably given its tradition of systematic reviews also had 3 questions within Human Development (7 in total).

2. “Impact” is highlighted in 25 of the 49 questions. Various forms of the terms “increase” and “reduce” came up 10 times and “effectiveness” came up 7 times. The focus on impact is not surprising—this is what the development policy field is heavily focused on. Impact was mentioned in every area except, agriculture, whose 3 questions used the term “effective”. I don’t know if this is significant, but it is interesting and I could easily spin it into a story about agriculture not having much of an impact culture, but I won’t.

3. There is some futureproofing embedded in the questions in terms of the interests of possible government configurations. There are questions on vouchers, on the role of the private sector in service delivery and a lot of questions in general about business.

4. Gender issues are explicitly mentioned in only 4 questions.

5. There are a few surprising areas where questions are missed—perhaps they are being covered in other windows: these include

a. Urban issues
b. Science and technology (there are 2-3 questions but not as many as I would have thought)
c. Communicating about and on development—the need to get better at this is a critical behavioural issue for maintaining the consensus on development and aid
d. Does ODA spending in nontraditional areas (security for example) have a poverty impact?

6. The guidelines state that data must focus on developing countries, with a strong rationale needed for including data from other contexts. I can understand the need for focus, but I think this is a bit of a missed opportunity to learn about what works in public policy across rich and poor contexts. These two worlds are far too divided.

In sum, I think DFID will get a lot for this, as will the wider development community (the reviews will be made widely available). I look forward to an evaluation of the difference the pilot makes in terms of feedback from users on whether they used the evidence and whether it influenced their choices. Whether it improved the poverty impacts of those different choices will have to be assessed at a later date.

24 March 2010

The Department for Global Development

I was at an interesting discussion group at Chatham House on Monday. The topic was the UK's role in the world with special reference to the "developing world".

One sub-text was "what should a modern ministry for development look like?"

Clearly we want this modern ministry to go "beyond aid"-- that's a given. But we also want it to go "beyond development" by actively engaging with actors who are not actively thinking about how they affect development, but nevertheless are very influential (e.g. businesses, religions, philanthrophy groups, departments of finance, ministries of defence).

We want this modern ministry to put development at the heart of resource flows-both public and private. We want this ministry to work with a range of countries: (1) fragile states, (2) poor but developmental states, (3) middle income countries and (4) the rich countries too. We want it to support the creation of national and global public goods. And we want it to continue to be represented in Cabinet and be
influential in Whitehall. In short, we want a DFGD -- a Department for Global Development.

What would this DFGD do? In the first group of countries the challenge is to help deliver services to the very poorest where states will not or cannot deliver them--in such a way that helps those countries become more stable and developmental. In the second group, the challenge is to support on-going domestic initiatives to sustain development ...to hold governments and others to account and enable citizens to take their own initiatives to improve their lives. In the third group the challenge is to support the engagement of these newly powerful countries in international development in ways that support poverty reduction and social justice domestically and internationally, with an emphasis on global public goods that achieve developmental goals. In the final group, the challenge is to put development at the heart of all donor government activity-at worst avoiding harm to development goals and at best promoting changes that support efforts of the other 3 groups of countries.

But let's be clear, the establishment of a department for global development is a massive challenge.

First, it is hampered by the limits of public support generated by current communication models. The public in rich countries need to see something come of their investment in international development,something they can relate to. And they do not expect failure.

Achievement is easiest to see in the second group of countries-kids going to school, disease rates being lowered, peaceful transitions of power, and poverty rates falling. After this it gets difficult. In the first group, the fragile states, the absence of conflict is not a powerful news story, but the siphoning off of aid is, even when it is the exception rather than the rule. For the third group-Brazil, India
and China-the nature of accomplishments is hard to make tangible (for example, try explaining global public goods to...well, anyone) and in any case it would undermine these relationships to claim any hand in them. For the fourth group, the new ministry for global development can only express satisfaction at success behind the scenes if it wants to avoid internecine warfare or a diplomatic incident.

Human organizations being what they are, dealing with the second group will be incentivized. For this group, creditable things are likely to happen and credit can be claimed for them happening. For the first group, achievements will more likely be obscured and for the last two groups credit will be in the form of a supporting actor or ghostwriter.

To its credit, DFID has increased substantially the priority given to the first group and is engaging with countries and with multilaterals working in other groups.

Second, working as a department for global development will be hard going. Working in partnership promises greater returns, but it also requires a relinquishing of control. Working in China, India and Brazil demands a different set of skills from those typically found in an "aid ministry"-negotiation and contestation will be the norm. Working across ministries within government is easier said than done and is often used as a way of consigning things to the long grass. Working with unusual
suspects is, well, unusual--suspicions are not easily quelled nor cultures smoothly bridged.

Nevertheless my sense is that a ministry for global development should be the aspiration. It would mean working for global public goods. It would mean working in different ways, tailored to the 4 groups of countries. In the UK it would mean that the DFGD would work intensely with BIS, DTI, DECC, DoD, and FCO to place a developmental perspective at the heart of government activity. It would mean working more actively with those outside the development bubble. And it would mean being realistic with the UK public about what we can expect for 8 billion pounds a year.

The new DFGD would develop significant joint funding streams and programmes with other ministries [sharing resources before they are taken away], would have a more diverse set of skills (business,political, creative, relational) recruited to its workforce, would change its employee performance incentives towards more collaborative and innovative ways of working, and would enhance the capacity of its stakeholders to communicate its value added in an independent way. None of this is easy. In the UK DFID is one of the best international development agencies and hence the incentives for radical change are even weaker. But will DFID as we know it still be relevant in 2020 if radical change is not supported? Other Whitehall Departments will also need to change the ways in which they interact with this new ministry.

DFID may always be the better acronym, but when will DFGD become the better synonym for what we care about? Has it already? What do you think?

14 March 2010

Top 20 Development Songs?

The Political Studies Association (PSA) recently did a 20 most political songs feature. I heard an interview about it on Radio 4 and smiled

With my Development Studies Association (DSA) hat on, I got thinking about international development songs. I restricted myself to songs I have.

Interestingly only 2 or 3 overlap with the PSA list (which I reviewed after compiling my list). I don't think that says anything about interdisciplinarity!

These are mine (not the DSA's) in no particular order.

1. Something Better Change -- The Stranglers. The voice of pent up frustration, often the herald of change.
2. Human Behaviour -- Bjork. As economists increasingly realise, this is not always rational.
3. Go Your Own Way -- Fleetwood Mac. In solidarity with those who refuse to mindlessly follow other people's development blueprints.
4. Everyday People--Sly and the Family Stone. People's movements force change.
5. Fight the Power -- Public Enemy. Enough said.
6. Independent Women -- Destiny's Child. "I depend on me". Love it.
7. Know Your Rights -- The Clash. And act on them.
8. Things Have Changed - Bob Dylan. Post financial crisis, yes they have See IDS' Reimagining Development initiative.
9. Changes -- David Bowie. "Turn and face the strain" of increasing uncertainty.
10. Power in the Darkness -- Tom Robinson. We're talking about freedom.
11. Stormy Weather -- Lena Horne. It's hard to find songs about climate change, part 1.
12. Hard Rain -- Shout Out Louds. It's hard to find songs about climate change, part 2.
13. Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime -- The Korgis. Something we in the development community are not so good at.
14. All Around the World -- The Jam. "All around the world I've been looking for new". Co-construction of knowledge anyone?.
15. Oliver's Army -- Elvis Costello. For the ANC leader.
16. Big Yellow Taxi -- Joni Mitchell. "Pave paradise" indeed.
17. American Idiot -- Green Day. "Don't want to live in a nation that doesn't do medium". I love this rant against extremism for its own sake.
18. We Share our Mother's Health -- The Knife. I couldn't resist a reference to nutrition.
19. Five Years Time -- Noah and the Whale. OK, it's also hard to find a song about the MDGs.
20. Bird Flu - MIA. Chilling, in many ways.

Got some of your own songs to uncover? Share them in the comment space.

12 March 2010

DFID’s 2010 Turning Point Conference

On March 11 DFID hosted its second international development conference. The theme was on accelerating progress on the MDGs—what to do differently? Can this be a turning point for achieving the MDGs? The DFID summaries of the conference are already up on their website.

Overall I thought the conference was a success. There was a renewed sense of energy, generated by reminders of what has been accomplished in the last 10 and 20 years and the commitment of people like Amina Az-Zubair, Ashraf Ghani, Uday Khemka and Peter Madden.

The Secretary of State, Douglas Alexander, asked us to focus on 3 things: accountability, innovation and resilience. I think we responded well on the first, less so on the last two.

1. Leadership and accountability were high on the agenda. Not the usual laments about “political will” but instead: (a) talk about contracts rather than compacts between rich, emerging and poor countries, (b) talk about building leadership not just waiting for it, and (c) the idea of putting in place mechanisms to pressure and embarrass leaders into being more responsive, things like commitment indices, stakeholder audits, transparency funds, constituent feedback and impact assessments. True leadership is when investments are made in assessment mechanisms that may prove inconvenient for those in power but which nevertheless promote the greater good. Without this commitment technology in place, I fear there will be no acceleration of progress towards the MDGs. Without them failure to accelerate the MDGs has less of a consequence for those in power. As Nick Stern said in a different context, these mechanisms are a way of sharing the risk between rich and poor. Much of this will give meaning and content to MDG8 on partnerships.

2. Resilience. This is a word we hear a lot about these days, partly because of climate change, partly because of the financial downturn. But what does it really mean? Yes, its about complexity, adaptability, diversity and incertitude, but then? Our STEPS Centre at IDS is working to give resilience meaning in a development context.

3. Innovation. There were too many of the familiar faces to guarantee new sparks of innovation would fly. I always believe the best innovations come from lateral rather than unilateral thinking. There were some fascinating and talented private sector people present, but they were too few to really influence collective thinking. New alliances are a large part of IDS’ new strategy and one of the reasons is to help our thinking burst out of the international development bubble.

Other reflections

Women’s empowerment: the need for this came through strongly, but with few concrete ways of accelerating progress. Yes, we need greater participation of women at all levels of government and civil society (including the private sector) but how do we do that? Quotas? Leadership schools? A greater focus on secondary and tertiary education? Financial incentives? Social movements? Legal system? Is there an overarching theory of change that connects across the many different pathways?

The need to strengthen MDG7: Nick Stern reminded us that the 2005 Commission for Africa hardly mentioned climate change. Saleem Huq reminded us that the 1992 G8 world of Rio was very different to the G20 world of 2010. I made the point that climate change should reframe development around new forms of partnership between rich and emerging countries, between the public and private sectors and between wellbeing today and in the future. Forget “development = adaptation”; it is development as we know it which has to adapt.

Hunger and nutrition: this is a session I presented in. While the three presentations (social protection, agriculture, nutrition) were individually fine, they did not connect very well which is symptomatic of the wider disconnects. I wanted to delve into how the Brazilian leadership negotiated and mediated between 94 (I think) agencies in the fight against hunger. That takes determined leaders, but how do we find and develop them?

Omissions: One cannot do everything in one day (and we tried), but there was hardly any mention of HIV/AIDS, at least in plenary or in my breakout group on hunger. It was striking and it made me wonder why? It’s not as if MDG6 is outperforming all the others. It’s not as if DFID does not think the issue is not vital. Working out why certain things were headlined by the conference and others were not is part and parcel of the politics of the policy process!

The Today Programme and Duncan Green

So Duncan Green (Oxfam) and I were on the Today show this morning (BBC Radio 4) for our 60 second conversation with Jim Naughtie, talking about how much aid makes it to where it is supposed to go.

My 3 points were:

1. Aid has a track record of transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of people via immunizations, schooling, microfinance start-ups, famine aversion, crops that are drought tolerant, cash transfers that protect the poorest against shocks…the list goes on.

2. Diversion of aid is unacceptable and must be minimized, but diversion is not confined to aid—Roger Riddell cites a study that concludes that 16% of the money for the Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims in the US was siphoned off.

3. Diversion can be reduced through transparency and commitment infrastructure. A study found that only about 20% of the resources allocated to 250 schools in Uganda were getting through to them. Publication and notification of how much the schools should receive helped change the dynamic (although was not sufficient on its own) -- much more of the funding got through just a few years later.

Commitment mechanisms such as participatory budgeting, community scorecards, stakeholder audits, constituent feedback, publication of spending data, and impact evaluations hold a lot of promise for fixing the broken feedback loop in international development, and we need more scaling up of successful pilots.

Duncan noted that the exchange with the usually tough Today interviewers was not exactly gladiatorial. I say be careful what you wish for.

09 March 2010

Justice, Inequality and Child Health

On International Women's Day, I chaired a session at an event on Equity and Child Survival organised by David Mepham and Save the Children UK. The meeting was to discuss how to accelerate reductions in under 5 child mortality rates. The premise of the meeting was that child health policy has neglected inequality. But what does "neglect inequality" really mean in a policy sense? This was the topic of the discussion. My takeaways were:

1. While we often present inequality in child health outcomes by income or asset groupings (for comparability across countries) these are not the inequalities that are the primary drivers of poor child health. Rather it is the structural drivers -- for example, gender, ethnicity, indigenous group, rural/urban, region, and religion -- that lead to power imbalances that perpetuate poor child health. The structural drivers are the ones to be tackled by policies.

2. But which policies? We cannot expect health policies alone to tackle structural drivers of inequalities. But we cannot allow them to ignore them either. So, how to organise the elements of a strategy to address inequities in child health? On one axis, put health policies and non-health policies. On the other axis, place policies that work within existing rules of the game and those that seek to transform the rules. Examples:

* Health policies working within the rules -- outreach to scheduled castes in India to increase the likelihood of newborns being breastfed within one hour of life
* Health policies transforming the rules--social audits of health facilities by intended beneficiaries
* Non-health policies working within the rules -- employment policies that are more compatible with child care
* Non-health policies transforming the rules -- more progressive tax regimes that fund universal access

These policies can also interact positively -- for example, rights based approaches are not health specific but can be used by health advocates to lobby for the abolition of user fees.

3. Does this go far enough? Many thought that this approach was still too instrumental--the reduction of inequality is treated simply a means to an end rather than something with intrinsic value. I agree with this view, and there was some consensus that we should be more focused on justice -- the key indicator of injustice being group differences in health outcomes by socially constructed group. Some of my IDS and ActionAid colleagues have written a terrific set of briefs on the interplay of redistribution (the allocation of resources between groups), recognition (the right to be recognised in and on one's own terms) and representation (the democratisation of information and agency) which gets to the heart of the new social justice agenda.

4. As many commentators noted, women's agency is vital to combating child health inequalities. Andrea Cornwall and Jenny Edwards have just released a new IDS Bulletin --well worth a read--on Negotiating Empowerment drawn from a DFID research programme hosted by IDS: "This IDS Bulletin draws out some of the dilemmas around women's empowerment: choices, negotiations, narratives and contexts of women's lived experience. It shows that empowerment is a complex process that requires more than the quick and easy solutions offered by development agencies (who need to have a deeper understanding of what makes change happen in women's lives). The issue draws on the work of an international network of researchers - the Research Programme Consortium Pathways of Women's Empowerment (‘Pathways') - and brings fresh empirical and conceptual insights to development academics and policy actors".

5. Finally, perhaps the biggest inequality is the attention given to inequality in recent years. Inequality is not a dirty word, but it is a slippery one. In a world where high carbon growth and weak financial regulation have generated huge negative externalities for those who can least bear them, it is not surprising that we hear more about justice and injustice. Is there something intrinsically more human and universal about the notion of "justice"? I'd like to hear from you on that.

07 March 2010

Can Africa Make Poverty History?

A working paper by economists Sala-i-Martin and Pinkovskiy for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has suggested that poverty in African countries is plummeting.

I want to believe this. But there are at least 3 reasons for extreme caution and skepticism about the "findings" in this paper.

First,the paper manufactures 1800 data points on inequality from surveys that cover only 118 data points: in other words, 94% of the inequality numbers are extrapolations from other countries and other years.

Second, the poverty estimates rely heavily on government reported GDP (adjusted for purchasing power) when we know that GDP data from national income accounts do not match income levels recorded from household surveys.

Third, using GDP/capita and the manufactured inequality data, the authors then construct poverty rates for 48 African countries for each year between 1970 and 2006. The authors find few correlations between their manufactured poverty rates and structural features of the countries in the sample. This insensitivity to structural features either means that poverty has been reduced in every single location (unlikely) or that the data do not reflect reality.

The authors are fairly self-critical of their results (although there is no comparison in the paper of the doubly manufactured poverty rates with poverty rates based on available surveys) and it is important that the media (e.g. the article by Larry Elliot and Heather Stewart in the Guardian) also takes a critically engaged view.

The countries of Sub-Saharan Africa should be applauded for making substantial progress in numerous policy areas including growth and poverty reduction. Of course they can make poverty history. But a triumph of elegant methods over reality may lead to an allocation of resources away from sub-Saharan Africa just when they are most needed. Many African countries face a post-crisis fiscal squeeze.

Five years after the Commission for Africa and with five years to go to the 2015 MDG target, interpreting the research correctly is more important than ever.

03 March 2010

Disability and development

Last week we were lucky enough to have Raymond Lang from the Leonard Cheshire Trust visit IDS and talk about mainstreaming disability within development. This is not an issue that I have focused on in the past, and I was taken by some of the facts and statistics presented, such as:

* 50% of disabilities are preventable
* 98% of children with disabilities do not complete primary school
* The first legally binding document on disability was the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability of 2008 (to date 71 states have ratified it)

Raymond Lang also noted that there is a wide range of opinion within the community working on disability and development (relatively small but growing fast) about whether disability is a completely sociopolitical construct or whether it has other physiological dimensions.

There is also considerable debate about how to get the strategic balance right between mainstreaming disability into service delivery or setting up separate dedicated services.

What struck me was (a) the likelihood that this will be an emerging issue in the next 10 years as services improve generally, (b) the resonance of the issues this community is struggling with and more general development issues (strategic and constructed) and (c) the weak database upon which policy is currently made in this area.

The Leonard Cheshire Trust is working with University College London, supported by DFID and others, to develop this field and I urge you keep in touch with these debates---they are important in their own right and will, I believe, shed light on more general issues of power within international development.