18 November 2011

Richard Jolly: From Structural Adjustment to Human Development

Yesterday we kicked off a two day workshop "From Structural Adjustment to Human Development" in honour of Professor Sir Richard Jolly, an IDS Associate and former IDS Director.

I first met Richard in the mid 1990s when he was the Chair of the rather obscure UN/ACC-SCN, the UN's standing committee on nutrition. The SCN's aim is to bring together different parts of the UN working on nutrition to help the whole be greater than the sum of the parts.

Watching Richard chair this 2 day meeting, I learned 5 things about him: (1) his deep commitment to the UN (why else would he have put up with those squabbling UN agencies?), (2) the breadth of his intellect (he can talk agriculture, sanitation and infant feeding with the best of them), (3) the respect in which he was held (he had recently worked with Frances Stewart and Andrea Cornia on the ground-breaking Adjustment with a Human Face), (4) his relentless focus on putting people at the heart of development and (5) his optimism and total lack of cynicism (essential to get those sometimes warring factions to agree).

His contributions to development and to development research (for he is a man of action as well as of intellect)

* "Redistribution with Growth (which rejected the early 70s separation of optimal growth and redistribution) -- the Occupy movement would be inspired by this
* Adjustment with a Human face (which argued, amongst other things, that the poorest should be protected from austerity measures) -a guideline to any policymaker grappling with the global recession
* the regional Human Development Reports (Richard was instrumental in getting the HDRs going) and their ability to create a space to speak truth to power and cut through GDP/capita-only narratives--important in the context of the Arab Spring uprisings, I am told.

On a day to day level Richard is a delight to have at IDS--always generous with this time and never pulling the "when I was Director" routine (at least to my face!).

Richard remains active, working to spearhead a new coalition to get inequality issues higher up the development agenda. His energy and optimism are quite timeless.

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