31 December 2013

Predictions for 2014

With the usual disclaimer that I don't like making predictions, especially about the future, here they are:

1.  Poverty in Africa will continue to decline strongly

I have continued optimism about Africa. We know economic growth is strong in many African countries, but is this translating through into human wellbeing? A recent paper by Rati Ram traces the growth-poverty elasticity over time for sub-Saharan Africa and finds that it is stable for $1 a day and is increasing for $2 a day. In other words, growth is doing an increasingly good job of lifting people above the $2 a day poverty line. The data are only up to 2008, so some caution is warranted, but this paper suggests that the quality of growth in Africa is increasing (unlike China where it is high decreasing and India where it is low and stable).  Will Africa be the new China?

2. Get ready for more crap along the lines of "Cut the Green Crap"

Whether the UK PM David Cameron actually said this is in doubt, but the disagreements between him and his Chancellor on where to settle on the trade-offs between growth today and growth tomorrow are well documented (Cameron is more committed to the green agenda than Osborne). And these disagreements will intensify in the run up to the next UK election in May 2015. They will also play out all over Europe, North America and Australia as the centre right parties gear up to defend their election victories in the context of sluggish growth that is not doing much to raise living standards. Get ready for more crap about "green crap".

3.  Minilateralism is here to stay

When you look at it hard the recent trade deal was pretty feeble. Given the diminished concentration of geopolitical power with the rising powers, this, I think, is the shape of things to come. Moises Naim calls it "minilateralism" and others call it coalitions of the willing. The risks are that some bad things will get done (and recall where this coalition of the willing phrase was first coined) but, whisper it, some good things might get done too.

4.  Front line workers will increasingly be front and centre

Policy is what policy does, goes the saying, and policy only does if frontline workers can implement it and have an incentive to do so. The remarkable improvements in Maharashtra's nutrition status are being attributed by some to the relatively simple (and scalable) filling of front line worker vacancies. We are also seeing more studies focusing on the people who are present where the rubber hits the road. A new study by Oriana Bandeira and colleagues reported on in Foreign Policy concludes that community health workers in Zambia performed better when they were "ladder climbers" (motivated primarily by career ambition) rather than "do gooders" (motivated primarily by community spirit). Of course these do not have to be mutually exclusive, but the point is that there is very little research on front line worker motivation and capacity and the difference it makes. There needs to be more and I can see it emerging in 2014.

5.  The nutrition community will not squander the momentum it has built up in 2013

After a banner year in 2013 (Lancet, Nutrition for Growth, UNICEF report, new SUN networks, new members of SUN etc.) it would be easy to sit back and squander that energy. The nutrition community has not allowed itself to do that because it is setting up a Global Accountability process to monitor commitments, actions and outcomes. The big reckoning will come in Brazil at the 2016 Olympics, but I suspect there will not be any let up before then--the bit is truly between the teeth.

6.  IDS will continue to thrive

There will be no Alex Ferguson like blip at IDS, it is not a one person organisation and, let's face it, I'm no Fergie. One key reason that there will be no blip is that Melissa Leach will take over. She is an extremely able leader and will be a terrific Director. She will take IDS to the next level and make it ever more essential to critical thought and analysis on global development.

Here's to a great 2014 for all!

12 December 2013

The Update on DFID's Multilateral Aid Review: What is the Story?

Today a journalist emailed me to ask me about DFID's recently published Multilateral Aid Review Update (MAR-U). Their question: what is the story?

The MAR Update is less intuitive to read than the original MAR back in 2011 (see my review of that). The MAR was clearly framed around value for money and was the first such review in quite a while, so it had novelty value. And it had teeth. 

The MAR-U is an attempt to pick up on the dimensions of performance that DFID felt each multilateral needed to work on and assess their progress in improving that performance dimension. And a good attempt it is (see previous blog on the MAR-U process).

So what's the story?

1. Every multilateral made "some progress" in most areas. Some progress is not exactly a high bar ("reforms achieved to date weakly address reform priorities and do not fully meet expectations"), so an organisation would really have to be indifferent to the reputational risk of a low DFID MAR score to register a "little or no progress" update score.

2. I fear for the Commonwealth Secretariat. 4 of the 5 multilaterals rated as poor value for money in 2011 posted above average update scores. So those most at risk of losing funding and with the most room for improvement managed to step up to the challenge, with one exception--the Commonwealth Secretariat--a poor MAR score and one of the poorest Update scores.

3. Success seems to breed success. Of the 9 multilaterals rated as "very good value for money" in 2011, 7 of them had above average Update scores.

4. Changing attitudes, policies, systems and norms around gender are difficult in development, but also in development organisations. Progress on gender was one of the weakest areas of improvement. Of the 13 multilaterals picked up on this in the 2011 MAR, only 6 made reasonable progress, none made significant progress and 7 made only some progress.

5. Does the Update have teeth? Funding for the worst performing group--those with adequate or poor MAR scores in 2011 AND a those with a low bar "some progress" rating in 2013--will remain at or below 2010 levels, so that the real value of the UK contribution will continue to fall (CDB, OHCHR, IADB, UNFPA and Comm Sec). This is not terrible punishment (although the reputational risk is huge), but it will mean ever closer scrutiny and much more of the budget being tied to future performance on reform priorities. (The EC budget is also included in this group but its budget is determined through a separate process.)

6. Finally, well done FAO! Out of 37 organisations, FAO posted the 5th best progress score and was the star of the infamous "special measures" group of 5. This is testimony to the new leadership at FAO and I congratulate them.

So not as big a story as the 2011 MAR, but some compelling subplots.

11 December 2013

Process commentary from Lawrence Haddad and Alison Evans, the external reviewers to the MAR and MAR Update

The Multilateral Aid Review Update is now out.  I will do a blog on the content in the next few  days, but I thought I would share with you the process comment from Alison and me (on p 183! of the report).  Here it is:

"As with the original MAR, as external reviewers we were involved in commenting
on all phases of the Update: (a) the Update methodology; (b) moderation of scores and (c) the interim and final Update reports. Here we provide some reflections on the process:

Update methodology

We noted that the purpose of the Update methodology was to assess progress against reform objectives identified in the original MAR assessments. The purpose was not to re-assess original MAR scores. As such we considered the methodology fit for purpose. We did note, however, some challenges in implementing the methodology, particularly in being crystal clear about the thresholds between progress ratings (i.e. between some and reasonable progress and between reasonable and significant progress) and the importance of establishing a consistent rule for both aggregating ratings and for justifying any component score changes that resulted.

All these issues were discussed extensively with DFID and we were satisfied with their response and their willingness to take appropriate action as they refined the methodology.

Moderation of scores and follow-up

Moderation was undertaken in three separate tranches. Each tranche considered a cluster of multilateral organisations (MOs). Extensive internal moderation and consistency checking took place in advance of all three meetings. Both reviewers read all the assessments in full. We also read all the moderation notes. There were no conflicts of interest declared by the reviewers.
The quality of the Update assessments was high overall with considerable efforts made to gather a range of data and to triangulate data wherever possible. We did note, however, the lack of independent evidence (evaluations, independent reviews) for quite a few MOs and the unevenness with which some of the data from country partners was sought and presented. We appreciated the DFID assessments of strength of evidence presented for each MO in each reform component. We discussed the need to distinguish data on country-level impacts from more general data gathered from country partners, something which was followed up on by the MAR Update team.

We were able to ask for clarification on how certain pieces of evidence were used to justify progress ratings, and noted where we felt there were inconsistencies. In some instances the lack of sufficient evidence was itself an important factor in the assessment. In all cases our challenge and our input were taken seriously. In several cases there was so much evidence presented it was difficult to get a sense of its relative importance in driving the progress rating. Our comment here was taken on board and clarifications promised in the final assessments.

After each tranche discussion, checks were carried out to ensure that any ratings changes arising from the external moderation process were done fairly and consistently. Of the 146 component progress ratings moderated, 27 were changed at the final stage of moderation, which we were part of. Seven score changes were made.

While the Update was not as ambitious in scope as the original MAR, it was still a major undertaking. We note once again the high degree of transparency, accountability and sound judgement with which DFID staff approached the whole process. All the documentation was received in good time. Our views as external reviewers were taken seriously and the responses were generally adequate. Where we felt strongly that additional material needed to be provided to justify a rating, more work was done.

It is not yet fully clear on whether an Update similar to this will be undertaken in the future, but if it were, we felt that the following would need to be addressed:
  1. Have the MAR and the Update exercises provided good value for money? We feel this is probably the case, but we are close to the process and our views are not based on a systematic review process. We feel the commissioning of a light touch independent review might promote learning for the next MAR and might give some guidance as to the level of effort allocated to it.
  2. The input of country offices was, we felt, unnecessarily tentative. We understand the need for anonymity, but we felt that allowing country offices to volunteer information on whichever MO they felt like commenting on (if our understanding is correct) is insufficiently rigorous.
  3. While we were impressed by the thoroughness of the assessments the sheer volume of evidence was sometimes overwhelming and made it difficult to trace the mapping onto the progress rating. We felt that less might be more here and that a focus on the evidence that really counted would have helped the read across to ratings.
  4. The original MAR clustered MOs around functional type. This was essential because of the need to establish a set of baselines at roughly the same point in time. For various reasons the three tranches of MOs in the progress rating sessions mixed up MO functionality and we feel that this made it harder to ensure fairness and equal treatment (which we feel was, nevertheless, achieved).
We appreciate the opportunity to provide some public reflections on the process and we commend DFID for the professionalism with which they have undertaken a complex and difficult task. We were glad to have played a small part in the process.

Dr Alison Evans and Prof Lawrence Haddad"

06 December 2013

IDS and the future: Thanks and thoughts from an incoming Director

Guest blog by Melissa Leach

This is the first of many blogs that I’m sure I’ll be writing over the next five years as the Institute’s new Director. Lawrence has set a really high bar here with ‘Development Horizons’ – always insightful and reflective. Mine won’t start properly until I take over leadership in the late Spring. But it does seem the moment now for a few remarks.

The first is a very big and heartfelt thank you – to the many colleagues and others who encouraged and supported me in the appointment process, and to all those who have sent such warm messages of congratulations since yesterday’s announcement. The many messages pouring in from around the world express real excitement at the opportunities ahead for IDS. They also warn of the challenges of managing and positioning a complex Institute in a rapidly changing world; challenges that Lawrence has been managing so effectively in so many ways over the last decade. I'm not naive about these – indeed am absolutely up for embracing them. But it is great to be reassured that so much of the Institute’s fantastic network of partners and friends, as well as those I've built personally over the years and through my roles in the ESRC STEPS Centre and Future Earth, are with me in spirit. As one well-wisher put it, ‘so much to do together’. Indeed.

In my pitch to the appointing panel, I talked about four windows through which we might seek to re-vision the Institute’s agenda and positioning in internationally turbulent times. These don’t swing the view radically away from IDS’s core values; vision of a future world with no poverty, widespread social justice and economic growth focused on improving human wellbeing; or many of the important strategic directions and achievements under Lawrence’s leadership. But they do, I think, open up some ways to create a step-change in the Institute’s relevance and impact in a more global world. Each has implications for what we work on, and how we work; cutting across research, teaching and learning, knowledge services, and partnerships.

I call the first ‘engaged excellence’. If development means change towards a less poor, more just and – I would add – sustainable world, while accounting for people’s diverse aspirations and settings, development studies involves understanding and challenging the processes and pathways - political, economic, social, technical - that move us away from this kind of a world, and seeking and supporting those that move us towards it. Ideas in this ‘window’ include ways to ensure that the research-based knowledge we offer is always rigorous, methodologically sound, robust, reliable, while re-focusing such ‘excellence’ on solutions-oriented knowledge engaged with those change agents positioned to act. This will involve
combining academic credibility with impact-orientation; instrumental contributions with engaged critique of goals, values, power; independence with co-design and co-production; challenging orthodoxies with identifying alternatives. These are hard things to do, but IDS at its best already does them well. I’d like to work with colleagues and partners, from those close to home in the University of Sussex to those across the world, to build and take forward a vision of ‘engaged excellence’ as the fertile future of development studies.

The second window is ‘global justice’. This recognises the huge shifts that have made an ‘old style’ development, focused just on aid agendas to address poverty in the ‘global south’, so outdated. We’re now in an emerging global landscape of new geopolitics associated with the rise of the BRICS and trans-national movements; shifting patterns of globalised movement of resources, ideas, technologies and people; changing patterns and geographies of poverty and inequality; threats to our planetary life support systems; interconnected stresses and shocks involving finance, climate, food and energy; changing patterns of commodification and ‘grab’, and new textures to issues of conflict, identity and rights.

Such processes, connecting global, national and local in new ways, will profoundly affect what future food, future cities, future governance, future citizenship, future health, future energy and more will look like. Winners and losers won’t follow familiar north-south or class-based patterns, and as people, technologies and nature respond, many uncertainties and surprises are in store. In turn, I think our development studies must more fully embrace the global: addressing big-picture patterns as well as grounded realities; richer countries and powerful players as well as poorer, and tracking flows and feedbacks of power, money, people, resources, ideas in multiple directions. And we must address justice more centrally: not just absolute poverty, but the changing dynamics of inequality, and processes working for and against justice, both in the distribution of resources, rights and capabilities, and in voice and power to affect decisions in a complex and dynamic world.

To deliver effectively on this global agenda, I think we will need a more globally-defined and positioned IDS: for reach, credibility, and critical mass and voice. I’d like to work with colleagues and partners to develop this, in a collaborative and co-equal way that builds global consortia and alliances around key themes and ideas, taking forward many possible opportunities for joint research, fundraising, fellowships, convening, teaching and learning, and more.

Transformational Alliances
This would all complement a third window that I've called transformational alliances. Transformational, because it is clear that business-as-usual won’t be enough to deliver the needed step-change towards wellbeing and justice on a constrained planet. There’ll be a need to destabilise some dominant pathways and support imaginative alternatives. Alliances, because building these offers vital opportunities to bring about transformative change. The current IDS strategy already emphasises new alliances outside the ‘development industry’; co constructing knowledge, and innovative influencing. But with an ever- greater array of new actors becoming relevant to development, novel partnerships and hybrids emerging that challenge boundaries between public and private, state and NGO, and more than ever, resource flows conventionally associated with ‘aid’ being dwarfed by others, it may be time to become more ambitious and coherent: in theorising transformation and change – and the roles of different kinds of alliance in it, and seeking more strategically to identify and multiply, scale up and out alliances for the kinds of transformation we would like to see. Again, there are implications for our research, teaching and knowledge services work, as we seek variously to identify, join, inform or otherwise engage with alliances for real change.

Digital development studies
All this can be facilitated by a revolution afoot in what I've called digital development studies - a third crucial window of opportunity for IDS. Going far beyond current ‘ICT4D’ agendas, we are seeing just the beginning of the digital revolution that has already produced huge innovations in poverty-reducing service delivery and access; channels for voice and demands for justice; ‘real time’ networked research and learning, research opportunities using ‘big data’, and of course in research communications, as digital and social media multiply and amplify channels and voice. IDS and its partners are well positioned to advance this curve and its relevance to development, building on much existing innovation across the Institute and its networks. But perhaps we should seek to ramp-up the ambition, taking advantage of the numerous opportunities to enhance the ways we work, but also contributing to emerging research agendas.

Tracking the processes in emerging digital economies and societies, exploring who is gaining and losing, being included and excluded, and shaping critical debate around the dangers and limits, as well as opportunities, of big and open data would seem to me to offer some really important future directions for our work. Yet there’s obviously a vital balance to be struck. Face-to-face, human-to-human contact is irreplaceable for generating shared understanding, motivation and passion – which development and development studies need in spades. Places – with their smells, sites and feelings – can’t be substituted by computer screens. Above all, we mustn't let a sanitised, virtual world distract our attention from the grit, blood, sweat and tears that are so often the reality of grinding, grounded poverty for so many.

At this point, these are no more than windows. But I hope they will serve to open up the inclusive, collaborative debate that I’ll be working with others to lead once I actually become Director, towards building IDS’s new strategy post-2015 and as our 50th birthday approaches. For now, I’ll be working with Lawrence to make sure that the transition process is as smooth and productive as possible, leaving everyone confident and excited as we move together into a new era. So please keep that support and spirit flowing – we’ll be needing it to build on the Institute’s great past and build together a future development studies fit for current internationally turbulent times.

What Nelson Mandela Means to Me

It's hard to know what to say about Nelson Mandela without sounding trite or without repeating what thousands of others are saying.

I was born in South Africa of Lebanese descent.  My parents, also born in South Africa, moved to London in 1961 to escape persecution for their darker skin.

I can't imagine what it must be like to have to leave everything behind because of fear for your freedom and your life.  My mother has had difficulty talking about it all her life, but every now and then I get glimpses of the sheer terror that the Apartheid regime inflicted on millions of people like her.

Nelson Mandela changed all that.  He is a hero to my family just as he is to billions who have not lived in South Africa.

I did a lot of work on  poverty dynamics in South Africa in the 1992-2000 period and I still remember first hand the hope unleashed by his new-found freedom.

But perhaps most important was the hope he gave people when he was not free.  He reminded us that fighting for fundamental rights frequently means being prepared to sacrifice your own.

RIP Mandiba and thank you.

05 December 2013

Melissa Leach--The Next IDS Director

I am delighted to be able to announce that the IDS Board has appointed Prof. Melissa Leach, a current IDS Fellow, as IDS Director after I leave at the end of March next year.

Melissa is a highly accomplished research leader and manager and is the Director of the ESRC STEPS Centre at Sussex.  It was a very strong field and the appointment recognises her skilled leadership over the past 10 years in building and managing a coherent and high quality research programme.

 Melissa is an anthropologist and has a wide range of research interests centrered on sustainable inclusive development, with a particular emphasis on the politics of the processes that do or do not facilitate it.

She is a trailblazer in many ways--she has some great ideas to take IDS to the next level--but also as the first woman and the first noneconomist as IDS Director. 

I know Melissa will do a brilliant job and she can count on my full support now and in the future.

Bravo IDS!

29 November 2013

Economic Growth in India in the context of a Gandhi vs Modi election: for what and for whom?

On Wednesday PRIA and IDS co-hosted a Question Time style panel on economic growth--what is it delivering and for whom?  We had Isher Ahluwalia, Santosh Mehrotra, Biraj Patnaik and Santhosh Mathew on he panel, chaired by Rajesh Patel, President of PRIA.

It was a lively discussion, with passion, frankness and  insight displayed by panel and audience alike.

Some key takeaways for me....

1. All of the panelists said that growth was essential for development.  I was a little disappointed that there was not a greater recognition that certain types are essential and other types are irrelevant and could be harmful (e.g that which corrupts and pollutes).  There seems to be an acceptance that these things are the price one has to pay for the good things that growth can generate (e.g. poverty reduction), but I simply think there is not enough of a focus on the quality of growth and the kinds of choices that Ha Joon Chang lays out in his book, 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism.

2.  We were reminded about how much economic growth of the period 2004-2010 (the highest growth period) reduced income poverty incidence (P0 the % below the poverty line)--over 100 million.  But there was no mention of the poverty gap (P1) and the poverty gap squared (P2) which measure the depth of poverty and are less sensitive to families just clawing their way above the line to make a big differences to the statistics. 

3. There was little mention of inequality, and yet Brazil's success is decreasing inequality was lauded.  I think it is probably easier to reduce very high inequality levels than it is to curb increases in lower initial levels, but I was surprised this issue did not surface, especially as I could see  Brazil/Turkey/Egypt style  unrest occurring over high tax rates and poor quality services.

4. Someone in the audience said, does it matter what public policy types think?  Surely all politicians care about is vote getting?  The panel said they were glad that politicians were so focused on doing things that captured votes (worse if they were insensitive) but they acknowledged that this led to short termism and populism.  There were also concerns that the media was now in hock to big businesses aligned with certain parties and what would this do to further corrode trust between the voters and politicians.  One idea for the panel was for civil society to align more around electoral units than administrative units, thus generating more political heat for poor public policy choices and electoral reward for the good choices.

5. Corruption was highlighted as a big issue in the growth story--was is a consequence of growth or a driver of it?  Views here were really mixed with some data cited that showed leakage and diversion from food programmes declining with others highly sceptical.  In a context of distrust it is obviously going to be a challenge to get credible data on corruption and for it to be seen to be credible!

6. On nutrition, I asked the panelists if the Government of India cared.  One of the panelists firmly said "no", the others chose not to defend the Government's record. To be fair all of the panelists recognised the need to do something about India's appalling record on sanitation and solid waste disposal.   At an earlier meeting with the Coalition for Sustainable Nutrition Security in India it was clear that the States are the drivers of innovation in nutrition, with Odisha and Maharashtra being cited frequently.

7. Finally on urban development, one of the panelists raised the importance of cities as drivers of economic growth for urban and rural areas, but that this would require infrastructure of all types to be built (roads, electricity, sewage) of course the strategic choices here are whether to invest in infrastructure that maximises growth or that which maximises poverty reduction.  Studies in Indian agriculture by Shenggen Fan have shown that these two aims lead to different patterns of investment. 

All in all an interesting discussion on an impossible set of exam questions (growth for whom, for what, and what to do about it?). 

At least there was the beginning of a recognition that the quality of growth is at least as important at the quantity.  This debate is only going to heat up as we near the election, especially give the rise of the BJP Chief Minister of Gujurat, Narendra Modi who is promising to focus on improving basic services for the poor and to tackle corruption, which he says is an inevitable consequence of social protection programmes promoted under the Singh/Gandhi Congress Government.  Its going to be an interesting 6 months in the world's largest democracy.

15 November 2013

Haiyan--the meaning of a name

Haiyan is a girl's name. It is a rare name. Ironically it means sea swallow. The website www.themeaningofthename.com suggests "there are at least 2500 persons in the world having this name". Bizarrely this is the number of those who are estimated to have died in this tragedy--to have been swallowed by the sea.

Tragically these typhoons and hurricanes are not rare. They happen with regularity to countries in the South and South East Asian region. The World Bank released a report over the summer reviewing the science on cyclones. The science is not clear on whether there has been an increase in the frequency of cyclones, but the evidence is clear on projections of the increased intensity of cyclones--more rain, more wind, more strength--as a result of global warming.

Does this increased intensity have to mean more devastation?
190 mile an hour winds are going to do a lot of damage, no matter where in the world they land, but if you look at the disturbing before and after pictures (e.g. above) you can see it is the least solid buildings nearest to the coast that are obliterated.

Some obvious responses:
  • Building codes in areas of vulnerability have to be raised.
  • Insurance needs to become more affordable--at the national (i.e. Risk Capacity Facilities linked to weather patterns) and household level.
  • Outmigration from certain areas may be needed.
  • Greater spending from governments--donors and others--needs to be allocated to disaster risk reduction and preparedness (DRR).
  • DRR spending is less than 1% of ODA (and 4% of ODA humanitarian aid!) and has not increased significantly over the past 10 years. At the very least designate and protect safe routes for humanitarian assistance to get through (Haiyan victims are having to wait up to a week to get any help, largely due to the logistical problems of reaching them)
  • Invest more in Forward Purchasing Facilities (FPF) that allow advance purchases to shorten response times (WFP estimates that its 2008-2010 pilot FPF shortened response times by 53 days)
  • The poorest are the most vulnerable. Their lives and livelihoods will be permanently altered, even if they suffered not loss of life or trauma. Estimates of those affected from these massive cyclones range from 1-10% of the population.
  • Don't play politics with humanitarian aid. China is reportedly being much less generous with the Philippines than with the recent cylones in Bangladesh and Pakistan, again reportedly due to diplomatic issues around the possession of islands.
  • Set some targets for reducing these disaster deaths--soon. The UN High Level Panel on the next set of development goals has as one of its 4 indicators on Ending Poverty 1d. Build resilience and reduce deaths from natural disasters by x%". Get a number of x. I suggest 50--here is one indicator we know how to move quickly.
  • Don't use every natural disaster to bang the climate change drum. As my IDS colleague Tom Tanner said in his recent guest blog "don't lead with climate change. Climate change needs to be put in the context of the most important other issues". World Bank President Jim Kim was leading with this on BBC radio earlier this week and it sounded too opportunistic.

Haiyan also means "heart". The Philippines was the first country I ever visited outside of North West Europe and I know its people well enough. They have heart and courage and they will get through this.

But lightning really does strike more than once--and it projected to be stronger than ever. ASEAN governments, the ADB and the rest of the development community needs to prevent another cyclone obliterating a population the size of its own name. It can be done.

14 November 2013

Double Dutch: TV Interview with Haddad on Malnutrition from VPRO in the Netherlands

Here is an interview (25 minutes!) I did with a charming interviewer from Dutch TV station VPRO on hunger and malnutrition. I don't look this geeky all the way through it, I promise.

Indian Growth: For Whom and For What?

I will be travelling to Delhi to participate in a PRIA-IDS panel seminar on:

Indian Economic Growth: For Whom and For What?

An election is coming up in India, and with economic growth still relatively strong the disconnects between human wellbeing outcomes and growth become even more striking.

The panel will pick up on some of the themes highlighted by the recent exchanges between Sen, Dreze, Bhagwati, Dasgupta and Panagariya on India's "Arrested Development".

Issues include:
  • Why is growth not translating through to poverty reduction?
  • Is growth doing too much damage to the environment?
  • What is the politics behind those features of growth?
  • What to do to change those trends?
  • What would the trade-offs be?
The panel includes Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Biraj Patnaik and Santhosh Mathew, chaired by Rajesh Tandon, President of PRIA and Trustee of IDS.

The event is on November 27 at the Habitat Centre.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Vanessa Borrino (v.borrino@ids.ac.uk) to check on availability.

See you there!

07 November 2013

Reaction from Ireland to the Lancet Series and to HANCI

Yesterday I was in Dublin at Trinity College presenting on the Hunger and Nutrition Index (HANCI) at a morning symposium jointly arranged by Concern, Trinity, Irish Aid and the Development Studies Association of Ireland.

Bob Black started the morning session with an overview of the Lancet series on nutrition and then I continued with HANCI.

One of the nice things about the way it was organised was the ample time for discussants and questions from the audience.

There were some good questions, here are some I noted down:

On the Lancet Series:
  •        The small for gestational age data are new and important—essentially one fifth to one quarter of all children are born stunted—how do we prevent this? We don’t know enough
  •        Is the cognitive damage really irreversible after 1000 days?  Well, it is irreversible in the sense that the early cognitive loss cannot fully be made up even if there is a concerted effort to do so--although this does not mean that learning does not happen throughout childhood, just that it is starting from a lower base than it has to.
  •        Are the messages sharp enough coming out of paper 4 (enabling environment)?. What, for example, would you invest in to get that environment? Capacity, new forms of resource mobilisation, accountability mechanisms, intersectoral coordination, and more real time data on nutrition outcomes and programme coverage
  •        What do you invest in first in a given context—I noted the idea that investing in nutrition is more like constructing a barrel with vertical planks—the barrel only holds as much water as the shortest plank.  But we in nutrition tend to think of the barrel as being built with horizontal planks—where every new investment must increase the capacity of the barrel and the order of the planks does not matter
  •        What about capacity—what do we know about the payoffs to investments in different types (e.g. the number, quality and presence in post of front line workers)? ‘Not much’ is the answer—research funders and researchers tragically do not find this a sexy topic.  
  •        Does the term enabling environment imply a roll back of the state?  Not at all—it just means the state cannot do it all, but what it can do can make a huge difference to the motivations and incentives of everyone else
  •        Should the series have done more on HIV/AIDS? Probably yes, because of the important interactions of food, nutrition and HIV/AIDS.  One important point that Bob Black made—the scale up of anti retroviral drugs has put paid to the myth that scaling up nutrition, a less complex set of interventions, is too difficult
  •        The series said a lot on what to do but less on how to do it.  I think this is OK personally, as much of the how is context specific. I would like to see a Lancet series on the 7-8 highest burden countries, where all the evidence on that country is brought together and reconciled—the current Lancet series, for all its strengths, does tend to decontextualize nutrition actions.

      On HANCI (the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index) there was a lot of positive feedback and some tough questions
  •        How do you deal with the quality of policies and spending?
  •        How do you deal with the fact that some of the data are 18 months out of date?
  •        What has been the traction at the country level?
  •        Isn’t the real value in countries developing this themselves and making it their own?
  •        How will you combine HANCI with other indicators such as Global Hunger Index?
  •        We presented a list of indicators that we did NOT include in HANCI and a couple we had concluded were too indirect were challenged: why not education spending (empowerment of women) and why not community health worker coverage?  We will look again at these for the next version.
  •        How will you evaluate whether HANCI contributes to action to reduce malnutrition and hunger?
  •        What does it mean if the HANCI score is different from one’s own perception of how well the country is doing? Well, you may be wrong, HANCI may be wrong or both may be wrong—but the point is it gets you to challenge your priors and have a fresh look.

All good questions and I do not have an immediate answer to many but these are questions we will take on in the next round of HANCI published in 2014. 

It was interesting and encouraging to talk to the Irish government colleagues who were saying what can we do in Ireland to improve our ranking (already a good 5 out of 23).  And we were told that HANCI has provided a useful starting point in conversations between government and civil society on the nutrition landscape in Zambia and Tanzania.  Clearly we have to do a better job of capturing these uses.

The quality of the debate in the Trinity College audience was very high indeed.  Ireland is a relatively small country but it is punching well above its weight in terms of fighting malnutrition and hunger. It is a real leader and long may that continue. 

02 November 2013

In Praise of Arne Oshaug: Gentleman, Hell-Raiser, Peacemaker and Scholar of Nutrition

I was really pleased to be able to contribute to a seminar held yesterday in honour of Professor Arne Oshaug of the University College of Life Sciences in Oslo.  (Arne is retiring his post, though I imagine he will not notice.)

I first met Arne at a UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) meeting in the mid-1990s.  At that time the SCN was full of squabbling UN agencies, and Arne, representing the Norwegian Government at these meetings, often seemed like the only grown up in the room.   

He has a calmness about him that cannot mask his burning desire to see malnutrition decreased. He was always calling the UN agencies on their often petty squabbles, even though he risked being shunned by them.

Arne has an interesting career—from pantry boy in the merchant navy, to highly skilled cook in a top rated hotel to nutrition researcher to a top civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture to Professor of Public Nutrition (public nutrition says we want to reduce malnutrition and we are going to use all policy mechanisms available, whichever sector they are found in—an innovative programme that Arne helped to develop in the teeth of much opposition). 

As a nutritionist he has worked in some fascinating contexts.  For example, he worked on the oil rigs in the North Sea, trying to figure out how oil rig workers could be enticed to eat healthier food.  The companies that ran the rigs used copious food to keep their workers happy--unfortunately the all you can eat approach combined with high fat and high sugar foods meant that the oil companies were becoming known as the heart attack kings.  Arne and colleagues helped introduce healthier foods and reduce the fat and sugar in the unhealthier foods. 

When he was at IFPRI with me as a Visiting Fellow I gave him the job of getting a group of young and bright but fractious researchers to work together better on developing a new research agenda. Instead of knocking heads together he won them over with his broad and deep understanding of nutrition, the wisdom that his life experiences had given him and his good humour.

His intellectual achievements are many, but his biggest legacy will be his focus on human rights as they apply to food and nutrition security.  When I met him it took me a while to get the human right angle on food and nutrition, but through writing a paper with him for Food Policy on “How does a human rights perspective help shape the food and nutrition policy agenda?” I realised that a rights focus helped zero in on the claimants capacity to claim rights and the duty bearers capacity to deliver rights. 

My talk at the seminar in honour of him was on my familiar themes: accountability, commitment, responsiveness, capacity and financial resources—and only in preparing for the talk did it dawn on me how much that this agenda has been affected by the rights focus and, in turn, how much Arne’s work has influenced my own.  

Arne Oshaug: a gentleman, hell-raiser, peacemaker and scholar of nutrition.  An unsung hero, and way ahead of his time. 

29 October 2013

Two-chord wonder: from IDS to IFPRI

I am a company man. None of this jumping around from organisation to organisation every 2 years for me. Keep it simple, as the late great Lou Reed (right) said: one chord is OK, two is pushing it and three is jazz. So I am sticking to two.

In other words, I am delighted to be re-joining IFPRI in April next year after I step down from my 10 year role as Director of IDS.

Both organisations are wonderful in their own way and I feel very fortunate to have worked at each. IFPRI has given me the passion of my life and IDS has helped me broaden the tools and context within which that passion is situated, and helped me look at it from new angles and make new connections.

I will be a Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI, continuing working on all things at the intersection of poverty, agriculture and nutrition, with a dash of politics thrown in to complement the economic approaches.

I will continue to be based in Brighton, and will have an office at the University of Sussex's Economics Department as a visiting researcher. I will continue to work with IFPRI and IDS colleagues and look forward to meeting a whole host of new IFPRI colleagues and staying in touch with my IDS friends.

As for Development Horizon readers, you will hardly notice the change!

25 October 2013

Every vision needs a plan - and every plan needs a budget. Guest Blog from Judith Randel

Following up on my blog earlier this week about data and accountability, here is more on the data revolution from Judith Randel from Development Initiatives and a new IDS Board Member. Enjoy.

By Judith Randel

After many years in the world of financing for development, I have just spent the last few weeks feeling for the first time in some years that the conversation has shifted. Things are changing. High-level discussions about both the feasibility and the resources to end poverty are now not just about targets and aspirations, but timetables and plans. My sense is that we are maybe, now, crossing some thresholds: leaving behind 50 years of doing development in a north/south, donor/recipient model - one which even ten years ago felt like it was making less and less sense.

I write as (probably, like many of you) I reflect on recent conversations I’ve had in the wake of UNGA, and of the High Level Panel’s Report on Post 2015. With its focus on ending extreme poverty by 2030, emphasis on multidimensional poverty, and call for targeted interventions to ensure that no one is left behind in the context of global progress, the HLP report is both compelling and inspiring. But every vision needs a plan, and every plan needs a budget. That is what our recent report Investments to End Poverty and our meetings at UNGA- have been about. We've tried to map out all the resources available domestically and internationally, to unbundle aid and to examine the state of the data on people in extreme poverty to support the vision to end extreme poverty by 2030 - really end it. We don’t just mean ‘get the numbers down a bit’- the time has come to agree that we can reach zero.

We need better data- on all resources, not just aid

This isn’t being idealistic. The available evidence shows that ending extreme poverty by 2030 is affordable, and achievable. However, we do need to be smarter about managing and allocating the resources that are available. Aid is a precious, finite resource, but it is the only one explicitly directed at reducing poverty- so let’s target it where it can have most impact. This means either focusing aid on places and people where other resources are most scarce, or leveraging in additional finance. However to do that, we need to see the full picture of all resources; in Investments to End Poverty we’ve made a start at mapping what data there is on international resources flowing to developing countries.

But more important than international flows are domestic resources. This was a strong theme of the Global Partnership meeting in UNGA week (pdf), where a (stellar) panel emphasised the importance of getting better data on taxation, illicit flows, private finance and natural resource revenues. One of the things that I found most striking in the data we've presented in Investments to End Poverty is the extremely low levels of government spending - over 370 million people are living on less than $1.25 a day are in countries where total government spending amounts to less than $500 per person per year. (Our team of analysts intend to do more work on this theme in coming months.)

A real data revolution will have poverty eradication at its heart

The need for a data revolution highlighted by the HLP was underlined at every meeting I attended in New York- but to be a real revolution for post-2015, and not just an incremental shift in funding for statistics, it must have poverty eradication right at the heart. The HLP's call to “leave no-one behind” cannot be delivered without going beyond national averages and bringing disaggregated information to decision makers. Key to getting this right will be strong leadership from developing countries, well articulated demand from citizens - and a willingness to listen, and learn. Writing this from Nairobi - where the work my colleagues are doing shows the data revolution has been underway for quite a while - I feel it’s crucial that efforts aren’t diverted in a direction that saps the revolution’s vitality!

So let's do two things.  

  1. Recognise that the data revolution is about power - because, as everyone reading this knows from every hour of their lives, information is power. Access to information will empower different people and allow them to engage with their governments and other power holders in ways that should shape the agenda - not just respond to it. So access to information should be a goal in its own right.
  2. Get better data on who and where the poorest are- in order to make progress on ending extreme poverty. Some areas of real significance have very little data (security, employment, gender to name a few). But equally importantly, there is not enough information on exactly who is living in poverty- and where they live. It is clear that poverty persists in the face of national progress. Turning the vision for the end of poverty into a costed, timetabled plan will not be achieved without access to disaggregated, subnational data on poverty and resources.

24 October 2013

Britain and Africa: confronting the Zimbabwe question - Guest Blog from Ian Scoones

Readers, here is the blog I promised you a few days back from Ian Scoones, a Professorial Fellow at IDS--amongst other things he says it is time for the UK to reengage with Zimbabwe. 

By Ian Scoones

Britain’s relationship with Africa has always been a tricky one; and this is particularly so for a former settler colony like Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe’s recent win in the contested election in Zimbabwe has been seen by some as a victory for independent, sovereign Africa over the former colonial power and its imperial ambitions. As Richard Dowden commented in a recent issue of Prospect Magazine, this was “the biggest defeat for the United Kingdom’s policy in Africa in 60 years”.

In his recent speeches, Mugabe has not been able to constrain his glee. The deep animosity that developed between Zimbabwe and Tony Blair in particular is still a recurrent refrain. Britain has misjudged its diplomatic relationships with Zimbabwe many times, but the most extreme incident was Clare Short’s ill-judged letter in 1997 arguing that Britain had no special responsibility for the land issue, and Short’s Irish ancestry showed that she was not on the side of the coloniser. This of course infuriated Mugabe and many others. As nationalist leaders who fought a liberation war against Ian Smith’s Rhodesia regime, the denial of responsibility for colonialism was outrageous.

Yet today Britain is a declining power, with decreasing economic and political clout. Zimbabwe, as other African states, has turned to others for support, where the baggage of colonialism and the strings of aid and investment conditionality do not apply. Zimbabwe’s ‘Look East’ policy focuses on China, but also Malaysia, India and others. Chinese investments in Zimbabwe have accelerated, particularly in the period from 2000 when Western nations boycotted the country, and investment and credit lines were curtailed, due to Western reaction to Zimbabwe’s radical land reform.

The land reform saw a major restructuring of the agricultural sector and the wider economy. A transfer of nearly 10 million hectares benefitted over 170,000 households, around a million people. But at the same time it removed 4000 mostly white farmers from their land, and considerable numbers of farm workers lost their jobs. The consequences have been far-reaching, as we outlined in our book, and debates continue about the pros and cons, means and ends.

The sanctions imposed by the West were aimed at punishing the Mugabe regime, and were particularly focused on the President himself and his immediate coterie. The withdrawal of Western capital and credit had an even bigger impact, and helped precipitate a collapse in the economy. From 2009, and the establishment of a unity government with the opposition, the economy recovered to some extent, especially following the abandonment of the local currency. This put an end to hyperinflation that had increased in some estimates to 230 million percent, and encouraged investment again.

In the agricultural sector, tobacco and cotton production boomed. Chinese and Indian companies in particular have been important players. For example, the Chinese company Tian Ze has contracting arrangements with over 250 farms, mostly in the new resettlement areas. Smallholder farmers who gained land through the reform are now the major producers of such cash crops, and contribute significantly to the national economy. Chinese led outgrower arrangements provide support in terms of finance, inputs and advice. British companies that had been important as buyers of tobacco from the previous white commercial farmers have looked on, and are now trying to get back into the game.

Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, has certainly exploited the land reform to gain political advantage. The land reform, they argue, is evidence of the struggle for liberation having reached a final phase. Shedding commercial links with Western companies shows in turn that sovereign countries like Zimbabwe now have a choice, both in economic and political affairs. No longer will they be pushed around, condescended or demeaned. Of course this rhetoric must be taken with a very large pinch of salt, as the political-security-business elite associated with ZANU-PF have benefitted from these reconfigurations of land and economy, alongside considerable numbers of ordinary people.

Indeed, the electoral calculus of 2013 suggests that land reform beneficiaries, along with other rural people, backed ZANU-PF, reversing the major wobble in 2008, when ZANU-PF lost both parliamentary and presidential polls. It is impossible to know for certain what the real results were, as there was most definitely fiddling going on. This included bussing in voters to swing constituencies, changing constituency lists and obstructing registration for young and urban voters, as well as various forms of intimidation.

However many commentators believe that the results were probably pitched in favour of ZANU-PF and the opposition MDC lost, if not by the margin announced. Certainly the opposition offered very little in the way of a campaign, and failed to articulate a convincing vision for land, agriculture and rural development. Independent assessments prior to the elections indicated a major disillusionment with the MDC, due in large part to their mixed performance in the unity government, with a major swing to ZANU-PF predicted.

Will Britain and other Western nations reengage with Zimbabwe? This is not the result that they wanted, nor the one that most expected. They had been convinced that the violence, corruption and neglect of human rights and the rule of law that has characterised the ZANU-PF regime (in fact for most the period since Independence in 1980) would put an end to Mugabe’s rule. The diplomatic social milieu in Harare is of course very different to the rural areas or the townships and squatter settlements on the urban fringe where most voters live. It is not difficult to see why the result was so incorrectly called.

The question arises, should the West support presidents and parties with an electoral mandate but who are involved in clearly highly reprehensible, possibly criminal, practices? Where does an ‘ethical’ foreign policy fit in? And what about the role of the West in upholding international standards and human rights? Opinion is highly divided on this topic, in Africa and elsewhere.

This has been brought to a head by the on-going prosecution of the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta and his vice-president, William Ruto by the International Criminal Court. The African Union, irked by the seeming emphasis of the ICC on African abuses and not others (Blair and Bush are of course mentioned as those who have got away), has proposed that sitting presidents should not be prosecuted. Others have called for withdrawal from the ICC, arguing, like the US, that international meddling in sovereign power is problematic and biased. Mugabe – of course – has joined in the chorus.

The double standards of the West are of course plain to see. Mugabe, Morsi, Museveni, or Meles? Who is/was acceptable, and who deserves to be cast out? And on what basis? There are no clear rules, and the interests and biases of Western foreign policy and associated commercial and political interests quickly become exposed. Is it perhaps easier to go the Chinese route, and proclaim a position of ‘non-interference’, based on ‘solidarity’ and ‘mutual interest’, while at the same time promoting a highly interested commercial relationship through development cooperation?

The UK’s Secretary for State for International Development, Justine Greening, hinted at such a shift in UK policy recently in a speech at the London Stock Exchange. Some observed that she sounded more like a Chinese official, acknowledging the importance of aid relationships for UK business; a contrast to her predecessors who only emphasised human rights, good governance and Western liberal democratic values.

As African states become more assertive in international affairs, buoyed by economic growth and a sense that in the post-colonial world order they do not have to be behoven only to the West and their former colonial masters, there is a greater level of what some have termed ‘state agency’ – the ability to negotiate,  manoeuvre and make choices. Yet, with the West unable to dictate through aid conditionalities, there are even greater obligations on citizens, as part of civil society organisations, social movements, political parties and electorates, to hold states to account.

In places like Zimbabwe this is not easy, given the obstructive and sometimes violent and oppressive politics of the ruling party. As the opposition rebuilds itself it has some serious thinking to do. Avoiding getting perceived as a puppet of the West, and broadening its focus to encompass economic and social rights and freedoms at the centre of a redistributive agenda will be essential. Meanwhile, Britain needs to reengage, supporting investment in the productive sectors, including agriculture and belatedly backing the successes of the land reform, and join Zimbabwe as a partner in economic development, alongside China and others, avoiding at all costs the misplaced, patronising stance of the past.

Ian Scoones is a Professorial Fellow at IDS, he blogs at www.zimbabweland.wordpress.com, and is co-author of Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities.