31 May 2013

The High Level Panel's After 2015 Report: Solid--and that is OK

It's here. It's solid. And that is OK.

Some quick reactions on the High Level Panel's After 2015 Report "A New Global Partnership"

1. It is Universal. Lots of talk about "a single agenda", "this is a challenge for every country on earth", "shared humanity" "mutual accountability", "mutual benefit", "mutual respect" and "solidarity". This universality is inevitable given the collective nature of the challenges we face as a planet, but it was good to see that it was embraced by the report rather than grudgingly accepted.

2. It tries to bring together the development and environmental issues and communities around sustainable development. It argues that prosperity is needed to tackle the environmental issues and without tackling the environmental issues, poverty will not be eliminated. This is also an inevitable coming together but I would have liked to have seen the sustainability agenda be about more than environment, economics and social aspects, but political sustainability too. I also wonder if the attention to sustainable resource use is sufficiently embedded in the non-resource use Goals proposed.

3. It aims to fill in the "missing middle" between the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs. These are the 5 "Transformations": Leave no one behind, Put sustainable development at the core, Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth, Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all, and Forge a new global partnership. Of these, the mindset shift from "reducing" to "ending" poverty and hunger seems the most radical (and there are other candidates specified for zero indicators in the 12 illustrative Goals below).

The Global Partnerships Transformation seems the most fluffy (echoes of MDG 8?), but I do think there are many more tangible examples of how and why the international development community must "put its own house in order" (and the Goal 12 is full of specific aspirations). And it is good to see the acknowledgement that these partnerships should include people living in poverty, those with disabilities, women, civil society and indigenous and local communities, traditionally marginalised groups. Indeed one of the 7 principles behind any Goals proposed is that they be "grounded in the voice of people" (Echoes of Participate). The messaging around the need to go beyond aid and embrace whole of government/whole of society approaches is clear.

4. The report teases us about the goals, targets and indicators. The 12 Goals come at the end.

1. End Poverty. 2. Empower Girls and Women and Achieve Gender Equality. 3. Provide Quality Education and Lifelong Learning. 4. Ensure Healthy Lives. 5. Ensure Food Security and Good Nutrition. 6. Achieve Universal Access to Water and Sanitation. 7. Secure Sustainable Energy. 8. Create Jobs, Sustainable Livelihoods and Equitable Growth. 9. Manage Natural Resource Assets Sustainably. 10. Ensure Good Governance and Effective Institutions. 11. Ensure Stable and Peaceful Societies. 12. Create a Global Enabling Environment and Catalyse Long Term Finance.

The goals, indicators and targets are illustrative. They are an expression of the 5 Transformations. They do not volunteer numerical targets.

This is a way of trying to frame the debate for the next 2 years without being seen to be too directive. The Goals tidy things up from the MDGs. Health is grouped. Food and nutrition are separated from poverty. There are 12 Goals, which is a lot, but frankly it is difficult to think of fewer unless you have cross-cuts for sustainable resource use. There are 54 sub goals, with national targets. Evidence is provided for why each goal should be included. Not quite a theory of change, but a much better justification than for the MDGs.

5. Cross-cutting issues are highlighted: peace, inequality, climate change, cities, concerns of young people, girls, and women, and sustainable consumption and production patterns. These are issues that do not fit within a single goal. The truth is that most issues do not fit within a single goal. This is partly a way of reconciling the SDGs with the MDGs. The SDGs highlighted cities and sustainable consumption as separate goals. Some will be disappointed that inequality did not get its own goal, but there is plenty within the other proposed goals that drills down on equality and many indicators recommended for disaggregation to uncover inequity. Is the report too technocratic? I think these types of reports tend to be, but this one does highlight politics, political economy and political processes quite frequently, but probably not enough.

6. IDS-centricity. From a parochial point of view I was pleased to see that a lot of IDS work contributing strongly to this agenda: the STEPS work on pathways to sustainability, work on tax, organised armed violence, conflict and peace, new (and existing) forms of participation, inequality, women and girls empowerment, business and development, climate adaptation, social protection, sexual rights, sanitation and nutrition to name a few examples.

7. Nutrition. I was particularly pleased to see nutrition as an equal partner with ending hunger (by the way, it is good to see a focus on smallholder productivity in agriculture).

Stunting, wasting and anaemia for under 5's are the nutrition specific indicators. This is in line with much thinking of the nutrition community, although I would like to see a tighter focus on the 0-2 or 0-3 age group and much more of a focus on the nutrition of girls and women. In addition to these 3 indicators, there are plenty of other nutrition relevant indicators to be found in the education, women's empowerment, health, poverty and water and sanitation goal buckets (see recent IDS Brief on this). Nothing on obesity or overweight. A step too far perhaps for the panel.

All in all something for everyone without getting too lowest common denominator about it all. And I think that, for now, is OK.

As we all have a chance to study it further over the coming weeks no doubt we will find things we don't like and possibly some things we really don't like. Nevertheless, my view (and it is not an IDS view necessarily) from a quick read is that this is a good basis for further discussion, negotiation and contestation over the next 2 years. There will be lots of twists and turns in the road ahead, but I think this is a good solid signpost to where we want to go.

Congratulations to the High Level Panel.

23 May 2013

Between Puff and Plunder: The evidence on business and nutrition

Yesterday I was in The Hague for a meeting of AIM, the Amsterdam Initiative Against Malnutrition in conjunction with the GAIN Partnership Council (which I am a member of).

AIM is a Dutch-based multistakeholder network of organisations from government, civil society, business and research that serves as an innovation platform for different pathways to reducing malnutrition. The panels and presentations were interesting but, as usual, I was left wondering what will success look like? What will be AIM’s impact? It has been going for 3 years, so it is too early to find real change yet, but the question remains--what will change look like and who will benefit?

As an intro, Jay Naidoo gave a rip-roaring speech about how malnutrition is a political statement (couldn’t agree more) and how it would require a whole of society approach to struggle for change.

David Nabarro, as ever, crystallised many of the ideas in the room. He said these kinds of multistakeholder platforms:
  • have 5 features of success: Inclusiveness, innovation, impact, inspirational, and be inspected
  • usually go through 5 stages: transactions, transformation, time, trust and totality, and
  • have 5 characteristics of operation: sticking to the issue, sustainable models, struggle for equity and change, sharing of principles and a scale up where possible
Prof. Anna Lartey, incoming President of IUNS (ad co-convenor of the IDS Nutrition Summer School), asked David whether he thought the nutrition community was ready to engage in such partnerships with the business sector. David said, “no”. The trust was not there from the nutritionists. The documentation of impact by independent credible third parties was essential if trust is to be built, he said.

This is also my conclusion. Without credible impact assessment, ideology wars just play out in the same old boring way. We need to occupy the space between “puff” and “plunder” when it comes to the role of business in nutrition.

In the absence of credible independent evidence on impacts, for those not ideologically opposed, “Puff” (or public relations) is what business initiatives often seem to be. For those who are ideologically opposed, the absence of independent evidence allows the “Plunder” narrative to go unopposed. We must begin to occupy the space between puff and plunder.

AIM has the potential to do this because it has a monitoring and evaluation budget (process and impact). There was a lot of talk about the risks involved in engaging in these multistakeholder partnerships involving the private sector—financial, reputation, and livelihood risks and strategies for sharing, pooling, and managing those risks.

But I suspect the lack of credible independent effort to assess impact is the biggest risk of all. I hope AIM will begin to change all that.

21 May 2013

If we want to tackle hunger and undernutrition, we must invest more in agriculture

Guest blog by Lord Cameron of Dillington, Chair of the APPG on Agriculture and Food for Development

We Parliamentarians of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture and Food for Development are calling on the UK Government, and specifically the Department for International Development (DFID), to invest in agriculture to combat the hunger and undernutrition that continues to afflict 925 million people around the world every day.

Our latest Parliamentary Report, on “Home Grown Nutrition” (pdf), is calling for agriculture to be seen as a catalytic tool in ending malnutrition, undernutrition and hunger.

Our report’s recommendations come ahead of a high level meeting that will be co-hosted by the UK government on 8 June. ‘The Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science’ meeting will be held in the build-up to the G8 summit in Northern Ireland and will bring together business leaders, scientists, governments and civil society to make the ambitious commitments needed to tackle nutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries.

In the report we assert that agriculture is the basis of many, if not all, pathways to improved nutrition and we believe that all development goals and interventions are strengthened by a productive agricultural sector. From our research and meetings it is abundantly clear that sustained long-term investment in agriculture for development is crucial to rural livelihoods. As a result agricultural investments can (and do) have truly transformational impacts both in terms of the rural economy and in terms of poverty and hunger alleviation.

Having said all of this, calling on increased funding for agriculture does not mean that agriculture on its own is the only way to address the challenges of undernutrition. Developing all of the pathways to improved nutrition will be extremely important to meeting the needs of the almost one billion undernourished persons in the world today (whether through home/nutrition gardens, empowerment of women or investments in other supporting activities such as health care, sanitation, water management programmes and education). The key here is to have an operating environment which takes the problem of nutrition insecurity seriously and is a cross ministry issue at country level, as well as being a cross sector issue for donors, civil society and implementing bodies.

Agriculture as a development theme has been chronically underfunded by DFID in the past and we are urging the government to make sure agriculture is no longer overlooked. Investments in agriculture must be seen as a long term project, putting smallholder farmers at the centre of such programmes.

The simple fact is, for sub-Saharan Africa, and many other poor countries, agriculture and the economy are synonymous. Thus in generating income which can then be spent on drivers of improved nutrition, such as healthcare, education and foods to diversify one’s diet, agriculture will be the tool to achieve this for many people. Without significant, sustained and long-term investment in smallholder farmers, all of these pathways to improved nutrition will struggle to achieve any degree of sustainability.

19 May 2013

Nutrition Champion Awards: Nominations Open

Readers, we know how important leadership is in the efforts to fight undernutrition: leadership to bring different sectors together, to work with communities, to make nutrition someone's responsibility, to raise funds, to publish data, to make a fuss if commitment is not forthcoming, to find solutions, to change behaviour etc.

So I am pleased to note that the Transform Nutrition Research Programme Consortium in support of the efforts of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement are inviting nominations to recognise any individual who has had significant success in transforming thinking or action on nutrition, at national or local (e.g. provincial or district) levels.

Make your nominations here. Nominations close June 30.

They are looking for the “unsung heroes” of nutrition – individuals who are innovating or influencing and whose work has started to making a real difference in their locality in recent years for improved nutrition. This includes :
  • by influencing the government, local authorities or an organisation to take nutrition on board as a development priority
  • by improving the quality and/or scale of nutrition programmes or interventions,
  • by effectively promoting nutritional considerations within other sectors e.g. agriculture, social protection, water and sanitation
  • by influencing the formulation or implementation of policies or strategies so as to benefit nutrition
  • by building consent and/or coalitions within the national or local nutrition community around a clear and consistent agenda for change
  • by mobilizing communities and/or supporting women to play an active role in influencing and participating in the policies, programs and actions required to scale up nutrition.

13 May 2013

The Future of Australian Aid--Broader lessons for all bilateral donors?

Stephen Howes, the Director of the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University gave a very nice presentation on the future of Australian aid at the Conference on the Future of International Development in Asia and the Pacific.

Put simply, his thesis is (1) don't forget aid in Asia, (2) move beyond aid in the Pacific.

In Asia, aid is not part of the Australian narrative of growing economies that can take care of themselves.  Aid was barely mentioned in last year's White Paper on Australia and Asia. But as Howes points out, hundreds of millions of people still live below $1.25 a day in even the fastest growing countries (and $1.25 is a very low threshold to begin with). India, China and Pakistan may be classified as low middle income countries, but they are poor and very large proportions of their populations are poor. And they will experience climate variability and a wide range of shocks that make development fragile. In these countries, although aid is a very small resource, it is highly flexible and can be focused on removing impediments to development. For these countries, aid can be a lubricant in big clanking economic growth machines, to make sure these machines work in a more broad based, sustainable and poverty reducing way and do not get too buffeted by shocks. A new aid narrative has to be found for these countries, one that supports the wider narrative of new relationships between Australia and Asia.

In the Pacific, aid dominates the discourse. Aid is too often put forward as the answer to problems and it is a bargaining chip in most interactions. This focus is crowding out other instruments focused on trade and other forms of collective action. The Pacific nations are too small to survive on their own, they need to work more collectively and Australia can facilitate that. 

The Australian relationship with the Pacific needs to move beyond aid, and the relationship with Asia needs aid to move beyond aid. 

It is clear that Australia's regional co-location with many of the countries it gives aid to makes it unique among DAC donors. Aid needs to be integral to its overall growth policy--it cannot so easily separate aid from the rest of government activity. Other donors would like to have a whole of government approach, but don't have the same imperatives.

More and more I think we will be looking to Australian aid policy as a window on what aid will look like for other donors in the 21st century. We need to learn from Australia's experience.

10 May 2013

From Singular Coherence to Coherent Plurality: the journey to a credible set of Global Development Goals

This week I was in Melbourne for a conference on the future of development in Asia and the Pacific hosted by the Australian National University, The Asia Foundation, the Lowy Institute and the University of Melbourne.

My exam question was to reflect on the challenges and opportunities generated by the relatively more open process that is shaping the post 2015 Goals, compared to the more closed MDGs process.

The MDGs have come a long way since 2000. I remember them taking at least 2 years to puncture my consciousness as a researcher at IFPRI. Now whatever comes next is all everyone is talking about—that and how will Manchester United fare post Sir Alex Ferguson.

The fact that so many people are talking about the post MDG world is a great testimony to the MDGs. They matter. And what comes after them matters. Otherwise there would be no such hubbub about post 2015. And hubbub there is. Multiple websites, conferences, op-eds, speeches, podcasts, special issues of the journals. Communities, businesses, NGOs, politicians, philanthropic foundations. They are all at it.

But can all of these views possibly come together into something coherent, something that is not only a marker of development but also a maker of development?

I believe they can. They have to.  Failure to achieve a consensus on a new set of development goals that are aspirational but also achievable would reduce the development community to a laughing stock in the eyes of the non-wonk world.

Like many inclusive processes, the move to a coherent consensus will go through 4 stages. At Stage 1 we begin with the singular, coherent, but ultimately limited vision. This is how I would characterise the MDGs. They were produced by a handful of supremely able technocrats and politicians. They are, for the most part, coherent. They are limited in that they miss out large chunks of the Millennium Declaration--governance, security, rights—but they are doubly limited because they implicitly seen as being facilitated by aid.

Stage 4 is the endpoint, the coherent plurality, where multiple views about what development is, how it is measured, how we get it, and who “we” are, have to be brought together in a coherent way. Coherence is characterised by (a) a global vision for the goals, (b) a balance between immediate human goals and longer term planetary goals, and (c) a whole of society approach to development, beyond aid, and beyond governments.

To get from stage 1 to 4 we have to go through two intermediate stages: stage 2, singular cacophony and stage 3, pluralistic cacophony. The MDG formulation process ran the risk of stage 2, singular cacophony, which is characterised by many voices, all saying basically the same thing. These were arguments over indicators: $1 a day or FAO’s undernourishment indicator? Primary or secondary education? At the present time we are in the middle of stage 3, pluralistic cacophony, by far the noisiest stage: lots of different people saying very different things.

There are at least 5 processes that I know of which are trying to solicit different voices and pull them together.

1. The UN SG’s High Level Panel: due to report very shortly
2. The Open Working Group of the UN General Assembly
3. UNDG national and thematic consultations
4. My World (UN, Ipsos Mori. WWWF and ODI)
5. Participate (IDS, Beyond 2015 and DFID)

My World is coming out with the “what’s” health, education and an honest and responsive government (based on half a million responses to the 16+ options listed on the website).

Participate is working more in depth, with over 50 groups in 14 countries and is focusing more on “how” different goals can be accomplished. They have highlighted the barriers to opportunity faced by the poorest and most marginal, the accelerating uncertainty and fluidity the poorest are having to manage, the foundational nature of trust and accountability that governments need to build if they are to be development partners, the "despair traps" that people fall into-traps that we in the West spend a lot of money trying to get out of; and finally the need to invest in and build on long term relationships with local and national drivers of development.

So, to get to coherent plurality what needs to happen?

• Keep it simple—have few goals and simple labels. Be more comprehensive with the indicators if necessary
• Make goals global to acknowledge the need for collective action and cross-learning-- but with differentiated obligations
• Adopt a whole of society approach--different actors need to call on a range of policies and actions that go beyond aid and beyond government
• Embrace the plurality of the journeys that we can take to get to these goals—there is no generic best way, and often the journey becomes more important than the destination
• Multiple actors means contestation, translation and negotiation—be honest about power differences, embrace political approaches
• Accountability is vital—for all parties: more mechanisms are needed

The adoption of these principles will help us move through the 4 stages of the post 2015 process: from singular coherence, via singular and pluralistic cacophony to coherent plurality.

While in Melbourne I gave a couple of other presentations: to Monash University's Economic Department on India’s Undernutrition Enigma’s and at the University of Melbourne's Development Studies group on the Role of Development Studies in the 21st century.  Both seminars were fun and I want to thank Gaurav Datt and Bina Fernandez, respectively, for hosting me so well. 

08 May 2013

Seeing the Unseen: Breaking the Logjam of Undernutrition in Pakistan

Today sees the launch of the new IDS Bulletin on Undernutrition in Pakistan, coincidentally during the week of the Pakistan elections.

Pakistan is one of the few countries where stunting rates are actually increasing and so my two fantastic co-editors Zulfiqar Bhutta and Haris Gazdar and I put out a call for Pakistani authors to write about malnutrition in Pakistan: what was driving it, what could be done about it, and what needed to happen for solutions to be put in play. We reviewed and present 12 interesting papers (see list below).

The timing seems to be good for nutrition in Pakistan. First, in dealing with the acute malnutrition from the floods of 2010, the Pakistan people woke up to the incredibly high levels of chronic malnutrition in their country (the first part of the title of the Bulletin is "Seeing the Unseen" refers to this). Second, the devolution of power in the health system in 2010-11 has brought a fresh set of government interests to the table and it is hoped that this will allow some regions at least to form new alliances to reduce malnutrition, away from existing bureaucratic barriers and traps. Finally, the National Nutrition survey of 2011 has given a transparent and clear picture of the levels, patterns and causes of malnutrition in the country.

The Bulletin, supported by DFID, talks about all of this. It showcases some government initiatives that have worked (the Tawana school feeding programme which was nevertheless closed down amid claims of corruption, and the salt iodisation programme) and it explores the political opportunities and problems faced in getting nutrition higher up the development agenda. View the overview pre peer review version here.

Getting the two main political parties to pay attention to nutrition will not be easy. The voters are most worried about security and jobs. If the manifestos of political parties reveal their souls, what do the manifestos of the PPP (who lead the current coalition) and the PML-N parties say? The PPP manifesto mentions nutrition 6 times, the PML-N manifesto, not at all. The PPP manifesto links nutrition to schooling, health, empowerment, family planning and social protection (the Benazir Income Support Programme). The PML-N manifesto is more concerned with economic growth. On the face of it, the platforms for nutrition to take hold seem stronger in the PPP manifesto, but for both parties, we need to make the connection between nutrition, economic growth and stability. The evidence from elsewhere is available, but it would be so much more powerful if there was some Pakistan evidence too.

What about the elephants in the room?
Neither manifesto talks much about security, terrorism or corruption--three issues that the Bulletin authors did not have much to say about either. This is understandable--it is difficult to talk publicly about these issues, but we need to know more about the effective delivery of nutrition services in such a fragile and conflict affected contexts. This is surely a good future agenda for nutrition research--how do we need to think differently and act differently in these contexts, and who are the "we" in the first place?

On April 15, Pakistan signed up to the Scaling Up Nutrition movement. This is a good sign. Another would be to create a nutrition budget, allocate resources to it, make sure the Benazir Income Support Programme is nutrition sensitive, sign off on the National Nutrition Survey findings and build up the Pakistan nutrition research community.  Pakistan ranks poorly on the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI).  I hope the elections and SUN can begin to change that, slowly but surely.


Seeing the Unseen: Breaking the Logjam of Undernutrition in Pakistan

IDS Bulletin 44.3
Editor Haddad, L., Bhutta, Z. A., and Gazdar, H.
Publisher IDS
This Bulletin will be published on 9 May. Order your copy by contacting bookshop@ids.ac.uk
After a lost decade, there is clearly a groundswell of momentum for nutrition in Pakistan, driven by a confluence of policy, evidence and events. This momentum needs to be sustained at the national level, reinforced at the provincial and sub-provincial levels, and converted into action.
The articles in this IDS Bulletin highlight some of the key features of undernutrition in Pakistan and its drivers. The correlates of undernutrition in Pakistan are no different than any other country: infection, poor diet quantity and quality, and unequal gender relations. High levels of poverty and fragility make the context for undernutrition reduction more difficult. Yet, the articles here also show that government nutrition interventions can work. But if the log jam of malnutrition in Pakistan is to be broken for good, malnutrition will have to be viewed as a development outcome – one that is a foundation for other outcomes such as economic growth and social cohesion – and this will only be achieved by viewing nutrition through a political-economy lens.
The collection of 12 articles in this issue represents a contribution to the potential moment of change. They do three things: (1) describe the nutrition status and its correlates and causes, (2) assess some of the interventions employed to combat undernutrition, and (3) analyse the political context within which these interventions emerged and will have to operate in the future. They aim to give additional definition to the debate of what it is desirable and possible to do to accelerate undernutrition reduction in Pakistan and why it is essential to do so.
Sartaj Aziz

Seeing the Unseen: Breaking the Logjam of Undernutrition in Pakistan
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Haris Gazdar and Lawrence Haddad
Evaluation of Nutrition Surveys in Floodaffected Areas of Pakistan: Seeing the Unseen
S.M. Moazzem Hossain, Mah Talat, Erin Boyd, Shamim Rafique Chowdhury, Sajid Bashir Soofi, Imtiaz Hussain, Imran Ahmed, Rehana Abdus Salam and
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

Towards Improved Food and Nutrition Security in Sindh Province, Pakistan
Shahid Fazal, Paola María Valdettaro, Joanna Friedman, Cécile Basquin and
Silke Pietzsch

Inflation and Food Security in Pakistan: Impact and Coping Strategies
Haris Gazdar and Hussain Bux Mallah
Impact on Health and Nutrition Outcomes in Sindh Province, Pakistan
Imtiaz Hussain, Sajid Bashir Soofi, Seema Hasan, Nelofer Mehboob,
Masawar Hussain, Arjumand Rizvi and Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

Impoverished Rural Districts of Pakistan: An Independent Evaluation of Impact on Educational and Cognitive Outcomes in Sindh Province, Pakistan
Sajid Bashir Soofi, Imtiaz Hussain, Nelofer Mehboob, Masawar Hussain, Zaid Bhatti,
Saiqa Khan, Seema Hasan and Zulfiqar A. Bhutta
Achieving Universal Salt Iodisation (USI) in Pakistan: Challenges, Experiences and the Way Forward
Ahmed K. Masuood and Tausif Akhtar Janjua

Agriculture and Nutrition in Pakistan: Pathways and Disconnects
Mysbah Balagamwala and Haris Gazdar

Engaging Development Partners in Efforts to Reverse Malnutrition Trends in Pakistan
F. James Levinson on behalf of the Pakistan Nutrition Development Partners Group

Missing Dimensions in Addressing Child Malnutrition in Pakistan: Lessons from the Tawana Experience
Kausar S. Khan, Ghazala Rafique and Sohail Amir Ali Bawani

Nutrition Policy in the Post-devolution Context in Pakistan: An Analysis of Provincial Opportunities and Barriers
Shehla Zaidi, Shandana Khan Mohmand, Noorya Hayat, Andres Mejia Acosta and
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

The Emerging Social Contract: State–Citizen Interaction after the Floods of 2010 and 2011 in Southern Sindh, Pakistan
Ayesha Siddiqi

What does the rise of UKIP mean for UKAID (and development)?

The local elections in the UK were held last week.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) won 25% of the vote, something not fully anticipated by the major parties.

One senior conservative MP said that UKIP stands for something like a simplified Conservative manifesto from the 1980s: less immigration, less power to Europe, lower taxes, more defence spending, more law and order, student grants instead of loans, traditional marriage, less political correctness etc.

But most commentators agree that people voted for UKIP not for their policies, but for their attitude and outlook (wanting to go back to halcyon days and put the world back in its box) and the fact that they are not (yet) professional politicians who have such a hard time “speaking their mind”.

What does the rise of this newish party (which still has no MPs as these were not constituency elections—those are in May 2015) mean for UKAID and its partners?

1. For the Conservatives in the ruling Coalition, the temptation to move to the right will be difficult to resist.

The ODA budget may be spared a direct hit because the UKIP hot button issues are immigration and a referendum on whether to remain in the EU, and because 0.7 is one of the 3-4 tests the Conservative party leadership has set itself to shed the "nasty party" label.

2. But there will be indirect hits.

  • To stop the growing ODA budget losing the Coalition too many votes to UKIP the Coalition will be under even greater pressure to bend the rules on what is and is not aid. Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Immigration, Climate, Business, Innovation and Science will all be making their case. And the odds on enshrining 0.7 in law before 2015, already long, just got much longer.
  • Again, to make sure there is “more development for the money”, certain types of impact and certain definitions of value for money will gain further prominence. Value for Money will be increasingly conflated with lowest cost, regardless of the value of what is produced for the money. Impact will increasingly short term and the costs of working with DFID will rise for everyone.

3. More generally, the UKIP vote is being seen as part of a bigger trend away from established political parties who are creaking in the increasingly interconnected, multipolar, dynamic, fluid and uncertain world (and not just in Europe but in Pakistan too).

Coalitions may become the norm. Niche political tastes are, via the internet, as easily indulged as our niche tastes in music, literature and art.

Or the established parties may simply be bypassed. Moises Naim, writing in Prospect this month, thinks that politicians are increasingly disempowered by all this and are failing to get things done as a consequence. He thinks this is a bad thing (he assumes that they will generally do the right things). I am not so sanguine. There is a fine line between legitimate checks and balances and gridlock, and the former are often forsaken in the name of the latter.

For development practitioners, policymakers and researchers, the eroding of faith in mainstream politicians opens up new opportunities for change and new risks to manage. Will policy making become more defined by the street, by unruly politics and by social movements? Will new alliances form between unlikely bedfellows? Or could it go the other way with the adopted development policies and approaches the ones that are less identified with a given party? Will that mean the policies are less ideological? Is that a good or bad thing?

I have no clue, but all of this turbulence reminds us that development is all about managing change not dictating it, working with existing national energies and not creating unsustainable ones, and embracing the nooks and crannies rather than trying to fill them in.

Ultimately the rise of UKIP is a marker of bigger changes happening in the world, changes that should favour less formulaic approaches to development. But in the short run UKIP’s rise will mean we will hear more from the aid critics.

It’s going to be an interesting 2 years until the UK election.

03 May 2013

Transparency, Tax, Trade and, er, Nutrition?

The G8 summit on June 17-18 at the Lough Erne golf resort in Northern Ireland will focus on Transparency, Tax and Trade (TTT). 

The TTT agenda is core to the Golden Thread idea of the UK Prime Minister. The Golden Thread consists of "No conflict, access to markets, transparency, property rights, the rule of law, the absence of corruption, a free media, free and fair elections".

What does any of this have to do with nutrition, which is the focus of a key pre-G8 event (June 8 in London)?

More than you might think.

1.  Transparency

Malnutrition levels and efforts to reduce them are positively opaque:

  • Surveys of stunting and wasting come around less frequently than the Olympics
  • Studies need to be commission just to find out what is being spent on nutrition 
  • Few mechanisms for assessing the quality of services provided
There are solutions to each: use real time monitoring to get more frequent assessments of nutrition status; establish nutrition budget line items; fix the OECD ODA codes; measure spending; embed community rating mechanisms to assess the quality of services provided

By supporting such initiatives, governments would have to improve overall transparency performance, because malnutrition is such a big cross-sectoral issue. See here for a recent paper I wrote on this for the European Journal of Development Research. See also a nice piece from Molly Kinder at ONE and the excellent Development Initiatives report on nutrition spending. 

2. Tax

In many societies, tax collection and spending has a strong distributional aspect--both within generations and across them.  Tax revenues are increasing throughout the world as economies grow and the capacity to collect tax improves.  But as Nora Lustig's recent paper on Latin America shows, the commitment to make tax collection and spending progressive is uneven.  

By focusing tax spending on undernutrition reduction,  tax becomes more progressive (the undernourished tend to be the poorest) and more intergenerationally responsible  (tax revenues are converted into lifelong human capital for the next generation).  

In turn, infants who are prevented from being stunted are, as adults, much more likely to be employed, earn more, and generate more taxes.  For the natural resource rich countries, turning revenues into a sustainable driver of growth for an economy is a real challenge--linking natural resource endowments to future human resource endowments is a vote winner and equips the economy for the long haul.  See a background paper here pulling together studies on the economic case for nutrition. 

3. Trade

Trade and nutrition represent a very complex set of interactions.  Free trade is rarely fair.  In an apolitical world, with a predictable climate, predictable pest infestation patterns and where markets worked perfectly it makes sense to have fewer food production sites.  But in an increasingly uncertain real world, where markets, where they exist, work with lots of friction, diversity is key and we need multiple bread basket food production sites.  Trade can be an important facilitator of food security but not something to rely completely on.  

What does this have to do with nutrition?  Global value chains are an important vehicle for trade and the way they are governed, the strategic choices around foods and markets can have a big impact on nutrition.  My IDS colleagues, John Humphrey and Spencer Henson are doing some interesting work with Bonnie McClafferty at GAIN supported by USAID to try to enhance the nutrition impact of value chains (DFID is supporting studies for a different set of countries). See this recent paper

I love the above picture (email readers, rouse yourselves to look at the website).  We need the G8 leaders to get as excited about nutrition as they were about football during the Camp David G8 (the 2012 Champions league final was on at the same time--I think Angela Merkel will have more to cheer about this time with Munich and Dortmund).  

Keeping with the sports theme, the G8 leaders could use the nutrition driver to get around the G8 golf course in a record score.  

02 May 2013

Nutrition Fixers, Pledgers and Champions Wanted

We are 5 weeks away from the London Nutrition Event on June 8 co-hosted by DFID and Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The fixing and horsetrading on pledging funds is happening right now--within and between bilaterals, within Governments, between bilaterals and Foundations--you name it.

Decisions on hundreds of millions of dollars get made in this period, so please put pressure on your contacts in positions of power to Champion Nutrition. 

What kinds of increases in spending? If preventing malnutrition really can prevent 45% of child deaths under 5 and can increase GDP by 11%, then we should be pushing for increases in direct nutrition spend from 0.3% of ODA (about $400m) to at least 1% ($1.4bn) and for doubling of indirect spend on nutrition from about $4bn to $8bn. 

See here for a short paper I prepared in collaboration with CIFF which tries to make the case for nutrition.

On nutrition champions, watch out for a new Prize for the unsung heroes of nutrition, organised by Transform Nutrition, a DFID supported research consortium that is led by IFPRI (Stuart Gillespie is the CEO) with IDS as one of the partners. 

Finally, note that places for the Transforming Nutrition Summer School (July 15-19 at IDS in Brighton) are nearly full. There is still time to apply, but hurry! 

Since announcing the course Purnima Menon and I are delighted that Anna Lartey, the incoming President of the International Union of Nutrition Sciences, will co-lead the programme with us. 

01 May 2013

Should the UK give aid to South Africa?

Today's aid furore (there seems to be one per day) is on South Africa, the country of my birth.

DFID announced it will end ODA to South Africa in 2015.  There are three levels at which to look at this.

First, at a South Africa specific level, there is not much new here.  The DFID Bilateral Aid Review (BAR) of 2011 planned ODA to South Africa of £19m a year from FY11/12 through to FY14/15.  I would have thought the South African government would have seen the writing on the wall back in 2011.  The South African government's main complaints now seem to focus on the process--on how the termination was decided without consultation and the timing of its announcements at a major conference.  We will never know the story behind that.

Second, we have another example of DFID ending a programme of funding to a country that has strong economic growth but with high levels of poverty--just like India.

As I argued in an earlier post, ending aid to India in 2015 is not something I agree with. There are some smaller, catalytic roles that DFID could have played around building the capacity of civil society, promoting research, and leveraging other funding.

What is South African case for such an intervention?  Well, South Africa is certainly not India.  The DFID programme in India is over 10 times the size of the South Africa programme and GDP is growing much slower in South Africa (about 2-3% per year since 2008) than in India.  But there is one commonality: poverty rates are high (headcount poverty in South Africa was 54% in 2008).  But in India poverty rates are declining--in South Africa they are stuck (56% in 1993) and the Gini coefficient, a marker of inequality, is actually going up (from 0.66 in 1993 to 0.70 in 2008). (see this paper from South African poverty analysis gurus Murray Leibbrandt and Ingrid Woolard).  I used to work on poverty dynamics in South Africa back in the 90s and these numbers are really discouraging.

(Note: several of you have told me I have the poverty data wrong--well, I attach another paper which shows how complicated it is--some estimates show modest declines, some estimates show increases, some show stagnation. What all the estimates agree on is that inequality is static.)

So, is South Africa an economic powerhouse as the DFID Secretary of State Justine Greening says?  Maybe-- don't forget South Africa's GDP/capita is about $11,000, similar to Brazil. But it is also a "wellbeing weakling"--it is not turning this growth into human development.  Other countries in Africa have done a better job at this conversion (e.g. Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda--see this new Boston Consulting report profiled in the Economist) and much of that must be down to governance arrangements.

What could a mere £19m do?  Well, as Joanna Kerr, head of ActionAid International (and an IDS alum), based in South Africa, notes, outsiders have a key role in supporting civil society (for example, harrying the government into signing up to the Scaling Up Nutrition movement).  Perhaps.  But rising inequality makes me wonder whether this level of funding can achieve anything.

Finally, there is the issue of the role of agencies like DFID in reducing poverty in middle income countries. No one has cracked this yet, and it seems to me this is always going to be a case by case assessment (see the IDS Rising Power programme). True, there are 20 million people living below the poverty line in South Africa--many more than in some other African countries.  But whereas India is still a poor country (with a GDP per capita less than half of Brazil or South Africa) South Africa is not.  South Africans can change their inequality profiles at the ballot box, just as Brazil has done. I don't think India has enough wealth or enough disaffection (because the Gini is decreasing, albeit slowly) to be able to do this yet.

Given that ODA is relatively small ($138bn) it has to be prioritised. So I think DFID has gotten this one right on substance, whatever the rights and wrongs of the process.

And of course the announcement doesn't hurt the Coalition in the run up to the UK local council elections which are tomorrow.