Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Immigration, World Poverty and Gumballs

Immigration - Global humanitarian reasons for current U.S. immigration are tested in this updated version of immigration author and journalist Roy Beck's colorful presentation of data from the World Bank and U.S. Census Bureau. The 1996 version of this immigration gumballs presentation, updated to 2010, has been one of the most viewed immigration policy presentations on the internet. 

Presented by immigration author/journalist Roy Beck.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rich Country Commitments to Foreign Aid

Which wealthy nations are helping poor ones the most?  The Center for Global Development has just posted a ranking. Each year, the Commitment to Development Index ranks wealthy governments on how well they are living up to their potential to help poor countries. The Index scores seven policy areas that affect the well-being of others around the world: aid, trade, finance, migration, environment, security, and technology. Overall scores are the average of all the dimensions.  

To explore the map to find out, click here for the interactive version.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Battle for Hearts and Minds

Robert Kaplan, writing a commentary for Strategic Forecasting, argues for a harder more competitive approach to foreign aid.  Certainly controversial, the full article can be obtained hereExtracts are below...
Geopolitics connotes hard power, concerned as it is with the struggle over control of geographical space, a struggle that is primarily military and economic. Unsentimentality is the order of the day. Geopolitics and realism go hand in hand, therefore. Humanitarian aid would seem to have no place in this worldview. But that, as it turns out, is far too simplistic.
For power is also the power to persuade, and persuasion can take the form of winning friends, one village at a time. A policy that is purely military and economic has no idealistic component, and in an age of global media an idealistic component is required for credibility in the public space. In fact, foreign aid, as it came to be known during the Cold War, was a critical part of America's struggle against world communism. Building schools and roads, and teaching children how to read and farmers how to take advantage of the latest agricultural methods, was not merely altruistic; for it had the ulterior motive of demonstrating the superiority of America's values over those of its adversaries. When in 1961 President John F. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps, though his words were suffused with idealism, realpolitik was not far from his thoughts.
But the meaning of foreign aid has subtly shifted in the post-Cold War years. According to a commonly received narrative prevalent in the media, because communism has been vanquished, foreign policy is finally able to pursue idealistic ends untainted by realpolitik. Henceforth, foreign aid should be purely humanitarian, with minimal concern for whether or not it benefits U.S. national interest.
Ironically, this very altruism that abjures national interest has made America's foreign assistance programs not better but worse. Foreign aid is like any other organized pursuit: It requires a competitive mindset to excel. Aid workers must be aware of the ideological, philosophical and political opposition they will likely encounter in the field and prepare strategies to defeat it. They must learn to compete, in other words...

... because the military thinks competitively and the foreign assistance bureaucracy does not, the military is far more effective than the State Department, with the result being the militarization of foreign policy. Counter intuitively, the way to reduce America's reliance on hard power is to get the foreign aid bureaucracy to adopt a harder, more competitive approach to its own soft power. If the aid community thought competitively, like the military and the intelligence communities do, it would be more effective in the field, and the militarization of foreign policy would consequently diminish. "The imbalance between military and non-military instruments of power is likely to continue unless civilian agencies develop approaches which account for the contested landscapes in which they function," Schadlow explains. She quotes an Australian government aid expert: "Aid is 10 percent technical and 90 percent political."
Aid, in other words, is a form of political warfare, something that America's Cold War presidents well understood. That doesn't mean, for example, that you export democracy-building programs to every non-democratic country as part of a moralistic foreign policy that pays no heed to realpolitik. For there may be a few places where you will want to cultivate authoritarian leaders, and such programs would then undermine your strategic goals. Aid is not some politically neutral tool that operates separately from foreign policy -- rather, aid, as well as seeking to do good, must also advance a state's interests. And the more tough and competitive the aid mindset, the more likely it is to succeed.
We must stop putting humanitarian aid on a pedestal. While the geopolitical interests and moral values of a great power like the United States do not always overlap, most of the time they do, and therefore there is nothing debased or cynical about seeing civil and military power as two inextricable aspects of the same foreign policy machine. Indeed, efficient humanitarian aid requires language and other forms of cultural area expertise, which is also of use to the military. The military, meanwhile, uses operational and strategic planning processes to determine who the opponents are likely to be once soldiers and Marines hit the ground. The aid bureaucracy should do likewise. Each branch of foreign policy can assist and leverage -- and learn from -- the other... 
... Face it: the militarization of foreign policy was not only the result of decisions taken by the younger Bush administration, or even of a State Department starved of funds. It was also the result of the thoroughly undynamic mindset of Foggy Bottom. Rather than have the military become softer, the State Department has to become harder. That's the real road to soft power.

Obtain full article from Stratfor here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pennies from heaven

Giving money directly to poor people works surprisingly well. But it cannot deal with the deeper causes of poverty.  Article from The Economist (link here).

SOME unlikely things combined to change Gabriel Otieno Anoche’s life. A satellite passing over east Africa took pictures of his roof. Some keen-eyed people in the Philippines, monitoring the satellite data remotely, spotted the roof’s lack of luminosity, showing that Mr Anoche lived under thatch (not tin). In western Kenya, that is an indicator of poverty. Then Google and Facebook contributed money to Give Directly, a charity which hands out no-strings-attached cash to the poorest people it can find.

The 25-year-old carpenter knew nothing of this until he came home one day to find that strangers had given his wife a mobile phone linked to a bank account. Next came a $1,000 windfall, which they were free to spend on whatever they liked.

The idea sounds as extraordinary as throwing money out of helicopters. But this programme, and others like it, are part of a shift in thinking about how best to use aid to help the poorest. For decades, it was thought that the poor needed almost everything done for them and that experts knew best what this was. Few people would trust anyone to spend $1,000 responsibly. Instead, governments, charities and development banks built schools and hospitals, roads and ports, irrigation pipes and electric cables. And they set up big bureaucracies to run it all.

From around 2000, a different idea started to catch on: governments gave poor households small stipends to spend as they wished—on condition that their children went to school or visited a doctor regularly. These so-called “conditional cash transfers” (CCTs) appeared first in Latin America and then spread around the world. They did not replace traditional aid, but had distinctive priorities, such as supporting individual household budgets and helping women (most payments went to mothers). They were also cheap to run...

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Impact Evaluation on the Rise

“Impact Evaluations: Can we learn more? Better?" conference was just co-hosted by the Center for Global Development and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie). The conference was an opportunity to take stock of the current production of studies that aim to attribute changes in outcomes to particular interventions. In 2006, the Center published a working group report which argued that too few good quality impact evaluations were being conducted, what it called an “evaluation gap.” 

In response to that report, 3ie was created in 2009. Now, four years later, the time is ripe to look at what has happened and consider what else might be done to make sure good evidence is available and used in improving public policy.  There is a great deal more good research being done. The number of impact evaluations being published has more than tripled between 2007 and 2011. The total, about 120 in 2011, is still far less than is probably needed if you consider that there are more than 100 countries working in more than a dozen sectors with numerous interventions worth assessing.

Details on  the quality of the increase of evaluation are detailed in this CGD article.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

UN Post 2015 Development Goals

The 27-member U.N. High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda unveiled its recommendations to replace the MDGs with a new framework that will affect international cooperation and the delivery of foreign aid until 2030.
The report will have its share of supporters and skeptics.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the panel’s recommendations and promised he will offer guidance while the document is fine-tuned before being reviewed by U.N. member states at the General Assembly in September.
Likewise, the report satisfied European Development Commissioner and panel member Andris Piebalgs, who asserted the report makes it clear that “the post-2015 framework should address the whole range of root causes of poverty and unsustainable development” and that the framework “should be truly universal in its application and coverage.”
Goals, transformative shifts
The report sets out 12 highly-anticipated universal goals, along with 54 associated targets aiming to translate the ambition of the goals into practical outcomes:

  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 catalyze long-term finance.
The much-debated issues of inequality and climate change were mentioned among the six crosscutting issues to be addressed: peace, equality, climate change, urbanization, youth and sustainable consumption and production patterns.

The report also outlines five transformative shifts needed in society to drive the goals and create an enabling environment for achieving targets:

  1. Leave no one behind: “We must ensure that no person — regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status — is denied basic economic opportunities and human rights.”
  2. Put sustainable development at the core: “We must make a rapid shift to sustainable patterns of production and consumption, with developed countries in the lead. We must act now to slow the alarming pace of climate change and environmental degradation, which pose unprecedented threats to humanity.”
  3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth: “A profound economic transformation can end extreme poverty and promote sustainable development, improving livelihoods, by harnessing innovation, technology, and the potential of business. More diversified economies, with equal opportunities for all, can drive social inclusion, especially for young people, and foster respect for the environment.”
  4. Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all: “Freedom from violence, conflict, and oppression is essential to human existence, and the foundation for building peaceful and prosperous societies. We are calling for a fundamental shift — to recognize peace and good governance as a core element of wellbeing, not an optional extra.”
  5. Forge a global partnership: “A new spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual accountability must underpin the post-2015 agenda. This new partnership should be built on our shared humanity, and based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.”

The panel has attempted to address the full spectrum of development issues in crafting its recommendations, consulting thousands of stakeholders in the process. But whether or not a global consensus will be achieved remains to be seen, as the U.N. leadership sets in motion a High-Level Summit on Post-2015 and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals keeps its recommendations under wraps until 2014.

The full report linked here.

An excellent commentary by Charles Kenny from CGD is linked here.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Some Trends Improving

Given all the constant bad news, it is nice to see that some trends are improving.  This is a series of charts published in the Washington Post a few days ago.  They speak for themselves...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

If the World were 100 PEOPLE:

Based on research and the inspiration of Donella Meadows and her "State of the Village Report" published in the early 1990s.  Today, the 100 People Foundation carries on working with students to better understand the complex issues facing our planet and the resources we share. By framing the global population as 100 people, our media makes education more engaging and effective, and improves students' abilities to remember and relate to what they learn.

Currently, they are traveling the globe to meet and create portraits of the 100 people representing all 7 billion of us sharing the planet. Their vision is to create documentary films, photography, and educational tools that facilitate face-to-face introductions among the people of the world in ways that cultivate respect, create dialogue, and inspire global citizenship.

If the World were 100 PEOPLE:

50 would be female
50 would be male

26 would be children
There would be 74 adults,
8 of whom would be 65 and older

There would be:
60 Asians
15 Africans
14 people from the Americas
11 Europeans

33 Christians
22 Muslims
14 Hindus
7 Buddhists
12 people who practice other religions
12 people who would not be aligned with a religion

12 would speak Chinese
5 would speak Spanish
5 would speak English
3 would speak Arabic
3 would speak Hindi
3 would speak Bengali
3 would speak Portuguese
2 would speak Russian
2 would speak Japanese
62 would speak other languages

83 would be able to read and write; 17 would not

7 would have a college degree
22 would own or share a computer

77 people would have a place to shelter them
from the wind and the rain, but 23 would not

1 would be dying of starvation
15 would be undernourished
21 would be overweight

87 would have access to safe drinking water
13 people would have no clean, safe water to drink
Sources: 2012 - Fritz Erickson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Ferris State University (Formerly Dean of Professional and Graduate Studies, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay) and John A. Vonk, University of Northern Colorado, 2006; Returning Peace Corps Volunteers of Madison Wisconsin, Unheard Voices: Celebrating Cultures from the Developing World, 1992; Donella H. Meadows, The Global Citizen, May 31, 1990.

Below is a short video by Allysson Lucca portraying the stats.

Friday, March 29, 2013

UN Panel Highlights Development Reform

The Devex Newswire recently had a summary of the results of a high-level UN panel looking toward a post-2015 development agenda. Authored by Johanna Morden, the summary includes the five key areas for reform emerging from the  high-level meeting on the post-2015 global agenda concluded March 27). An extract is below:

The vision: a transformative, people-centered and planet-sensitive development agenda that ends extreme poverty in the context of sustainable development, while enabling sustained prosperity for all.

It also advocates for coherent and mutually-enforcing post-2015 intergovernmental processes and outcomes.

The five key areas highlighted by the panel “on which progress is needed” to attain its post-2015 vision are outlined below:

1. Reshaped and revitalized global governance and partnerships. The approach to addressing today’s challenges should be universally applicable, while at the same time implementable at the national, subnational, community and individual levels. 

2. Protection of the global environment. The agenda must be grounded in a commitment to address global environmental challenges, strengthen resilience and improve disaster preparedness capacities.

3. Sustainable production and consumption. The future development framework should consider the challenge of the predicted peak of human population to 9 billion to 10 billion in 2050 and the need to manage the world’s production and consumption patterns in more sustainable and equitable ways.  

4. Strengthened means of implementation. The agenda should clearly specify the means of implementation, including financing for development. Adequate, stable and predictable financing, as well as the efficient use of resources, is required to support development.  

5. Data availability and better accountability in measuring progress. Substantial improvements in national and subnational statistical systems, including local and subnational levels and the availability, quality and timeliness of baseline data, disaggregated by sex, age, region and other variables, will be needed. 
In the coming weeks, the panel will be preparing the final report on post-2015 agenda recommendations, to the U.N. secretary-general at the end of May.

Read the full article here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Linking resources to results: A transparency narrative for the G8

A recent commentary on Devex by Alan Hudson discusses priorities for an upcoming G-8 summit.  An extract is below....

G8 leaders at Camp David in the United StatesG-8 leaders during a working session on global and economic issues on May 19, 2012 at Camp David in the United States. Photo by: Pete Souza / White House

... plans for the G-8 Summit are taking shape. In addition to tackling the threat of extremism and terrorist violence, and addressing issues around agriculture, food and nutrition at a pre-G8 event, the key issues on the agenda are trade, tax and transparency – government transparency and corporate transparency.

On tax and transparency, a number of issues seem to be competing for attention on the G-8 agenda. These include transparency about the revenues that companies pay to governments to extract oil and other natural resources, transparency about land deals, transparency about tax matters, transparency about who owns and controls shell companies, transparency about budgets, and transparency about development assistance. 

Alongside these proposals are others to ensure that the information unleashed by various transparency initiatives is user-friendly and that civil society groups and others are able to make use of that information to hold governments and companies to account.

Faced with a plethora of proposals and initiatives, there is a need both for some prioritization and for a clear and compelling narrative about how the various initiatives will work together to drive progress against poverty and preventable disease. This is fundamentally a narrative about linking resources to results, with transparency and information the main storyline. Here’s how the story might go:
  • On resources, the G-8 countries commit to make faster progress on implementing the International Aid Transparency Initiative to meet their aid transparency commitments. They support robust EU laws on extractives transparency, help to develop a global standard on extractives transparency and, where relevant, sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. And, they establish public registries of beneficial ownership.
  • On results, the G-8 countries support another World Bank initiative, called Service Delivery Indicators, which looks to improve the information that is available about how health, education and other services are delivered in developing countries. Straddling the resources and budgets and spending categories, the G-8 also do more to support better and more open contracting.
 See further recommendations linked here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Taking resilience from buzzword to real-world impact

Resilience has recently rocketed to the top of the list of development buzzwords. But is it just a buzzword that will fade away like many others? Are we simply repackaging an old concept (sustainability, anyone?). How do we make resilience more than a word?

The answer, I suggest, is to put substance behind the concept and see how we can apply strategies in one arena, for example, disaster resilience, to other areas such as household finances, climate change and personal health to name a few. Otherwise, “resilience” will meet the same fate as so many development ideas that came along and briefly lit up our seemingly endless search for magic solutions to poverty.

I believe resilience is more than a buzzword, and actually a new concept — and the timing of its emergence should be no surprise at a time when donors are rethinking the use of their resources, with an eye toward longer and, yes, less expensive solutions to the largest development problems. Although it’s probably only one of many valid ways to approach the concept, I find it useful to refer to resilience as the combination of four — almost inevitably overlapping — strategies: behaviors, networks, policies, and products (one could make the convincing argument that knowledge should be added to the framework). Here are some ways to think about it:

  • Behaviors refer to all actions that individuals, households or communities can take to limit their exposure to risk, or to limit the impact of adverse events when that risk is realized. This includes using preventative medicine, engaging in a better diet, practicing safe sex, stopping smoking, et cetera.

  • Networks relate to the formal or informal expressions of social relations between households and groups, often aggregated under the term of “structural social capital,” and the elements of physical infrastructure that facilitate these relations. In the context of resilience, networks include mutual support arrangements and collective action agreements that individuals and households can call upon to prepare against negative events or to mitigate the effect of crises and shocks — as well as the physical or virtual communication channels that accelerate these arrangements such as roads and the Internet.

  • Policies refer to actions taken by national, regional or local governments to protect families against shocks and help them recover quickly when these shocks cannot be avoided such as social safety nets, early warning systems, clean air regulation, food labeling and immunization campaigns.

  • Products include a wide variety of goods and services that can help prevent crises or contribute to post-shock recovery, or both. Examples include drought-resistant seeds and fertilizer, health insurance policies, savings accounts, condoms and other contraceptives, bed nets and anti-mosquito chemicals.

Taken individually, these strategies rarely provide the levels of resilience necessary to deal with the variety and severity of risks faced on a daily basis by low-income families or vulnerable communities. 

Read recommendations and full article here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Getting to Zero and Eliminating Extreme Poverty

This is an extract from a recent commentary by Steve Feldstein, Director of USAID Policy

For those who spend their days focusing on international development issues, only occasionally does the full public spotlight shine on their work. On Tuesday night, near the conclusion of his State of the Union address, the President articulated a vision that represented one of the clearest, most direct calls to development action in recent years.  He noted that in many parts of the world, people still live on “little more than a dollar a day,” and called for the United States to “join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades.” This has caused a flurry of activity as the development community begins to dissect what exactly this means, how it will be done, and who will be affected. In the policy office at USAID, we’ve spent considerable time analyzing this issue and what it would take to eradicate extreme poverty...

... We should recognize that we’ve made substantial progress – more than was ever anticipated. The number of people living in extreme poverty continued to rise until around 1981, when it reached 1.94 billion people. From 1981 until around 1993, the number did not change much overall, but after 1993 – for the first time in history – the number began to fall. Over the next fifteen years, historic growth rates were achieved and the extreme poverty figure fell from 1.91 to 1.29 billion, nearly a one-third decrease. It will be challenging to maintain this rate of reduction; as poverty numbers get smaller, the rate of decline may slow as remaining pockets of poverty persist in increasingly difficult environments. But economic growth has been the main determinant of progress in poverty reduction and we believe we are well positioned to help foster such growth...

Read the full text here...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Building Local Capacity for More Effective Development

InterAction has just published it's latest Foreign Assistance Briefing Book, a relevant and timely resource created for the 113th Congress and the Obama administration as they make decisions with significant implications for the United States and the world.  An extract from the report recommendations as regards more effective capacity building is below:

International assistance programs should support capacity building for local organizations to accelerate development and achieve aid effectiveness goals. To contribute effectively to development, civil society organizations must have the rights and freedoms to organize, secure resources, voice opinions, participate in agenda setting, operate effectively and help hold state institutions accountable for development results. Development assistance can be more efficient and effective if local capacity building is better integrated into ongoing programs. The following policy and program steps can help local organizations assume more effective roles in country owned development:

•  Promote more capable, self-sufficient local organizations by supporting policies and programs that build a healthy enabling environment for nonstate actors.

•  Make capacity building a higher priority and better integrate it into development and humanitarian assistance programs. 

•  Support and leverage established capacity building relationships between international NGOs and local NGOs. 

•  Increase the effectiveness and sustainability of local capacity building by supporting longer-term programs. 

You can find the full article at this link.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Complexity Theory for Development Policy

Sponsored by the Center for Global Development. In this podcast, adapted from his Kapuściński Lecture of May 2012, Owen Barder explores the implications of complexity theory for development policy. He explains how traditional economic models have tried and failed to understand why some countries have managed to improve living standards while other countries have not. Using complexity theory, he shows that development is a property of a system, not the sum of what happens to the people within it. 

Drawing on the understanding of complex adaptive systems in physics and biology, this suggests important policy implications for policymakers who want to bring about faster development in their own country, or to help other countries to make faster progress. 

The lecture finishes with seven policy recommendations for development. 

 The pdf of the key slides and narrative is linked here