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.