Aid, Development and Progress 2012-2013

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OECD and the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation
Annals of development — Dangerous delusions
(The Economist|Banyan) IT’s important to have ambitions, especially if you are a poor country at the bottom of the pile. And what better way to drag oneself up than to emulate somebody else’s success? Where better to turn to than Asia? The region, after all, is the very model of post-war economic development. This is where so many tigers seem to have miraculously conjured astonishing rates of economic growth and development despite their hobbled beginnings.
Thus it is that rather than looking to Britain, France or America as a model, as so many countries used to, nowadays the world’s poorer, developing counties look Far East. Their eyes often alight on China and South Korea. Or even Vietnam. These are all countries that were devastated by war only a generation or so ago, yet which now form the vanguard of the so-called Asian century. But it’s also to the tiny island-state of Singapore that many of the pupils look, and often with keen interest.
When Singapore became an independent, post-colonial country, in the early 1960s, supposedly at the same point on the development trajectory at which many of its admirers see themselves, it was already a highly developed, prosperous and sophisticated entrepôt. It was rather back when Sir Stamford Raffles founded his trading station in 1819 that the little island was not much more than a swamp. A century-and–a-half serving the trading interests of the hegemonic economic and political power of the day, the British Empire, turned that swamp into a thriving port and a bustling, prosperous multi-racial community. Singapore’s post-independence politicians can take enormous credit for steering their little island-nation to its present heights, but they did not inherit a Timor-Leste or Rwanda.
Indeed, it seems to me that Singapore’s very unusual history will be impossible to emulate or reproduce, and others should probably just quit trying, especially those who are trying in a hurry—say, within the political lifetime of a single “visionary”. One striking problem with their analogies is that Singapore’s workforce immigrated to this island on the straits, encouraged by the British rulers, solely to serve the interests of commerce. It’s no wonder that the country still tends to be rather good at it. Other crowded little countries will not enjoy this advantage. (20 March, 2012)

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Is the folding of CIDA into DFAIT the end or a fresh start for Canadian international development?
Thoughtful debate among a group of (mostly) experts ranging from Samantha Nutt and Daryl Copeland to Jeremy Kinsman. Some rather surprising opinions.
13 February
The Longest War is the War on Global Poverty
(IDN via Other news) – The ‘new year’ is already over a month old and all pointers are that at least one very old global issue is only that much older.
There is much reference to the ‘longest’ wars of the fiery kind, but less, perhaps, to the often silent, near-Sisyphean struggle against global poverty. Many concerned voices would argue that 2013 could be among the worst years in which to even embark on any kind of lasting progress on this front.
Four decades after development warrior Robert McNamara launched his attack on global poverty in his capacity as World Bank president, there are still 1.2 billion people in the world barely surviving on $1 a day and two billion living on $2 a day. Another concerned American, James Baker, U.S. treasury secretary in the late eighties, argued for just $20 billion then, to put “a floor under poverty”. … The world’s poor have also long lost two of their most passionate spokespersons – Germany’s Nobel Laureate Willy Brandt and Sweden’s Olaf Palme. Along with McNamara and former Commonwealth Secretary General Shridath Ramphal, they were tireless advocates of an interdependent world. Among some new voices, thankfully, that have taken their place roughly over the past decade and more, are Britain’s Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Claire Short.
The lead nation throughout this concerted drive against the many causes that contribute to global poverty has been the United States. What’s worrisome right now is America’s willingness, really its ability, to spearhead this initiative and remain among the large donors of development aid. The research world, replete with data often of the sobering kind, puts the number of Americans living in poverty at 46.1 million or just over 15 percent of the population.
New UN development goals, new funding model
The primary focus of the world’s next development goals should be ending extreme poverty, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, adding that he would press Western governments to fulfill their aid pledges. Still, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister, said that the United Nations panel devising a global development framework for after 2015 should look beyond traditional funding models and toward public-private partnerships. The Guardian (London) (2/1), The Guardian (London)/Global Development (2/1)
What comes after the Millennium Development Goals?
The high-level panel of the United Nations tasked with devising a successor to the Millennium Development Goals has concluded meetings with civil society groups in Monrovia, Liberia. Bill Gates suggests that the current MDGs should simply be expanded. “[M]any of the potential new goals don’t have unanimous support, and adding many new goals, or goals that are not easily measurable, may sap momentum,” Gates said in a letter. The Guardian (London) (2/1), Devex.com/The Development Newswire blog (1/31), The Guardian (London)/Wintour and Watt blog (2/1)
24 January
Dearth of research on disability hampers poverty goals
(SciDevNet) The lack of research on links between disability and poverty could jeopardise countries’ progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), according to one of the authors of a major international study into disability in Africa.
Research on this issue in developing countries tends to focus on disability prevalence, detracting attention from studying the mechanisms that keep disabled people living in poverty, says Arne Henning Eide, chief scientist at the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF) in Norway.
9 January
Can You Fight Poverty With a Five-Star Hotel?
The story of how the World Bank’s investment arm hands out billions in loans to wealthy tycoons and giant multinationals in some of the world’s poorest places.
(Foreign Policy January|February 2013) The original notion was that while the World Bank was lending directly to poor countries, the IFC would stimulate the growth of private business, entrepreneurship, and financial markets in some of those same countries by lending to and investing in for-profit corporations. The founders, notably including a General Foods executive named Robert Garner, emphasized that the IFC would participate only in projects for which “sufficient private capital is not available on reasonable terms.”
That concept has become muddied over the years, as well-heeled borrowers with excellent credit have sought to take advantage of the IFC’s relatively attractive loan terms and other investment vehicles, plus, in some cases, the cachet associated with World Bank support.
4 January
Social media and development: Tapping new technologies
Development banks, government ministries and grass-roots organizations are among those turning to social media and mobile technologies and spurring innovation worldwide. Applications, Twitter conversations and crowdfunding platforms are helping to promote development projects and campaigns focusing on rooting out corruption, promoting best farming practices and assisting poor women and girls. The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (1/4)

2012

Defining development after 2015: Talks are under way

The first substantive meetings to decide on the global development agenda after 2015 — the year the current Millennium Development Goals are set to expire — are being held this week in London. While alleviating household poverty tops the agenda, the World Health Organization is advocating for universal health coverage. British Prime Minister David Cameron is looking to de-emphasize quantity of aid in lieu of a “golden thread” of policies that promote government stability, transparency and the rule of law. The Guardian (London) (10/31), Devex.com/The Development Newswire (10/23)

$167 billion aid shortfall threatens MDGs, says UN’s Ban
International aid to developing countries fell last year to $133 billion, less than half the amount the United Nations says is needed annually to continue to make inroads against poverty, and achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The $167 billion gap is attributed primarily to the global economic crisis, which prompted 16 of the 23 main donors from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to make spending cuts. “I repeat my call to the international community: Do not place the burden of fiscal austerity on the backs of the poor — either in your own countries or abroad,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. CBS News/The Associated Press (9/20), The Guardian (London) (9/20), Google/Agence France-Presse (9/20)
17 August
We must be careful as a nation donating to fragile states
By David Carment and Yiagadeesen Samy
(Ottawa Citizen) Based on a 2012 fragile states report that we have just completed for the Canadian government, we question whether aid is having an impact in fragile situations such as Afghanistan and Haiti. In our report, Afghanistan ranked second only to Somalia — a failed state — in 2012 and has been in our top five for almost a decade. In fact, since 2001 there has been deterioration in key measures of Afghanistan’s governance, security and crime, economic performance, human development and even the environment.
In the case of Haiti, the situation was improving in the two years prior to the 2010 earthquake. In particular, improvements in the state’s capacity to provide a safe environment to its citizens and in the political sphere were, to a certain extent, offsetting the country’s poor economic performance.
However, the earthquake’s devastating effects mean that the situation in the country is beginning to deteriorate again. Specifically, our report shows increasing problems in governance, security and crime, human development, gender and the environment, and only a very minor improvement in Haiti’s economic performance.
9 August
Joseph K. Ingram: Why foreign aid still matters for developing countries
(National Post) A growing number of development economists, including yours truly, believe that cuts to foreign-aid budgets, such as the ones recently made by the Canadian federal government, reflect a broader trend in the global economy, a trend that is producing the end of international development as we have known it.
Foreign aid from 14 of the 27 donor states in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) was reduced in 2011-2012. Nevertheless, the cuts to both the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the International Development Research Center (IDRC) were such that Canada will soon find itself amongst the lower rungs of the international donor community — a significant development for a country that historically has been one of the worlds leaders in supporting global development and international co-operation.
… failure to contribute to foreign aid and to collective solutions will continue to produce widening income gaps, unrealized expectations among a volatile bulge in the number of young people, and a fraying of whatever social consensus has been created both at a national and international level. Fundamentalism of all sorts will continue to emerge and the prospect of economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development will become increasingly remote — not the direction in which we as Canadians, nor we as global citizens, would want the world to move.
Business and development — tentative bedfellows
The recent appointment of Unilever CEO Paul Polman to the high-level United Nations panel to help shape the global development agenda — coupled with growing support among thousands of corporations for the UN Global Compact — represents a formal acceptance of business in the development debate. But the development community has reservations. “Just because there’s a business case for development doesn’t necessarily mean there is a development case for business,” writes Oliver Balch. The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (8/7)
6 August
Why fly aid to Africa when it can be produced there?
The $15 billion business of providing supplies for global humanitarian emergencies is coming under criticism from David Dickie, director of Advance Aid. His charity aims to enable emergency supplies for Africa to be made in Africa, thus creating jobs and improving logistics. The Guardian (London) (8/6) This is so sensible that it will no doubt provoke huge negative reaction.
Nepal cookstove program broadened through 2017
Over the next five years in Nepal, an autonomous government agency aims to introduce 475,000 improved mud-brick cookstoves to rural communities. Already the country has built 621,000 such stoves since 1999, improving the lives and health of some 3 million people, according to the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre. IRINNews.org (7/26)
18 July
Look to Developing World for Solutions, Says New World Bank Chief
(IPS) – Speaking on Wednesday at his first major public address, new World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the institution needs to be more flexible and responsive, as well as more open to innovations coming from the developing world.
On Wednesday, Kim said that “The world has changed and there are many lessons from the developing countries that can be useful.”
He pointed in particular to Latin America, characterising the region as “a fountain of innovation that can be useful all over the world … the model of social protection that has been pioneered in Latin America, we’re taking that to other parts of the world and I think that’s the future.”
With analysis of the impact of the ongoing European economic crisis on the developing world currently taking up significant time at the bank, Kim suggested that potentially key solutions could likewise be found in Latin America.
Gates Foundation is changing the face of global development aid
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in co-sponsoring the family-planning summit in London this week, showed that it was “not merely filling in gaps left by others but acting to change the behaviour of countries,” writes The Economist. The mission of the foundation has expanded since it was founded in 1994, and Melinda Gates says family planning has replaced vaccination at the top of the development agenda. The Economist/Feast and Famine blog (7/12), Mail & Guardian (South Africa) (7/12)
Jun 21
Letter from George Roter – The human face of systemic change in Malawi
(EWB) I’ve shared a story below that’s representative of what I saw, but I’ll ruin the ending by starting with the two biggest conclusions from my time in Malawi.
First, EWB’s water and sanitation venture is having a transformative effect on the country. We have a great reputation and a lot of influence at every single level of the system. We have incredible cumulative “wisdom” about how systemic change will happen in Malawi and are able to put it into practice.
Second, I’m tremendously optimistic about the pace of change in the country, and I’m ecstatic to see that it’s being driven by Malawian champions in the field, at local and national governments, and within NGOs. Together, they will ultimately realize a Malawi where there is clean water and improved sanitation for all Malawians.
New development approach finds Rio+20 support
Among the initiatives on rural development gaining traction at Rio+20 is the so-called “landscape approach” — backed, in part, by the United Nations — that uses technologies such as remote sensing, resource monitoring and spatial analysis to determine how to properly use land agriculturally, if at all. Such efforts typically are led by those living in the communities targeted for development. IRINNews.org (6/18)
Technologies changing the face of aid response

New technologies developed by the private sector are increasingly being incorporated into relief efforts across the world. Water filters have been especially effective in places such as Kenya, Haiti and Thailand. The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (6/15), Devex.com (6/15)
7 June
Brazil competes with China, India to invest in Africa
Brazil has intensified its efforts to forge closer relations with Africa recently, as the sixth largest economy in the world tries to compete with other emerging giants like China and India to take a more central role in the resource-rich continent.
Last month, Brazil’s top investment bank BTG Pactual unveiled plans to raise $1 billion to create the world’s biggest investment fund for Africa, focusing on areas such as infrastructure, energy and agriculture.
The independent bank’s fund, which comes amid a government drive to establish a strategic partnership with Africa, is one of the latest moves signaling Brazil’s increasing interest to extend its economic footprint on the continent — trade between Brazil and Africa jumped from around $4 billion in 2000 to about $20 billion in 2010.
Bottom-up infrastructure and the rural poor
Infrastructure has again become the buzzword of the global development debate, but investment can sometimes bypass poor people for the benefit of powerful interests, as in impoverished Kikwit in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Different approaches are being proposed by the World Bank and Group of 20 to help the rural poor in Africa and South Asia. AlertNet/Climate Conversations blog (5/23)
Aid is helping to save 4 million children annually

Over the past 20 years, humanitarian aid along with economic growth and good government have combined to help 4 million more children each year to live beyond their fifth birthdays, according to a report for UNICEF and Save the Children. “Where funding gaps exist, for example for primary education or child health, aid can make all the difference,” said Justin Forsyth, head of Save the Children. BBC (4/16)
Ax fuel subsidies to promote growth, UNDP says

The lessons after the collapse of the Soviet Union show that the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies could not only reduce the levels of greenhouse gases, but provide a blueprint for more sustainable development that reduces inequality, waste and the overuse of natural resources, according to a report by the UN Development Program. “Right now, we are on an unsustainable path, and at some point that will be obvious to everyone,” said Balazs Horvath, lead author of the report. “When pressures are imminent enough, politicians will begin scrambling around to do something. And at that point, luck favors the prepared.” AlertNet (4/13)
10 April
Remittances and Foreign Aid for Growth
Historically, international aid has been an important source of financing for developing countries. But now, with the global economic crisis, the worry is these countries may see a drop off in that aid.
Meantime, remittances, that’s money sent back home by workers overseas has been on the rise for years.
5 April
Greg Mortenson to repay $1m to charity
(Al Jazeera) Author of “Three Cups of Tea” agrees to settlement after being accused of embezzling money from charity he founded. The end of a sad story?
1 April
Energy costs outstrip aid for poor countries
Developing countries must turn to cleaner, renewable sources of energy because oil prices are projected to remain high, and costs of energy imports already outstrip foreign development aid, according to the International Energy Agency. Today, developing countries are paying between $120 to $130 a barrel, said Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist, suggesting that clean development mechanisms are necessary to help lift poorer countries out of poverty. The Guardian (London) (4/1)
U.S. is urged to eliminate “tied” food aid
A new report estimates that U.S. food aid could have helped 17 million more people in 2010 if domestic laws hadn’t required that the food be bought from American suppliers and transported on American ships. The monetization of food aid resulted in about 40% of U.S.-funded food aid being bought from just three companies and at least 75% being transported on U.S.-flagged ships, according to Oxfam America and the American Jewish World Service. The Guardian (London) (3/30)
5 anti-poverty programs that work
Five women are profiled for their innovative efforts throughout the world to lift others out of poverty. Among the programs they have devised are a social enterprise that turns computer-based tasks at companies into jobs for people in developing countries, and a mobile money platform that empowers women and boosts financial transparency. The Christian Science Monitor (3/13)
Land grabs spotlight need for ownership rights
Multi-pronged efforts are under way at the United Nations to develop guidelines to protect the vulnerable against land grabbing in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where governments often share the benefits of land deals with investors, but leave their citizens in the lurch. Many countries lack clear ownership rights on individual and collective plots of land. The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (3/6)
Should middle-income countries get less aid?
Remarks by philanthropist Bill Gates, who said that Peru should spend more of its own money to help its poorest, have ignited debate on aid policy in middle-income countries. Economist Elmer Cuba said, “There are countries like Haiti [that need direct subsidies], but … Peruvians need to spend their own money to resolve their [poverty] problem. But the challenge for this and the next governments is [to know] how to spend all its money.” The Guardian (London)/Poverty Matters blog (2/29)
24 January
A new vision for foreign aid
(Ottawa Citizen) The problems at the Canadian International Development Agency are so serious and numerous that getting rid of the agency, and replacing it with something nimbler, might be the only solution.
To be fair to CIDA, many of its problems apply to the entire field of international development. Some aid gets funnelled through governments that are incompetent or evil or both. There are too many national aid agencies meddling in too many projects, serving too many shifting political and development goals.
14 January
Development That Works: OPIC Earns Money for the Treasury While Funding Development Throughout the World
(HuffPost) In a new year in which the candidates will rehash arguments about American exceptionalism, it is worth paying attention to a little known aspect of American foreign policy that breaks the mold in many ways. The U.S. Government’s development finance institution is the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. OPIC builds upon a known commodity — our entrepreneurial spirit — and puts it at the center of our outreach to the developing world.
Project to rid extreme poverty from ascendant Ghana
The West African country of Ghana, one of the most stable and successful countries across the continent, has become a model for the use of aid as not only an ethical, but a political issue. The next Millennium Village — a project of the Earth Institute, the UN Development Program and Millennium Promise — will be located in Kpasenkpe, in the country’s north. The Observer (London) (1/14)

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