In February this year I walked into our Freetown office, in Sierra Leone, and was greeted with “Think Small! You’re here! Welcome!” – who needs a name when one has a project so closely associated with you? Read the rest of this entry »
Written by Tina Chang with inputs from Anne Lindsay and Sarah Montgomery
“Engaging the private sector is not about how we feel about business; it’s about how high our aspirations are for poor people. If we rely only upon foreign aid, then our aspirations are far too low.” (Jim Yong Kim)
President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim made the above statement in a recent Oxfam blog. Similar statements were made at this year’s annual meetings in Washington and the Bank is increasingly seeing a central role for the private sector in the fight against extreme poverty.
It may be stating the obvious to say that the impacts of the private sector on development are as diverse as the private sector itself but it does bear repeating. Ultimately this understanding is important for unlocking the (we would agree with Dr Kim) significant role of the private sector in development.
It was very exciting to witness the shift in the understanding of poverty of many governments, who have adopted a more multidimensional measurement of poverty. The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), led by Sabina Akire, can claim the great achievement of having pushed over 20 countries to either adopt or experiment with new ways of measuring poverty. The OPHI played a key role in changing the conceptualisation of poverty amongst policymakers.
Since its inception, a key demand of the Beyond2015 campaign was that the process of defining a new framework for development to replace the MDGs would merge with the process of identifying a path to achieve sustainable development emerged from the RIO+20 summit. Apart from a few states, it seems very clear that the large majority agree that there should be a single process leading to one legitimate post-2015 development framework.
By Christina Chang
The idea that having a decent income would be a priority for someone living in poverty might seem screamingly obvious rather than revolutionary. But the shift in approach to economic development strategies that this would require is, in fact, rather radical.
The need to help poor men and women to help themselves by supporting their livelihoods was a key finding of the Compass project, which asked 1420 poor men and women across four countries, what was their agenda for a new global deal to fight poverty.
“The first thing that anyone needs is a job. We all need to be employed to fight poverty” Mrs Bhebhe, 58, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
Over recent decades, economic development strategies have focused on getting the macro-economic conditions right, putting in place a good regulatory framework and helping countries to attract foreign firms and develop export industries that can help to transform their economies.
Helping local small businesses has at best come a sorry second to these efforts. Sometimes these “livelihoods” interventions have been seen as more social endeavours to help people out but not really relevant to economic development. Sometimes they have been criticised as counter-productive – distracting from the real business of economic development or locking people (and countries) into low-grade jobs. Sometimes policy makers have argued that the best thing to help small businesses is to focus on those more glamorous, big win economic development outcomes –having bigger GDP growth or export figures than your neighbours.
Getting the big stuff right is still important, but evidence is mounting that this is not enough to ensure that jobs are created or poverty reduced.
Compass research points to another economic development strategy proposed by poor men and women to help them get themselves out of poverty and contribute to their local, national and, yes, global economy, rather than wait for benefits to “trickle down” to them.
The first element of this strategy is unsurprising – many poor men and women still lack the basics to participate in economic life. These range from a lack of land to farm to a lack of access to health and education services that enable you to be fit and skilled enough to earn living.
“Those who live well have more land” Wage worker, Charagua, Bolivia
“..when you have gone to school and got a job, you will be getting a regular salary” Uganda farmer, 25
Getting the basics right is something governments have committed to do and making progress on – notably over 180 governments committed to a “social protection floor” giving all citizens the right to a basic income and access to essential services. Our job now is to make sure that these promises are realised in a way that supports poor people’s livelihoods.
Perhaps more surprising is the emphasis that Compass participants put on addressing issues of power and risk as critical to successful livelihoods.
Just having access to land is not enough, if you then don’t have enough power to ensure a profit from what you grow there. Farmers often had to share their income with landowners and to sell to middlemen on unfavourable terms so that:
“no matter how we work hard in the farm, our standard of living still remains low.” Ricardo, 45, farmer, Philippines
Risk, and the measures that people need to take to deal with it, undermines livelihoods. Risks were described as multiple and increasing – risks of ill health, poor labour conditions, volatility in global markets and also due to climate change.
“When the price of nuts drops, it affects us all, us, the traders, the pickers. All the village is affected when the nut price drops because the entire economy works around this.”
Poor communities are ill-equipped to deal with such risks, which can have devastating and long-term impacts as a result. To cope, some take on several jobs and extra work (or over-exploit themselves, as one participant explained it), undermining their longer-term earnings or even their health. Others migrate, which can provide much needed income, but which can also increase the vulnerability of the migrant, as well as create new problems for those they leave behind.
The views of the men and women participating in the Compass research, chime with the findings of CAFOD’s Thinking Small work with hundreds of poor, small-scale entrepreneurs. This research found that traditional donor priorities and approaches did not match well with the needs and priorities of poor entrepreneurs. For example, initiatives often helped them to become better at producing things – such as handicrafts or honey – but they didn’t succeed because didn’t pay enough attention to demand, as one Compass participant put it: “There is not much selling, there is no money”.
With initiatives such as Compass and Thinking Small, we begin to hope that the era of assuming that overall economic development will benefit poor men and women and of assuming that others know best what they need and what works for them, is beginning to come to a close. It’s a slow revolution, but it’s a start.
By Collins Cheruiyot
About the author: Collins Cheruiyot is CAFOD’s Policy Advocacy Adviser based in Nairobi
As a Kenyan, I found it troubling to read the raft of news stories following the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the state of our climate. Articles still asking ‘is it or isn’t it happening’, the truth sayers and deniers battling it out on the printed pages of newspapers.
The paradox is that local communities, despite living in poverty and often lacking education, understand the on-going climate threat and how it endangers their future and that of their children much better that climate skeptics, who are often so distant from the realities facing local communities, yet have a big say in policy discussions.
When it comes to global warming we can’t afford to be still fooling around with the idea of cooling. Despite being least responsible for climate change, poor communities in the developing world are being hit the most and hardest by its impacts. Scientists are as clear as they can be about the fact that mankind is responsible for global warming. Picking data from a few years to claim that warming is not happening, rather than looking at the long-term trend, is completely unscientific and bogus.
On the ground, we know that getting on with acting on climate change matters. Visiting rural communities in Kenya, hit in 2011 by the worst drought in sixty years which gripped the Horn and East of Africa, one soon learns that people understand their land and the seasons. The 2011 drought saw over 439,000 heads of livestock die in the Borana area in Ethiopia with similar losses in region.
Whoever you speak to, a pastoralist herder, a small holder farmer, they will recount how much more extreme weather has hit them, disrupting their way of life – from being at one with nature, they are forced to become nature’s refugees, moving across the land in search of water and food for their families and animals.
By 2030, it is expected that in sub-Saharan Africa droughts could make growing maize impossible. Most of Kenya now experiences climate extremes such as frequent, irregular rainfall and intense droughts. Once farming or pastoralist communities knew when and how much they will grow, now they are never sure what the changing seasons might allow them to grow and when.
They also have to deal with more water shortages, depleted pastureland, animal and crop diseases and loss of livestock. This has a knock-on effect on food supply, which impacts on the vulnerable, especially the under -fives, the elderly and pregnant or breast-feeding mothers, who become more susceptible to malnutrition and other diseases.
When water and pasture become scarce then it can also be the tinder box that ignites conflicts between communities, leading to the needless deaths of women, children and men.
CAFOD has a long history of working in Horn and East Africa. As well as responding to emergencies, they also need to support communities to tackle climate change and adapt to its impacts. CAFOD’s work is transforming the lives of people by building up their resilience to climate change, so that they can continue to live on the land and earn a decent living from it. Programmes range from supporting communities to better conserve water, or growing their vegetables in a sack, to helping people to access clean sources of energy, through the installation of solar panels in some of the remotest communities that do not have access to the electricity grid.
We may be poor and in many cases marginalised within society but we have been speaking out on the impact of climate change for many years. It’s time for people in other countries who still have the luxury of closing their eyes and ears, to listen to our voices.
For more information, read CAFOD’s new report on the impacts of climate change – What have we done? How the changing climate is hitting the poorest hardest.
By Tina Chang and Sarah Montgomery
As another downpour drenches us in a very wet Washington, DC, it is very tempting to say that it is a damp start for the new World Bank strategy, launched this week at its 2013 annual meetings. But it’s been a very interesting few days for CAFOD’s economic justice team (both of us!) who are here to discuss ideas of how the Bank’s new, noble aspirations – of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and ensuring that the poorest get their fair share in prosperity gains – can be realised.
There are a lot of new and not so new buzz words flying around.
Poverty rates will not fall enough, we are told, unless there are top growth performances in developing countries and unless the poorest men and women benefit from those gains disproportionately – so the Bank needs to be “transformational”, take “smart risks” and promote “inclusive growth,” adopting the jobs mantra of the G20 governments. Just one disaster, we hear, can undo all progress, so we also need “resilience” and, of course, “sustainability”.
It is easy to be cynical about the World Bank. It is a large institution, contradictions are rife and change is difficult. As President Jim Yong Kim announces that one of the three pillars of the Bank’s climate agenda is sustainable energy for all (the other two are climate smart agriculture and low carbon more liveable cities), we learn that the Bank’s spending on fossil fuel projects, that have had at best mixed results for energy access for the poorest, rose again last year (Bit.ly/15udzv9). A major tool for the new inclusive growth agenda, is the old and highly-flawed Doing Business project.
But there are reasons to be optimistic this time around. Jim Kim has launched the first major reorganisation at the Bank for more than a decade, partly to promote the Bank as a facilitator to help countries learn from each others experience and to pull together evidence of what has worked. A big change for an institution often accused in the past of peddling ideologies and using its financial clout in developing countries to tell them what to do. One of Kim’s first actions as President was to launch an independent review of Doing Business, which has resulted in a radical agenda to overhaul this flagship project.
Of course, it is early days and CAFOD and civil society groups from around the world are here to try to ensure that the new impetus for change results in real improvements for poor men and women.
That’s why we gathered together experts from inside and outside the Bank to discuss how it can get better at “thinking small”.
Small and micro firms play a key role in economic development, inclusive growth and poverty alleviation (see our new Think Small report which will be online soon). Unless we include them as a target and support them as an important contributor to development we will continue to exclude the poorest from economic development and ‘shared prosperity’.
The Bank recognises the importance of small and micro enterprises (see their World Development Report 2013: Jobs) but does not have a coherent strategy for these key players in achieving its new corporate objectives. It does not even have a decent standard definition of what a small business is, it varies from study to project to department, with one working definition being a firm receiving a loan Dampof less than $15 million!
There is still much for the Bank, CAFOD and others to do. The process for reform of Doing Business is not yet mapped out and the discussion on a possible strategy on small businesses has only just started. Looks like there will be more trips to rainy Washington for us.
Time for leaders to listen to the people and commit to a single process of defining a single post-2015 agendaSeptember 11, 2013
This entry is a joint Op Ed by Mwangi Waituru and Neva Frecheville, co-chairs of Beyond 2015, and Leo Williams, the international coordinator
As the final negotiations on the Outcome Document of the Special Event on the MDGs and post-2015 agenda of 25 September kick off the member states of the UN must seize the moment to clearly lay out a legitimate and participatory roadmap to a single process of defining a single global development and sustainability agenda post 2015.