Archive for November, 2011

Will women always be a bit on the side for the World Bank?

November 23, 2011

At the London launch of the World Bank’s latest report on gender today, one of its contributors praised the report as being a departure from previous “just add women and stir” approaches to gender in development policy and practice.

 There is much to be welcomed in the new report, in particular recognising the importance of the economic empowerment of women and tackling the barriers in formal, informal, economic and social institutions that can prevent it.

But the report is short on action – a challenge that needs to be picked up by Bank staff, member countries and civil society to make sure that the good analysis gets put into practice.

As the title of this blog suggests, this doesn’t mean just doing a few extra things to help women, but instead truly shifting thinking, policy, practice and the incentives, measurements and targets that guide policies and reforms.

A good example of a case for reform are the Doing Business rankings of the World Bank. Back in 2008, these were criticized as being gender-blind. A lack of data and methodological limitations of constructing the rankings have meant that three years on, they remain that way – although we now have a side report on business women and the law. It doesn’t receive a fraction of the marketing support, media attention or policy influence that the main rankings do. Despite making up a significant majority of small-scale entrepreneurs in poor countries, women remain a bit on the side.

Does it matter if we are doing both sets of things – the ones for women and the ones for the “mainstream” business community? The answer lies in opportunity costs, an issue raised by one of the commentators at today’s launch.

This year’s gender report lays out a raft of things that should be done to help women become more successful in their economic life – they are only marginally touched upon by the Doing Business rankings. If the profile of these essential reforms is sidelined by gender-blind, conventional economic policy tools like the doing business rankings, governments simply cannot do their best – either for women or the economy at large – with the limited financial and human resources at their disposal.

DR Congo Elections – a new beginning?

November 23, 2011

November 28th 2011 will be a very significant day in the lives of the citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): for only the second time in their 50years of independence, they will be able to take part in free and fair elections. For more than 30 years, the country was ruled by the tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko, who prioritised lining his own pockets and those of his family and friends; there was turmoil in the country following his overthrow in 1997 and much of the country was engulfed in conflict until 2006, when the first elections were held. Conflict still persists in Eastern Congo and many tens of thousands of people live in fear of armed militia active along the borders with Congo’s neighbours.

Elections in the DRC are no mean feat to accomplish. The country is vast and the infrastructure is almost non-existent. Much of the travel and movement of goods in the interior of the country is by river, but a journey from Kisangani in the East to Kinshasa, the capital can take up to three weeks to complete. This is fine if you are not in a hurry, but for the rapid distribution of voting cards or for bringing them together for counting as soon after voting is completed, it is not much use. For the coming elections, there are around 32million registered voters who will be casting their ballots in around 62,000 polling stations. Ballot boxes and voting cards have to be distributed by plane and helicopter to make sure that everything is in place in good time – a task which only the UN has the resources available to achieve.   (more…)

Working to make Natural Resources a blessing, not a curse

November 22, 2011

Twelve of the most mineral-rich countries and six of the most oil-rich countries in the world are defined by the World Bank as Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs). Although these countries are rich in natural resources, their people often continue to live in poverty and conflict. The resource curse is alive and well.

Arriving into a hotel in Lusaka, Zambia, the coffee table magazine was full of articles about mining companies, reflecting the boom in the industry alongside recent rises in copper prices. The magazine highlighted how philanthropy was funding community projects, but many of those who voted for the newly elected President had higher hopes that he would ensure the mining industry contributed through its core business activities to Zambian development . CAFOD partners, such as the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection, have been challenging tax avoidance by extractives companies and calling for a windfall tax on mining companies. (more…)

Q: What do the Paris Declaration, the computer game Tetris and a ball of string have in common?

November 17, 2011

A: They all appear in my PhD dissertation.

On a taxi ride a few weeks ago, Andy Sumner persuaded me that it was time to dust down my old PhD dissertation and put it out there in the world.  Time to follow Alan Hudson’s example, and give the people what they want… 

Here it is. 

My thesis was a social anthropological study of aid effectiveness efforts in Indonesia.  This meant hanging out with donors in Indonesia, following their attempts to ‘harmonise’ aid work and implement other aspects of the Paris Declaration.  I focused on the relationship between donors and the Government of Indonesia – and the politics that emerges when multiple groups with different interests come together in an uncertain, tumultous and fraught environment.  To cut a long story short, things get very difficult. 

A little exerpt to give you the idea:

Over lunch one day, Marta, a manager with UNDP, alluded to the invisibility of World Bank dominance. She advised me conspiratorially, “You’ve read Gramsci, haven’t you, darling, this is a hegemony!”. For Marta, the World Bank’s interest in dominance could be read from myriad issues in the office, from the vocabulary that World Bank staff used in meetings, to clerical errors over the printing of business cards. Once, when the internet on her computer was running slow, she furiously told me that World Bank staff had diverted the flow to their own computers.

Those currently negotiating the Busan Outcome Document will doubtless have plenty to preoccupy them over the next fortnight, never mind reading dissertations.  But it’s always a chastening reminder to think through the kinds of challenges and conflicts that might play out ‘on the ground’ on the back of these international agreements.   

Whatever the drafters are going through to agree an Outcome Document at Busan, these will only be the beginning of the struggles involved in making aid better.

View from the ground: Liberia elections

November 10, 2011
By Flickr user Multimedia Photography and Design- Newhouse School

Tuesday saw run-off elections in Liberia between the incumbent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (United Party, UP) and opposition candidate Winston Tubman (Congress for Democratic Change, CDC). 

However, Tubman called for a public boycott of the election claiming that the first round had been fraudulant. A protest organised outside the party’s headquarters on the eve of the elections descended into violence and resulted in a number of deaths, with sporadic violence continuing into election day.

The question on everyone’s lips is ‘What does this mean for Liberia?’  At worst, the election result could be violently contested and at best the winner is unlikely to be universally accepted, making governing very challenging.

David Konneh, Executive Director of CAFOD partner Don Bosco Homes  lives in Monrovia and shared with us some of his reflections of what things have been like on the ground over the last few days…

On Monday I was trying to get to the ECOWAS building to pick up my brown card, to travel to  Sierra Leone. The office is just  two minutes from Madam Sirleaf and the opposition CDC headquarters.  As I drove up I heard shooting and then saw teargas everywhere. I had to reverse quickly and didn’t know what to do. I saw young people confronting the police  and I was scared. I didn’t want to stay in my car, for fear that I might be dragged out and the vehicle set alight.

I jumped out of the car, and hid behind it, as I crouched on the ground, I heard the voice of a woman calling me into her house.  ‘Come inside, come inside, be quick’, she called. I dashed into her home and from her window both of us scared watched what was unfolding in front of us. My eyes hadn’t escaped the sting of teargas, and  they started to smart. My befriender, gave me potato leaves to put on my eyes, she swore that this old remedy would  work and after sometime sure enough the smarting  became less. With my eyes a little better I called my office and told my staff to stay put and not to leave until things were calmer. (more…)

Vers un cadre de développement d’après 2015: Quels sont les scénarios?

November 4, 2011

Les OMD sont nés pendant une période de relative stabilité, de prospérité et de cohérence. Les économies occidentales montaient en puissance, le G7 était une force dominante dans la diplomatie internationale et un consensus sur les questions de développement avait été atteint pendant les années 1990. Le contexte était relativement favorable à la conclusion d’un accord sur des objectifs globaux pour le développement.

Aujourd’hui, au contraire, la crise financière a brisé la confiance dans une pensée économique établie depuis longtemps, le pouvoir international est devenu plus diffus et multi polaire et le changement climatique laisse entrevoir des temps difficiles. Ce contexte, dans lequel il faudra négocier un cadre international d’après 2015, pose beaucoup plus de défis. Il est autrement plus complexe et imprévisible.

Dans ces conditions, que peut-on espérer?

CAFOD a publié en juillet dernier une courte note d’orientation qui schématise cinq scénarios concernant un cadre d’après 2015. Les scénarios décrivent différentes possibilités quant à la manière dont pourrait émerger ce cadre. Ils sont accompagnés d’une brève analyse sur les risques et les opportunités qu’ils impliquent.

Version en français ici.

The English version can be found here.

Many thanks to Claudine Leger for this translation.

Hacia un marco de desarrollo después de 2015: ¿Cuáles son los escenarios?

November 4, 2011

Los ODM nacieron durante un periodo de estabilidad relativa, prosperidad y coherencia. Las economías occidentales estaban creciendo, el G7 era una fuerza dominante en la diplomacia internacional, y un consenso sobre las cuestiones de desarrollo había sido alcanzado en los años noventas. Las condiciones eran relativamente buenas para crear un acuerdo sobre objetivos globales para el desarrollo.

Hoy, en contraste, la crisis financiera destruyó la fe en un pensamiento económico establecido desde hace mucho tiempo, el poder internacional se volvió más difuso y multi-polar, y el cambio climático promete tiempos difíciles. Se trata de un contexto mucho más desafiante, complejo e imprevisible en el cual habrá que negociar un marco internacional después de 2015.

En estas circunstancias, ¿qué podemos esperar?

En julio pasado, CAFOD escribió un informe corto que describe cinco escenarios para un marco después de 2015. Los escenarios son diferentes posibilidades sobre cómo un marco podría nacer, así como una breve análisis de los riesgos y de las oportunidades que implican.

Si quiere leer la versión completa del informe en español, de clic aquí.

The English version can be found here.

Many thanks to Claudine Leger for this translation.

Small cheer for the poorest countries at the G20

November 3, 2011

Rather heartening at the end of a day when the G20 felt more like a blow-by-blow account of the troubled career of Greek Prime Minister Papandreou than a conference on fixing the global economy, President Sarkozy chose to talk a lot about the poorest countries in his final press conference.

Understandably, there is still a lot of attention on the threat to the Eurozone, but it was encouraging to have headlines about innovative financing, and particularly the Financial Transaction Tax which he described as feasible, financially necessary and morally unavoidable (my rough translation).

This is largely because of the high profile report by Bill Gates to the G20 on financing development, which among other things calls for an FTT, legally binding transparency requirements for extractive companies so that developing countries can better tax their activities, and taxes on transport industries.

Of course, we always look for more and better – CAFOD, for example, is seeking country by country reporting by all multinationals to be enshrined in international accounting standards – but that global leaders are talking about new sources of finance and targetting them at eradicating global poverty and adapting and mitigating the impacts of climate change is a welcome development.

Perhaps these announcements would not stand out so much if we had had the G20 we hoped for when President Sarkozy set out his amibitious agenda last year. Development issues and key issues of global financial regulation remain largely unaddressed or have unambitious, watered down proposals.

But the G20 is an unlikely forum to deliver such things. It has proven to be too responsive to the financial sector, in particular, and too exclusive – with nominal input from civil society and indeed from those poorest countries that President Sarkozy was so concerned about.

G20 & Development? It’s all Greek to them (sadly)

November 3, 2011

Poor old Greece has unfairly become the whipping boy of the G20. But you can’t help feeling that if the likes of Greece and the Greek people – whose desire to have a say in how their economy gets out of the hole that it’s in has caused all the kerfuffle – had more of a say, the G20 might do a better job.

The G20 thinking on the Greek debt problem goes something like this: Greece has gotten into a mess because of the irresponsible behaviour of the financial sector, the Greek government (and people) need to pay the price to get out of this mess in order to keep the financial sector onside.

The G20 slavish obsession with reactions of “the market” in the absence of real efforts to manage the market better is bewildering.

CAFOD agrees with the recent Vatican statement (perhaps unsurprisingly) that there must be a better way for governments to manage global markets, rather than be managed by them.

One aspect of this would be an independent and predictable framework for arbitrating on sovereign debt claims alongside standards for responsible lending and borrowing.

The lack of such a system has left developing countries, and more recently Eurozone ones, forced to negotiate from a position of weakness “austerity measures” (that’s cuts to us) and held the G20 summit hostage to negotiations and brinkmanship – rather than finding the fixes for what got us into this mess in the first place.

If you asked the people in developing countries and in Greece, if they wanted a more sensible way out of debt problems than watching nervously for market reactions (in the name of stability and growth), forcing cuts to keep them happy and jeopardizing stability and growth as a result, the G20 priorities might look somewhat different.

Follow @CAFODwire on Twitter for all the latest updates on the G20 Summit


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