Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Is access to justice for poor communities really so risky for British business interests?

April 8, 2014

justiceimagesIn 2011 and 2012 the UK Government submitted official briefings to the US Supreme Court in relation to two high profile legal cases alleging corporate involvement in grave human rights abuses in the Niger Delta and Papua New Guinea.

These briefings questioned the right of the affected communities to use the US Courts to bring cases against Shell and Rio Tinto respectively. On 7 April the Guardian reported on the backstory to this decision, including the links between Shell and Rio Tinto and the Foreign Office’s official intervention in relation to these US Court cases.

The article is based on documents drawn from the CORE corporate responsibility coalition’s freedom of information requests.

They raise key questions about how and why the Government chose to prioritize what it saw as business interests in the Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum & Shell case.  (more…)

COMPASS 2015: a faith perspective

March 12, 2014

CAFOD’s participatory research project, COMPASS 2015, engages with the perspectives of poor and marginalised people and communities as a resource for formulating development policy after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. The research involved 1,420 participants from 56 different communities in four countries – Philippines, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Bolivia – and guides CAFOD’s policy priorities in the global debate.

But what does this mean from a Catholic perspective?


Helping Developing Economies Grow: the UK Government Approach

March 10, 2014

By Geoffrey Chongo: Head of Programmes, Jesuit Centre for Theology Reflection


The last week of February has been an eventful week for me. I have had a rare privilege of participating in a trade out of poverty event in Parliament, an event that was graced by the Minister of State for International Development, Mr. Alan Duncan. My role in the event was to give a Zambian perspective as a response to the UK’s new approach of supporting developing countries’ economic development agenda.

The UK’s new focus on economic growth through private sector development is welcome. Like they have rightly put it, economic growth is an important means of raising people’s incomes and reducing poverty in the developing world – it creates jobs and opportunities for poor people to support their families and build more stable futures. However, I hasten to say that from my experience, the manner of this growth will determine whether it will raise incomes and reduce poverty in an equitable way. Growth alone is not sufficient to reduce poverty unless it is guided so that it is inclusive. Otherwise it creates other concerns like income inequality.

UK Government should therefore ensure that the growth it supports is inclusive by way of including small businesses, where most poor people work, in its growth approach. Small businesses should be consulted on the support that the UK Government intends to give to private sector development so as to incorporate their needs.

It is also important to note that small businesses in developing countries particularly Zambia have developed entrepreneurial mindsets and thus any support given to them is not likely to be treated as aid simply for consumption but for applying in their small businesses. Reflecting on the blog comments on the article that we wrote on how to achieve pro-poor economic development it is evident that the role of small businesses in equitable economic development cannot be ignored. Small businesses’ challenges need to be addressed if they have to be helped out of poverty.

It was interesting to see Government agreeing to an open discussion on a very important government policy. It is my hope that CAFOD will continue to work in this area to effectively influence government policies as they relate to the poor.

What 2014 might bring for 2015 and beyond

January 30, 2014

[Dowload graphic]

The New Year brings new plans for the way forward, which will hopefully lead to a post-2015 development framework being agreed in September 2015.

At the 7th Open Working Group (OWG) session on SDGs in January, the co-chairs suggested a process forward which you can also find outlined in their letter from 17 January. It will be discussed and probably even agreed in an additional meeting on 4 February. Here a little overview of the suggested next steps:


Trademark Southern Africa – what could be done differently?

December 18, 2013

Paul Spray


By Paul Spray (Traidcraft) with inputs from Sarah Montgomery (CAFOD)

Paul is the Director of Policy and Programmes at Traidcraft. CAFOD and Traidcraft have been working together for a number of years on the aid for trade and small business agenda (see the footnotes below). It is great to welcome Paul as a guest

This month, DFID for the first time cancelled a programme as a result of a review by the government’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). It was a flagship programme called Trademark Southern Africa, whose purpose was “to improve southern Africa’s trade performance and competitiveness for the benefit of poor women and men”.


Thinking small… who, me?

November 13, 2013

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? (more…)

Private Sector and development at the World Bank

November 1, 2013

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.


Do we need the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) for post-2015?

October 22, 2013


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.


The convergence debate: more than getting an efficient process

October 22, 2013


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.


Let them do it for themselves: the Compass revolution

October 16, 2013

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.


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