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October 2015

Blog Post of the Month: Bill Easterly and the denial of inconvenient truths

Brian Levy's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In October 2015, the featured blog post is "Bill Easterly and the denial of inconvenient truths" by Brian Levy.

The Tyranny of Experts book coverIn his 2014 book, The Tyranny of Experts, Bill Easterly uses his rhetorical gifts to make the case for ‘free development’. In so doing, he takes his trademark blend of insight and relentlessness to a new level. But in this moment of history that has been described by democracy champion, Larry Diamond as a “democracy recession”[i], is it helpful to argue by taking no prisoners and not letting inconvenient truths get in the way?

Easterly, to be sure, communicates powerfully two big and important ideas. The first is that, as per his title, behind a seemingly technocratic approach to development are some inconvenient political realities. As he puts it:

The implicit vision in development today is that of well-intentioned autocrats advised by technical experts…. The word technocracy itself is an early twentieth century coinage that means ‘rule by experts’” (p.6)

In surfacing the implausible assumptions which underlie a world view of ‘rule by experts’, Easterly does us a service. One cannot engage effectively with today’s difficult realities on the basis of a vision of decision-making which ignores the inconvenient truths of self-seeking ambition, of contestation over ends among competing factions, and of imbalances of power which marginalize the interests of large segments of society. (Of course, as this essay will explore, many of these difficult realities arise – in different ways – in both predatory authoritarian and messily democratic settings.)

The second powerful idea is The Tyranny of Experts paean to freedom – “a system of political and economic rights in which many political and economic actors will find the right actions to promote their own development”.  (pp. 215-216). With eloquent libertarian rhetoric of a kind which Ayn Rand would no doubt have applauded, Easterly argues that:

we must not let caring about material suffering of the poor change the subject from caring about the rights of the poor”. (p.339)

Yes, but we also must not fall into a trap which parallels that of the technocratic fallacy – and let our high-minded advocacy of the rights of the poor blind us to the challenges of how to translate our rhetoric into reality. And it is here that Easterly’s Tyranny falls way, way short.

Has the governance agenda lost its mojo globally?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Romanian RevolutionWhen I started work in international development in London in the late 1990s, a more experienced colleague gave me the following insight. At some point, she said, I would either catch the bug and stay in the field or I would not and leave it to go and do something else. And it is usually some agenda within the broad field that would get you hooked, she added. She was right. I caught the bug and stayed in the field, and the agenda that excited my passion was and remains governance: efforts to improve governance systems in developing countries in order to do real and permanent good. The reason was obvious. I had moved to London from Lagos, Nigeria, having participated actively in the public affairs of the country; and I had left thoroughly convinced that unless governance improved in Nigeria there was no way that the abundance in the country would lead to improved welfare for the vast majority of its citizens. That remains my conviction.

In those days working on governance issues was exciting; for, it was like joining an army on the march, one that appeared ready to sweep everything before it. There was definite intellectual energy in the field. Practitioners had poise and confidence. Initiatives were being dreamt up by different donor agencies. Funds were pouring into the field. And we began to see a new breed of development professional: the so-called ‘governance advisers’. But behind it all, I suppose, was a powerful zeitgeist: the Berlin Wall was down, communism was on the ropes, and liberal constitutional democracy appeared to have triumphed with resounding finality.

But now, in late 2015, it all feels very different globally. In the words of the B.B. King classic: ‘The thrill is gone’.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Freedom on the Net 2015
Freedom House
Internet freedom around the world has declined for the fifth consecutive year, with more governments censoring information of public interest and placing greater demands on the private sector to take down offending content. State authorities have also jailed more users for their online writings, while criminal and terrorist groups have made public examples of those who dared to expose their activities online. This was especially evident in the Middle East, where the public flogging of liberal bloggers, life sentences for online critics, and beheadings of internet-based journalists provided a powerful deterrent to the sort of digital organizing that contributed to the Arab Spring. In a new trend, many governments have sought to shift the burden of censorship to private companies and individuals by pressing them to remove content, often resorting to direct blocking only when those measures fail.
 
The hidden digital divide
SciDev.Net
Data is fast becoming the universal currency that defines personal status and business success. Those with unlimited access to information have a clear economic and social advantage over those for whom it is not readily to hand. For example, people who can go online can access education and the global marketplace more easily. They also have the political knowledge to demand transparency from their government. When the term digital divide was coined in the 1990s, it simply referred to the growing inequality between people with any type of internet access and those without. On this basis, clear gaps were visible between rich and poor countries, between cities and rural communities.
 

Reflecting on being radical: Integrating theories of change as practice

Heather Lanthorn's picture

Ms. Gurugalpola, teaches parents and children about dental hygieneRecently, Craig Valters published new work on theories of change. He calls not for a new tool (product) but for a more careful approach (process) to practicing and engaging in development. That is, changing the state of the world for someone. And learning from it. And, ideally, communicating that learning. (Craig is pessimistic that we are near actually ushering in a learning agenda to replace the results agenda. On this, I hope he is wrong.)
 
In this post, I echo and expand on the idea of theories of change as allowing “space for critical reflection” (p. 4) and push back slightly on two of the outlined ‘key principles’ of a theory of change approach: being ‘locally led’ and thinking ‘compass, not map.’ I also include some of the comments Craig made on the original version of this post, here.

I have two disclaimers, given points raised both in the paper and in Suvojit’s follow-up blog. The first is a musing, though I have adopted the theory of change language along with the herd. I wish we could still revise it to hypotheses of change or ideas of change or stuff that might matter because we thought hard about it, looked at what had been done before, and talked to people about what could be done now (or something else catchier but far more tentative, humble, and open to updating than 'theory'). Alas. On the brighter side, Craig notes that, at least, “theory implies we have to think really hard about it, even if what we end up with is not a theory in the social science sense of the word.”
 
The second is a confession. I really like boxes and arrowsnot as the definitive product associated with a theory of change but as some means of organizing ideas that people can stand around, look at, point to, and ask, “have we learned anything about how this arrow really works?” While I don’t want to foist the need for a visual on anyone, especially if it is just going to end as a bad flowchart, I feel I should at least lightly advocate that a visual can be a useful tool for learning and may be friendlier to revisit than a lengthy narrative, and it's usually prettier. In his follow-up responses, Craig echoes that a diagram, no matter how pretty, “is not in itself a Theory of Change.” I concur.
 

Media (R)evolutions: The internet and the death of languages

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

A large body of evidence shows that affordable and effective broadband connectivity is vital to economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. Nevertheless, while internet access has spread around the world and many more people now have access, certain barriers still exist— like language.

Today, only a fraction of world languages– an estimated 5% (by number of languages)– is present on the Internet, according to The State of Broadband 2015, a report by the Broadband Commission. English continues to dominate the web, and around 54.5% of all web content is still in English despite huge growth in users that do not understand that language or who prefer to access content in their native languages. According to analysis of the most popular 10 million websites by W3techs, after English, the most common languages are Russian (5.9%), German (5.7%), Japanese (5.0%), and Spanish (4.7%). Moreover, a significant of languages (such as Hindi and Swahili) are used by less than 0.1% of these websites, and most of the world’s languages are not represented at all in their data.

Languages used on the Internet

Global cyclists say NO to carbon - opt for CDM

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

bikes in Ghana“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” - John F. Kennedy
 
From cradle to grave …

Currently, two billion bicycles are in use around the world. Children, students, professionals, laborers, civil servants and seniors are pedaling around their communities. They all experience the freedom and the natural opportunity for exercise that the bicycle easily provides.

That number could rise to as many as five billion bicycles by 2050, especially with the development of the electric bike that we are seeing worldwide. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike, and the annual production of bicycles is now over 100 million per year. In comparison, car production is currently at about 60 million units per year.

The bicycle is unique and deserves to be given a focus by the global community that it surprisingly has not yet received.

This is especially true of politicians who often underestimate the power of voters who take their freedom to pedal very seriously. City planners also need to be aware of how the bicycle contributes to decreased congestion and improved urban livability worldwide. There are, however, some wonderful exceptions such as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Rome mayor, Ignazio Marino, Taipei mayor, Ko Wen-je, the 108th Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, Paris mayor, Anne Hildalgo, Rio de Janeiro mayor, Eduardo Paes, and former Washington DC mayor, Adrian Fenty who recognize the importance of incorporating bikes into city planning.

Many countries and cities already share best practices on how to become more cycling friendly. A process that the European Cyclists’ Federation and World Cycling Alliance is heavily engaged in, which recently lead to the EU ministers of Transport agreeing in a groundbreaking “declaration on cycling as a climate friendly transport mode” at a meeting in Luxembourg in early October 2015.

The former mayor of Munich, Christian Ude once said, "Do we want people in leading positions that are too scared to cross a city center on a bicycle? Of course not.  Let cyclists get at it!”  Cyclists – as citizens - tend to be a very organized and active group with bulk voting power that could be unleashed at any time to advocate for global policy change.

A global movement against corruption: It is happening now!

Leonard McCarthy's picture

Also available in: Español | Français | العربية

Third Annual International Corruption Hunter AllianceTaking note of headline news in recent weeks, one cannot escape the reality that efforts to fighting corruption are succeeding. A decade ago, success was a privilege to societies who -by virtue of democratic gains- could claim rights to holding public officials accountable. Today, it is not easy to get away with corruption. Not even if you are a major multinational, a senior government official, or an institution with millions of followers across the world.

Within our network- the World Bank International Corruption Hunters Alliance- we feel optimistic about all that is happening to support our mission; that of ensuring every development dollar is spent with integrity. We go to work every day and the focus is how do we prevent bad things from happening. To achieve that at the World Bank Group, we are continually advancing our investigative techniques, our preventive advice, monitoring the compliance standards of debarred entities and engaging with partners across multilateral development banks, national enforcement agencies and CSOs to strengthen this young global movement against corruption. It is critical that this momentum continues to sustain change at a global scale.

Undoubtedly we face a few challenges along the way; some more complex than others, none that cannot be overcome. Last fiscal year, the World Bank prevented approximately $138 million across 20 contracts from being awarded to companies that had attempted to engage in misconduct. This is progress that could not have been achieved without years of investigative experience invested in gathering evidence, recognizing patterns of misconduct, and documenting lessons learnt.

Today, we are able to support project teams to make smarter risk-based interventions. Whether at  project design, supervision and/or evaluation; our diverse team of investigators and forensic/preventive specialists offer a solid interpretation of red flags, unusual/awkward behavior by contractors, in addition to an effective response to allegations of misconduct impacting World Bank-financed projects.

Quote of the week: Justin Trudeau

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Justin Trudeau“Conservatives are not our enemy. They are our neighbours.”

-Justin Trudeau, a Canadian politician and the prime minister-designate of Canada. When sworn in, he will be the first child of a previous prime minister to hold the post; he is the eldest son of the 15th Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, and Margaret Trudeau. Trudeau was elected in the 2008 federal election to represent Papineau in the House of Commons. He won the 2013 Liberal Party leadership election, and in 2015 federal election, he lead the Liberals to a majority victory, moving the party from third-place with 36 seats to first place with 184 seats. It was the largest-ever numerical increase by a party in a Canadian election.

Bill Easterly and the denial of inconvenient truths

Brian Levy's picture

The Tyranny of Experts book coverIn his 2014 book, The Tyranny of Experts, Bill Easterly uses his rhetorical gifts to make the case for ‘free development’. In so doing, he takes his trademark blend of insight and relentlessness to a new level. But in this moment of history that has been described by democracy champion, Larry Diamond as a “democracy recession”[i], is it helpful to argue by taking no prisoners and not letting inconvenient truths get in the way?

Easterly, to be sure, communicates powerfully two big and important ideas. The first is that, as per his title, behind a seemingly technocratic approach to development are some inconvenient political realities. As he puts it:

The implicit vision in development today is that of well-intentioned autocrats advised by technical experts…. The word technocracy itself is an early twentieth century coinage that means ‘rule by experts’” (p.6)

In surfacing the implausible assumptions which underlie a world view of ‘rule by experts’, Easterly does us a service. One cannot engage effectively with today’s difficult realities on the basis of a vision of decision-making which ignores the inconvenient truths of self-seeking ambition, of contestation over ends among competing factions, and of imbalances of power which marginalize the interests of large segments of society. (Of course, as this essay will explore, many of these difficult realities arise – in different ways – in both predatory authoritarian and messily democratic settings.)

The second powerful idea is The Tyranny of Experts paean to freedom – “a system of political and economic rights in which many political and economic actors will find the right actions to promote their own development”.  (pp. 215-216). With eloquent libertarian rhetoric of a kind which Ayn Rand would no doubt have applauded, Easterly argues that:

we must not let caring about material suffering of the poor change the subject from caring about the rights of the poor”. (p.339)
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Worth Every Cent
Foreign Affairs
In a Foreign Affairs article last year, we wrote what we hoped would be a provocative argument: “Cash grants to the poor are as good as or better than many traditional forms of aid when it comes to reducing poverty.” Cash grants are cheaper to administer and effective at giving recipients what they want, rather than what experts think they need. That argument seems less radical by the day. Experimental impact evaluations continue to show strong results for cash grants large or small. In August, David McKenzie of the World Bank reported results from a study of grants of $50,000 on average to entrepreneurs in Nigeria that showed large positive impacts on business creation, survival, profits, sales, and employment, including an increase of more than 20 percent in the likelihood of a firm having more than ten employees.

No, Deaton’s Nobel prize win isn’t a victory for aid sceptics
Bond
A lot of fuss has been made this week about the latest winner of the Nobel prize in economics, British-born economist Angus Deaton, and his apparent aversion to foreign aid. Predictably, much of the press has taken his victory as a vindication of their suspicions on aid. It’s worth getting a few things straight though. Deaton did not win the Nobel prize for his criticism of aid. He was awarded the prize for his analysis of inequality and creation of better tools with which to analyse living standards amongst the poorest people in the world. Deaton is, in fact, more of a critic than an opponent of aid. In the same way that a film critic doesn’t hate all films (although it sometimes seems they do), Deaton doesn’t hate all aid.

Things I Learned from WikiStage WBG Lima

Maya Brahmam's picture

The first WikiStage WBG was held in Lima on October 6 on the topic of social inclusion. You can view the entire show at World Bank Live.  

WikiStage Lima crewWhat’s a WikiStage?
This was a special event organized by the World Bank and produced under license from WikiStage. It featured an inspirational sequence of talks, performance, and films in a 3-minute, 6-minute or 9 minute format. The WikiStage Association in Paris is a non-profit organization that supports a global network of volunteers and event organizers. WikiStage is independent from Wikipedia or other “Wiki” projects and is a young knowledge sharing collaborative that began in 2013 and today represents a network of more than 50 event organizers in 10 countries.

Our goal was to create an interesting and tightly choreographed program that explored social inclusion through the perspectives of people from a variety of different backgrounds and disciplines. It was presented in English and Spanish to a live audience of 500 and livestreamed to a global online audience.

Here are three things I learned from organizing the WikiStage WBG Lima.

Campaign art: Want to be a hero? First, go wash your hands.

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Hand-washing is one of the single best habits any individual can adopt to lead a healthier, happier life. Hand-washing with soap is an extremely effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrhea and acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia, which is the number one cause of mortality among children under five years old, according to the World Health Organization. Over 2 million children die from pneumonia each year, and diarrhea and pneumonia together account for almost 3.5 million child deaths annually. Simply hand-washing with soap could, though, could reduce the number of deaths due to diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by one-quarter, saving more lives than any single vaccine or medical intervention.

These are some of the many reasons that Global Handwashing Day was established. It is observed on October 15 with the aim of increasing awareness and knowledge about the importance of hand-washing with soap to prevent diseases and save lives.

The following video, produced by Help Nepal.today, encourages people in Nepal to wash their hands with soap. The lyrics ask, “How can Sabunman fly? Why is his body so strong?" and answer “Because before eating a meal he washes his hands with soap and water.”  Composed and performed by Almoda Rana Uprety, "Kina Udcha Sabunman," cheers kids to defeat the dirt monsters by washing their hands before they eat and after they play or use the bathroom.
 
VIDEO: Kina Udcha Sabunman (How can Sabunman Fly?)


LIMA, the enchanted

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

Banco de la Nación, Lima, PeruLooking into the horizon from the 27th floor of the new tower of the National Bank while attending the World Bank’s Annual Meetings, the sight is partially clouded by a haze that typically lasts 9 months each year. I daydream and imagine I am still riding my bike somewhere down there, among farms and streams while exploring old Inca ruins.

As reality returns, all I can see are roads, buildings, and traffic congestion for miles without end. The Lima of my childhood is gone, having been replaced by a megalopolis of 12 million people, 5 times larger than in the 1960s. Its innocence is nowhere to be found, and today Lima is like any large city, overwhelmingly vast, contaminated, and chaotic. Yet at the same time it has retained the enchantment that made it the capital of the new world in the 1600s, earning it the name “the Pearl of the Pacific” as the seat of the rich Viceroyalty that made Spain the most powerful Empire in the world. Lima today is sophisticated and vibrant. The delegates attending the Bank meetings were treated to an amazing array of tradition and modernity, and enjoyed a delightful display of culture and gastronomy that keeps Lima as a destination in its own right. Lima boasts the best restaurant in the Americas, and 3 among the top 10 in the world. Its art and cultural scenes today are exceptional.

Back at the Banco de la Nación, it is hard to believe that this tower was not there just 18 months ago. It was built for the meetings using an ultra-modern “self-climbing” crane technology, together with the most technologically advanced Convention Center in Latin America. The impeccable organization of the Annual Meetings is a tribute to the capacity of this country to rise to the most difficult challenges, as well as to the hard work of our Bank colleagues that supported these efforts.

The things we do: Self-command takes practice

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Also available in: العربية

Following prolonged conflict, it is often difficult to reestablish security and reduce crime and violence, especially among poor young men. In Liberia, development experts have been researching the most effective ways to support high-risk individuals, and they may have found an effective approach combining therapy with cash.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Cash Transfers on High-Risk Young Men in LiberiaOne of the most pressing concerns in post-conflict settings is how to help individuals transition back into a peaceful life. After a conflict has subsided, small arms are usually very common, local and national economies have been destroyed, and the emotional stress of the violence begins to take on new forms. Former soldiers, in particular, have trouble with the transition as they struggle with the pain and horror of what they experienced, and many do not remember how to participate in community life anymore.  In response, the international development community often tries to “enable” these men by creating jobs for them. The theory is that if people are busy working they will not have the time or the inclination to commit crime.
 
However, simply providing jobs is rarely enough. The Network for Empowerment & Progressive Initiative (NEPI), an organization operating in Monrovia, Liberia, challenges this paradigm and seeks to support men formerly engaged in the country’s two civil wars by rehabilitating them through therapy.  
 
Klubosumo Johnson Borh, the founder of NEPI, was as a Liberian teenager when he was recruited for Charles Taylor‘s infamously brutal rebel army. Borh was made a commander and oversaw soldiers who were even younger than he was. By the end of the conflict, which lasted from 1989 through 2003, nearly 10% of the population had been killed, and thousands of child soldiers were now grown men.  Many of these men had trouble shaking the violent behaviors they had learned in war so Borh helped start NEPI in an effort to reform these and other troubled men.

A peek at the media coverage of SDGs: What is it telling us?

Mauricio Ríos's picture

Pope Arrives in General Assembly Hall for His AddressThe United Nations General Assembly recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York in the midst of great expectation and hype. The 17 SDGs, with 169 specific targets, are now becoming the road map for governments and the international development community for the next 15 years.

Now that all the publicity and excitement are starting to settle down, it seems opportune to look at the media coverage of the SDGs and developing countries to get a sense of how that coverage has played out over the past few weeks, and what some of the insights are that we can learn from for the way forward. This coverage mainly includes articles from various publications, websites, and blog posts in the English language. It does not include social media statistics from Tweeter or Facebook.  

An analysis of this media coverage featuring the key words “SDGs” and “developing countries” show that, over the past three months, more than 2,400 articles mentioned these two key words somewhere in the text of the articles. The analysis, using the Newsplus database, covers the period July 8-October 8. It shows that almost a quarter of that coverage (more than 600 entries) took place during the last week of September when the UN meetings were held. However, the second week of July, right before the summer break, was also active in terms of SDG-related coverage, signaling an important communications effort in the lead up to the UN September meetings.

 Document distribution by date 

Quote of the week: Kenneth Branagh

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Kenneth Branagh“I am very happy to go missing. I take myself out of the electronic loop as often as I can. I am not a fast responder. I do search for the silence.”
 

-Kenneth Branagh, a director, producer, and screenwriter from Belfast, Northern Ireland. At 29, he directed and starred in the film Henry V (1989), which brought him Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nominations.  In April 2015, he announced he would form the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, with which he will present a season of five shows (The Winter's Tale, Harlequinade/All On Her Own, The Painkiller, Romeo and Juliet and The Entertainer) at London's Garrick Theatre from October 2015 - November 2016.

Where has the global movement against inequality got to, and what happens next?

Duncan Green's picture

Katy Wright, Oxfam's head of Global External AffairsKaty Wright, Oxfam’s Head of Global External Affairs, stands back and assesses its campaign on inequality.

The most frequent of the Frequently Asked Questions I’ve heard in response to Even it Up, Oxfam’s inequality campaign is “how equal do you think we should be?”

It’s an interesting response to the news that just 80 people now own the same wealth as half the world’s population put together, and the best answer was that given by Joe Stiglitz to a group of UN ambassadors: “I think we have a way to go before we worry about that.”

The Inequality BusSo how far do we have to go, exactly? The good news is that inequality is no longer just the concern of a small number of economists, trades unions and social justice campaigners. It’s now on the agenda for the international elite.

That partly reflects a growing realisation that inequality may be a problem for us all, not just those at the bottom. The Spirit Level  raised questions about the impact of inequality on societies, and the rise of Occupy pointed to a growing political concern.

More recently, research papers from the IMF have demonstrated extreme inequality is at odds with stable economic growth, and that redistribution is not bad for growth. Significantly, this shift in focus from the IMF has been driven by Christine Lagarde. To the outside world, the IMF now officially cares about inequality, as do Andy Haldane at the Bank of England, Donald Kaberuka (outgoing head of the African Development Bank), and Alicia Barcena of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, to name a few.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Lagarde-ian of the Galaxy
The Huffington Post
The morning scene at New York’s Carlyle Hotel is about the most perfect illustration of the term “power breakfast” that you could envision. On the ground floor of the opulent art deco hotel—a longtime favorite of American presidents, and the preferred Manhattan residence of visitors from Princess Diana to Mick Jagger to George Clooney—impeccably attired men enjoyed the buffet as several different security details milled about the lobby. Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was sitting at a secluded table with an aide. Since Lagarde, 59, replaced Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the IMF—a formerly staid institution created in 1944 to ensure financial stability largely through the maintenance of exchange rates—she has found herself at the center of not one but several global emergencies.

The Complexities of Global Protests
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Major protests have occurred around the world with increasing frequency since the second half of the 2000s. Given the superficial resemblance of such events to each other— especially the dramatic images of masses of people in the streets—the temptation exists to reach for sweeping, general conclusions about what is happening. Yet it is in fact the heterogeneity of this current wave of protests that is its defining characteristic. The spike in global protests is becoming a major trend in international politics, but care is needed in ascertaining the precise nature and impact of the phenomenon.

Women and bicycles - the solution for those left behind in the wake of the Mediterranean human tsunami

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Also available in: العربية

The entire world is hypnotized by the struggle of the European continent with the rapidly escalating numbers of refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East. Yet, only a handful reflect about the plight of those who stay behind, entangled in violence and persecution, or those who remain in refugee camps. Some believe those 'left behind' are the solution and saviors to the future of the Middle East and Africa, and one great way to help them is to give them bicycles.
 

//www.middleeasteye.net/news/women-yemen-peddle-right-bike-1871266777#sthash.4alYKG2m.dpuf“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” – Susan B. Anthony

In 2015 alone, the UN Refugee Agency reported that of the 520,957 people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, 2,980 died or went missing. Eighteen percent of the migrants are children and 13% are women. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, an estimated 200,000 additional refugees are still planning to make the sea journey by the end of 2015. So, the seismic human waves are far from subsiding in the region.

Today, there are a series of internal and regional armed conflicts around the world, most of which are concentrated in two regions: the Middle East and Africa. The desperate attempts by so many Syrians to flee Assad regime’s and the Islamic state’s terror by escaping to security in Europe has caught the world’s attention. However, Syrians are not alone in deserving compassion. Although international interest in Afghanistan has waned and most foreign troops are gone, the war there is only getting worse. In addition, there is an influx of desperate refugees from Eritrea, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Gambia, and Bangladesh who are just as entitled to refugee status as the others.

While humanity is being washed ashore in the Mediterranean Sea, the treacherous passage does not resemble a migration, but a human tsunami. The departing refugees and migrants leave a vacuum, as the most skilled, able-bodied, and educated keep leaving the continent, most of them are males.  This leaves females, elderly and disabled behind and entangled in the local violence. The families left behind often count on reuniting with their loved ones in the near future or hope to receive remittances to support their livelihoods as they try to rebuild their communities. 
 
What should the world do with these gutted societies? The global community should invest in women power, leadership opportunities for women, and in modifying the social order with regards to female emancipation on the continent. We must pay immediate attention and react with empathy and solidarity.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Now, computers can tell how you're feeling

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Imagine watching a commercial, and the TV or mobile phone on which you are watching immediately knows if you’d like to buy the product being advertised.  Imagine feeling stressed out while driving, and your car automatically starts talking to you and adjusting the air and radio controls. Or imagine a video or film that changes the storyline based on your reactions to characters. This is the future, in which devices react not just to our behavioral and physiological clues, but also to our emotions.
 
Affective computing is the study and development of systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate human the emotional states of humans. It is an interdisciplinary field spanning computer science, psychology, and cognitive science.   
 
Affective Computing


Most of the software in the field of affective tracks emotions, like happiness, confusion, surprise, and disgust, by scanning an environment for a face and identifying the face’s main regions—mouth, nose, eyes, eyebrows.  The software then ascribes points to each and tracks how other points move in relation to one another. Shifts in the texture of skin, such as wrinkles, are also tracked and combined with the information on facial points. Finally, the software identifies an expression by comparing it with those it has previously analyzed. 

Four principles for Theories of Change in global development

Craig Valters's picture

The stratospheric rise of the Theory of Change approach continues. In a new paper published on September 15, 2015, I argue that taking a Theory of Change approach demands a radical shift towards more and better learning in development thinking and practice.

Local farmers attend a workshop on ecology and social organization in Vila Da Canoas, in the Amazon region of Brazil near ManausHang on, do we know what a Theory of Change approach actually is?

At a workshop at ODI in April 2015, we sought to work out how different people were using the term, for what purpose, and with what effects. More detail on that can be found here and here. What’s emerged is that the term ‘Theory of Change’ is being used in at least three overlapping ways:

As a discourse, asking ‘what’s your Theory of Change?’ has become an increasingly fashionable way interrogate someone’s assumptions about change (and flummox newcomers to the terminology).

As a tool, it’s rapidly rivalling (and being used in conjunction with) the log frame. Here it’s often used as a way of making explicit the assumptions connecting (watch out, here comes aid jargon) activities, outputs and outcomes in reporting for donors.

Taking a Theory of Change approach will likely include use of a tool in some form, but is broader, reflecting a desire to embed a critical and adaptive approach in organisational practice. This is perhaps the most exciting, as it builds in what we know about how aid organisations can make effective contributions to social change in complex environments.

So where do we go from here?

The following principles (not rules) seek to ground Theory of Change approaches in this emerging knowledge – and are rooted in a concern with persistently damaging problems within the industry.

However, the aim is to not to be prescriptive: debate them, critique them, and develop your own!
 

Quote of the week: Jancis Robinson

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Jancis Robinson at a Financial Times Charity Wine Dinner in 2010"Since word of mouth is the most powerful sales tool in the world, its power amplified exponentially by social media, what is the role of those of us who make our living giving out expert advice in this new, democratic, much more populated landscape of opinion?"

- Jancis Robinson, a British wine critic, journalist and editor of wine literature. She currently writes a weekly column for the Financial Times, and writes for her website JancisRobinson.com. She also provides advice for the wine cellar of Queen Elizabeth II. She is also responsible for many of the standard reference books on wine, including The Oxford Companion to Wine and, with Hugh Johnson, The World Atlas of Wine.

Civic Space Initiative: Storytelling for impact

Roxanne Bauer's picture
According to the Yearbook of International Organizations, the number of international CSO's has increased from 6,000 in 1990 to more than 66,000 in 2012, with approximately 1,200 new organizations added to the registrar each year.

CSOs are also significant players in global development assistance, with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimating that in 2011, USD$19.3 billion in official development assistance was channeled through CSOs.

The power of CSOs lies in their ability to facilitate conversations—between governments and citizens, between policy makers and vulnerable communities, and among citizens.

The right to Freedom of Assembly and Association is critical to making these conversations happen. Without the ability to congregate and create relationships, the ability of citizens and CSOs to mobilize around issues is obstructed.

Ryota Jonen of the Civic Space Initiative, argues that engaging citizens in the deliberative process and in decision-making process is critical to responsible public policy because, at the end of the day, if citizens are not involved, it is hard to know if policies are addressing their needs.

He also argues that for citizen engagement to be beneficial, information must be available to citizens. This information, though, doesn’t need to come in the form of reports and text-heavy dossiers that just “sit in the bookshelves”. Rather, creative storytelling through visual communication or music, is often more useful to sharing information
 
VIDEO: Storytelling for Impact

 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.


If Everyone Gets Electricity, Can the Planet Survive?
The Atlantic
Last week, the vast majority of the world’s prime ministers and presidents, along with the odd pontiff and monarch, gathered in New York to sign up to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Across 169 targets, the SDGs declare the global aspiration to end poverty and malnutrition, slash child mortality, and guarantee universal secondary education by 2030. And they also call for universal access to modern energy alongside taking “urgent action to combat climate change.” These last two targets are surely important, but they conflict, too: More electricity production is likely to mean more greenhouse-gas emissions.

Special Report: Connected Citizens - Managing Crisis
Developing Telecomms
As connectivity extends to the remotest parts of the world an unprecedented and transformational development of ICT knowledge and skills is taking place. This is resulting in an urgent reappraisal of the ways in which crisis situations are managed and to the concept of 'disaster relief'.  Connected citizens become proactive partners in crisis management and recovery, finding ICT based solutions to problems, guiding and channelling emergency relief efforts and leading rebuilding activities.

3 big problems with how we think about results and development

Craig Valters's picture

How useful is 'focusing on results' for development work? It may make an organization more cost-efficient but not necessarily more effective as it is usually unrealistic, time-consuming and misleading.  

Justine Greening sees the building of Kerry Town Ebola treatment centre in Sierra LeoneHow do donors aim for “results” without setting up a counterbureaucracy that disrupts rather than encourages good development programs?

A recent Independent Commission for Aid Impact report has taken the U.K. Department for International Development to task for doing just that, which in turn demands a serious reconsideration of how DfID thinks about results and accountability.

Of course, these critiques are hardly new. However this isn’t another nongovernmental organization or academic report slating the “results agenda,” but an independent body that has specifically been set up to ensure the effectiveness of aid and — based on 44 previous reports — is providing evidence about how the results agenda unfolds in practice.

In a nutshell, ICAI argues that DfID today knows better than ever before when and where taxpayers’ money is being spent, but not what that spending actually achieves. ICAI found that the results agenda has tended to prioritize short-term economy and efficiency over long-term, sustainable impact. It has brought “greater discipline” and “greater accountability for the delivery of aid” but also a focus on quantity of results over quality.

Not everything ICAI has to say is bad news; but most of it is. The ICAI findings undoubtedly hold broader relevance for other donors who are taking a similar approach to their result agenda.
 

Campaign art: Fighting neglected tropical diseases one step at a time

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Filariasis, also known as elephantiasis or filaria, leaves a giant footprint in India. A shocking 500 million people in India – one half of the country’s population— are at risk of infection!  It is one of seven neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that attacks nearly one in six people globally.

Filaria occurs when an individual is infected with filarial worms, which are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The worms later mature in the lymphatic vessels, causing painful, disfiguring swelling of the legs and genital organs.  

While Filaria can be fatal, especially for children, it also has a greater public health impact because it interferes with physical fitness and cognition. Moreover, those with severe symptoms of the disease are often unable to work and may suffer significant social stigma as a result of their disfigurement. In this way, Filaria can trap people in a perpetual cycle of poverty.

In response, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, was created to raise awareness about the seven most common NTDs (through its END7 campaign) and to work with governments to deliver low-cost treatment for NTDs. In December 2014, the Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW) launched a national campaign called “Hathipaon Mukt Bharat” (Fliaria Free India) to rid the country of filaria within the next few years. It is one of the largest public health campaigns in India’s history and aims to provide more than 400 million people with free medication that could protect them from the disease.
  
VIDEO: Giant footprints!


The post-2015 Global Goals: Moving from “what” to “how” will rest on more informed societies

James Deane's picture

In light of the UN summit in New York, BBC Media Action’s Director of Policy and Learning argues for a stronger focus on the provision of information, as well as resources.

A technical education class specializing in business administration"This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity." So begins the outcome document which forms the basis of the agreement for a new set of "global goals" which are expected to be signed by 215 world leaders this week. It is a statement that encapsulates both their ambition and weakness.

Anyone who comments on the post-2015 goals does so from a particular standpoint. Let me set out mine. The new development goals that replace the MDGs provide a welcome and clear agenda, but they do not and cannot provide a comprehensive plan for poverty alleviation and human development in the 21st century.

Planning the planet to prosperity is neither feasible nor desirable. Development over the next decades will depend as much on how societies and economies adapt to the challenges they face, as on the 17 goals and 169 targets that make up the new development goals. How societies adapt in the future is - as it has been in the past - likely to depend on the trustworthiness and usefulness of information available to them.

As someone who works to support media and other strategies that lead to more informed societies, that perspective shapes my view of the goals. Government, development agencies and other development actors will be central to translating the goals from words to actions. But ultimately progress will also depend on how societies and people act and adapt. That will depend on many factors, but a central one will centre around issues of information and communication.
 

The things we do: Stop multitasking and start focusing

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Many believe that multitasking is the art of the productive. However, social science reveals that humans don't really multitask, but rather they rapidly switch among tasks. It's a cognitive illusion that actually results in less productivity and may harm the brain's natural abilities.

caffeinating, calculating, computeratingIn June of this year, a Chinese motorist was caught driving while undergoing intravenous therapy and talking on the phone.  A needle providing the intravenous therapy was stuck in the back of his right hand, which had been holding his phone, while he used his left hand to hold the iron pole with the intravenous fluid bag and also the car’s steering wheel.  Police in the city of Wenzhou in southeastern Zhejiang province, China were on patrol on June 20 when they saw the motorist driving at 80km/h.

The driver told police he was rushing to carry out some urgent matters so had left a health clinic before his infusion was complete. He claimed that it was not dangerous for him to be driving at the time because he was good at multitasking. The police didn’t buy his multitasking defense and fined the driver 150 yuan and deducted four points from his driving license for dangerous driving and using a mobile phone while driving.

In a famous study of drivers chatting on mobile phones, David Strayer and Frank Drews found that diving while using a mobile phone is as dangerous as driving while drunk.

The problems of multitasking don’t end with driving.  Harvard Medical School knows first-hand that multitasking increases the number of mistakes people make— a resident doctor nearly killed a patient after a text message distracted her from updating a prescription. 

These and other examples point to an undeniable truth: multitasking can be dangerous at its worst and inefficient at its best. Even simple can produce a kind of ‘attention interference’ when performed simultaneously.

Quote of the Week: Matteo Renzi

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Matteo Renzi"We’re a young team— we want to invest in the new generation— but we’re not simply a young team.  Youth is the man of whatever age who risks believing in the possibility of change.”
 

- Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy since February 2014. Previously, he was the President of Florence Province from 2004 to 2009 and the Mayor of Florence from 2009 to 2014. At the age of 39 years and 42 days, he is the youngest Italian Prime Minister since unification in 1861 (he was younger than Benito Mussolini when he took office in 1922 by 52 days).  He is also the first to be elected Prime Minister as a Mayor and the second youngest leader in the European Council.

What The Martian teaches us about the value of a statistical life

David Evans's picture

This weekend, the movie The Martian opens. It’s based on a book by Andy Weir, the most exciting one I’ve read this year. In the very near future, a mechanical engineer and botanist turned astronaut named Mark Watney gets marooned on Mars, with little hope that he can survive long enough for a rescue team to reach him. The narrative proceeds on two paths, with Mark showing amazing resourcefulness to extend his survival on a barren planet, and the U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) at home, scrambling to come up with a plan to save him.

The Martian | Official Trailer


At one point, Mark ponders a big question: “The cost for my survival must have been hundreds of millions of dollars. All to save one dorky botanist. Why bother?” (He gives an answer, but I’m pretty sure it’s wrong.)
 

The Martian, bookThroughout the book, I pondered the same question. The researchers at GiveWell.org estimate that you can save a life through a long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito net for $3,340. A program of community health promoters in East Africa is estimated to save a child’s life for $4,400. By those estimates, instead of saving Mark Watney (and let’s assume that it cost just $100 million), NASA could have saved almost 30,000 people with mosquito nets or almost 23,000 children through community health promoters.

Beyond the requirements of a thrilling piece of science fiction, why would we make that choice?

Is your ‘emerging market’ securely fashionable?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Traders crowd the post that handles Morgan StanleySo-called ‘emerging markets’ might as well be styles of frocks and blouses in the world of haute couture; they are in and out of fashion with similar unpredictability. One moment a market is all the rage; the next moment it is in the pits of despond. It is an all too familiar if sorry tale. You know that an emerging market is in fashion via the global business press, especially when reporters, pundits, analysts as well as paid boosters and carnival barkers, all produce pieces on the market displaying breathless admiration: What a wonderful place to be this is! What astonishing prospects!

If the emerging market is particularly blessed it will feature in one of the fancy acronyms of the day: BRICS, MINTS, the Breakout Nations, etc. Investment bankers are proving fecund when it comes to dreaming up these meaningless acronyms (if they did not have such real-world consequences!). For once an emerging market is deemed ‘hot’, money flows into it. Investors and hustlers pile in. People who express doubt, urge caution or circumspection are drowned out by the frenzy of adoration and boosterism.

Eventually, inconvenient facts that are too significant to ignore begin to emerge regarding the much-fancied emerging market.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Projecting progress: Reaching the SDGs by 2030
Overseas Development Institute
This month the United Nations launches the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global plan to spur action across the world on areas of critical importance to humanity. With 17 goals and 169 targets, the SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which end this year. The SDGs will significantly shape development efforts for the coming 15 years. But are they really achievable? And what can we do to improve our chances of success? Our SDG Scorecard 2030 is the first real attempt to project where the world will be in 2030 across the SDG agenda.

The Politics of Media Development: The Importance of Engaging Government and Civil Society
Center for International Media Assistance
In the field of media development, the public sector is often viewed as a barrier to the development of independent and sustainable media. Although governments do frequently pervert and capture media sectors in countries around the globe, the enabling conditions under which media can achieve and maintain independence are nevertheless reliant on institutions of government. Therefore the media development community must rethink its approaches to public sector engagement in efforts to improve the environment for media systems in emerging and fragile democracies. This paper outlines the key role of political support, the need for more nuanced understanding of political context, and how donors and implementers can more effectively engage drivers of change in the public sector to build support for media and media development work.