Archive for the ‘Conflict’ Category

The MDGs and armed violence

1 October, 2010

A recent post on the Eldis conflict and security blog discusses how the growing global trend of non-conflict armed violence (NCAV) fundamentally threatens progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Violence within local communities strikes at the very core of development and progress, perpetuating poverty by destroying infrastructure and livelihoods, diverting resources, and contributing to loss of life. The cost of such violence is estimated to be a staggering US$163 billion, a figure that dwarfs the US$119.6 billion global spend on international aid last year. As such, violence can be said to potentially have a drastic impact on the very area that is crucial to achieving the MDGs – government spending on social services. Although the international community has been slow to tackle non-conflict armed violence, policymakers are beginning to recognise the need for more holistic and targeted development approaches to armed violence – as evidenced by the upcoming World Development Report on conflict, security and development. reducing violence in all its forms must now become a development priority. Although the MDGs did not target violence as a core objective, post-2015 there is real scope to integrate the aim of reducing violence into poverty reduction strategy papers, UN development assistance frameworks and post-conflict needs assessments. Whether the current politics of development permit such an innovation remains to be seen, particularly when considering the underlying causes of conflict and violence. See the full original blog posting here.

Addicted to Aid?

19 November, 2008

Next week’s Panorama on BBC One is running a programme on aid to two countries for which Britain is one of the biggest donors. To judge from the blurb, it’s going to be very critical:

“Reporter Sorious Samura visits Uganda and his home country of Sierra Leone to reveal how aid money is lost, stolen and frittered away. He stops at a showpiece hospital, run by a well-funded health department, that looks like a warzone – yet its carpark is home to dozens of new 4x4s for ministry staff. He questions a former minister accused of stealing funds and offers his vision of how Africans can take control of their own destiny”.

Sorious Samuara has done some brilliant films exposing Africa’s “big men” and their corrupt ways, the other side of the coin to the region’s hunger and poverty (go here). But I do hope that he offers more than the usual critique of aid in the Panorama programme.

Yes, corruption is rife in Sierra Leone (it was a big issue in the last elections, with a clean-up promised: see this BBC report). And on a recent visit to Uganda I saw that the local media is full of stories of corruption (the benefits of a free press in Africa! See The New Vision). DFID is presently “ghost-busting” in Uganda (go here).

But I very much doubt that either Sierra Leone, Uganda (or Mozambique – another post-conflict country) would be where they are today without the aid they received to help reconstruction.

This is not in any way to argue that graft or misuse of aid money should be tolerated. But I get tired of the one-sided criticisms of aid that are trotted out repeatedly. For some background reading before the programme check out: the Chronic Poverty Report for Uganda, Joe Hanlon on corruption in Sierra Leone, a special issue of the Swedish Economic Policy Review on aid, and Roger Riddell Does Foreign Aid Really Work? – the best account by far of what aid can, and cannot, do.

So we shall see what Panorama concludes – especially, as Sorious Samura asks: how can Africans take control of their own destiny and graduate the continent away from aid dependence? Let us know what you think of the programme – and the big issues that it tackles.

Unpacking the Sri Lankan Conflict with PACT

19 October, 2008

Sri Lanka’s conflict is now one of the world’s longest running. Its ramifications spread beyond Sri Lanka itself. The Centre for Poverty Analysis’s PACT web site hosts a ‘live debate’ on the issues. The time line of historial events and the exploration of its successive phases are especially useful. It unpacks the layers of complexity and could well help the peace process to renew itself.

p.s. CEPA also hosts a resource portal on poverty in Sri Lanka. And for research relevant to Sri Lanka do check out the BWPI and CPRC web sites.

Regenerating Kingston, Jamaica

13 October, 2008

You wouldn’t usually connect the Prince of Wales to Kingston’s ghettos. But the Prince’s Trust is now helping to regenerate one of Kingston’s worst areas (see this piece in the FT). The area of Rose Town has disintegrated over the last 30 years, steadily becoming more violent and more derelict. The youth gangs of north and south Rose Town are at war with each other. UNDP reckons that 16% per cent of Jamaica’s population is in poverty.

So no Roses there. But the Princes Trust is now building new low density housing, designed to bring a sense of community back to the area. There has already been a reduction in tension in the area, comments the FT:

“One positive sign is that members of the rival north and south gangs have already come together through the Rose Town Benevolent Society, the local group overseeing the work”.

This is all part of a broader move to sustainable urbanism. The Prince’s Trust is considering projects in Sierra Leone, a country now at peace after a long civil war, but one where there is desperate shortage of housing.

Carbon Taxes Will Need to be Higher to Pay for Development

25 September, 2008

Jeff Sachs and Bono are blogging on the FT web site during this week’s MDG summit in New York (go here). Today, Jeff reports that some bold and creative proposals are coming from the EU, Mexico and Norway, among others. Carbon taxation is to the fore, in particular.

“According to the Swiss Government’s proposal, a $2 per ton levy on carbon dioxide would raise around $48bn per year, money that could play a critical role in helping impoverished countries to meet the Millennium Development Goals and to adapt to climate change. I believe that we’ll be hearing a lot more about carbon levies in the months ahead, as a practical approach to climate change control and development finance”.

Back in 2003, we took a thorough look at innovative sources of finance in a UNU-WIDER project led by Tony Atkinson of Nuffied College, Oxford (go here). The study concluded that many of the proposals were feasible, including carbon taxes. I chipped in with a proposal for a global premium bond to fund chronic poverty reduction – based on the successful UK premium bond scheme (Addison and Chowdhury paper here).

Amongst all the innovative finance proposals, carbon taxes get the most support among economists (more than the popular Tobin  tax: although that may be boosted by the present financial malaise). They not only reduce carbon emissions (a global bad) but also, as Jeff Sachs says, they generate a flow of revenues to finance a step-up in official development assistance (both multilateral and bilateral) as well as global funds to deal with the urgent challenges of climate change, conflict, and HIV/AIDs (to name but three).

All of these problems just get worse without early action: notably climate change, since a stock of carbon is already in the atmosphere, warming the earth — which we will have to adapt to — even as we attempt to reduce the flow of carbon from new emissions. But this is true of conflict and viruses too: war generates more war (notably in the Congo where violence is still endemic after the supposed ‘peace deal’) and viruses mutate to become deadlier (notably unchecked TB).

Given the high returns to taking action now on these global bads, it would be worth accepting a much higher levy on carbon than the Swiss proposal. This would send a clear signal to the market, encouraging a faster rate of invention and adoption of clean technologies. And the additional funds could be spent on peace-keeping and more research for the diseases of the poor world.

But I worry that the US is way behind Europe in all of this, California perhaps excepted. Dealing with the present financial crisis is vital, but it is also a huge distraction from the larger issues such as climate change. And the present administration has been adamant in its opposition to global taxes. Does anybody detect much of a shift in the US position, the occasional piece of rhetoric aside?

The author is executive director of the Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester.

Average cop has more integrity than the average professor

29 August, 2008

At least that’s what Harvard-trained sociologist Peter Moskos reckons. And he might know. He joined the Baltimore police force in the high crime Eastern district, after basing himself there for his PhD research into the methods and culture of an American Police department (go here for an interview). It has certainly given him a new view of academic research:

“I think in the Ivory Tower there’s a problem with researching a group without ever talking to them. In academia, it’s all about measuring in quantitative stats. Culture matters. Cops live and work there, so they can see it. It cannot all be explained by money. [Academics] think it’s all about racism and economics”.

His book Cop In the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District is out now. One to read before watching the next episode of the The Wire.

Human cost of landmines

22 June, 2008

The horror of landmines is set out in a new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North. It presents the photos of Sean Sutton who  works for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) International. MAG trains locals to clear the mines. Interviewed in the Manchester Evening News, the photojournalist said: “the majority of people who are injured by landmines know they are in a mined area but have no choice but to travel through to get food and water”. Landmines continue to impoverish communities long after war ends, with children being especially vulnerable — walking to school or to collect water.

What next for Kenya? The Poor will Suffer — That’s Certain

14 February, 2008

The big guys are still talking. Agreement was reached last week on a framework peace plan, brokered by Kofi Annan (the Ghanains previously sent in President John Kufuor to no avail — you can’t help but admire their persistence). The framework commits both parties to avoid inflammatory statements and hold more meetings. Annan is pushing them still — the outline of an interim government might emerge soon (breaking news: a deal to write a new constitution is reported here). At least parliament was recalled — a key step.

In public both the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) led by Raila Odinga and the Party of National Unity (PNU) led by Mwai Kibaki are keeping to a hard line: claiming no deal is in place. You might say it’s what happens in private that matters — around the negotiating table. That’s only partly true. Political leaders need to rein in their increasingly volatile and aggressive supporters. More murders (at least 1,000 since December) add fuel to the fire — and generate a momentum that the politicians might find hard to stop. “Let Annan do his bit but there is going to be no resolution. The clashes will continue”, said one youth manning a road block (see a BBC report here).

Will the agreement work? Who knows. The poor will suffer — that’s certain. For them it gets worse day by day, in at least 5 ways:

1. Family incomes are under intense stress. Tourism revenue has collapsed. One Masai community used to earn £400 (approx $800) per month from tourist visits: now all gone (story here). Over a quarter of a million people have fled their homes (and livelihoods). Result: more chronic poverty (see Tom Jayne et al on Kenya here).

2. Education and health-care are very disrupted. HIV and TB patients are finding it hard to collect their life-saving medicines. TB patients must repeat the whole course again (see Rhona’s blog on The Lancet Student). And TB develops drug resistance when treatment is incomplete. NGOs are working hard to help. But one MSF worker describes the situation of a HIV-positive mother who needs formula milk for her baby: “It broke my heart to see this woman, badly beaten up, sitting in the waiting bay with her four month old baby. She was making her way back home to fetch the baby’s patient card when they got hold of her. She looked completely petrified.” (story here). Infant mortality is rising.

3. A lasting solution must address Kenya’s deep inequality (see my paper here). This dates back to colonial times but intensified after independence in 1963, especially when former president Daniel arap Moi got to work. His network of patronage kept the big guys happy while the economy, once of Africa’s most promising, stagnated (growth picked up again over the last few years, the result of the global commodity boom). The Kikuyu — the country’s largest ethnic group and the one to which President Kibaki belongs — have dominated politics and commerce (Moi, who backed Kibaki in the elections, is from the Kalenjins, one of the smaller communities). Kibaki has lost some of the support of Kikuyu professionals — who have done well from the economic growth of the last few years. This is a sign of hope. When there is growth, the contending parties have an incentive to keep it going — if they have benefited. But many Kenyans have missed out or not benefited at all. They can take the economic hardship — because they are already used to hard times. The politics and the economics of conflict therefore interact. Consolidating a political solution depends on delivering tangible gains to the excluded (and fast).

4. As the economy sinks, so it becomes easier for nascent warlords to recruit the poor for their purposes — the slums have divided along ethnic lines. Most of the ODM protestors — in Nairobi and other places — belong to the Luo and Klenjin communities. They turned on the Kikuyus. Kibera, the big Nairobi’s slum, saw much anti-Kikuyu violence. And then the Kikuyus took their revenge. This is an acceleration of the rising ethnic violence seen over recent years (especially over land claims, further exploited by local political leaders). Organized crime is profiting handsomely from the looting, taking the banditry that has bedeviled Kenya to new heights (see this video by the Guardian’s Xan Rice). Conflict that starts as grievance often ends up driven by greed, making it all the more difficult to halt (see discussion here and here).

5. How to restore faith in the democratic process? The peaceful transition in 2002 — which ended the 24-year old presidency of Moi — gave hope to the poor that their vote would achieve real change (go here and read Joel Barkan in Foreign Affairs). The longer this goes on, the more difficult it becomes for the parties to move beyond the framework peace deal. And without a permanent deal the murders will continue. Time works against peace.

6. For aid donors it’s a tough call. They have large programmes in Kenya. They must act in good faith (and be seen to be doing so). The World Bank got off to a bad start, when a leaked memo appeared to support the result of the flawed December election. The director of the Royal African Society, Richard Dowden, has a scorching Op-ed piece in the Guardian on the British response. The ODM has called on donors to shut down aid: “A government that steals the vote from its own people will steal any aid given to it” (reported here). That’s a very powerful argument. Zimbabwe is the precedent (no OECD-DAC aid to speak of, just humanitarian help). But aid sanctions are tools that need to be kept in reserve as we await the outcome of the Annan initiative.

We leave the last word to Edward Clay (who was the UK’s High Commissioner to Kenya 2001-05). In a letter to the Economist he writes: “…the poorest, whether in the slums of Nairobi or in the rural areas, had all too little to lose in the recent violence. Most people living in the slums are inhabitants of shanties erected at the whim of rapacious landlords, who are themselves part of the political class. Some of these residents have now had their votes stolen as well…. The poorest attack their equally poor neighbours and set fire to the little they have in common not because they hate these targets in themselves but because they see no other adequate way to express their grievance”. That is Kenya today.

China in Africa — More Light, Less Heat, Please

6 February, 2008

Much heat, but not enough light, is being generated by recent commentary on China’s economic and political drive into Africa. Here are 7 thoughts (maybe they add light, or just more heat — let us know):

1. China’s investment. Much needed: jobs and growth will flow. But also disquiet. Investment snapshots: China is now Zimbabwe’s biggest foreign investor (Mugabe has a friend); China has lent Gabon US$ 83 million for a hydro-electric dam (we await an environmental assessment); China is taking stakes in some of Africa’s biggest investors — Rio Tinto is the latest (hope this doesn’t weaken corporate social responsibility). Africa needs more investment, but China must act responsibly.

2. China is to get copper and cobalt in a loan deal with the DRC. Hmm, the murky world of foreign investment in the Congo — say no more. Plenty of western nations haven’t practiced what they preach in the DRC. Can China do better? Will countries that received debt relief from the OECD-DAC donors under the HIPC Initiative (and then the MDRI) again build unsustainable debt positions — this time with loans from China? Helmut Reisen over at the OECD Development Centre finds no evidence of ‘imprudent lending’ by China to debt relief beneficiaries — so far. But this is one to watch.

3. Aid. The World Bank has hitched its wagon to China — a real sign of the times. China helped replenish the World Bank’s soft-loan arm (the International Development Association) last year — the first time it has contributed to IDA. And World Bank President Robert Zoellick wants more joint project lending with China (and Justin Yifu Lin has been appointed as the Bank’s new chief economist). This is all good news. Now that China is a Bank partner its aid stands a chance of being more rigorously assessed. And this moves China closer to bringing its aid within the OECD-DAC framework (see Richard Manning). More transparency might result. But it’s early days still.

4. Human rights. Oh Dear. One positive: China watered down support for Mugabe last year (Mugabe has a fickle friend). A big negative: Darfur (Sudan has oil, Zimbabwe does not). China is a permanent UN Security Council member. It needs to live up to the associated responsibilities (not helped when the other members don’t, notably the present US administration — see John Bolton’s latest fulmination against the UN here — but only if you must).

5. The Chinese Development ‘Model’. African commentators have been talking up China as a model. Seems more appealing than the policies the western donors pushed for years. And who can ignore growth rates of 10% year on year (even if the numbers look a might suspect to us)? China has lifted the largest number of people out of poverty in history — and Africa could sure use a lot of that. But fans forget (i) China has an enormous internal market — so import substitution is a more viable strategy than in tiny African countries (Africa needs an EU-style free trade zone to get anywhere near the economies of scale that Chinese companies enjoy). (ii) China is very good at mobilizing public revenues from growth — and Africa’s tax systems are mostly awful (iii) China’s one party state can force its way through development blockages that Africa’s young democracies cannot — and woe betide any Chinese who protest too vigorously (most African government’s don’t monitor access to the Internet in the way China does: Mugabe excepted). (iv) China’s model has involved stupendous environmental damage — we don’t need any Three-Gorges style projects in Africa, thank you.

6. Authoritarian regimes can retain political power if they ride a vigorous private sector — delivering rising living standards to keep (most) people happy. This is China’s political model. It appeals to some African leaders (notably Ethiopia and Rwanda). But to succeed you have to limit your ‘take’ — not a lesson likely to find favour with Africa’s long-stranding authoritarians but one that Africa’s next generation of political leaders might note (hopefully democrats, but also new authoritarians overthrowing the old).

7. That ‘other China’ — Taiwan — offers a model of how to make a successful transition to democracy while retaining (and strengthening) a vigorous maket economy. Taiwan is one of development’s great poverty success stories — a point that gets lost amidst the clamour of praise for its big brother neighbour. Taiwan is also aiming to win African friends.

That’s my 7 points. A good source of information on China in Africa is the Centre for Chinese Studies at the University of Stellenbosch. They do a weekly briefing, where some of the news cited here comes from. For China itself go to the Centre for Chinese Studies at Manchester University. And remember what Chou En-lai said when asked about the effects of the French Revolution — “its too early to tell”. Maybe that’s the case for China in Africa.

Suharto — A Bandit No More

1 February, 2008

So Suharto is no more (obituaries here and here). The ex-general ruled Indonesia for 32 years, after the military took control in 1965. Founder of the Nation, Sukarno, was kept on for a couple of years, but Suharto and the military governed. Suharto was proclaimed president in 1968 and his ‘New Order’ show had a long run: he was finally forced from office in 1998 when Indonesia was whacked by the Asian Financial Crisis. (GDP dropped by 15%, forcing a humiliated Suharto into the hands of the IMF — see the famous pic of Suharto and then IMF boss Michel Camdessus here).

Suharto was complicit in the slaughter of 500,000 to a million Indonesians during the 1965-67 army-backed massacres of communists and others (see Human Rights Watch). (The movie ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ remains a highly watchable account of the time. Go here to see a clip). The 1975 East Timor invasion killed maybe 200,000 more (with further atrocities in Aceh, Papua and the Moluccan islands). “Suharto has gotten away with murder – another dictator who’s lived out his life in luxury and escaped justice,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But many of Suharto’s cronies are still around, so the Indonesian government should take the chance to put his many partners in human rights abuse on trial.”

How much did he steal? One (government) estimate is US$ 441 million between 1978 and 1998. The family took more than either Marcos and Mobutu, reckons Transparency International.

But as venal and vicious as it was, Suharto’s dictatorship clearly differed from those of Marcos and Mobutu. For Suharto achieved some 30 years of growth and poverty reduction. This was unexpected: Indonesia in the mid-1960s was written off (Africa was the bright star). “No economist holds out any hope for Indonesia” said Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal in Asian Drama, 1967). Poverty and hunger fell steadily. From 1967 to 1996 per capita income rose by 5 per cent a year, with those below the poverty line seeing their income rise at the same rate (or more). From the mid 1970s to the mid-1990s, poverty fell from 40% to 11% — one of the most successful episodes of pro-poor growth in history (see World Bank). (Poverty then jumped to 22% during the financial crisis). Meanwhile, neighbouring Philippines — which with its more educated population looked a much better bet — just went down hill under Marcos and his cronies.

This is not to defend Suharto or his family and friends. But it’s important to understand why his dictatorship wanted economic growth while Zaire’s Mobutu didn’t (Mobutu once advised his fellow dictators not to build any roads: they only make life easier for rebels).

Was it Indonesia’s technocratic economists? Seems so. They kept the country from succumbing to the ‘curse of oil’ (that killed Nigeria’s growth in the 1970s: see Brian Pinto’s 1987 paper which remains a classic). The IMF and the World Bank made much of this when, in the 1980s, they started to write-up the Indonesia story. Suharto told his macro-economists to end the country’s hyperinflation — inherited from the chaos of the Sukarno years. And end it they did. They in turn taught economics to the generals-turned-politicians. The macroeconomics seemed to be sound (at least until 1997). And the United States, Japan and the multilateral donors, provided generous aid — eager as ever to buy into a success story.

Did Suharto realize that you can only cream off so much before growth collapses (and with it your own wealth)? It seems so — at least until the latter years when the children became troublesome. Entrepreneurs got to make money (especially when in business with the Suharto clan). Investment was strong. Suharto acted as a ‘stationary bandit’ (willing to invest to maximize the take) rather than a ‘roving bandit’ (take the money and run) — as Mancur Olson described. (One exception from the start: timber and the massive environmental damage of unsustainable logging — which still goes on — making Indonesia the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the United States and China). His wife, Madame Tien, took her cut (becoming known as ‘Madame Tien Percent’) but otherwise reigned in the children to avoid killing the golden goose. After she became ill, the kids ran amok: one managed the national clove monopoly, pocketing the money that should otherwise have gone to poor farmers. The cosy elite-business relationship hit the rocks with the Asian financial crisis — but until then it delivered the growth and jobs that Mobutu (and Marcos) didn’t.

Did the rural population matter to the elite? Seems so. Hunger stalked the land in the mid-60s. Getting the rice economy back to work was imperative for keeping Suharto in power. Once the economy stabilized in the late 1960s, it grew strongly, with the oil revenues being reinvested into rural villages through infrastructure and services. Indonesia benefited tremendously from the new Green Revolution technologies then coming on stream. Farm GDP increased by nearly half from the 1960s to mid-1990s (see Peter Timmer’s paper). And rural inequality fell. Agricultural policy received high marks from the development economists of the 1980s. Villagers mattered politically to the elite while they didn’t in much of Africa. And the elite made lots of money through BULOG, the food distribution agency.

Fascinating questions. Meanwhile Indonesia struggles on. There remain some 40 million people still in poverty. And many of the victims of Suharto and his friends still wait for justice.