Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

The time for making poverty history is now

12 May, 2010

In rich countries a handful of dollars does not go very far, indeed most people in the UK wouldn’t think twice about spending this on a cup of coffee.  But one in five people in the world today has no choice but to survive on less than US$2 a day, and 1.5 billion people struggle to live on less than US$1. The vast majority of those affected are children, each an individual story of unfulfilled hope and potential.

Few would dispute that ‘a world free from poverty’ is the overwhelming challenge of the 21st century. The crucial issue is how to achieve this. In Just Give Money to the Poor:  The Development Revolution from the Global South (Kumarian Press, 2010), Hanlon, Barrientos and Hulme discuss a wave of new thinking on development that is sweeping across the South. Instead of relying on a large and expensive aid industry to find ways to ‘help the poor’, it is better to transfer money and resources directly to the households in poverty so that they are able to find effective the most effective ways to escape from poverty.

This is the premise behind social transfer programmes such as Mexico’s Oportunidades, Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, South Africa’s Child Support Grant, and India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. They all provide regular transfers of money to households in poverty with the aim of improving their nutrition, making sure children go to school, and ensuring that expectant mothers have regular check-ups.

This does not rule out the need for investment in economic growth and basic services. Small transfers to very poor households help provide access to new economic opportunities and vital health and education services. Without such transfers, the costs of transport, school uniforms, medicines, and job search could well be prohibitive.

Social transfer programmes do not throw money from helicopters. They carefully select and monitor recipients, ensure they are well informed about objectives, and track outcomes. In Latin America, transfers are paid directly to mothers thus strengthening their voice within the household. The responsibilities of the government and the households are carefully discussed at registration.

Despite attempts by the aid industry to take credit for these initiatives, social transfer programmes are most often national responses to local problems. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia began as a municipal programme in Campinas in 1994/5 and is built on domestic learning and experience of what works to reduce poverty. India’s National Employment Guarantee Scheme, which guarantees one hundred days labour on demand to unemployed rural heads of household, also builds on a careful assessment of similar programmes in Maharashtra and elsewhere.  . Social transfer programmes have high set up costs and for this reason international assistance is important in low income countries. Nonetheless, sustainability and legitimacy requires domestic political support and finance in the medium term. Giving money to households in poverty is a ‘Southern project’, as the considerable diversity of programmes around the developing world demonstrates.

Important challenges remain, especially in low income countries lacking the capacity to design, deliver, and finance social transfer programmes. In many countries their institutionalisation is precarious. The existing social transfer programmes need to be seen as a first stage in the development of  strong and stable institutions,  able to protect poor and vulnerable populations in the South from the volatility and crisis of the global economy on. Acknowledging these challenges, the book makes the important point that knowledge on how to eradicate poverty is already freely available if only we care to learn from the South.

Armando Barrientos – Professor and Research Director, Brooks World Poverty Institute


Get Fair on UK Poverty

19 October, 2008

The UK has got a lot richer over the last twenty years – we are the world’s fifth richest country – but not fairer. Inequality has risen, and 12.8 million Brits live in poverty (30% of children, and 17% of older folk). That’s the message of Get Fair – a national campaign calling for an end to poverty in the UK by 2020.

The coalition now consists of more than 50 organizations. They work on poverty right across society, including among children, older people, refugees, and the disabled. Get Fair includes housing groups, as well as faith and community groups.

Two at least of their recommendations could help Britain dig itself out the recession, namely invest £4bn measures to halve child poverty by 2010 and improve the take-up of existing benefits (they estimate that this would help 500,000 pensioners out of poverty).

On 4 October, Britain’s biggest ever event to end child poverty was held in Trafalgar Square, London, organized by End Child Poverty. And Poverty Action Week takes place 31 January to 8 February 2009, organized by Church Action on Poverty.

Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth

12 October, 2008

How institutions do and do not work for development is intensely debated, especially the link to economic growth. And state-business relations are of immense importance. For the latest research check out the redesigned website of Institutions for Pro-Poor Growth (go here).

IPPG is running a panel session at the Development Studies Association Annual Conference in London on 8 November (go here), with Adrian Leftwich, Kunal Sen, and John Morton. And Kunal Sen is giving a lecture ‘What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: Reflections on India’s Economic Growth in the Twentieth Century’ at the British Association of South Asian Studies in November (details here)

Other IPPG highlights include discussion papers on:

‘Land Tenure, Farm Investments and Food Production in Malawi’ by Ephraim Chirwa, Universty of Malawi

‘Exploring the Politics of Land Reforms in Malawi: A Case Study of the Community Based Rural Land Development Programme (CBRLDP)’ by Blessings Chisinga, University of Malawi

‘Informal Institutions in Transition: How Vietnam’s Private Sector Boomed without Legal Protection’ by Liesbet Steer (ODI) and Kunal Sen (University of Manchester)

You’ve Got to Serve Turkeys to The Poor Too

10 March, 2008

Celebs-in-philanthropy is the latest thing (see this NYT Sunday Magazine piece, featuring Natalie Portman). One disgruntled PR guy sums it up on Gawker: “You can’t just get $20 million a picture, you’ve got to serve turkeys to the poor too.” Hollywood is one tough scene.

Last month a different kind of celebrity died. No movie star but a friend to India’s lepers and harijans: Baba Amte. Born into a wealthy landowning family in Maharashtra, Baba Amte’s life changed when he stumbled across a leper dying in the gutter.

A moving tribute in The Economist describes his reaction thus: “He was outraged at the fear he felt: fear of touching, as if he shared the common belief that lepers were paying for their sins and would infect anybody who came close. Where there was fear, he told himself, there was no love; and when an action was not done in love, it had no value. Deliberately, he went back to the gutter to feed the leper and to learn his name, Tulshiram. He then carried him home to care for him until he died, and began—once he had had training in Calcutta—to work in leper clinics all around the town”.

Baba Amte hated the word charity (go to YouTube here). True he fed the poor, and got them back on their feet. But above all he wanted to give them the dignity of work. And that is what he did with the thousands who passed through his ashrams He would have hated being called a celebrity. But we should celebrate a life well-lived.

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.

Charles Taylor faces Justice. But Justice isn’t Enough

25 January, 2008

Liberia’s ex-president Charles Taylor now sits in the dock in The Hague, charged with 11 counts of war crimes in neighbouring Sierra Leone. (The International Criminal Court in The Hague has loaned the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone their facilities). The smartly-suited Taylor pleaded innocent. He has the ‘distinction’ of being the first former African state to go before an international war-crimes court. Chad’s Hisène Habré is up next, in a special court in Dakar, Senegal.

In the trial’s opening days, one witness, a churchman, described how child soldiers did their ‘work’; the ‘Small Boys Unit’ was especially brutal. But it’s not enough to provide accounts of Sierra Leone’s atrocities — these are well documented. To get a conviction a clear link has to be established between Taylor and events in Sierra Leone. Specifically, how he (allegedly) financed and guided the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). To work, the trial must be scrupulously fair.

Is all this worth it? (Yes: it sends a clear message. And a war-crimes tribunal is not expected any time soon in Liberia, so charging Taylor with crimes in Sierra Leone at least gets him into the Dock). Will it be a deterrent? (Increasingly so: worldwide, 10 ex-presidents and military dictators are facing the law on human rights charges. And for despots still in power, it might disturb their sleep). Can it provide true justice? (Only partly, many despots die safely in their bed — like Uganda’s Idi Amin. And you can’t bring back Liberia and Sierra Leone’s many dead). Will it slow down peace deals (Maybe, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda are worried that they will end up in a court like Taylor: but that’s not a good reason to press ahead with capturing and trying war criminals).

However, removing individual ‘spoilers’ is not enough. Removing one Charles Taylor leaves many potential Taylors to take the stage if conditions remain ripe. This includes the poverty that supplies their recruits. You have to recreate a working relationship between the state and the people to deliver broad-based recovery (see my paper here).

A better and more prosperous future removes the oxygen in which the Charles Taylors of this world thrive. There is now lots of action in this area. See for example TechnoServe which helps rural entrepreneurs rebuild after war. The resulting employment at least offers an alternative livelihood to the violence that youngsters otherwise get sucked into. They also need a good education; especially the small boys (and girls) who get caught up in militias through no fault of their own (a big issue in northern Uganda).

Taylor’s case is expected to last at least a year, and you can track it at the Crimes of War web site. And for the bigger picture on how to deal with these bullies read the excellent Brian Urquhart in the NYRB. Stephen Ellis provides the background to Liberia in the authoritative Africa Yearbook.

Meanwhile, if Taylor has a broadband connection from his lodgings in The Hague, he should check out this UNICEF commercial against war — featuring those friendly Smurfs (go here). He can even learn to hum the tune…

Building Justice for the Poor

10 January, 2008

Building and enhancing access to “rule of law” systems in developing countries is vital. But efforts to do either of these things have a long and unhappy history. ‘Breaking Legal Inequality Traps: New Approaches to Building Justice Systems for the Poor in Developing Countries’, by Caroline Sage (World Bank) and Michael Woolcock (University of Manchester) is the latest BWPI working paper, and can be viewed here.

These disappointments, Sage and Woolcock contend, stem largely from overlooking the interdependence of ‘policies’, ‘laws’, and ‘rules systems’ — and the cultural contexts in which all three are inherently embedded. The political processes by which they acquire their institutional form and legitimacy (and thus the complexities associated with undertaking judicial reform initiatives) also cause failure. The authors set out an alternative approach to understanding ‘legal inequality traps’. This can guide new innovations to improve the accessibility, legitimacy and effectiveness of justice systems for the poor.

And also check out Advocates for International Development here. A4ID works with development organisations and developing countries to facilitate the provision of pro bono legal advice and assistance from leading lawyers, law firms and chambers in the areas of international trade, debt and development.