Updated Hunger Section

The new and updated Hunger section is now online! Take a look.

Female Genital Mutilation

Female Genital Mutilation is a hugely contentious issue worldwide. According to a report published by the  WHO, UNESCO, UNIFEM and others, FGM is practiced in 28 African countries, in parts of Asia and the Middle East. However, it is increasingly found in Europe, Canada, the US, Australia and Asia – mostly within immigrant communities.

Female Genital Mutilation/cutting is defined as ‘the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons’ (WHO report definition). Source: http://www.childinfo.org/files/fgmc_WHOUNICEFJointdeclaration1997.pdf

Kenya has now become one of the latest African country to ban FGM making it illegal to practice it, to take somebody abroad to perform it and also prohibits making derogatory comments about women who have not undergone FGM. Read more on this story on the Guardian’s Global Health Blog and this article.

Two Reports: one message – the more we grow together, the more we grow apart

2011 saw the publication of two reports on international ‘risk’; one published early in the year by the Risks Report Network of the World Economic Forum (the Global Risks Report 2011) and the second the World Risk Report 2011 from the Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft (Alliance Development Works – a coalition of 5 NGOs) and the UN University Institute for Environment and Human Security.  Both reports highlight one common message – ‘the more we grow together, the more we grow apart’. No surprises there!

The Global Risks Report comes from the World Economic Forum – the international organisation which brings together business, political, academic and other ‘leaders of society’ (their phrase – the Report is full of self-promotion!) to influence global, regional and industry agendas – and assesses different worldwide ‘risks’ and reviews economic ‘divergences’, disparity and equity in addition to issues relating to the sustainability of current growth models.  One of the core messages in the 2011 report is simple and obvious – at least to those of us familiar with global development – or should I say, underdevelopment – issues.  As the world becomes more ‘globalised’ – integrated and interconnected – the more it becomes fragmented and divergent.

The two especially significant risks identified are economic disparity and the failure of global governance – failures such as the Doha Development Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the lack of agreement at the Copenhagen Conference on climate change are cited. The Report then notes an astounding discovery – ‘the benefits of globalization seem unevenly spread – a minority is seen to have harvested a disproportionate amount of the fruits’, and ‘there is evidence that economic disparity within countries is growing’. An additional risk is highlighted in the ‘water-food-energy’ nexus as population increases and consumption patterns place unsustainable pressure on resources.

The Report highlights key components of ‘disaster risk’ – exposure to natural hazards and climate change and social vulnerability on the other – the two go hand in hand.  Disasters cannot be attributed to meteorological or geological phenomena alone but are determined also by social structures and processes such as level of education, extent of poverty, food situation or functioning government.  According to a researcher for the Report:

‘For example, the Netherlands and Hungary are relatively highly exposed to natural hazards and climate change but due to their social, economic and ecological situations, they have a comparatively good ranking in the risk index’.

‘Similarly, the earthquakes of Haiti and Japan strongly demonstrate this relationship. While 28,000 people died in the Japan earthquake (9.0 on the moment-magnitude scale), 220,000 people died in Haiti in a much weaker earthquake measuring 7.0 on the moment-magnitude scale.  This was because although Japan’s earthquake was stronger, the country could cope better. Its buildings and infrastructure was more resistant’.

The Report shows that after Vanuatu, the world’s most disaster-prone countries are Tonga, the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Guatemala and Bangladesh.

For more: http://riskreport.weforum.org/

The World Risk Report 2011 evaluates the interactions between exposure to natural hazards and climate change, and factors of social vulnerability, including levels of poverty, education, food security and governance and it examines why some countries are able to cope better than others in response to disasters and climate change.

A key feature of the report is the World Risk Index which calculates and compares risk values for 173 countries worldwide, ranking regions and countries facing a high disaster risk. Ranking is based on four key components – exposure to natural hazards and potential risks; likeliness of suffering harm and susceptibility as a function of public infrastructure; coping capacities, including governance and capacity to reduce negative consequences of hazards; and adaptive capacities to future natural events and climate change.

The Report highlights the relevance of governance issues and civil society on disaster risk. Based on the country case studies of India and Bangladesh, it indicates that weak government is one of the most important risk factors.

Two concluding quotes from the Report:

‘Emerging and developing countries will not be able to follow the development path of developed countries, which was based on the use of fossil fuels.’

‘The reduction of social vulnerability (e.g. by reducing poverty), the promotion of better coping capacities (e.g. through good governance and strengthening of social networks) and the strengthening of adaptive capacities (e.g. through education) are realistic options for actions in reducing risk and thus can help to prevent future disasters and crises.’

The Report shows that after Qatar, Malta, Saudi Arabia, Iceland and Bahrain are the world’s least ‘at risk’ countries.

For more: http://www.ehs.unu.edu/file/get/9018

The “Girl Effect” and women’s rights

The “Girl Effect” and women’s rights

Whether you agree with it or not the “girl effect” has become something of a phenomenon and popular catchphrase among international economic development projects since the Nike Foundation launched the initiative in 2008. ‘You start the girl effect’, the website proclaims, with the girl effect being:

The unique potential for 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.

That’s quite a claim!

Detractors from the initiative, on the other hand, have been making a solid case against this approach, which has been summarised over at the Aid Watch blog at New York University (no longer in operation since May). Is the campaign too essentialist? Would the well-being of women really be put ahead of the well being of the economy? What about the agency of girls and women – is this approach only further perpetuating stereotypes, ie. women as victims in need of saving?

Ahead of the launch of this years World Development Report on gender and inequality on the 19th September – the first report of its kind by the World Bank devoted to gender – Duncan Green, head of research at Oxfam UK, invites us to sharpen our gender analysis skills by comparing, contrasting and analysing what is missing from these two videos [2 minutes] on women’s empowerment.

Is women’s empowerment a panacea for sustainable development? Who is the victor when it comes to women’s rights? Are either of these approaches appropriate or are they both flawed?

Who wins – Nike or the Commonwealth?

When you are finished watching the videos feel free to vote on Duncan’s blog and join in the responses that follow.

Nike Girl Effect video:

The poor continue to give and the rich continue to receive – the case of Item 18(b)

In a world of obscene inequality we like to think things are getting better and, in some areas, things are indeed improving – literacy, girl’s education, vaccines, ARVs etc. But when it comes to the basics – power and money, same old, same old – the poor lose, the rich win.

Tucked away in the kind of report only insomniac development fundamentalists would read we find what at first sight appears to be a misprint. A report by the Secretary General of the UN to the General Assembly at its 65th session on July 30th, 2010 (‘Item 18(b) )’ of the provisional agenda, Macroeconomic Policy Questions) entitled International Financial System and Development notes that developing countries as a group continued to provide net financial resources to developed countries in 2009, amounting to $US513 billion! Surely this could not be true – the Poor World transferred $US513 billion to the Rich World? In one year? Alas, it was not a typo but a statement of fact.

Without a trace of irony, the report went on to note:

‘…while still substantial, this amount is notably lower than the record high of $883 billion reached in 2008… The decrease reflects the transitory narrowing of global imbalances as a consequence of the global economic and financial crisis. The structure of flows underlying the reversal of the increase in financial transfers in 2009 indicates, for the most part, a disorderly unwinding of accumulated global imbalances.’

However, in case anyone gets jumpy at the downturn, the Secretary General’s Report went on to note that such ‘transfers’ were expected to revert to previous levels with an ‘…expected increase in outward resource transfer from developing countries in 2010’. The estimated figure for 2010 was $US641.2 billion.

The even more interesting Annex to the Report calculated the yearly net transfer to developed economies from developing economies from 1998 to 2010 (estimate) which amounted to a staggering $US5740.6 billion.

And we wonder why the poor stay poor!

See: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/65/189&Lang=E
The 2011 report (66th session, Item 17(b) of the provisional agenda) is now also available and makes equally astonishing reading

See: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/65/189&Lang=E

Note: these, and similar issues, will be further reviewed and debated in the forthcoming 6th edition of 80:20 Development in an Unequal World, scheduled for publication in March 2012 by 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World and the University of South Africa Press.

Worst countries for sick children

A new report – health workers index – published by UK NGO Save the Children lists those countries worldwide in which it is most dangerous to be a sick child. No great surprises in the results; at the bottom lie Chad, Somalia, LAO PDR, Ethiopia and, unforgivably Nigeria. At the top – Switzerland, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Belarus.

The Health Workers Reach Index measures the availability as well as the use of health workers in 161 countries against two critical life-saving interventions for children – vaccines and skilled birth attendance. It shows that children living in the bottom 20 countries — which fall below the WHO minimum threshold of just over two health workers for every thousand people – are five times more likely to die than those further up the index.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, argues:

A child’s survival depends on where he or she is born in the world. No mother should have to watch helplessly as her child grows sick and dies, simply because there is no one trained to help.

World Leaders must tackle the health worker shortage and realise that failing to invest in health workers will cost lives. Even the poorest countries in Africa can make real progress if they stick to their pledge of investing 15% of their budgets in health.

See: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/docs/HealthWorkerIndexmain.pdf for more info.