September 2008

How much is $700bn?

admin - September 30, 2008

The arguments for a bailout to avoid systemic collapse are of course genuine and persuasive, but so are the arguments for aid and against standing by and allowing a child to die every 3 seconds, or a woman to die in childbirth every minute. To put the proposed Wall Street bailout into perspective. $700bn: · Would clear the accumulated debt of the 49 poorest countries in …

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How will the meltdown affect development?

admin - September 29, 2008

If the current financial meltdown causes the US and Europe to sneeze, will poor countries catch cold, succumb to pneumonia, or have they discovered a new flu vaccine in the growing economic presence of China? I’m currently on a visit to East Africa, and that is the question that is preoccupying many of its leaders. Here are some initial thoughts, but any pointers to good …

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Climate Wrongs, Human Rights and Female Condoms

admin - September 25, 2008

A belated plug for a couple of top notch recent Oxfam policy papers. My colleague Kate Raworth has written an important paper on the relationship between human rights and climate change. By exploring the impact of climate change on a number of rights within international law (eg to food, life and security, subsistence and health), the paper links two important, but often separate disciplines. In …

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Fixing Failed States

admin - September 23, 2008

Just finished the book of this title by Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart. It left me with a mixture of excitement and frustration – excitement because it sets out some good ideas on state-building, frustration because it doesn’t quite live up to the title and is sloppily edited, with whole chunks repeated verbatim, wandering narrative etc (shame on you, OUP!).

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Do development agencies need to look more like the private sector?

admin - September 19, 2008

NGOs and others in the development sector spend a good deal of time beating themselves up about their many failings (listed in loving detail in the book). Recently, however, the private sector has picked up the baseball bat and got stuck in – arguing that all we need to do is adopt lean, efficient market approaches, instead of all that fuzzy, inefficient, participatory NGO nonsense. …

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Health is social, not medical

admin - September 16, 2008

It is often argued that municipal sanitation, rather than doctors, ended the periodic scourges of cholera and other disease that afflicted Victorian Britain (e.g. see here). Now the World Health Organization has adopted an even broader version of the argument in the new report of its Commission on Social Determinants of Health. It marks a significant shift in WHO thinking.

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Putting numbers on happiness – new efforts to measure well-being

admin - September 10, 2008

GDP and income have long been criticized as extremely limited measures of well-being. When I asked my long-suffering 16 year old son Finlay over breakfast what makes people happy, he suggested a playstation (consumption), having kids (parental alarm bells), and a combination of friendship groups – a small tight-knit inner circle, and a wider group of people who ‘know who you are’ so that you …

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What’s Kerala’s Secret?

admin - September 8, 2008

In a recent academic roundtable on From Poverty to Power in Canberra, Robin Jeffrey, professor at the Australian National University and dean of its College of Asia and the Pacific, had a stab at applying the ‘how change happens’ framework to the cause celebre of Kerala in South India. Here are my notes on his initial effort, augmented with quotes from his book on the subject.

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What’s the development debate like in Australia?

admin - September 2, 2008

I’ve just finished a week of debates, seminars and book launches in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. My overall impressions include firstly the huge importance of policy debates over Australia’s Indigenous peoples on wider development thinking, not least because meetings in government, academia and NGOs now begin with the chair intoning variations on the formula ‘I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we …

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