March 2013

Doing a big Alaska: the case for a global social protection fund

admin - March 14, 2013

Olivier de Schutter, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food, is consistently interesting and provocative. This call to action is currently circulating on the interwebs (although the paper it’s based on came out last October): ‘If protecting human rights could be translated into a single political action, the creation of comprehensive social protection schemes would be it. Health care, unemployment insurance, food aid, …

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How can South Africa promote citizenship and accountability? A conversation with some state planners

admin - March 13, 2013

How can states best promote active citizenship, in particular to improve the quality and accountability of state services such as education? This was the topic of a great two hour brainstorm with half a dozen very bright sparks from the secretariat of South Africa’s National Planning Commission yesterday. The NPC, chaired by Trevor Manuel (who gave us a great plug for the South African edition …

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What’s the link between land grabs, trade rules and climate change? Good new briefing from Sophia Murphy

admin - March 12, 2013

You can rely on Sophia Murphy for crisp, credible analyses of agricultural trade and food issues. Her latest paper, Land Grabs and Fragile Food Systems, is up to her usual standard. She locates the current row over land grabs in some broader debates that have rather fallen off the agenda, namely globalization and trade rules. Made me come over all nostalgic for the WTO-bashing of …

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The state of Africa – report from a 23 country road trip (and I’m in South Africa for a couple of weeks)

admin - March 11, 2013

I’m in South Africa this week, speaking at various events, including a panel on the developmental state and inequality at Wits in Johannesburg (Tuesday 12th), a book launch in Durban on Thursday 14th, a panel on active citizenship and food justice at the Sustainability Institute in Cape Town on Monday 18th and a lecture on ‘which matters more, poverty or inequality’ at the University of …

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Are global gender norms shifting? Fascinating new research from World Bank

admin - March 8, 2013

I’ve been thinking a bit about norms recently – how do the unwritten rules that guide so much of our behaviour and understanding of what is acceptable/right/normal etc evolve over time? Because they undoubtedly do – look at attitudes to slavery, women’s votes, racial equality or more recently child rights. So in advance of International Women’s Day, I ploughed my way through a really important …

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What if we allocated aid $ based on how much damage something does, and whether we know how to fix it?

admin - March 7, 2013

I usually criticize development wonks who come up with yet another ‘if I ruled the world’ plan for reforming everything without thinking through the issues of politics, power and incentives that will determine which (if any) of their grand schemes gets adopted. But it’s been a hard week, and today I’m taking time out from the grind of political realism to rethink aid policy. Call …

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Attack? Equivocate? Engage? How Big Food responds to a tough new campaign

admin - March 6, 2013

Chris Jochnick, director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department (twitter: @cjochnick), reflects on the different corporate responses to our ‘Behind the Brands’ campaign launch Companies have had decades to hone their engagement strategies with activists, but still struggle to find the right approach.  Initial reactions to Oxfam’s Behind the Brand campaign offer an interesting case in point.  The campaign is only a week old, so these …

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Are you a Progressive? If so, what’s your footprint?

admin - March 4, 2013

I get irritated sometimes when a nameless Oxfam colleague (and no, there aren’t any prizes for guessing) asks ‘yes, but are you/they left wing?’, to which I of course, respond ‘depends what you mean by ‘left wing’’ (I think he finds me pretty annoying too). So in an effort to improve on this rather un-nuanced discussion, how about moving from 1D (left-right) to two (are …

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If we can’t prove that speculation drives food prices, should we regulate it anyway?

admin - March 1, 2013

One of my more wonk-mind-blowing moments last year was refereeing a debate about financial speculation and commodity prices between Oxfam’s Rob Nash and a UK Treasury wonk who wished to remain nameless. I couldn’t understand either of them (even by international development standards, the language is really weird – try ‘contango’ or ‘backwardation’).  I tried to get them to slug it out on the blog, …

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