When does accountability work have an impact? The importance of Implementation Gaps

June 25, 2012

Measuring well-being: what can international development learn from the health sector?

June 25, 2012

Grammar fascism; 287m tonnes; development impact bonds; kickstriker.com; Germany 4 FTT; latest on aid, inequality; protectionism v regulation; 'I will never be cut': links I liked

June 25, 2012
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DFID minister Alan Duncan admits to ‘grammar fascism’ and orders staff to stop using words like ‘leverage’, ‘going forward’ or mainstream’. Wonderful. NGOs next? Time to start compiling a list of top offenders? [h/t Ben Phillips]

Update: see comments for candidates and keep ’em coming, tho not sure how much will actually be left of any of our documents if we ban this lot……

OK, this is a bit weird (and the answer has real ‘ew’ factor) – how much does humanity weigh? ‘the researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine calculate the weight of the global population at 287 million tonnes. They estimate that 15 million tonnes of this mass is due to people being overweight, and 3.5 million tonnes due to obesity. Using World Health Organization data from 2005, the scientists worked out that the average global body weight was 62kg (137lb). But there were huge regional differences. In North America, the average was 80.7kg (178lb), while in Asia it was 57.7kg (127lb). “If every country in the world had the same level of fatness that we see in the USA, in weight terms that would be like an extra billion people of world average body mass.” More on the BBC.

Development Impact Bonds’: CGD’s latest big idea – a private sector twist to cash on delivery

‘100% of your donation will go toward hiring private military contractors from Academi (formerly Blackwater), who will be immediately deployed to central Africa. Their mission: to capture Joseph Kony, dead or alive. To be clear, 100% of your donation will go toward the mission and none will be used for Invisible Children’s general operating expenses.’ Great satirical site inspired by kickstarter.com and Kony2012 offers ‘a funding platform to resolve global conflicts’. $50,000 gets you one of Kony’s teeth; $1m his skull, minus teeth already allocated. Other options include funding drones and warrior monks [h/t Wronging Rights]

Germany says 10 countries are ready for coalition of the willing on a Financial Transactions Tax

A spate of aid updates. The ONE campaign finds eurozone austerity cutting European aid by €700m in 2011; Chloe Stirk at the Global Humanitarian Assistance site summarizes further cuts (and some increases) in 2012. And according to the Guardian, a pan-EU Aid Watch report due out tomorrow finds 11 countries cutting assistance in 2011 and nine planning further reductions in 2012 and highlights Germany and France as the big backsliders. (Ignore the link on the Guardian site, which is to Bill Easterly’s now defunct AidWatch sceptisite).

The World Bank’s top number cruncher, Martin Ravallion, has been deciphering the regional trends in within-country inequality  

‘• Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has persistently been the region with highest average inequality within countries. Over 90% of LAC’s inequality is within countries. As others have noted, inequality has been falling noticeably in LAC since around 2000.
• Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is the region with the second-highest average inequality, though with no clear trend in either direction.
• South Asia has generally been a region of low inequality in incomes, though rising since the early 1990s.
• East Asia started out as the region with lowest inequality within countries, but has seen a steady rise in inequality (side-by-side with a trend reduction in inequality between countries).
• Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) saw a sharp rise in average inequality in the 1990s (coming with the transition to a market economy) but has seen generally falling inequality since then.
• The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has seen steadily falling average inequality.(Think again if you had thought rising inequality led to the Arab Spring—though inequalities of opportunity may well have played a role.) ‘

So last week the G20 and B20 (its business shadow) came out strongly against protectionism. That’s good, right? Well, perhaps not when its definition of protectionism includes pretty much anything involving regulation, including ‘national defense (Italy), imposing a financial transactions tax (FTT) (Brazil), requiring government approval of brownfield Foreign Direct Investment in pharmaceutical sectors (rather than automatically granting it), restricting foreign ownership of radio broadcasting (Russia), Argentina’s expropriation of assets in a company exploiting strategic natural resources, and an agreement among the BRICS to provide local currency loans to the business community of other treaty partners.’

‘I will never be cut’ – a Guardian/Christian Aid documentary about teenage girls resisting FGM, won a Webby this year (‘the Oscars of the internet’). It’s got some phenomenal mother-daughter dialogue (‘you can milk an education more than a cow’ – girl to mother who wants her to be cut so she can be married and get a dowry)


  1. A starter of the worst jargon offenders:

    armed actors: thespians with guns? I have visions of Charles Hawtry in Carry One Sergeant

    resilience: the latest buzz-word which is appearing in an ngo email/report/presentation near you soon. What does this mean? besides the opposite of vulnerable in most cases. The worse thing to do in an ngo is to suggest something negative. See also challenges rather than problems.

    gender based violence: someone has spent a lot of time at college at great expense learning about this so would be remiss not to use it

    livelihood: good word livelihood if used sparingly and correctly but not all that helpful in ‘livelihood intervention’ ‘livelihood programme’. See also ‘protection’, ‘intervention’ et al

    women, men and children: people?

    situation: nearly always a redundant word such as ‘crisis situation’, but when only one word will the skilled ngo worker will use ten. Can we develop a verbiage footprint index?

    cash-for-work: isn’t that a paid job?

    and my all time favourite…

    comma and especially women comma: This phrase, and its variants, will be copiously sprinkled throughout an ngo publication. It shows the writer has done (or more likely has not done) an in-depth ‘gender analysis’.

  2. * engagement with, participation of, or anything else to do with stakeholders, local or otherwise

    * dialogue, of any kind

    * inclusive growth

    * multi-faceted approach

    * connectivity

    * livelihood opportunities

    * governance

  3. HULK SMASH: engendering, on the ground, best practice, revert, comparative advantage (almost always used wrongly), rights-based (i.e. massively self serving agenda), concretise, operationalise, randomly inserting ‘strategic’ where it is nothing of the sort, most UN documents.

  4. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” (Einstein) is on of my favorite quotes.

    So thumbs up for Alan Duncan.

    Often, when reading though my colleague’s reports I feel like playing this wonderful game http://www.businessbuzzwordbingo.com/bbbingo.html. Once the development buzzword list here will be complete we can create an own version; I’ll add “policy process”.

  5. While I’m all for any assault on “going forward” and improper use of apostrophes, Alan Duncan’s full memo (reproduced at the end of the Telegraph memo linked to above) is pretty funny on a couple of other fronts.

    Phone numbers have to be formatted as 020 7023 rather than 0207? Officials should be spending their time reformatting forwarded emails to “delete extraneous spaces”? Seriously?

    While we’re splitting hairs, I hope the Minister’s Private Secretary will point out to him that it is in fact perfectly legitimate to start a sentence with the word “however”, as long as one uses a comma immediately afterwards (except in very specific circumstances – see http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/starting-a-sentence-with-however.aspx).

    Also, resilience is a perfectly respectable concept in development. It’s about recognising that development is a game of snakes as well as ladders, and that good policy sets out to address both. If Alan Duncan hasn’t worked that out after two years in post, then it may be time for another Minister of State going forward.

    1. thanks for sparing me the effort of replying on resilience, Alex – it is indeed a very powerful concept and one we all need to be grappling with (sorry Calvin)

  6. Glad none of you lot are marking my dissertation, its about local ownership by the way…..there’s another one for your list.

  7. Hate to disagree with the latest development in vogue word…

    While ‘resilience’ may be a perfectly formed concept it falls at the first hurdle when describing what the hell it is about.

    It’s a great word if you treat language akin to something like a secret handshake, or have a Humpty-Dumpty approach to words.

    It should be high up there on the banned list of words that should never be allowed out on their own

  8. I’d be happy to never see “transition(al)” again.

    The spiffy buzz words will come and go and will usually have their strategic purposes (that we may, or may not, agree to). Surely, they can be a source of annoyance, but they’re by no means as aggravating as the “explicable” ones that distort perception.

  9. At risk of siding with Alan Duncan’s inner Lynn Truss, I have bristled at the steady creep of the term “Learnings” amongst my colleagues, when talking about project evaluation. Why the singular/collective term learning has suddenly become inadequate and now needs to go plural, I have no idea. Even worse, they keep trying to “Capture the learnings” by which I assume they have had to run around in camouflage in order to corral people’s random insights into nets.

  10. How about “sensitisation”? Do you mean talking to p[eople about the things that affect their lives? If so please just say so. (hmmm fun this grammar fascism thing!)

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