Understanding migration as an asset: the Colombian case

By Adriana Mejía Hernández, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs of the Republic of Colombia

The massive exodus of Venezuelan migrants is the world’s second largest migration wave and is unprecedented in the history of Latin America. Colombia, host to almost 30% of Venezuelan migrants, responded with comprehensive measures and most importantly, has approached the mass arrivals of migrants as an opportunity for development and growth. However, the lack of identity documents and irregular status of migrants are the source of many challenges to achieving an effective state response.

The Colombian case is particular. During the 1990s thousands of Colombian nationals migrated to Venezuela making Colombia the country of origin. Nonetheless, the worsening of the social and economic conditions in Venezuela caused a reversal of the migration dynamics between the two countries. As of 2015, Colombia began to receive flows of regular migration that later, in 2019, were surpassed by the number of irregular migrants crossing into national territory, through various pathways along the border, risking their lives and belongings along the way.

The dramatic circumstances that irregular migrants have to face make them more vulnerable to suffering from human rights violations, including sexual or gender-based violence, discrimination, xenophobia, labour exploitation, as well as migratory-related crimes like human trafficking or migrant smuggling. They are more likely to fall victims to criminal acts, or even, in some cases, of becoming involved themselves in criminality due to a lack of job opportunities or access to basic services.

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Why investing in intermediary cities should be a priority for a green recovery

By Michael Lindfield, Senior Consultant, former Senior Specialist at the ADB

Although the COVID-19 pandemic will change the context for investment decisions – including for climate investment in intermediary cities in emerging markets and developing countries – little has been done to detail these consequences. In general, consequences for financing institutions and cities may include lower inflows to institutions like pension funds and insurance companies, and increased pressure to buy government bonds and lower revenue base, thus reducing cities’ and other urban institutions’ ability to service debt and/or provide availability payments to concessions. Additional consequences include potentially lower emerging market and developing economy sovereign and sub-sovereign credit ratings (increasing the cost of debt), and curbed economic growth, thus curtailing the potential for cost recovery in relation to green projects.    

These consequences are likely to impact intermediary cities more than capitals or megacities because they have lower credit ratings and less technical capacity. However, there will be opportunities if climate investment is integrated into COVID-19 recovery financing, creating the right incentives for investors. The critical alignment relates to the perceived risk/return profile of investments. If the rate of likely return will be sufficient to compensate for the risks of investing, then private, institutional and commercial entities will invest, provided minimum regulatory hurdles, such as minimum credit ratings, are met.

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Green windows of opportunity for latecomer development in renewable energies

By Xiaolan Fu, University of Oxford, Rasmus Lema, University of Aalborg and Roberta Rabellotti, University of Pavia

There is increasing recognition that policies aimed at meeting environmental targets may open new economic development paths, especially for emerging economies, given the green transformation and related techno-economic paradigm changes across institutional, market and technological domains. Looking at China, a recent article highlights the importance of institutional transformation to create “green windows of opportunity” (GWOs) for economic structural change associated with the green economy. Green windows of opportunity represent a set of favourable, temporary conditions for “latecomers” to catch-up in the long run in sectors central to the green economy. 

To investigate GWOs there needs to be a new framework for two main reasons. First, it is essential to deviate from the environmentally unfriendly development pathways undertaken in the past by advanced economies of North America and Western Europe. Emerging economies should ‘develop differently’ from the outset rather than catch-up along established pathways. Second, the green transformation, as a significant driver of current capitalist development, has features that sets it apart from earlier transformations. It is the first industrial and technological revolution with a deadline and it is steered explicitly by public policy, driven not just by economic motivations, but also by social value. 

Green windows of opportunity

This new analytical framework is summarised in Figure 1, with green windows of opportunity at its core, driven by institution and policy changes rather than technological or market change. Empirical evidence on biomass, hydro, solar photovoltaic, concentrated solar power and wind shows that institutional changes are the central drivers of green windows of opportunity. Examples from China include both cross-cutting changes such as the implementation of the 2006 Renewable Energy Law and sector-focused missions such as the Golden Sun Demonstration Program in the solar photovoltaic sector and the Rind the Wind Program. While the drivers of the emergence of these green windows are essentially institutional and policy-driven in nature, they influence and interact with technological and market transformations.

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Amid cyclones and COVID-19, Vanuatu makes bold decision to graduate from ‘least developed country’ category

By Violeta Gonzalez Behar, Head of Partnerships, Outreach and Resource Mobilisation, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), World Trade Organization & Michelle Kovacevic, Communications Specialist and Consultant for EIF

Fresh fruit and vegetable market in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photo: Shutterstock

On 4 December 2020, Vanuatu shed its official classification as one of the world’s least developed countries (LDC). This significant milestone – called ‘graduation’ – is something that only five other countries have managed to achieve in the last 40 years. And Vanuatu’s graduation achievement may be the most impressive of all given that, over the past few years, not only has it has weathered significant economic and social fallout from repeated natural disasters, but also a major drop in tourism revenue due to border closures during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

At this time of exacerbated economic vulnerabilities, some have questioned whether this is the right time for Vanuatu to leave its LDC status behind. Indeed it is a courageous choice – on the surface it may seem that there is more to lose than gain from graduation. Graduating countries usually surrender international support measures earmarked for LDCs such as preferential market access, targeted multilateral aid funding, free legal advice and technical assistance from some United Nations agencies, as well as travel support to attend international UN meetings.

While the impact of losing international support measures will depend on what goods a country exports, the trade agreements it is part of, and other factors, the UN’s Committee for Development Policy’s (CDP) LDC graduation impact assessments have shown that the loss of these measures doesn’t actually make much of a practical difference.

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Quality Infrastructure: putting principles into practice – the viewpoint of a development agency

Takenori Nasu, Senior Deputy Director, Operations Management Division, Operations Strategy Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Investing in infrastructure is critical for recovering from the COVID-19 crisis and achieving long-term development objectives. The crisis has triggered a reshuffling of investment priorities for governments globally and significant shifts in demand. Moreover, the pandemic adds further pressure on already-constrained fiscal space in developing countries. Ensuring quality in infrastructure development has become more fundamental than ever for the efficient and effective use of limited resources for a resilient and sustainable future.

In 2019, the G20 Osaka Summit endorsed the “G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment”, a set of voluntary, non-binding principles designed to reflect the G20’s common aspiration for quality infrastructure investment. But how can “quality infrastructure” be put into practice?

Achieving quality infrastructure, in other words maximising the effectiveness of infrastructure projects, has been a long-standing challenge. To maximise the positive impact of projects, many factors must be taken into consideration, such as economic efficiency in terms of life-cycle cost, natural disaster risks, environmental and social impacts, climate change, gender mainstreaming, openness, transparency, debt sustainability, and accountability in line with international standards outlined in the G20 Principles. These factors should be considered throughout the entire project-cycle from project formulation to service delivery and maintenance.

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Frontloading finance can save lives, tackle climate change and generate real impact

By Sony Kapoor, CEO of the Nordic Institute for Finance, Technology and Sustainability (NIFTYS) and Chair of Re-Define

The humanitarian, moral and economic case for development aid has been made eloquently and does not bear repeating. But the stark, ongoing highly inequitable impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which hurt poor and developing economies the most, has turbocharged the case for more aid and now. However, present levels of aid languish at 0.32% of GDP, or $161.2 billion, less than half the promised amount of 0.7% of GDP. This commitment needs to be at least doubled, but despite the OECD call for a “massive expansion of aid” countries such as the UK are cutting, rather than increasing aid. 

Meanwhile, in the developing world, COVID-19 may push 150 million to 200 million people into extreme poverty, reversing years of hard-earned progress. Even a dynamic economy such as India has seen an increase of 75 million additional poor, with the middle class also being hollowed out. The IMF has highlighted the uneven nature of the recovery between rich economies that have vaccines and large stimulus programmes, and developing countries that are lagging behind on both, now also facing fresh outbreaks of the virus. Climate change is likely to push an additional 130 million people into extreme poverty absent urgent mitigation and resources for adaptation. As Oxfam has highlighted, developed economies have failed to meet their promise to mobilise $100 billion in climate funding with the true value likely at only a third of the reported volume. 

The need to frontload aid to 1) finance vaccination efforts in developing economies 2) rescue the millions who have just fallen into extreme poverty before permanent scarring sets in 3) support ambitious mitigation efforts in developing economies to reduce greenhouse gases and 4) fund adaptation measures, could not be stronger. Every euro spent on these efforts will deliver several euros of return, for both developing countries and the global economy.

The large benefits of frontloading spending on vaccines is what led some donors to launch the International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFIm) in 2006. IFFIm borrowed $6.4 billion and used it to fund the delivery of vaccines, which otherwise were unlikely to have been developed and administered, and which contributed to saving 13 million lives until 2019. The vaccine bonds issued by IFFIm will be repaid by pledges from 10 countries over a period of 32 years. Remarkably, IFFm was able to borrow at a lower rate than the weighted average borrowing costs of the pledging countries, because so many environmental, social and governance (ESG) conscious investors wanted to save lives.  

Now is the time for the EU, accounting for nearly 50% of all aid, the US under a Biden administration keen to reengage with the world, Japan and the UK to launch an ambitious IFFIm-like facility with the explicit aim of doubling aid volumes until 2030. Other donors, especially the Norway, Canada, Australia and South Korea, would be natural partners. This is also the Decade of Delivery for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are badly lagging behind.

Enter FASTER – Frontloading Aid for the SDGs, The Environment and (COVID) Recovery – a plan to nearly double the volume of aid over the next decade to $250 – $300 billion. This will entail the issuance of around $1 trillion in SDG bonds, social bonds and green bonds to be repaid by ring fencing 25% -30% of current aid (as a % of GDP) for 20 years between 2031 and 2050. 

At prevailing record low interest rates and given the dramatic growth of ESG investors, real interest rates on these bonds will be zero or negative with coupons of around 1%. Far from undermining the total volume of aid between now and 2050, borrowing will actually increase it. ESG investors and impact funds who have been buying green and social bonds will lap these up. Unlike many of the outstanding green, social, and sustainability (GSS) bonds, these bonds will provide additional financing for climate action, SDG investments, social and health interventions that would otherwise not have been funded. 

Even if the frontloaded expenditure from FASTER is only modestly successful in saving lives, reducing extreme poverty and tackling climate change, public support for aid among existing donors is likely to increase, raising aid allocations. Combined with the growing variety of donors, this means that aid volume won´t see a dramatic drop-off in 2031, after FASTER expires. 

The logic of FASTER dovetails neatly with the reasoning behind the €750 billion EU Recovery Fund, as well as the Biden administration´s stimulus and economic recovery and infrastructure plans. All seek to frontload spending and investments to minimise economic scarring, tackle climate change and catalyse economic growth. If anything, FASTER has the most compelling logic of bigger economic multipliers, greater emissions reductions, saving more lives and biggest impact per Euro. 

What better way for an EU keen to project soft power by prioritising the Green Deal and an EU-Africa partnership than to launch a FASTER facility to tackle climate change, save tens of millions of lives, and catalyse growth in the developing world? And for a Biden administration and Japan – keen to rebuild environmental credentials and address China´s influence – to co-sponsor it, demonstrating intent? The UK, a lead sponsor of IFFm, is perfectly placed to co-ordinate the launch of FASTER ahead of the forthcoming COP26 to also help catalyse ambitious climate commitments. 

Porque los datos son centrales para el futuro de las ciudades

Por Carlos Santiso y Marcelo Facchina – respectivamente, director y especialista líder en ciudades inteligentes de la dirección de innovación digital del estado de CAF – Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina

Las tecnologías están cambiando la vida de las personas en las ciudades y la forma en que los centros urbanos evolucionan para satisfacer sus necesidades. La pandemia aceleró esta transformación de manera disruptiva.

Es imposible no considerar a las ciudades como parte integral de la ecuación para resolver los desafíos relacionados con la lucha contra las exclusiones sociales, la mejora de los servicios públicos y la reducción de la inseguridad, entre otros. En este contexto de rupturas y disrupciones, la capacidad de los gobiernos locales para gestionar los problemas urbanos será central para la recuperación y la pandemia ha permitido comprender con mayor claridad los diversos elementos que faltan para gobernar las ciudades de forma eficaz.

Un tema clave que ha surgido con fuerza en la agenda pública ha sido cómo se manejan los datos y para que propósito; pero también su calidad e integridad, así como las garantías de privacidad y seguridad. Es decir, la confianza que tienen los ciudadanos en la manera en que los gobiernos locales manejan sus datos para mejorar vidas.

Un gobierno local moderno no se sostiene sin una buena gobernanza de los datos, una infraestructura de datos segura, y talento digital para sacarle valor. La política de datos debe por lo tanto funcionar como un elemento articulador de las estrategias de transformación, definiendo el alcance, la dirección, las responsabilidades y los procedimientos para el camino hacia territorios más responsivos y resilientes.

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Women and conflict in West Africa and beyond

By Dr Diene Keita, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director (Programme), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

Photo: Fred Marie

Women are deliberately targeted in conflict

When conflict happens, the rule of law breaks down, freedom of movement is restricted, institutions and services are weakened, creating a lack of access to social services and information, and to food and livelihoods. This situation affects the entire population, but it disproportionately affects women. Research has shown that female-headed households are more vulnerable to stress and less capable of absorbing shocks, due to gender inequality, cultural restrictions and the feminisation of poverty. Conflict affects women and men differently and existing gender inequalities are compounded in times of conflict. Women and girls make up a large proportion of internally displaced populations (IDPs) and refugees. In Burkina Faso, 51% of IDPs are girls under the age of 14. Moreover, gender norms that associate masculinity with aggression make men more likely to perpetrate violence against those over whom they have power – usually women and children.

Overall, conflict increases women’s exposure and vulnerability to sexual and gender-based violence. The Sahel and West Africa Club’s publication on Women and Conflict in West Africa, shows that Islamist organisations and militias deliberately target women. In north-eastern Nigeria where Boko Haram has its roots, women are victims of systemic attacks and kidnappings, and are forced into slavery as sex slaves, informants and even fighters. Additionally, women in conflict are victims of rape and forced prostitution, pregnancy, abortion, sterilisation and marriage, as well as many other forms of sexual violence. The higher risk and exposure to sexual and gender-based violence during conflict leads to increased reproductive health problems, which, compounded with the lack of access to health services in particular in conflict settings, have a severely detrimental effect on women and girls. Age compounds gender discrimination and disparities: in conflict and post-conflict contexts, adolescent girls and young women face even higher risks. Moreover, conflict widens the gender gap in school enrolment and retention.

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Comment remettre l’Humain au cœur des préoccupations agricoles et alimentaires ?

Par Pierrick De Ronne, Président de Biocoop

Selon l’OXFAM, 80 % de l’alimentation mondiale dépend de la production de paysannes et paysans. Pourtant, loin d’être récompensés pour leur contribution à la survie de la planète, de plus en plus d’agriculteurs perçoivent des revenus insuffisants pour leur assurer un revenu de vie décent. Dans l’ensemble des pays du monde, les géants de l’agro-industrie et de la distribution dominent les ventes de produits alimentaires. Ces acteurs s’organisent même à l’international afin de définir des prix payés aux producteurs sans cesse plus réduits. Cette guerre destructrice de valeur, maintes fois pointée du doigt par l’ensemble des acteurs, ceux-là mêmes qui s’y sont engouffrés depuis plusieurs années, écrase nos paysans, détruit nos filières et nos marchés locaux, accentue les écarts de revenus et s’accompagne, de surcroît, d’un recours croissant de l’industrie agro-alimentaire aux additifs et aux ingrédients ultra-transformés, lesquels ont un impact désastreux sur la santé des consommateurs.  

Les acteurs de la distribution ont une responsabilité sur les inégalités du système alimentaire mondial. L’engagement des enseignes, petites et grandes, pour transformer leur modèle d’approvisionnement, de production et de consommation est donc une condition indispensable. Aussi, comment passer d’une politique agricole productiviste, destructrice de valeur, à une politique de l’alimentation reconnue pour ses externalités positives (terroir, rayonnement culturel, emploi) ? Comment réussir à démocratiser l’accès à une alimentation de qualité rémunératrice pour les paysans tout en considérant l’agriculture comme partie intégrante de notre santé et de nos écosystèmes sociétaux ?

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Think global, act local: unpacking progress towards ending child marriage and averting the setbacks of COVID-19

By Chiara Orlassino, Research Adviser and Gabrielle Szabo, Senior Gender Equality Adviser, Save the Children UK1

In 2021, over 28,000 girls got married on International Women’s Day. Ten years from now, the number might still be as high as 26,000 – a far cry from the net zero target of Agenda 2030 (Fig. 1). The grim estimate for 2030 doesn’t even take into account the impact of COVID-19 on child marriage rates, although evidence shows that the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on girls’ rights. With only 10 years to go to 2030, we reflect on progress made on one of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and call for urgent action on inequalities in particular, which COVID-19 is exacerbating. The Generation Equality forum convened by UN Women is a timely process to prioritise gender equality in recovery efforts, building momentum around economic and political investment in girls’ rights.

Last year, Save the Children’s Global Girlhood Report 2020 shed light on progress towards key targets since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years prior. Among others, child marriage emerged as one area where strides forward had been particularly fragile and at risk of a dramatic reversal due to COVID-19. Our analysis estimates that the economic impacts of the pandemic alone will put up to half a million more girls at risk of child marriage worldwide by 2025, although the real effect will likely be much larger.

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