Normatively weak institutions can be functionally strong: A surprising lesson from China

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By Yuen Yuen Ang, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and the author of “How China Escaped the Poverty Trap


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of
Development in Transition. The 2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion


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Guangzhou, China. Photo : shutterstock.com

For the past decades, policymakers and development practitioners have clung to the idea that “good governance” is the solution to poverty. If only poor countries could eradicate corruption, enforce laws, hold leaders accountable and achieve a checklist of best practices, their economic and social problems would be resolved.

This thinking, however, runs into a chicken-and-egg problem: in the first place, it’s hard for poor countries to quickly and meaningfully establish good governance. Indeed, if it were easy to achieve good governance, poor countries would have done it long ago.

But if insisting on one-size-fits all good governance is not the solution, then what is the alternative? My research on China’s development reveals a surprising lesson: normatively weak institutions can be functionally strong. Seen through first-world lenses, the norms and structures found in low-income, pre-industrialised countries are often regarded as “weak” or “backward,” that is, as impediments to development. In fact, these institutions can be creatively adapted or repurposed to kick-start development.
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The institutional key to step-up disaster risk management in Thailand

By Andrea Colombo, Jr. Policy Analyst, and Chloé Stutzmann, Consultant, OECD Development Centre

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Thailand, Nonthaburi flood, 2011.
Photo: Suwan Wanawattanawong / Shutterstock.com

The increasing exposure of people to disaster worldwide was a key issue during last week’s World Water Forum in Brasilia. By 2050, almost 2 billion people in the world will be at risk of floods. At the same time, between 5 and 6 billion people might live in areas that will be water-scarce.

Thailand is no exception to this global trend. The 2011 floods affected 16 million people and claimed over 1 000 lives. The economic damage accounted for over USD 9 billion in the city of Bangkok alone (OECD, 2015). In 2016, drought was declared in 14 provinces, and water rationing was imposed as major dams dropped to their lowest levels since 1994. Such flooding and drought moreover negatively affect agricultural production, especially in Thailand’s rural provinces in the North, the Northeast and the South regions, where agriculture’s share in GDP exceeded 20% in 2015, compared to the 9% national average.
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Small actions for big impact: Lessons from Canada

By Jacqueline Théoret, Executive Director, Strategic Communications, International Development Global Affairs Canada and Co-Chair of the OECD Development Communication Network (DevCom)

global-goals-logo-shareWe cannot hope to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build the more peaceful, inclusive and prosperous — the better — world they envision without engaging people everywhere and inspiring them to take concrete action. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that it is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But, so far “the people” do not seem to be aware of it.

In Canada, nearly 60% of people surveyed in 2017 knew nothing about the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. Worse still: 73% of the 19% of Canadians who said they were aware of the SDGs were unable to say anything at all about them. 1

Globally things are not much better: only 28-45% of people have heard of the SDGs, but that does not mean that they understand anything about them. Only about 1% of people in 24 countries say they know the SDGs “very well.” 2

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Three reasons why local feminist movements offer solutions for gender equality and peace

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By Maria Butler, Director of Global Programmes, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)  1


Learn more about this timely topic on the upcoming
OECD Global Forum on Development
Register today to attend


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A group of Liberian women fight for peace. Taken from the documentary film “Pray the Devil Back to Hell”, directed by Gini Reticker

The OECD policy paper Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Fragile and Conflict-affected Situations (October 2017) demands a “fundamental shift in perspective on gender.”  It challenges the donor community to understand gender and conflict more holistically, more deeply and more politically with a strong focus on women as agents of change. It is a must-read for all policy makers and donors alike. However, an important aspect missed in this paper is the importance of feminist movements and how to leverage local feminist movements for change. Women are working at the frontlines of peace, development, humanitarian aid and human rights. Here are three reasons why feminist movements are central to fostering more peaceful and secure societies.

First, there is proof. One of the most compelling research findings on political violence is that societies with more equality between men and women tend to be more peaceful. Research on violence against women in 70 countries also reveals that the most important and consistent factor driving policy change is feminist activism.   Furthermore, when women are included in peace processes, the probability of an agreement lasting at least 15 years increases 35% (Global Study 2015). Continue reading

Stabilising Argentina’s Public Expenditure

By Dr. Sebastian Galiani, Professor of Economics, University of Maryland 1

development-financeThe present government in Argentina inherited a particularly high level of public spending compared to the country’s own history. Consolidated public expenditure for the three levels of government − nation, province and municipalities − reached 42.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015. This is an almost 17 point hike from before the 2001-2002 crisis when this expenditure was 25.6% of GDP.

Three areas drove such growth in public spending. First, the public wage bill grew 4.8 points of GDP since 1998 − mainly driven by the provinces and municipalities. Second, pension benefits grew 4.7 points of GDP since 1998. And third, private transfers increased 5.0 points of GDP, of which subsidies to public services represented 3.6% of GDP. In contrast, public investment almost did not grow during 1998 to 2015, at 1.4 points of GDP. The end result was a level of primary spending that is higher than that of all Argentina’s Latin American neighbors, and up to 8 percentage points above what is expected for a country at its level of GDP per capita.

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Jeunes : oser, innover, entreprendre !

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Par Awa Caba, Co-fondatrice, Sooretul 1


Pour en savoir plus sur ce sujet :
Le Forum mondial de l’OCDE sur le développement 2018
Cliquer ici pour vous inscrire


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Vendeurs de fruits à Thiès, Sénégal. Photo: shutterstock.com

Au Sénégal, les Petites et Moyennes Entreprises (PME) ou structures de production et transformation des produits agricoles se trouvent essentiellement dans la banlieue de la capitale (Guédiawaye à 15 km de Dakar) et dans les zones rurales autour de Kaolack, Ziguinchor, Kédougou, Thiès et Saint-Louis. Elles disposent de peu de moyens techniques et financiers pour se développer et commercialiser leurs produits. Leurs produits manquent notoirement de visibilité et de présence sur le marché local, dans les boutiques et les grandes surfaces.

La stratégie de pénétration du marché par ces structures s’effectue, en général, à travers la participation aux foires internationales. Ce sont malheureusement les seules occasions de vente à très grande échelle. Ce déficit des produits locaux sur le marché a plusieurs causes: peu de moyens mis en œuvre pour développer le secteur, des PME insuffisamment sensibilisées aux enjeux du packaging, et un manque de d’incitation au niveau politique pour favoriser la consommation de produits locaux.

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What youth need: A greater focus on job quality

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By Niall O’Higgins, Senior Research Specialist, Youth Employment Programme, International Labour Organisation (ILO)


Learn more about this timely topic on the upcoming
OECD Global Forum on Development
Register today to attend


women-africaFor young people, successful entry into the world of work – that is, successful transition from education to employment – means more than simply finding a job. Successful transition occurs only when young people find decent work. What is actually meant by this has been the subject of much debate for a number of years; but its essence is encapsulated in the ILO’s notion of freely chosen and productive employment.

While it can be hard to define precisely what ‘decent work’ looks like, it is fairly clear what it is not. It is not informal employment. It is not work that provides insufficient income to meet basic needs. It does not involve excessive working time or any form of compulsion. Typically, it does involve some degree of job security, protection from arbitrary dismissal, access to social protection, such as health insurance and pension schemes, and freedom of association.
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