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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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. 

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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

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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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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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Urban migration and COVID-19: Cities on the frontline of an inclusive response and recovery

By Samer Saliba, Head of Practice, Mayors Migration Council

Photo: Manoej Paateel / Shutterstock

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The international community is not doing enough to financially support those who are doing the most for migrants, refugees, and internally displaced people during this global pandemic: city governments. While many cities have the mandate to serve people in vulnerable situations, including migrant and displaced residents, they often do not have enough financial resources to meet the increased demand and need of new arrivals. Lost revenue due to the economic impacts of COVID-19 will further curtail cities’ ability to deliver critical services to their residents this year. Some estimates suggest city governments could see revenue losses of up to 25 percent in 2021, precisely when their spending needs to increase to pay for recovery efforts and continuously growing populations. In a recent survey, 33 municipal finance officials in 22 countries across all continents reported already seeing a 10 percent decrease in their overall revenue and around a five percent increase in expenditure. This “scissors effect” of local government revenue and expenditure will be most felt in cities in developing countries. African cities, for example,  could potentially lose up to up to 65 percent of their revenue in 2021.

While the international community is paying more attention to municipal finance in relation to climate change, sustainable development, and urban development in general, the same cannot be said of urban migration and displacement. Few municipal finance mechanisms focus explicitly on financing for urban migration and displacement, despite the fact that the majority of migrants and displaced people reside in cities. Moreover, donors with low risk tolerance often disregard city governments in low to middle-income countries. In response to the unmet needs of cities, my organisation, the Mayors Migration Council (MMC), recently launched the Global Cities Fund on Inclusive Pandemic Response supporting five cities to implement inclusive response and recovery programmes of their own design.

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Significant but insufficient progress in financial support for developing countries

By José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Finance Minister of Colombia

Recent events and particularly last week’s meeting of the Bretton Woods institutions have generated significant advances in international financial co-operation, particularly in support of developing countries. The latter is crucial, as a large number of low and middle-income countries continue to be severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis while the economic recovery underway is very uneven, as underscored by the IMF in its World Economic Outlook.

The first good news was the agreement to issue $650 billion dollars in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), the IMF’s global reserve asset. Close to two-fifths of the new SDRs would engross the reserves of developing countries. It remains to be agreed how the unused SDRs, particularly from developed countries and China, would be lent or donated to special funds to support low-income countries, and there is no agreement on how they could also be used to support middle-income countries.

The second good news was the endorsement by the US of a global effective minimum tax in the context of the negotiations taking place in the OECD Inclusive Framework on BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting). There is still a need to agree on what the tax rate would be and the criteria for determining the tax base: whether sales, as the US has suggested, as well as other criteria, particularly resource use and employment that would benefit developing countries, as the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) has suggested.

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For greater vaccine equity, first fix these misconceptions

By Philip Schellekens, Senior Economic Advisor – IFC (World Bank Group)

As we start to see the light at the end of the pandemic’s dark tunnel, inequities in the distribution of vaccines across countries are coming under intense scrutiny. Unequal vaccine distribution is not necessarily unfair—after all, some population groups are more vulnerable than others. Yet relative to sensible metrics of need, the current inequality is excessive. Efforts to boost and balance deployment have galvanized under the clarion call for #VaccinEquity, but progress has been slow and marred by bottlenecks.

In addition to the various practical constraints—including financing, logistics, manufacturing, and patent rights—three misconceptions stand in the way: the view that COVID-19 is mainly a “rich-country disease”; a focus on herd immunity that detracts from the pressing goal of protecting the global priority group; and a belief that fixing vaccine hoarding in rich countries will fix vaccine equity on its own.

A global snapshot of vaccine inequity

Competing interests in diplomacy, economics, and global health shape the international distribution of vaccines, but overshadowing them all are universally recognized ethical principles that center on “need” and “priority for the disadvantaged.” Needs encompass a fuzzy spectrum. They include the burden of morbidity (e.g., long COVID), broader health effects (e.g., undermanaged illnesses), and wider socioeconomic effects (e.g., food security and poverty). But as long as this pandemic rages on, needs will first and foremost be defined by the vulnerability to premature death—which not only is devastating but also irreversible and hence hard to compensate for.

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The shifting global geography of innovation

By Riccardo Crescenzi, Simona Iammarino, Carolin Ioramashvili, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose and Michael Storper, London School of Economics & Political Science, Department of Geography & Environment

The geography of technological innovation around the globe has changed over the last three decades, and with it the geography of wealth creation. Innovation has become simultaneously more globally spread across different parts of the world, and more intensely localised in strongly interconnected global hotspots, generating positive and negative effects and new kinds of inequality.

Since the 1st Industrial Revolution, innovation has not only been a motor of economic growth; it has also strongly shaped (un)equal geographical patterns of development and income distribution. Each successive major industrial revolution has had its own distinctive geography. The 2nd Industrial Revolution – broadly based on electro-mechanical general-purpose technologies – witnessed the entry of North America into the high-income club of the world, while broadening the industrialised regions of Europe. The benefits spread widely through the territories of innovative countries, down their urban hierarchies, generating a tendency of inter-regional income convergence in the mid-20th century.

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We need a new multilateralism to bring about a better post-pandemic world

By Benigno Lopez, Vice President for Sectors and Knowledge, IDB

When discussing life after the pandemic, many express a longing to return to a pre-Coronavirus world. But instead of dreaming of the status quo, I hope Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) advances towards a better and “new normal”, born under the pressures of COVID-19, and far more equitable and collaborative than before. Critically, multilaterals will need to work together more than ever to help make this happen.

Bringing about a better, post-pandemic future will not be easy. LAC has been hit hard by the crisis. According to recent estimates, the region saw a 7.4 percent contraction of GDP in 2020, with 34 million people losing their jobs and at least 40 million falling into poverty. To further complicate matters, the region grappled with pressing challenges even before the emergence of COVID-19. Economic growth and productivity have been lagging for some time. And our region is the most unequal in the world: the richest tenth of the population captures 22 times more income than the bottom tenth, while the richest 1 percent captures 21 percent of the income in the entire economy — double the average in the industrialised world.

As the pandemic spread, so have concerns over inequality. References to inequality on social networks have multiplied by 10 since March 2020, according to our own digital tracking tools.

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