Walking the SDG talk: Are we ready to change the way we do development?

By Doug Frantz, Deputy Secretary General, OECD

 

E_SDG_goals_icons-individual-rgb-17.pngThose most in need don’t care about the labels their countries are given: be it low – or middle – income, fragile or emerging, donor darling or orphan. What they care about is peace and security, having opportunities to do decent work, and providing their children with a better future.

Nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty since 1990. But for the 800 million people still living in poverty – half of them under the age of 18 – conditions are frighteningly unchanged. They have no water, sanitation or electricity. Often, because they lack services and income, they depend on informal or illicit resources to protect themselves from hunger, sickness or violence.
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Human development and the 2030 Agenda: Effecting positive change in people’s lives

By Selim Jahan, Director, Human Development Report Office, UNDP

humandevThis September marked the first anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we shift into the implementation phase, increasingly I am asked: “How is the concept of human development linked to the 2030 Agenda? How is it relevant to the achievement of the new goals?”

The UN Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals already mirrored the basic principles of human development – expanding human capabilities by addressing basic human deprivations (ending extreme poverty and hunger, promoting good health and education, etc.).
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Habitat III decisions crucial for the future of Africa’s cities

By Greg Foster, Area Vice-President, Habitat for Humanity, Europe, Middle East and Africa

habitat-3Africa will have some of the fastest growing cities in the world over the next 50 years. Unless something is done, and done soon, millions more will flood into unplanned cities and live in already overcrowded informal settlements and slums. It would appear as if the United Nation’s Habitat III conference, which happens every 20 years, and New Urban Agenda couldn’t come at a better time.

Habitat III’s goals sound simple — develop well-planned and sustainable cities, eradicate poverty and reach full employment, and respect human rights. Being able to leverage the key role of cities and human settlements as drivers of sustainable development in an increasingly urbanised world, the meeting will seek political commitment to promote and realise sustainable urban development. This could be a watershed moment for Africa’s cities. But critical challenges stand in the way of making Africa’s cities economic powerhouses, centres for exchanging ideas, and places that meld cultures and peoples. Three actions are needed. Continue reading

The Gig Economy

By Juan R. de Laiglesia and Caroline Tassot, OECD Development Centre

Gig-economy

Wolfgang von Kempelen built an impressive chess-playing automat in 1770 known as the “mechanical Turk.’’ Dressed in its fancy turban, the “Turk’’ would move the pieces on the chessboard, playing (and beating) such notables as Napoleon, Catherine the Great and Benjamin Franklin. The unfortunate use of this national stereotype (which we in no way support) was meant to enchant imaginations with exoticism in the face of the automat’s extraordinary prowess in 18th century Europe. As suspected, the automat was an elaborate hoax, although this was discovered only much later. Several chess grandmasters operated it during its rather long history until its demise in a Philadelphia fire in July 1854.

What’s the relevance? In 2005, Amazon’s catalogue started to get unwieldy, and the Internet company realised that it needed better tagging on its items for sale. For example, if one searched for a crimson shirt, shirts labelled “red” should be displayed as well as those tagged as “crimson.” Even Amazon faced tasks that computers could not do more quickly and accurately than people.  Continue reading

India’s Development Tug-of-War: Which side will win?

By Shailaja Chandra, Former Permanent Secretary of the Government of India and former Chief Secretary, Delhi; Former Executive Director, National Population Stabilisation Fund, India

For a chaotic country full of argumentative Indians many of whom are poor and uneducated, India’s continuous economic growth (not prosperity) remains a surprise. But something else is even more striking. The country has the world’s largest youngest population: 27 million babies are added each year. With such youth to bank on, India’s productivity seems to possess the best ingredients for success for decades to come.

But all great stories have another side that also must be told. Most births in India take place in some of the country’s poorest states where high fertility, low age of marriage, and a disproportionately large number of mother’s and children’s deaths present an ever-distressing picture. A group of five states have had the dubious distinction of accounting for around 45% of the country’s population, suffering and stymied from poor investments in health and education. No wonder these states were officially referred to as the BIMARU states, an acronym for their names of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, which denotes much more since the word bimaru in Hindi means sickly.

For decades, these states have defied conventional experience about the process of development and held back the achievements of the rest of the country. The differences are stark: some other states in India reached replacement level of fertility as early as 1989 and 1992. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, however, may need another five years to get there. The infant and maternal mortality in the progressive states is lower by half, and in some cases even 70% less, than in these laggard states.

Some 15 years ago, the Indian government decided to pay focused attention to these states, particularly in the highly neglected area of reproductive health. Around the same time, the five states were reorganised and became eight in number with the hope that being smaller would help them respond better to the process of development. They were rechristened the Empowered Action Group (EAG), and the pejorative title BIMARU was wiped out of the official vocabulary.  In 2005, the National Rural Health Mission, India’s largest-ever health programme, started pumping resources into these “high-focus states.”  Strategies included revamping rural health infrastructure, promoting health centre-based deliveries, facilitating access to emergency obstetric care, and assigning a trained health activist to make family-level contact, undertake pregnancy tracking and provide access to contraceptives.

Many hoped that with such a high dose of attention, the EAG would eventually catch up. Most, however, did not share this optimism, and not without reason. Even today, strong patriarchal attitudes continue to discriminate against women. Girls are denied access to schooling once they reach puberty. They are married off well before the legal age of 18 and subjected to a host of discriminatory barriers. The political leadership in most of these states has seldom accorded high priority to health or education; many have invested in perpetrating caste-based divisions in society. This backdrop naturally fails to inspire change.

Yet the good news is that by focusing attention on these laggard states and monitoring health indicators annually, a decline in fertility has begun and it is faster than anywhere else in the country. The increase in institutional deliveries has been impressive, and family health surveys and other research show that an increase in the age of marriage and greater use of contraception have contributed to lowering fertility. After decades of stagnation, the population growth rate in these states has registered a significant fall for the first time, dropping from 25% to 20.9%. From the point of view of women, the opportunity to have hospital-based deliveries stands out, complemented by such popular incentives as transportation to a health facility, compensation for leaving home, supplementary nutrition and contraception advice.

While these are positive trends, the push has to continue. These states will contribute 50% of India’s population within the next five years, equalling if not exceeding the combined population of the rest of India. The prospect of half of India holding back the other half is a dismal one. Only if the special efforts mounted receive commensurate political support that simultaneously encourage girls’ education and skill learning, later marriages and spacing between children will the laggard 50% eventually catch up. Happily, the process has begun.

India has been a member of the OECD Development Centre since 2001.


 

This article should not be reported as representing the official views of the OECD, the OECD Development Centre or of their member countries. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the author.

Can the G20 make a difference for development?

By Federico Bonaglia, Senior Counsellor to the Director at the OECD Development Centre

Can the G20 really make a difference for development? The short answer is yes. The long answer is that the G20 can actually do more and should not miss the opportunity offered by the SDGs to deepen its engagement on global development. How can we upgrade the development agenda? In a two-part Development Post, the author explores the first question here. Look for a second submission that delves into the G20’s forward-looking agenda for development.

With the tragic Paris events weighing on their minds, G20 leaders gathered in Antalya last week and reaffirmed their commitment to strong, sustainable and resilient growth for all, including low-income and developing countries. Why does this matter for development and the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals? The reasons are substantial. First, the sheer size of the G20 economies and the transmission mechanisms that link their actions, or inaction, to the development prospects of the rest of the world cannot be ignored. Second, G20 leaders possess convening and agenda-setting power and their like-minded approach to development demands attention. Third, the value of each G20 country’s own respective development experiences can contribute to inform developing countries in their efforts.

Indeed, development has a special place in the G20. Different from other fora, the G20 has not evolved into a pledging platform for development initiatives. Just think of the 2005 G8 Gleneagles Summit, with its ambitious plans to double aid and undertake massive debt relief, or other G7/G8 initiatives on water (Evian), food security (L’Aquila), maternal health (Muskoka) or the Middle East and North Africa transition (Deauville). The G20 countries representing 85% of the world’s GDP are focusing instead on promoting an enabling global environment to spur development and enhance the role of developing countries as new poles of growth[1].

For its part, the OECD has been involved in the design and implementation of the G20 development agenda since the adoption of the G20 Seoul Multi-year Action Plan on Development. And the G20’s own progress reports offer information on whether commitments in the development field are on track. Consider the impact of some of the G20’s actions on developing countries:

Lifting G20 growth: The Brisbane Growth Strategies, which outline structural reforms to lift growth in each G20 country, would raise G20 GDP by roughly 2.1% by 2018 if fully implemented and have potential spill-over effects on developing economies. Lifting the growth of G20 countries – or failing to do so – will ultimately affect developing countries through trade, investment, migration and technological channels.

Coordinating macroeconomic policies: Macroeconomic coordination is likely to have – at least in the short term – a much larger effect on developing countries than structural reforms in G20 countries. While we understand the implications of these policies for the G20, the implications for developing countries, through interest rates, global liquidity and capital flows, have yet to be fully explored.

Reforming the international tax system: Developing countries stand to benefit from the G20-OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project, set to end double non-taxation of multinationals and increase transparency through the automatic exchange of information. G20 leaders’ call to action to strengthen tax capacities by offering officials as Tax Inspectors Without Borders or supporting the strengthening of tax revenue statistics is welcome. These measures will help developing countries harness the potential created by reforms to the global tax system, such as tackling tax evasion and reducing tax loopholes.

Lowering the cost of remittances: Remittances to and from G20 countries account for almost 80% of global remittance flows. G20 countries announced measures to reduce the cost of sending remittances, including enhancing competition among money transfer operators. Globally, remittances totalled U.S. $436 billion in 2014, more than three times official development assistance, and are the largest source of private external finance for several developing countries. By taking steps to promote effective intermediation, receiving countries can further amplify impact.

Boosting infrastructure investment: The G20 was instrumental in placing infrastructure bottlenecks on the development agenda. The actions taken are wide-ranging, from calling multilateral banks to modify their internal procedures and incentives for financing infrastructure projects to identifying priority projects with developing countries. With support from the OECD and the World Bank, the G20 has distilled principles and indicators to help countries mobilise private investment for infrastructure. The G20 is also committed to working with investors and developing countries to better appraise the risks and returns of these investments.

Enhancing global food security: The G20 Action Plan on Food Security and Sustainable Food Systems is the culmination of five years of intense discussions and initiatives. Since its inception, the G20 debated the volatility of commodity prices and lagging agricultural productivity growth. It convened relevant organisations to develop a consensus on causes and possible remedies and established a global monitoring system for food stocks. This plan has the potential to help advance food security in developing countries and globally.

Sharing knowledge: Many G20 development deliverables are global public goods and contribute to knowledge sharing. These are distilled into databases and toolkits to support better policy making in developing countries. Consider, for example, the development of indicators on skills and of toolkits to design inclusive green growth strategies or enhance agricultural productivity.

Assessing the impact of G20 actions on development outcomes is not easy and, to the best of our knowledge, no rigorous attempt has been made so far to that end. Challenges include:

  • identifying relevant G20 actions or inputs and quantifying their magnitude;
  • choosing a baseline, such as GDP growth, well-being or jobs, for the appropriate outcomes to be measured in partner countries;
  • mapping the transmission channels from G20 actions to development outcomes in terms of finance, trade, migration or technology;
  • estimating the net effect of different and maybe offsetting actions; and
  • distinguishing between the G20’s direct attribution versus its contribution to observed outcomes.

Yet, efforts to address some of these concerns have been made. The Turkish presidency released a framework mapping the whole-of-G20 contributions to development. But given such challenges, the yardsticks to identify impact will have more to do with the convening and consensus-building power and the effective implementation of commitments rather than quantitative economic assessments. Closely monitoring implementation and involving developing countries in discussing the G20’s development agenda and its impacts will have to remain a priority for future presidencies.

[1] In 2010, G20 leaders acknowledged that “narrowing the development gap and reducing poverty are integral to [the] broader objective of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth and ensuring a more robust and resilient global economy for all.”

 

Industrial Policy: Not a bad word

By Annalisa Primi, Senior Economist and Head of the Policy Dialogue Initiative on Global Value Chains, Production Transformation and Development at the OECD Development Centre

Today, economic transformation is a concern in OECD and non-OECD countries alike. The Action Plan for Accelerated Industrial Development in Africa, included inAgenda 2063 or the Africa Union’s vision for the continent’s development, states that:”No country or region in the world has achieved prosperity and a decent socio-economic life for its citizens without the development of a robust industrial sector.” Similarly, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean has long called for diversifying production and promoting innovation to achieve higher equality in the region. Chile, an OECD country, is aiming at raising productivity by promoting the creation of domestic innovative enterprises. The national corporation for industrial development (CORFO) is investing in improving technology transfers, start-ups and social innovation. Continue reading