Girls robbed of their childhood in the Sahel

By Laurent Bossard, Director, Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD)

In Mali, Niger and Chad, 40% of children under five suffer from stunting. These children do not receive enough nutrients. Their bodies — their brains, bones and muscles — do not get enough calcium, iron or zinc or enough vitamins (A, B2, B12 etc.), so they do not have enough energy to grow and develop. Many of these children will suffer from chronic diseases and will have cognitive problems — so they won’t be able to go to school for long, if at all. As adults, they will have little chance to flourish and, secondarily, will have low economic productivity. Many will also die very young, often before turning five.

In these countries, at least 100 children out of every thousand die before reaching the age of five. That’s 10 times more than in Sri Lanka, 20 times more than in Canada and 50 times more than in Luxembourg. Why are these children dying and why are they doomed to a hopeless future?  Continue reading

Changing social norms through entertainment education: the case of a soap opera in India

By Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India

 

poonam-muttre
A promotional activity is held for Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, in Bhourikala Village, India’s state of Madhya Pradesh

“You forced me into marriage. I wanted to study.”
“What difference is that gonna make! Are you going to be the Prime Minister?”
“Yes. I will become the Prime Minister.”

This powerful exchange between key characters in a soap opera demonstrates reel life emulating real life.
In 2011, the Population Foundation of India (PFI) set out to use the soap opera Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (MKBKSH) or I, A Woman, Can Achieve Anything as the centre of a transmedia initiative that leverages the power of entertainment education to change social norms. At the heart of the soap opera are the struggles and triumphs of Sneha, a doctor working in Mumbai, as she journeys from the city to her village, emotionally torn between family and society, between professional aspirations and personal commitment.

But why pursue entertainment education and what has been the experience?

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Gender and Skilled Immigration: Challenges and Recommendations

By Dr Anna Boucher, University of Sydney

woman-looking-forwardWith population ageing occurring in all advanced industrial nations, immigration policy is one key way to augment the skill base of domestic labour forces. Though the economic benefit of skilled immigration for receiving states has been a central policy focus globally, the equity considerations of such policies have attracted less attention. Yet, in the global race for human capital, gender equality matters.

Research demonstrates that while women comprise an equal proportion of migrant stock globally, they are underrepresented within skilled immigration flows (Brücker et al 2013 and Piper and Yamanaka 2008). This is particularly true of women from key developing countries in the global South (i.e. Sharma 2006: 129). These data stand despite the increasing educational achievements of women globally, which suggests that governments utilise factors other than educational status to assess “skill” within selection criteria (Brücker et al 2013). As such, labour migration is segmented by both country of origin and by gender. Considering these factors is important for understanding intersectional equality as gender discrimination can operate alongside other forms of disadvantage.

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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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Is migration good for development? Wrong question!

By David Khoudour, Head of the Migration and Skills Unit, OECD Development Centre

This summer’s conference in Addis Ababa acknowledged migration’s positive contribution to development. The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now take the next step of announcing migration-related targets. The SDGs recognise the need to protect the rights of migrant workers, especially women migrants, adopt well-managed migration policies and reduce remittance fees. However, international migration remains a very sensitive issue for most countries, as the current refugee crisis reveals. Such apparent schizophrenia between the international development agenda and the national policy one raises one important question: Can migration be good for development in countries migrants leave behind? Continue reading

Closing the gap on youth well-being

By Alexandre Kolev, Head of the social cohesion unit at the OECD Development Centre

Today’s world youth population ages 10 to 24, is 1.8 billion people strong and represents the largest cohort ever to be transitioning to adulthood. The vast majority of these young people – 88% – live in developing countries. These young people are the next generation. If properly nurtured, they can be engines for economic and social progress. However, if policies and programmes fail to reach them, particularly the disadvantaged youth, and give them a voice in decision-making, the youth bulge may well turn into a brake for economic and social development, leading to increasing poverty, illegal migration or failed citizenship.

While world leaders are defining the post-2015 agenda, building on the achievements of the Millennium Development Goals, the evidence suggests that a large segment of youth in both developed and developing countries continues to remain outside of mainstream economic and social life. Perspectives on Global Development 2012 “Social Cohesion in a Shifting World” discusses how social discontent worldwide is a sign of dissatisfaction with a development model that seems to put narrow aggregate income measures first and issues of inequality and widening social gaps on the backburner. More and more, the sentiment is that the fruits of growth are not being shared equally.

Gaps in initial education and skills, for example, are forcing too many young people to leave the school system at an early age, unprepared for work and life. Today, one out of four children in the world drops out of primary education. Surprisingly, no progress has been made on this over the last decade. Youth joblessness and vulnerable employment are widespread; young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Adolescent reproductive and sexual health needs are poorly addressed while new health risks have emerged. Not all youth have equal opportunities for legal mobility, and too many young people remain excluded from decision-making processes that affect their lives.

Yet, the opportunity to close the youth well-being gap is real.

Many governments demonstrate growing political will to develop comprehensive policies to better respond to the needs and aspirations of young people. In fact, nearly 2 out of 3 countries in the world today have a national youth policy. Such good intentions, however, continue to be undermined by serious challenges: fragmented responsibilities and weak implementation in national administrations, the lack of reliable knowledge and data, insufficient analytical and financial ressources, difficulties capturing the needs of disadvantaged groups, or the absence of appropriate monitoring and evaluation plans. No wonder countries are turning to development partners for strategic guidance on how to develop, implement or update youth policies that are based on rigorous empirical evidence and international good practices.

Designing and implementing an inclusive well-being agenda for youth calls for a number of actions.

First, data. A large number of young people, especially in low- and middle-income countries, are exposed to risk factors that threaten their development. These factors ultimately contribute to well-being deficits. Measuring and analysing the problems of disadvantaged youth is a prerequisite for developing evidence-based policies for youth. Doing this is an important feature of the OECD Development Centre’s work on social cohesion. Through country reviews on youth well-being, the Centre is actively engaged in an evidence-based dialogue with countries to help them identify policies and institutions that work well for youth under different economic, social and political contexts. The Centre is doing this work with the European Union.

Second, timely investments. Sharing good practices and exchanging information on what does and does not work and why have crucial roles to play in youth policy making in both poor and rich countries. Young people become more disadvantaged when risk factors in different areas multiply and reinforce each other or when risks lead to deprivation in one or more well-being dimension. And they suffer when there are few or no effective policies in place to prevent or mitigate such risks (prevention programmes) or to relieve the impact of such risks once they have occurred (second chance programmes).

Third, specific interventions. Policies that intervene at critical stages can significantly reduce the risks of youth becoming disadvantaged. A growing body of evidence on the promising impact of youth programmes comes from rigorous impact evaluations of specific interventions across a broad range of sectors. In the area of education, for instance, teaching children, particularly from disadvantaged groups, until at least secondary school appears to be one of the most effective policies to prevent low literacy among young adults. Facilitating the transition to the world of work through labour market counselling and comprehensive on-the-job training services are fostering youth economic inclusion. Effective youth health outcomes begin with maternal health and nutrition at an early age. During adolescence and early adulthood, youth-friendly health services, grounded in non-judgemental counselling and practical services, such as testing for and treating sexually transmitted diseases, access to contraceptives and information on HIV/AIDS prevention, become crucial for reproductive and sexual health. When advice on nutrition and mental health problems are included in the services, it can ensure a balanced life and improve the overall well-being of young people. The evidence also suggests that cultural and creative activities, violence prevention programmes and juvenile justice services, to name a few, can support active citizenship among the youth.

The youth bulge offers tremendous potential for development, but also large and interlinked economic and social challenges. Tapping into the evidence to design better policies is one of the best ways to minimize those challenges and maximize the potential, turning the youth bulge into a youth bonanza.

Getting ready for the next wave: Towards a more dynamic and inclusive Latin America

By Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre, and Angel Melguizo, Head of the Latin America and Caribbean Unit at the OECD Development Centre.

Latin America and the Caribbean enjoyed a decade of strong growth between 2004 and 2013. Growth averaged 3.8% and in some years over 5%. They were helped along by growth in China and other emerging economies that raised demand and prices for exported commodities such as food, metals and fuels.

This led to an extraordinary easing of financial conditions, especially after the global financial crisis. Latin America was riding good times. However, the extraordinary external conditions blurred the true state of the region’s domestic supply and demand situation. Now the good times are over – at least for a while – and it is easier to check out the true shape of the regional economy. Continue reading