Leaving no one behind in education – a focus on children with disabilities

An estimated 93-150 million children live with a disability. 40% of these children are out of school at the primary level and 55% at the secondary level. When they go to school, they are often educated in segregated schools, with poor quality of education.

There is a huge gender disparity. 50 percent of males completed to 41.7 percent of females complete primary education. Being a woman or a girl with a disability means double discrimination. Some girls with disabilities may not go to school because their parents fear bullying or sexual violence. Traditionally, in low and middle income countries, girls are assigned to domestic work or unpaid care (including girls with disabilities). Even though families may not send them to school because of the lower value placed on girls, they still use them for domestic work and for unpaid care. Also, some girls do not attend school due to inaccessible sanitation facilities.

Inclusive education is about an education system that includes all learners, welcomes and supports them to learn irrespective of their identities and abilities. It is a school where all children learn together, without discrimination. Inclusive education entails not only accessibility of the school, but also teachers’ preparation, adapted curricula, and participation of the learner to achieve his or her potentials.

Many people are skeptical about inclusive education. Some parents are afraid that children with disabilities are going to slow down the learning of other children. But this is not true: when children learn together, they actually learn better, because most of the strategies used in inclusive education classrooms are strategies that allow all children to learn better.

Furthermore, inclusive education fosters inclusive societies and equity. Children with disabilities have the right to education, as set in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Sustainable Development Goal Number 4 sets the commitment to achieve inclusive and quality education.

Barriers and challenges to education exist at multiple levels: stigma and discrimination in families, communities and in schools; households living in poverty; lack of assistive devices; lack of teachers’ training and preparation; inaccessible transportation.

A crucial challenge is the lack of disability data: in many countries, the education information system does not disaggregate data by disability. Decision-makers lack statistics and information to plan for the inclusion of children with disabilities in school. This reflects in poorly inclusive polices and in inadequate funding for education.

In the recent COVID pandemic, children with disabilities were largely affected, as many of them did not have the opportunity to access remote learning like their peers without disabilities. In addition, services available through schools (social protection, nutrition, health, etc.) were put on hold during the pandemic, making it very difficult for a child with a disability to cope under these conditions.

There is huge need for a multi-sectoral approach to achieve inclusive education of children with disabilities. At the governmental level, this means ensuring that ministerial agencies collaborate and that frameworks are established for monitoring inclusive education of children with disabilities. Good solutions include teacher training, disaggregation of data by disability and gender, adequate policies, stigma reduction strategies, and making assistive available.

Questions and Answers to the Guest Speaker

How did you overcome your own challenges related to mobility?

At home, I was not discriminated and I had very supportive parents. I attended regular schools, which allows mixing with other children.

What can be done to change attitudes in terms of daily behaviors and interactions?

First of all we need to raise awareness at the community and at the household levels about disability. We also need to create more opportunities to interact with persons with disabilities.

How can development projects promote inclusion of persons with disabilities?

Development actors need to partner with organisations of persons with disabilities and organisations with expertise in this field.

How to address different factors of exclusion (disability, gender, etc.) simultaneously?

If we are able to collect data that is disaggregated by these factors, it would be easier to understand and tackle the vulnerabilities that come with these factors.

Why don’t you use the term “people with special needs”?

When we use that word special, it connotes that the rights of persons with disabilities is something out of ordinary. There is nothing special about the rights of persons with disabilities. In fact, disability rights are human rights.

How can we link inclusive education with the broader SDG agenda?

The Agenda 2030 is not a perfect document, but it marks a significant step in terms of inclusion, in comparison to the Millennium Development Goals. For example, inclusion comes in the picture demanding for accessible physical and virtual environments.

Panel discussion

In what ways is the organization you are representing taking actions for inclusive education?

Prof Léglu: At the University of Luxemburg we try to give all students the same opportunities and find ways to offer adjustments. In Luxembourg, special education is still very common, but we are starting training teachers to work with children with disabilities in inclusive classrooms.

Ms. McGeown: In the 27 countries where Humanity & Inclusion runs inclusive education projects, we have three main areas of activities: 1) awareness raising in communities, families, and schools to overcome stigma; 2) supporting education services, as well as services that impact on education, in particular health and social services; 3) accompanying governments to develop and implement inclusive policies and budgeting. At the core of our action is a multi-sectoral approach, well highlighted in the advocacy report that we launch today.

Mr. Lang: Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund for education in emergency. We have two main funding instruments: emergency response grants and multi-year resilience programs for protracted crises. We explicitly asked for these programs to be designed to reach the most marginalized groups, including children with disabilities (at least 10% of our beneficiaries).

What multi-sectoral actions need to be urgently prioritized?

Ms. McGeown: Seeing the SDGs as a blueprint and placing the child’s needs at the center are the pillars to implement a multi-sectoral response.

Mr. Lang: Conflict-affected children often lack previous schooling experience, or don’t have the mental or academic readiness for learning. Therefore, interventions on education need to be complemented with the provision of health, psychosocial services, nutrition, cash assistance and livelihood-related schemes. For this to happen, more funding is needed.

Prof. Léglu: We find transversal approaches across disciplines that aim to promote fundamental values and human rights.

What can be done to ensure a rights-based approach in inclusive education?

Mr Lang: Accessibility is key aspect to realise the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Accessibility to physical and virtual environments should be ensured by providing assistive technologies and devices to persons with disabilities, while upscaling universal design in all environments.

Prof. Léglu: Designing policies around the idea of inclusion needs to be accompanied by commitment to actually make it happen.

Ms. McGeown: Not every child learns the same way. Some children might need additional supports from people, from materials, from the style of teaching. There are different approaches that might be needed and reasonable accommodation that might be provided.

Dr. Aderemi-Ige: In relation to the financing needs, I want to point out that donors can play a big role in influencing governments to place more attention on inclusive education.

Questions and Answers

Can budgetary measures promote inclusive education?

Dr. Aderemi-Ige: Yes, to a good extent. Lack of funding is often used as a justification not to advance inclusive education. However, we also need to shift mind-set, in order for disabilityinclusion to become a priority.

Ms. McGeown: Donors can influence ministries, by coming together with large-scale commitments. This is what happened at the first ever Global Disability Summit, in 2018, where many commitments on inclusive education where made. Accountability against these commitments is essential.

Mr. Lang: at Education Cannot Wait we work with partners to set coordinated frameworks and we then align financing behind these multi-year frameworks. We work with flexible financing, thus allowing our partners with the expertise on the ground to be able to design and implement the programs.

Prof. Léglu: With the pandemic, we see how generous private funders were. In a small country like Luxembourg, it is relatively easy to coordinate with governmental branches.

What are the characteristics of an effective partnership for inclusive development?

Dr. Aderemi-Ige: An effective partnership is the one where each partner collaborates with the others, while providing its very own expertise.

Economic recovery in the post-pandemic world

How will the world economy look like after the pandemic? Will governments take initiative to reshape their economies to better serve human needs? Is this a turning point for restructuring globalization for the public good? These were some of the questions addressed by Nobel Prize-Winning Economist Joseph Stiglitz in his Kapuscinski Development Lecture on „The Post-Pandemic World: Restructuring Globalization for the Global Public Good”.

Joseph Stiglitz started his lecture by recognizing that countries around the world responded differently to Covid-19 pandemic. According to him, the US, Brazil and India failed in their respective responses to the crisis, whereas Denmark and New Zealand did a better job in controlling both the pandemic and its economic aftermath. So what accounts for the successes and failures of different countries in coping with the Covid-19 pandemic? Are there any generalizations, Stiglitz asked, that we can draw from this encounter? According to Stiglitz, countries that recognize the importance of science and the institutions; and those that demonstrate deep respect for their citizens have done better. As he discusses in his recent book, Power, People and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent , countries which respect science, social organization, credibility and the institutions for the verification of truth have succeeded to raise the standard of living for their societies in the last 250 years. Not surprisingly, these countries managed to cope with the pandemic better than others.

Stiglitz argued that 6 months after the outbreak of the pandemic, it became clearer that the US was particularly vulnerable to this crisis due to the existing inequalities such as the lack of access to health care and good nutrition. “This is not an equal opportunity virus,” Stiglitz continued, “it goes after those who are most vulnerable. It has exposed and exacerbated inequalities in our society.” Now, there is a global consensus that we don’t want to bounce back to where we were in January 2020.

Speaking on the impact of Covid-19 on globalization, Stiglitz argued that the pandemic made us all suddenly all that “viruses do not carry passports, they can go anywhere in the world.” However, the economic system we have created is not resilient to global supply chains with a clear example being the US inability to produce masks, protective gear for health care workers or ventilators at the height of the pandemic. Stiglitz conclusion was that there is a need to create more resilient supply chains going forward. The lecture was followed by a Q&A session moderated by Anya Schiffrin.

Photo: Daniel Baud and the Sydney Opera House

Vision for vision: translating ideas into practice

The Kapuscinski talk was given by eye surgeon and social entrepreneur, Dr. Andrew Bastawrous. He shared his journey from surgeon to public health practitioner, then founder of the social enterprise Peek Vision which has a mission to bring vision and eye health to everyone.

The event was moderated by Mario Calderini, Professor at Politecnico di Milano School of Management, Director of Tiresia, Research Centre for Impact Finance and Innovation, and current member of the Italian government’s Task Force on Social Impact Investment.

The event started with welcome messages by the moderator prof. Mario Calderini, by Emilio Paolucci (director of the ASP), Gabriella Fesus (EC, DG Development and International Cooperation) and Jan Szczycinski (UNDP). After welcomes, two pre-recorded videos by Andrew Bastawrous were played. In these videos, he explained that his motivations for first becoming an eye-doctor and then establishing Peek Vision, was a sense of injustice for the many people in poor countries who are blind or have poor vision due to diseases that we already know how to cure or prevent.

Children with poor sight may look lazy and appear as though they do not pay attention at school. They grow up believing all these things while the reality is that the world they see is out of clarity. Andrew revealed that he himself grew up with very short eyesight and received his first pair of glasses when he was about 12. This changed his world and from this experience he understood that clear vision corresponds to many opportunities, such as education and ability to socialize.

In 2012 he moved with his family to Kenya, where, similar to other developing countries, most of the resources for eye care were in the big towns and cities, while most patients who needed them lived in rural areas. An option would have been to take the eye care equipment to communities. However, such equipment were sensitive, heavy, costly and needed about 15 people to be moved to the communities. Communities also suffered scarcity of electricity, therefore, that option had poor feasibility.

Andrew’s entrepreneurial idea was to recreate the tests done in the clinic on a smartphone and to simplify the process so that a rather complex test could be delivered anywhere to anyone, with the results shared with specialists who then decide whether to treat the patient or not.

This novel approach was initially tested at schools, where teachers were trained to do vision testing on children to pre-identify those with low vision. For every child identified as having a vision problem, a text message was sent to parents and to head teachers with instructions on what to do next. This approach allowed capillary screening without increasing the load on already overburdened hospitals and nurses.

The system was initially tested on 21,000 children who were screened by only 25 teachers in 9 days. 900 of them were found to be visually impaired. The program was then scaled up to cover the whole county. 160,000 more children were screened and treated if they had a problem. Today, the program is being extended to other parts of Kenya and to countries such as Botswana and India.

As he concluded the lecture, Andrew stressed that an important part of the program implementation was understanding why some patients who needed treatment exited the program without being treated. Thankfully, this information could be got through data collection and smartphone technology and it helped program planners and implementers make appropriate decisions locally.

Global Goals: social rights as human rights

The seventh edition of the annual International Conference on Sustainable Development brought together around 1,000 participants to talk about Models, Partnerships, & Capacity Building for the SDGs. This two-day event was a forum for scientists and policy makers to come together to share practical research and solutions. The logos of the Kapuscinski Development Lectures, European Commission, and UNDP were used on conference materials throughout the two days; however, the main Kapuscinski Development Lectures program occurred on the morning of the 25th. The first day of the conference, September 24th, featured around 350 presentations across 30 parallel sessions and a poster exhibition. Researchers and students shared their work on climate change, energy, agriculture, demography, and other SDG-related topics. In discussion sessions as well as question and answer periods, researchers and student presenters benefitted from feedback on their research. Conference proceedings for these sessions will be released in early November.

On the second day, high-level participants from the private sector and government shared their challenges and how researchers can help address them. Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians opened this event, delivering a lecture that was co-organized by both the Kapuscinski Development Lectures and the Columbia University World Leaders Forum. Her speech emphasized the need to implement the SDGs in an integrated manner, for example looking at agriculture and health collectively rather than individually. She asked the students and faculty in the room to think about how they can be communicators to help citizens understand and act on complex issues such as climate change. She also called on all participants to use respectful dialogue and mutual understanding to foster SDG achievement, especially in the context of different actors sharing tools, knowledge, and best practices with each other to accelerate progress.

Following the speech by Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians was a panel discussion on Culture, Cities, and Communities, with Radhika Iyengar (Columbia University), Aromar Revi (Indian Institute for Human Settlement), and Andreas A. Hutahaean (Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia). Aromar Revi noted that most of our challenges, including climate change, waste management, and service provision in slums, have rapid population growth at the root. He argued that the systems we have in place to deal with these challenges were designed for a world with far fewer people, and that we need to transform governance, management, and accountability frameworks to work in our new world.

A keynote address from SDG Advocate Edward Ndopu focused on the challenge of ensuring no one is left behind in the SDG Agenda. In a conversation with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Ndopu highlighted his activism to ensure equal access to education for persons with disabilities, particularly young people, noting that worldwide 32 million children with disabilities have no access to education. He also elaborated the way different people, including his mother and his teachers, help him realize his dreams, but also the many ways he found to raise his own voice and advocate for both himself and the community of persons with disabilities. Ndopu also challenged policymakers and people with access to leaders to not just talk about the importance of inclusion and leaving no one behind, but to ensure they are making space for these voices to be present in the discussion, at the table, bringing those that are farthest behind to the front. He also elaborated that this needs to be meaningful participation because these are the voices of leaders with talent and solutions, as opposed to superficial participation for show.

Two discussions on the role of the private sector shared the common theme about the need for innovation to drive the transition to sustainability. Pat Brown, CEO of Impossible Foods, highlighted the need to transform our agriculture and food system, and the way scientists at impossible foods were able to develop a meatless burger patty offering all the taste of beef without the environmental footprint. Gayle Schueller, Vice President for Sustainability and Product Stewardship and Chief Sustainability Officer of 3M, presented a history of the company and how innovation has been fundamental to their business since their founding over 100 years ago. Schueller shared 3M’s recent breakthroughs in green chemistry, and a commitment that every new product will have a sustainability value commitment.

The afternoon featured a speech by the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who shared Indonesia’s commitment to sustainable tourism and SDG implementation. It was followed by a broad conversation between David Lipton, Acting Managing Director of the IMF, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, which touched upon how we finance the SDGs and Paris Agreement, what we have learned from past financial crises, and the need for greater multilateralism.

#KAPTalks interviews: sustainability of development results

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s.  Have the world’s development challenges changed since then?  What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

Kapuściński witnessed the end of the colonial world and the development challenges of his time were mainly linked to the painful process of state building. Today’s biggest challenges are global, ie not specifically limited to the developing world – climate change, asymmetrical conflict, trade barriers, irregular migration. Therefore, the Sustainable Development Goals have been adopted as a global agenda for all.

Some people dismiss sustainable development as an aspirational vision, others an unattainable fantasy, and still others absolutely necessary to our future. In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

The development policy was born some 70 years ago and has come of age. Yet, the world community is still struggling to meet some of the objectives set back then – eg the 0,7% GNI ODA ratio formulated in 1968 by the Pearson Commission. Development policy today is rightly looking beyond the task of dealing with post colonial legacies and focuses on common global goods like access to water, limiting effects of climate change and dealing with migratory pressures. Discussion on the definition of ODA should continue at OECD DAC as further updates seems necessary.

What is the biggest challenge/hindrance to successful development?

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others?

Despite white spread perception, the main hindrance to successful development of not access to funding. The main obstacle remains sustainability of the results achieved – or still to be achieved – which hinges on much more than money – international burden sharing in dealing with global challenges, ownership by partner countries, maintaining peace and stability.

What’s the most striking thing you have personally witnessed in relation to development? i.e. a challenge, opportunity or just personal observation about a human story.

Firstly, it is the appearance of new players – private donors with global outreach, middle income countries turning into donors, South-South cooperation. Secondly, it is really striking how important the security/development nexus has become and how military and civilian institutions have developed into both providers and recipients of aid.


Inequality, exclusion and democracy

Mr. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom opened his speech with an open question on how inequality could be tackled by good governance.

Inequality can be changed and poverty is a problem with a solution as Ryszard Kapuscinski’s life shows it, according to Blair. The key driver of tackling poverty is the quality of governance: the capacity to govern well, effectively, build institutions capable of making the best and sustainable decisions. However the quality of government cannot be imported, needs to be built locally.

Blair recalled examples of countries with same population, same opportunities, natural resources, but with different development success: Columbia and Venezuela, Poland and Ukraine, Ruanda and Burundi, North and South Korea. Government is tough and usually there is a vast gulf between great idea and effective implementation. Therefore providing support in building institutions is vital in reducing inequality. All African countries the Blair Institute works in share similar challenges – poor infrastructure (lack of electricity), inefficient small agriculture sector, education systems with poor quality, basic healthcare, corruption, inability to attract investments. And they add a new challenge with access to technology which can create a digital divide. According to Tony Blair the answer is the good governance. He stressed that there are solutions in tackling these problems, but the international community is slow in implementing these lessons. Aid assistance falls short because the focus of key decision-makers is missing.

Blair again called for greater recognition of importance of governance in development. He was convinced that a change can happen and politics can deliver, giving the examples of implementing the Millennium Development Goals and significant progress globally.

“Poverty is a problem with a solution. Inequality can be eliminated and the way to do that is through good governance,” he said, adding that “real change happens when nations are strong enough to stand on their feet and take destiny into their own hands.”

The lecture was followed by a discussion with Luis-Felipe López Calva, Regional Director of UNDP for Latin America and the Caribbean, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, Santiago Levy, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institute and Jos Verbeek, World Bank Manager and Special Representative to the UN and WTO.

When measured in terms of income differences, inequalities have been decreasing slightly, even though the perception around the world is that they are in fact rising, said Luis-Felipe López Calva.

However, inequality has multiple dimensions beyond income and there is a genuine concern among the international development community that certain groups in many countries have more bargaining power, resulting in a “deterioration of democracy and fragmentation of the social contract”, he specified.

Oxfam now has a “Commitment to Reduce Inequality” Index that measures progressive taxation, progressive social spending and labor rights, said Winnie Byanyima. She also pointed out that 26 billionaires own as much as the bottom half of humanity and exert disproportionate influence over decisions.

#KAPTalks interviews: multilateralism helping effective solutions

Kapuscinski challenged us in his writings to see the world as it is, and at the same time to see it in fundamentally different ways to convention. Sustainable development likewise challenges us to understand not only where we want to get to, the first sixteen ‘goals’, but through the seventeenth and the broader 2030 Agenda to shape pathways to success based on a fundamental reappraisal of both where we are and how ambitious action can be effective in today’s world.

More of the same, in a nutshell, will not get the job done. This is not just because we made bad decisions in the past, but because the world around us is changing, demanding new approaches to old as well as new problems and opportunities. The fall in global poverty and inter-country inequality over recent decades, for example, largely resulted from China’s rise, a driver that will not repeat itself any time soon. Automation will reshape labor markets and the basis of international competitive advantage in years to come in ways that require different development models as export-led growth becomes less likely for many developing countries. Climate change is now upon us, and means a world of growing numbers and impact of shocks, with livelihood, security and political implications.

Actually, we are overwhelmed by solutions as much as by oft-repeated problems. Perhaps for the first time in human history, we have the science, the technology, the finance, and the know-how to deliver on sustainable development. Our greatest challenge is in how best to organise the delivery of well understood and quite affordable solutions. Our failure to organise is widespread, from weakened multilateralism, to corporate disfunction, to inadequate civil society organisations, and to short-term financial markets. The state formations, civil forms of action and the market institutions we have inherited are proving inadequate to harness the potential of our inventiveness and make it widely available. Digitalisation provides the prospects of a frictionless world of networked opportunities, certainly, But without institutions that can form and oversee equitable rules, this technological surge is more likely to drive further instability and injustice. Our vision of society’s underpinned by human rights and individual choice is threatened by the deterioration of our belief in election-based democracies, the equalising effects of information, and our capacity to sustain empathy at scale in the face of disruption and uncertainty.


Our capacity to organise is inter-twinned into our evolutionary process. It is more than anything what makes us able to actualise our imagination in becoming what we are, a technological species. As a civilisational building block, we exist as long as we can organise in ways that are commensurate with new challenges and opportunities. Reforming the UN is but one tip of this imperative. We need likewise to reinvent the purpose and logic of business and the state, and their respective interfaces with each other and the underlying, organic dynamics of self-organisation.


#KAPTalks interviews: Kapuscinski’s concern about voices of people

When Ryszard Kapuscinski was addressing development issues, the world was clearly divided into blocs: the First World of advanced capitalist countries; the Second World of communist and socialist states; and the Third World of impoverished nations. There was little connection between these worlds and even less understanding or desire to be informed of others’ conditions. Kapuscinski’s great contribution was to bring these divides into focus and to help people in one bloc understand what was happening in other blocs, especially in the Third World. Today, such distinctions are irrelevant. Thanks to social media there is a torrent of information about everyone’s lives, sometimes accurate, but sometimes distorted. With globalization, people are also more concerned with, and aware of, what is happening in other countries. There is a greater continuum among countries along the development scale. Countries can no longer be easily classified into simple categories—both China and India have space programs as well as pockets of abject poverty. Should they be called underdeveloped? In many instances, the challenges of development today are as much about the distribution of income and differences in living standards of people within countries rather than between countries.

Many of the issues that Kapuscinski wrote about remain relevant today. His stories of revolutions, coups and wars have today morphed into stories of “fragile states,” but the basic concept is the same. States without governments that enjoy the support of their own populations provide staging posts for outbreaks of violence and extremism and cannot be expected to develop. The nature of violence may have shifted from wars and revolutions to non-state actors and criminal elements, but the problem remains.

Kapuscinski was intimately concerned with people and people’s voices. He would find the idea of working for the collective good rather strange. But this does not mean that sustainable development is merely aspirational. It means that we need to find ways to connect global problems and issues more closely with people’s own lives and livelihoods. For example, it is no accident that China is emerging as one of the world leaders in low-carbon technologies. This is largely because China’s cities have become so polluted that citizens cry out for better solutions. The hugely positive impact on the rest of the world is a convenient by-product. What remains unclear, however, is whether these win-win incentives will be sufficient to achieve the pace and scale of the needed global change. So far, there are still plenty of win-win solutions available. We’ve not yet tested the frontier where real trade-offs might become necessary.

These connections between global issues and national issues must be made by leaders at the State and community level. Kapuscinski wrote extensively about leaders and their personal idiosyncracies. These could easily become the most important obstacles to development. Then, as now, the foibles of leaders were revealed. In The Emperor, he was characteristically forthright: “the King of Kings preferred bad ministers. And the King of Kings preferred them because he liked to appear in a favorable light by contrast.” Such idiosyncracies, and the personal patronage that leaders use to retain power, remain central obstacles for development, creating the conditions for widespread corruption, bribery and flattery, as well as the dimming of individual enterprise towards betterment of family and community. All of which we refer to today as “bad governance” but that was described by Kapuscinski as the lack of institutions and reliance on personalities in all political systems.

Yet despite these failings, there has been astonishing progress since the time when Kapuscinski was writing. In his long career, he never witnessed the transformation of societies in the same way as modern development practitioners have. Take the case of Lao PDR, one of the poorest countries in the world in the mid-1980’s. When I first went in 1988, Laos had a GDP per capita of only $308 according to the IMF. Small boys would turn their heads to look at my car, such was the rarity. They “fished” for bats to be made into soup in the capital city of Vientiane. Shortly thereafter, Laos started a program of reforms and development of its considerable hydropower and minerals sector. Today, in the span of one generation, Laos has achieved a GDP per capita of $2,700. Even adjusting for inflation, it is four and one-half times richer than thirty years ago. Development progress has been halting and uneven, with many of the problems of governance so richly detailed by Kapuscinski, but progress in material conditions of the people has been real: life expectancy has risen from 54 years to 67 years (1990 to 2015); expected years of schooling has risen from 6.7 years to 10.8; over one third of the population now has at least some secondary education; and so on. While still a poor country, Lao PDR offers opportunities for a new generation that were unthinkable for the last. It is being transformed.



#KAPTalks interviews: leave no one behind

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s.  Have the world’s development challenges changed since then?  What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

In the period of the 1970s and 80s, development was largely seen in terms of modernisation and economic growth. Key challenges turned on enabling countries to establish stable, growing economies through an appropriate balance between industrialisation and agriculture and rural development. Concerns with poverty reduction and social development challenges such as health, education and gender were growing in significance, but often marginalised. And as the neo-liberal era of the 1980s set in, the state-led development agendas of the 1970s gave way to the promotion of free markets. Through the 1980s and into the 1990s, dealing with the fallout of structural adjustment and related programs through a renewed emphasis on human development came to be seen as a critical challenge, with states and civil society organisations frequently assuming responsibility.

The last few decades have witnessed major progress in these aspects of economic and social development in many parts of the world. Yet they also reveal a series of paradoxes and contradictions. First, growth has accelerated in many countries but has been accompanied by growing inequalities of many kinds. Global income growth has been very unevenly shared, concentrated in rising middle classes in India and China and in a booming global elite, but with the poorest percentiles locked out, and a declining shared of growth amongst the middle classes in the developed world. Old industrialised countries, emerging middle income ones, and poorer countries are almost all experiencing rising economic inequalities. These intersect – nationally, and in terms of people’s lived experiences – with other kinds of inequaity – social and gender, cultural, political, and in terms of place and knowledge. Inequalities matter fundamentally because they are unfair and unjust, but they also affect other development proprities. Inequality can hamper economic growth, and certainly reduces the impact of that growth on poverty reduction. Health and nutrition are worse in countries with higher income inequality. Inequalities are threatening our democracies, and contributing to rises in conflict – and more.

Second, dominant development paths are proving deeply unsustainable in environmental terms, with climate change, biodiversity loss, land and water degradation and pollution threatening our ability to thrive on a pressurised planet. What were relatively marginal development issues in the 1970s and 80s have moved centre-stage, with growing attention going hand in hand with growing evidence of trends in human-induced climate and environmental change, and its devastating impacts on lives, livelihoods and societies across the world. Development has, by necessity, become sustainable development, and a central challenge is to find and unlock pathways which can ensure human thriving while avoiding further threats to our biophysical life support systems.

Third, the burden of insecurity, and its counterpart, lack of inclusion, affects historic numbers of people across the world on a daily basis. Both nation states and the international community have invested intensively in military security, yet conflict and violence affect many people’s lives. Many face complex, protracted emergencies in which political insecurity intersects with disease epidemics and natural disasters. We have a growing migrant crisis as unprecedented numbers of people leave their countries to escape war, repressive regimes, political alienation or economic hardship. While political participation is given more attention, there is growing distrust in political institutions. Technological innovations offer once unimagined opportunities, yet are also exposing people to new threats, exclusions and invasions of privacy.

In this context, development needs to move from a narrow focus on economic growth and poverty, to navigating complex challenges in ways that reduce inequalities and build more sustainable, inclusive and secure futures for people and societies. (i) Reducing inequalities, (ii) Accelerating sustainability and (iii) Building inclusive and secure societies can be seen as the major defining challenges of our time. Yet there are no single motorways or roadmaps to progress in this new era of development. Multiple and flexible pathways of change and transformation that adapt and respond to diverse contexts, needs and priorities will be required, supported by new ways of thinking, acting and collaborating.

Some people dismiss sustainable development as an aspirational vision, others an unattainable fantasy, and still others absolutely necessary to our future. In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

Climate change, biodiversity loss, the degradation of land, vegetation and water resources, pollution whether of the air we breathe or of rivers and oceans increasingly choked with chemicals and plastic – these problems are inextricably linked and affect people across the world. They are the consequences of dominant development pathways which have brought prosperity to some, but at deep cost to non-human nature and people’s safety, health and livelihoods locally and globally. Indeed, there is growing evidence that current development paths risk irreversible damage to the earth’s biophysical life support systems, with further shocks and stresses in store that will affect us all, undo development progress and block it for future generations. There is therefore an urgent need to seek new development pathways that are both sustainable, and equitable. These will require transformative, not just incremental change, recognising that business as usual is not an option, and fundamental shifts are needed in some of the key structures, institutions, systems and norms that shape our societies and economies, along with the transformational politics to deliver these. While this is a major challenge, it is not unattainable. Transformations to sustainability are already happening in some places and around some issues, led both by top-down international and government action and policies, and crucially by grassroots action by citizens in rural and urban settings. Building the political momentum to intensify and grow these initiatives, and to challenge the ‘lock-ins’ that block pathways to sustainability, are key tasks ahead.

What is the biggest challenge/hindrance to successful development?

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others?

The Global Goals lay out an ambitious and important agenda for both people and planet, to which all countries have committed. This is a vital and positive step in meeting the challenges of sustainable development. All 17 goals are important, and it is in their combination that progress by 2030 and beyond can be expected. There are also important synergies and tensions between the goals which need to be acknowledged and addressed. For instance meeting the goal for food production could compromise the water goal if agricultural strategies do not take into account surface and groundwater needs; on the other hand opportunitie exist for multiple wins in addressing food, energy and water together. Addressing climate change goals and targets could compromise goals around poverty, tackling inequality and gneder equality if technological and market schemes dispossess local people of rights and livelihoods; on the other hand appropriate policies and strategies could address all these goals together, for instance by building on grassroots initiatives with women’s leadership, or building in appropriate safeguards. Because of these interactions, it is not appropriate to define any particular goal as the most important for sustainable development. People do not live their lives in separate silo-like goals, and nor should responsive, transformative development.

Alongside the significance of the SDGs themselves are their cross-cutting principles and approaches. The imperative to ‘leave no one behind’ is a vital step in forging a development agenda that is genuinely inclusive, and which tackles extreme forms of marginalisation – whether related to poverty, ethnicity, disability, peace, gender or intersections of these. The SDGs are also universal, applying to all countries and people. This is a is a major step in dismantling the problematic divides between so-called North and South, developed and developing country, which have pervaded so much aid and development discourse and practice. Instead, we can now look properly to development as positive change for everyone, everywhere. We can fully acknowledge and address the global-local interconnections between people and places around challenges such as climate, finance, food, and pandemics. And we can forge a development agenda that is about mutual and multi-way learning and co-operation in all directions.

What’s the most striking thing you have personally witnessed in relation to development? i.e. a challenge, opportunity or just personal observation about a human story.

I’ve witnessed and experienced many striking things in relation to development, but a story from recent times illustrates some of the themes I have addressed above: the importance of interconnected challenges in a complex world, and the importance of combining different forms of knowledge and practice – grassroots as well a sglobal, social as well as technical – to address them.

The spectre of a deadly disease emerging in a remote place, spreading rapidly to become a global pandemic is the stuff of nightmares. This ‘global outbreak narrative’ fuels popular media, and now a new wave of global ‘pandemic preparedness policy’. Ebola has become paradigmatic, topping the World Health Organisation’s latest priority disease list. This isn’t just because Ebola is a particularly dramatic haemorraghic fever transmitted through body fluids and killing more than half those infected, but also because in 2014-2015 the global outbreak narrative came true. The Ebola epidemic that began in the village of Meliandou in the Guinea-Sierra Leone-Liberia border region in December 2013 spread fast through the towns and trade routes of this highly-peopled, mobile region, and cases – and fear of them – reached neighbouring countries, Europe, the US and the world. By January 2016 when all countries were finally declared Ebola-free, the death toll was just over 11,000, with 17,000 survivors struggling with the medical and social fallout. It was a devastating crisis – but it could have been much worse. The story of grassroots and social knowledge is critical to this.

Why was this? The problem was that by August 2014, when the World Health Organization belatedly declared the epidemic to be a so-called „public health emergency of international concern”, it was already out of control, with scientists predicting not thousands but millions of deaths. The early international response by humanitarian agencies had foundered, largely for socio-cultural reasons. Many villagers suspected that both the virus, and alleged attempts to control it, were plots to repress their livelihoods and practices, or even kill them. Villagers stoned response agencies’ vehicles and dug trenches across their bush roads to keep them out. People hid and cared for their patients in their remote farm camps rather than bring them to Ebola Treatment Units, and sometimes ‘stole back’ patients treated there. Funerals were quickly identified as a key moment for transmission, when bodies are at their most infectious, and local practices involve touching and visits by kin – yet people resented and resisted the external teams sent in to conduct so-called safe burials. And as the response scaled up, so did local anxieties about it.

Really worried about what was unfolding, a group of anthropologists in Sierra Leone and the UK who had worked for decades in the region on various development-related issues wondered what we could do. We set up an Ebola Response Anthropology Platform, and established links with networks of concerned anthropologists that also emerged in West Africa, Europe and the US. Together. We mobilised social science knowledge in real-time to re-shape the public health and humanitarian response, away from the top-down approach that was clashing so badly with local values and fuelling resistance that magnified the crisis, and towards a more respectful, community-engaged approach that appreciated and built on people’s own social and cultural logics, practices and innovations.

Take funerals: our work showed the need to see them as part of a longer period of caring for the extremely sick by kin; and their social and cultural significance, ensuring people become ancestors, social faults are addressed, and matters of inheritance settled. At one point there was a stand-off in a Kissi village where a pregnant woman had died of Ebola; villagers insisted that the fetus be removed before burial, to avoid the social fault of ‘maa’, in which regenerative cycles of generations are mixed, with devastating consequences for land, crops and people. The burial team refused because of the infection risk. Mediation by an anthropologist and a local healer helped broker a creative alternative; a sacrifice that would appease the relevant spirits without the fetus being removed. As in examples like this, communities were willing to adapt their practices to balance social and infection risk; but agencies needed to appreciate their social significance to support this balancing. Such understanding fed directly into new guidelines for ‘safe and dignified burials’ with community involvement.

Or take local anxieties about the response: far from being the ignorance based ‘rumours’ that agencies initially assumed, our work showed their logics embedded in the region’s experience of development and inequalities. The idea that foreign agencies might be trying to depopulate an area to take land – or that Ebola is being spread by white miners – are all too feasible given people’s lived experiences of land and resource grabs and disposession. One of the most devastating incidents in the epidemic, when villagers in the Guinea forest village of Womeh out of fear attacked and killed a 6 person Ebola sensitisation team, happened less than 10 km from Mt. Simandou, the planned site of the largest integrated iron-ore mine and infrastructure project ever developed in Africa by Rio Tinto Group, BSG Resources and the Aluminium Corporation of China (Chinalco). Ebola also became embroiled in longstanding ethnic and political tensions. For instance in Guinea, the epidemic’s epicentres in the forest and coastal regions are also heartlands of ethnic groups opposed to the Malinke-led party in power. A politicised response by government was easily interpreted as genocide. By explaining these tensions, we were able to support agencies to tailor their messages and teams – for instance by working through ethnically trusted or neutral officials.

Our Platform directly shaped humanitarian and development strategies. It supported the UK government’s strategy in Sierra Leone, becoming a first-time social science sub-committee of the UK Government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), directly advising the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientist. Impacts included the decision to develop Community Care Centres for initial triage and isolation of cases, as a more acceptable and accessible alternative to the large Ebola Treatment Units which people so feared. We also directly informed the social mobilisation efforts of the Sierra Leone government and NGO-led Social Mobilisation Action Consortium, highlighting how community learning and behaviour change was turning the epidemic round, and how to build on this in ‘Community Lead Action on Ebola’ efforts which eventually reached 67% of communities in Sierra Leone.

International agencies have recognised this. Margaret Chan of WHO said in 2015 ‘we have learned the lessons of community and culture’, and WHO’s re-vamped Health Emergencies Programme has a major emphasis on community engagement, as does UNICEF’s new Health Emergency Preparedness Initiative (HEPI). The importance of social science knowledge has been recognised – at the invitation of UNICEF and USAID we’re now running a broader social science in humanitarian action platform, and agencies are calling for the development of social science protocols to be ready for quick use in further outbreaks, of all priority diseases.

Outbreaks and potential pandemics will recur in our current and future development era – although when and where we cannot be certain. These are part of the protracted crises that affect so many. What I think we can be sure of is that alongside medical technologies and epidemiology, social knowledge – and the ability to mobilise it in real time – will be critical parts of the world’s ability to be ready and respond, and crucial to addressing humanitarian and development issues.



#KAPTalks interviews: Global Goals need more work

When Ryszard Kapuscinski was putting pen to paper, the biggest global challenge was human poverty, including high mortality among children and mothers, widespread malnutrition and persistent illiteracy. Since then, respectable progress has been made. Perhaps the most striking statistic is that some 18,600 fewer cases of infant and child deaths occurred each day in 2015 compared with 1990; notwithstanding the significant rise in the world population over that period. But progress was not observed across the board. Deforestation, overfishing and pollution has continued unabated, jeopardising the planet’s biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions have soured. The picture can be summarized by the one-liner Progress for people, regress for the planet.

Whilst human poverty still requires hard work, it no longer constitutes the prime global challenge. The most pressing one now is twofold: sustainable and equitable development. The world is not facing two separate challenges—environmental and societal, with fragmentation and polarisation of all sorts—but one complex inter-connected challenge in which inequality occupies a central role. Evidence shows, for instance, that people in more equitable countries are more environmentally friendly across the board: they consume less water for personal use, produce less waste and emit less CO2.

Girl in a jacket

Although the SDGs represent a better framework to respond to this dual challenge than did the MDGs, they are too muddle-headed to be effective. The goals regarding climate change and inequality rank in thirteenth and tenth position respectively—suggesting they do not really constitute top priorities. Moreover, their relevant targets are flawed. The stated target for inequality aims to ‘progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average’. The metric for inequality is faulty because it fails to capture the entire distribution and ignores the top 10%. Inequality is not only due to the poverty of the poor but also to the wealth of the wealthy. It is perfectly possible for a country to meet the above-mentioned target and yet witness an increase in inequality. If faster income growth for the bottom 40% is based on transfers from the next 50% whilst the top 10% of the distribution are left unaffected, then the country will indeed see a rise in inequality. A hollowing out of the middle class is being observed in many a country.

The significance of high inequality cannot to be underestimated, because it influences the way people feel, think and act. We do not only crave for status and constantly compare ourselves with others, we also mimic the behaviour of others, especially those at the top, to whom we look up in awe whilst feeling contempt for those lower on the social ladder. We inadvertently internalise the values, the opinions and even the interpretation of events of those whom we admire. This can have deleterious effects on our moral sentiments, giving rise to more incivility. People voluntarily abstain from acts that are individually beneficial but socially harmful as long as others do so too. But once wealth is perceived as an entitlement to selfish behaviour, it will quickly cascade down the social ladder and good behaviour quickly evaporates. Psychology professor Paul Piff conducted experiments that show that respondents who were made to feel rich were ‘more likely to break the law while driving, to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, and to cheat to win a prize’. Other studies reveal that individual tendencies of self-absorption, bragging and self-aggrandisement are most prevalent in more unequal countries. In short, high inequality harms more than just the economy; it affects all aspects of development.

Considerable work remains to realise the potential of the SDGs. The good news is that several of their flaws can be fixed. First, each and every country must cut the long list of SDG targets to a manageable level by prioritising them to fit the reality on the ground. Second, the fuzziness of many SDG targets must be swapped for conceptually clarity, because wooly targets cannot be verifiably monitored. Third, numerical outcomes must be tailored to reflect local realities. It is unreasonable to expect that all countries will progress at the same rate. Global targets are always collective in nature, and must never be imposed on each country individually. Selection and adaptation are urgent steps, given that the SDGs have gotten little traction so far. One thing I have learnt is that development is always context-specific, driven by local priorities, local actors and local institutions. There can be no universal agenda with one-size-fit-all targets for all countries. International and regional organisations are yet to take effective steps to encourage and support member states in selecting and adapting the SDGs to their specific situation.

Finally, more fitting indicators must be selected to monitor progress. Regarding income inequality, the Palma ratio—income share of the top 10% divided by that of the bottom 40%—is a better metric because it covers more of the distribution than just the bottom 40%. In addition, all vital statistics and other relevant indicators for human development must be equity-adjusted, by attaching more weight to the lower quintiles than to the higher ones. Given the increased availability of better and more disaggregated data, it is now possible to adjust key national indicators to reflect inequalities within a country, following a straightforward methodology for producing equity-adjusted statistics. By embedding inequality into national statistics, countries will occupy a different place in international rankings, depending on how unequal they are. This is likely to generate a much-needed focus on inequality across the board, which is overdue because high inequality constitutes a major hindrance to achieving sustainable development. 

Jan Vandemoortele, PhD., co-architect of the MDGs, served with UNDP and UNICEF in various countries and at headquarters.

Taking peace-building to the world

Mr. José Ramos-Horta delivered a keynote speech at the Hertie School of Governance as part of the Kapuscinski Development Lecture Series, 2019 on “Taking Peace-building to the World: Our Responsibilities and Failures”. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 “for his work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor”. For over two decades, he served as an international spokesperson, extensively lobbying governments and creating networks of supporters for the cause of his people. He was successful in advocating dialogue and presented a peace plan to Indonesia (through extensive humanitarian cooperation). His passion to liberate his homeland through peace, laid the foundations for Indonesian withdrawal and peace objectives being accomplished in 2001.

In his lecture he spoke about, [how] “we are living in very dangerous times. Right here in the heart of Europe forces of good and of intolerance are on a collision course. Across the English Channel there are forces bent on wrecking a magnificent social, political and security architecture built over many decades pushing Europe towards the abyss of chaos and irrelevance. In the course of over 40 years, starting as an innocent and romantic believer in the promises and possibilities of the United Nations, I have seen the best – when the UN lived up to the expectations of the people it deployed to protect – but also I witnessed or heard heart wrenching stories of shocking betrayals on other front lines. I have engaged with UN personnel in my own country and in remote outposts where dedicated field staff absorb the indifference of headquarters, whose envoys descend to evaluate the mission, yet things stayed the same. The UN can do better. We are all the UN and we can and must do better.”

National reconciliation through healing the wounds of the divided community of Timor-Leste, Ramos-Horta noted, has been the greatest success. He spoke about the failures of the national governments to resolve conflicts and crises around the world. He pointed to the failures of the international community at the UN to address conflicts, such as in South Sudan, Congo, Central African Republic, and Syria. Countries should feel empowered, he argued, to reach out to the international community for help in times of conflict or war. Yet, he made a clear distinction that “we cannot blame everybody else,” referring to national governments to use the Secretary-General as the scapegoat for national gridlock. He argued that if they had failed in Timor-Leste to end the war that he would not have the audacity to blame the United Nations, but rather signed out that others can help but the responsibility falls on the leaders of the country to pave the road toward peace and resolution.

Furthermore, he discussed that the prevention of conflict begins at home. He asked, “who are the best actors to prevent conflicts?” as well as “what are the best prescriptions to prevent conflicts in society?” His answer to this was that policies must be set in place that are inclusive and embrace everyone from both minority and majority groups in society. Policies that do not discriminate against anyone, such as language, religion or ethnic are the foundation for conflict prevention. Cultural diversity must be seen as an asset and not a threat to society, as he believes that the disregard and discrimination resulting from a lack of diversity as the major root of conflict and crises. Ramos-Horta strongly advocated that prevention begins with tolerance and this is the first and primary responsibility of the leaders of countries around the world.

Following his lecture he was joined by Inge Kaul, Adjunct at the Hertie School and the first director of the Human Development Report office of UNDP, for discussion with the audience. During the discussion they touched on topics such as activities of the UN and peace operations on the ground as well as lessons from Timor-Leste that Mr. Ramos-Horta gave during his lecture. Ramos-Horta agreed that the UN remained indispensable for the success of Timo-Leste’s struggle for independence.

Persistent poverty: an economist’s view

When: 22nd February 2018 at 12:00 pm CET / 11:00 am GMT (check time around the world).

Where: Aula Magna (690 building), Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Barcelona

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event in Barcelona (register below)
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  • asking your questions to Oriana Bandiera via Twitter using #KAPTalks hashtag

Register here for the event

This lecture proposes a test between the two main economic views of poverty. In the first, the poor start at a low level of human and physical capital but that does not affect the opportunities they have access to. This is a world where everybody will end up with the same standard of living in the long run, adjusting for preferences, ability, and luck. Policies can speed the process but will have no lasting effect once they are removed. For this reason, poverty reduction policies are justifiable on equity grounds alone.

In the second, the starting level of physical and human capital determines the opportunities individuals have access to, and so two individuals who are identical in terms of preferences and ability, but differ in terms of initial wealth will have very different opportunities. This is a world where initial conditions determine where you end up and the effect of policies can have long-term effects well beyond their implementation; for this reason, anti-poverty policies can serve both the objectives of equity and efficiency.

Evidence from a four year panel of over 23K poor households in rural Bangladesh provides strong support to the unequal opportunities view. The poor have access to fewer opportunities and only a sizeable investment can get them out of the poverty trap and onto the same trajectory as those starting out with more resources. The model and data are used to simulate the effect of different policies from micro-finance to cash transfers. We conclude that only a big push policy can truly eradicate poverty.

Challenging inequalities and unsustainabilities

When: 2nd November 2016 at 4:00 pm GMT / 5:00 pm CET (check time around the world).

Wherethe Paccar Theatre, Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event in Dublin (registration required – below)
  • following livestreaming from the event at kapuscinskilectures.eu
  • asking your questions to Melissa Leach via Twitter using #KAPTalks hashtag


Across the world, the rise of multiple forms of inequality, and growing environmental problems such as climate change and resource degradation, present defining challenges of our era. These challenges are interlinked, and affect people locally, nationally and globally with devastating consequences for wellbeing and security, and for the achievement of global development goals. Yet pathways to more equal and sustainable futures are possible. These involve innovative combinations of top-down and bottom-up strategies, and novel alliances between states, markets, technologies – and crucially, the knowledge and action of citizens themselves. As examples from urban and rural settings in Asia and Africa show, power and politics are critical in enabling such pathways to unfold, and shaping whether they add up to the transformational change needed to secure more equal, sustainable futures.   

Globalization, migration and future of middle class


When: 12th October 2016 at 5:30 pm CET / 3:30 pm GMT (check time around the world).

Where:VUB Campus Etterbeek – Aula Q.b, Brussels, 1050 BELGIUM


When: 13th October 2016 at 6:00 pm CET / 4:00 pm GMT (check time around the world).

Where: Faculty for Economics, Finance and Administration, Boulevard Zorana Đinđića 44, Belgrade

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event in Brussels (registration required) or Belgrade (registration required)
  • following livestreaming from the event at kapuscinskilectures.eu
  • asking your questions to Branko Milanovic via Twitter using #KAPTalks hashtag

Inequality – capital and carbon in 21st century

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Pivotal digital

When: 23rd November 2015 at 11:00 am CET / 10:00 am GMT (check time around the world).

Where: Copenhagen Business School, Kilen, Kilevej 14A, Copenhagen

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Development assistance in a new world

Extreme poverty has been halved and people have never been richer, healthier or better educated. More than 600 million people have been brought out of poverty in China alone. But average global improvement is of little help for the over one billion people still living in extreme poverty. The world will come together this year at the UN to agree on the complete eradication of extreme poverty by 2030 and a new set of sustainable development goals. For the first time in human history, we have the knowledge and resources to eradicate poverty while preserving the planet.

Most important is policies. We must learn from success and do more of what works. Child mortality has been reduced by two thirds in Ethiopia and that alone has saved more lives per year than the number of people dying in all global wars combined. Schoolchildren in Vietnam are now doing better at school than children in much richer OCD countries. Korea has gone from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the richest in a few generations. Young Koreans are 390 times richer than their grandparents were!  Lithuania has successfully transitioned into a democratic market economy and is now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. There are so many stories of successful development. We must replicate these successes on a global scale.

Money is also important. Global aid remains stable at record high levels and reached $135 billion last year. Development aid has increased by 66% since 2000. And new donors are adding to this. China is now a major provider of aid. India, Indonesia and Brazil are giving as well as receiving aid. The United Arab Emirates is the most generous country in the world, giving 1.17% of national income to development assistance. Turkey is above the OECD average, hugely generous to Syrian refugees and increased spending by 8% last year. Hungary and Estonia increased development aid more than anyone at 25% and 19% last year. We need more and better aid! But we also need to use aid to mobilize the two biggest sources of development finance in the world: Private investments and tax!

Come and learn more when Erik Solheim, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, an alliance of the world’s main donors, talk about development aid in a new world.

When: 13th May 2015 at 5:00pm EEST / 4:00pm CET (check time around the world).

Where: International Relations and Political Science, Vilnius University, Vokieciu st. 10, Vilnius.

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event in Vilnius
  • following livestreaming from the event at kapuscinskilectures.eu
  • asking your questions to Erik Solheim via Twitter using #KAPTalks hashtag

Register here for the event:

Failure to Collide: Ebola and Modern Medicine

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Climate Justice: illusion of separation

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Kinky development – why „1$/day” doesn’t solve poverty

Foreign Policy Magazine named Pritchett as one of the top global thinkers and described his work as: “Pritchett’s solution is straightforward: Do a better job of measuring the things that matter. Rather than counting post offices, ask whether the mail is getting delivered. Rather than tallying the numbers of enrolled students, find out if they’re learning anything. This may be easier said than done, but at least it’s a start.“

When: 15th October 2014 at 5:00 pm CET / 3:00 pm GMT (check time around the world).

Where: Metropolitan University Prague, Dubecska 900/10, Prague 10, Room 117

Registration mandatory: http://registrace.mup.cz

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  • coming to the event in Prague
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Reducing poverty in the world

When: 19th March 2014 at 3:30pm CET / 2:30pm GMT (check time around the world).

Venue: Room E, College of Europe, Dijver, Bruges campus

Click here for to register (by 17.03.2014)

You can join the lecture by:

  • coming to the event in Brugge
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  • asking your questions to prof. Bhagwati via Twitter using #KDL hashtag

Effective poverty reduction beyond MDGs

As the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, it is important to evaluate and plan for the future vision. Although the MDGs have been generally successful and some goals have been met, such as halving extreme poverty, there are still many lessons to be learned. Economic development, decent work and job opportunities, inequality and sustainable development will be high on the post-2015 development agenda. Organized jointly by the European Commission (EC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and in partnership with Devex and the Global Association Masters in Development Practice, José Antonio Ocampo, Professor and Director of Economic and Political Development Concentration at Columbia SIPA, and Esther Duflo, Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT, discussed effective policies in poverty reduction beyond the Millennium Development Goals, as part of the Kapuscinski Development Lecture Series. 

John Coatsworth, provost of Columbia Universityopened the lecture and noted this was the first to be held outside of Europe.

Andris Piebalgs, European Commission, stated that the goal of Kapuscinski development lectures series is to discuss the post-2015 MDGs and to shape the development debate in the years to come. The European Union is committed to poverty eradication and provides an example for social and economic development that allows dignity for citizens. It is crucial that no one suffers from a lack of access to housing, water, education and health, but also to jobs, justice, institutional access and dignity. Mr. Piebalgs indicated that the EU could provide policy coherence for the post-2015 MDG discussion. He added that development “used to be solely based on how much money was being spent on aid, but now we are shifting to a focus on outcomes and outputs and the success of development.”

Helen Clark, UNDP, thanked the European Commission for their strong partnership around the world and the work with EU accession members and future members. For the post-2015 MDGs, “over a million respondents took part in the World Survey and Global Debate, showing an appetite and interest in engaging in the debate.” Many voices were heard, including the young, indigenous people, women, people with disabilities, displaced persons, and LBGT. People want their governments to be honest and responsible and their leaders to be more ambitious in current topics such health and education. They want to expand to new areas such as addressing increasing urbanization, energy, inequality, marginalization, decent work, and sustainable development that does not push growth at any price if destructive.

Poverty Eradication in Post-2015 Development Agenda

In his speech, Professor Ocampo addressed post-2015 macro issues, highlighting that the current debate has been highly participatory by including not only states, but also civil society, the private sector, foundations and academia. He stated that the MDGs have been successful because they are concise, human-oriented, visible, useful for advocacy and design of development strategies, backed by significant institutions and measurable, which represents a huge improvement in the monitoring of UN goals from the past. On the other hand, the major criticisms of the MDGs have been the high centralization of defining goals and targets viewed as donor-centric. There was a lack of participation by member states and no economic issues were addressed, such as productive and decent employment. The goals also included incomplete targets in many areas, for instance gender and environment and many were irrelevant to middle-income countries.

The vision of the post-2015 MDGs has been headed by a UN Task Force and has been based on the fundamental principles of respect for human rights and equality. A high level panel summed up the ambition, “our vision and responsibility are to end extreme poverty in all its forms in the context of sustainable development.” Professor Ocampo pointed out that extreme poverty is not the only issue at the center, but also inequality between and within nations. He called for adopting a universal agenda, applicable to both developing and developed countries. As a result, developed countries need to address their own domestic challenges related to unemployment and inequality and also assist developing countries. The agenda also needs to leave “ample space for national policy design as it’s important to build ownership of strategies”. Goals should be few, practical and measurable.

Professor Ocampo sees the main issues on the table as figuring out what GDP means and implies, including future economic development, addressing inequality, increasing social services and changing the rules for global finance and trade. “Domestic inequality, primarily income inequality, is the most important issue in high and middle-income countries, and 60% of the world in the beginning of the 21st century continue to live in nations where income inequality is increasing.” He views inclusive development as having four ingredients: productive employment, universal social services, redesigned care economy and redistributive fiscal policies.

While peace and good domestic governance are difficult to measure, they are a core element of well-being. The broader UN agenda has linked peace and security to sustainable development; but because there are no specific goals, a framework is needed in order to improve peace and good governance.

Making Poverty Reduction More Effective

Esther Duflo, MIT, gave a presentation on making poverty reduction effective and defining the new role of international assistance. She began her talk by breaking down the two perspectives on foreign aid, the optimist and the pessimist. While many think aid can eradicate poverty, others believe aid is useless or worse. Professor Duflo stressed that broad sweeping statements cannot apply from country to country and we need a more modest objective, because eliminating poverty is a very broad goal. Since poverty is not going to go away with one approach, she suggested “experimentation and imagination.” Currently, policy makers lack imagination and are prisoners of ambition, as they promise too much and want to solve the problem all at once. This is not only a problem of aid, developing country’s governments often have the same mindset and challenges.

Professor Duflo stated that aid has traditionally filled a gap in financing, such as building bridges, or other infrastructure projects. But she pointed out that money is fungible and will reduce return to further public and private domains. She predicts, “Aid will eventually become irrelevant” unless a venture capital approach is implemented. Capital could finance investment in new technologies and new approaches to development. She further outlined 3 stages for this: basic research, making products market ready, and scaling-up and diffusion. Such capital is lacking in the development sector, even if there is potential market. The Acumen Fund and the Omidyar Foundation demonstrate how this can work. Ideas in development have huge social value, but many might not have a market yet. Therefore, markets need to be developed and linked to social programs and redistribution.

Professor Duflo urged the audience to stop to thinking of aid as providing things and technical knowledge and to get away from the mindset of “you don’t know, we know.” To illustrate this point, she provided results of her studies in improving educational quality in India. In many countries, including India, learning levels in schools have actually reduced because current MDGs only target enrollment and equality between genders. By focusing on the children lagging behind, 

low-paid employee came to schools and provided weekly remedial classes.  Even though the evaluation showed large increase in test scores and evolved to become Read India, attendance and school commitment to the program still lagged. Through a series of experiments in different states, 

Professor Duflo and her team finally found a system that works with the government. She added, “the system does not come out of anyone’s hat, it needed time and money and experimentation.”

Her message was that aid must become a venture capital model for development innovation so it does not become obsolete. It is important to facilitate research, promote replication and scaling up, and foster a culture of learning in governments to support their own growth.At the end, Professor Duflo stated that “Agencies are not ready to accept failure and risk yet, but the mindset will need to shift. I’m not sure if can be done, but it is worth trying and necessary to be optimistic. An excellent start will be if even a small amount of money can be set aside for experimentation and see the results. There is movement in this area. USAID, for example, has an innovation fund…there is now the Global Idea, which the UK and Sweden have supported, to expand innovation. It is just a matter of pushing it along.”

Tackling inequalities in development

Date: 18 September 2013, 17:00 CET / 15:00 GMT. Check time around the world

Venue: Sciences Po main building, 27 rue Saint-Guillaume, Paris, Amphithéâtre Jacques Chapsal

The lecture will be followed by a discussion with the speaker. The event will be held in English.

You can join the lecture with Angel Gurria by:


Inequality, development and development aid

Income inequality
The perception of inequality may be different from objective measures. There exist misperceptions and differences in concepts in ways people see inequality. Example: Brazil, US, China and Netherlands.

When people think of inequality, they might focus on Sen’s capabilities, as the sets of outcomes people can reach. These opportunities are: endowments, health, talents, education, equal access to facilities, no discrimination (in housing markets) as well as quantitative opportunities. Equality is also the democratic aspect of society; when people have a say in the sharing of public goods.

Ex ante model
In this model, two kinds of opportunities interact. This creates a feedback through accumulation of factors. From the left we see the market which determines growth: the structure, the distribution of opportunity and outcomes and endowments. These relationships are two-directional, as the distribution of outcome influences what they have and what they get.

Major inequality channels
The level of inequality depends on the structure of markets and the discrimination of people. You can explain conflict by several groups who don’t have access to resources. Also, it seems there exist a negative relationship between degree of inequality and growth – more inequality in human capital and access to markets is really bad for development. A more efficient society is one where parents of talented kids can afford to send them to school.

It is difficult to observe access to opportunities and how to aggregate access to justice, school and healthcare. What matters is the difference across groups, not between groups. Focus on going from development to inequality of outcomes in projects: development will make a country more or less unequal in terms of income. We need to find a way for relating inequality to the rate of growth, and make use of a conceptual proxy, since at the moment we don’t have strong empirical cross country evidence.

When we look at opportunities, you think of human capital. The question is if it is possible to redistribute human capital, e.g. between to grades of schooling and access to markets. You need to figure out how to accumulate human capital among poor people, e.g. through access to microcredits. Behind equalization of opportunities, is the accumulation of opportunities!

Policy interventions: 3 areas for affecting inequality
These instruments are essentially compliments to each other:
– Standard: taxes, transfers. Problem is they may impact the work of the economic system and make economy less efficient, which in turn will lead to rich people having less incentive to invest in business, since it’s less profitable to them and society, when they are taxed. Or rich people have enough money to not be affected by this taxation. You may end up with distortion costs and efficiency losses through taxes.
– Pro-poor accumulation of factors: Efficiency enhancing: microfinance, accumulation of factors in the poorest part of the economy. Possibly benefitting people who don’t have access. Goes through improving opportunities.
– Controlling and regulating the way markets behave: through regulation of markets. We have to accept that markets have an effect on distribution. E.g. minimum wage will improve the income of people with the job.

What matters is more public social protection and redistribution in improving opportunities. We need good policies that evaluate efficiency gains and inequality.

Conclusion for development aid
What kind of social policy must be promoted?
– accumulation among poor in assets
– better access to justice
– health
– Standard redistribution: cash transfers.

We need guidelines for thinking about how development aid policies in countries should be like. The point is to make sure that the inequality you are creating in order to ensure growth will not translate to more inequality in possibilities over time.

How reduce poverty – aid that works

During the lecture, professor Hulme introduced ideas from his recently published book “Just Give Money to the Poor”. In this book he describes a different way of development aid; he called it “a development success story.” Many parts of the book are available on the Brooks World Poverty Institute website.

Cash transfers or broader concept of how social protection is provided for the populations has been slowly spreading across the world. It is not mentioned in the Millennium Development Goals. However, this concept is rapidly growing and in 2010 at „MDGs + 10 meeting” which was held in New York, there were frequent references to the need for cash transfers, to having social protection and social platforms for population. These days’ cash transfers are used by more than 110 million families in at least 44 countries; that is approximately 750 million people benefiting from cash transfers in low income and middle income countries. This number even increases as China introduces this concept, too. So, it may reach 1 billion people in low income and middle income countries. The ideas and impetus to introduce cash transfers have not come from aid donors or rich world, but it has came from the Global South, more specifically South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, India, followed by Indonesia and China. Professor Hulme stressed the need for political consensus in order to promote these programs; politics and cash transfers have to go hand in hand.

Professor Hulme introduced what he was going to talk about. The message was 4 findings, 2 debates and 5 principles. The findings are that recipients in low income and middle income countries use money well, although these are only small sums of money. It is also an efficient means of reducing poverty in a short term. People can increase household income, reduce hunger, improve nutrition and get children go to school. However, there are also long term benefits. This concerns literacy, physical well being of children and of populations. Cash transfers can also contribute to the economic growth and make it more pro-poor. There is also some evidence that it can help with the political evolution of countries. Professor Hulme mentioned affordability of cash transfers, too. He argued that it can be afforded on a modest scale and then it can be developed over time.

Professor Hulme introduced two debates, about conditions and targeting. There are two kinds of evidence. Both, conditions and targeting can be good and bad. So, it needs to be debated and it has to be approached very contextually. One has to think about the country, locality and objectives of the programme. These programmes of cash transfers can go ahead if they are fair, assured, practical, make a difference also with a small amount of money and if they are popular in political terms.

Cash transfers are payments which are regular (people get them on a regular basis, usually monthly), long-term (people can get them for a few years or for a whole life), rights based (people are entitled to have them, it should not just be a charity) and tax-financed (ideally financed from the domestic tax, donors can help in establishing the schemes and financing them in the early years). They should be a form of a social assistance not a social insurance or a labour market regulation.

There are 5 types of cash transfers: social pensions (people are entitled to get them reaching a certain age), child benefits (e.g. in Southern Africa countries), family grants (for poorest families), disability allowances (in African and Asian countries), and cash for work programs (people get money for working on public works such as in India).

South Africa is a good example to be used as a case study. It has social pensions and child benefits. Around 2,3 million people, this is 85% of people aged over 63 get the social pension although they have not contributed to it. Child benefits have expanded a lot over the last four years. 8,5 million people receive them which is over 55% of children under the age of 16. In this case, there is targeting, but it is unconditional. Although, it is a big sum of money (3,5% of the GDP), there are benefits of reducing poverty in a short term. These schemes are diffusing across the Southern African region. Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana already use the scheme of social pensions and there are other countries in the region which are considering their introduction. Professor Hulme noticed that South Africa has enormous problems with not generating employment, so the cash transfers are not enough in themselves. Other fundamental changes in the macroeconomic structure are needed.

Another example, which professor Hulme used, was Brazil. He introduced the scheme of Bolsa Familia which goes to around 11,6 million families with per capita income under 30% of minimum wage, so it is targeted and there are conditionalities, too. Social pensions go to 6,6 million of people. So, all in all, 39% of the population gets cash transfers (it is 1,5% of its GDP). Brazil has had excellent economic growth over the last ten years, and inequality and poverty has reduced.

Results of many studies showed that poor use money wisely, mainly on family, that there are benefits for the next generation (regarding nutrition, education, etc.) and it does not discourages the work. Cash transfers can offer short-term and long-term benefits. Concerning short-term benefits, the grants are used by whole family, around a half of it is spent on more and better food, children are taller and healthier with increased school attendance and higher potential to learn, and it contributes to the reduction of inequalities, e.g. in income, food consumption and access to education. The most important long-term advantages are that the money is spent locally. Other people are probable to get employment as money is spent for buying local. So, it stimulates the local economy, it increases investments and it encourages job seeking.

There is an existing stereotype that cash transfers make people lazy. Professor Hulme argues that it is not true. He said that cash transfers provided a necessary base for poor people. They know how to invest money locally to have a profit. The problem is that they lack cash to take opportunity. Cash transfers also reduce risk aversion. Poor people are conservative about taking risk. But households which get cash transfers can think about taking small risks. Closely related to risk is also planning. Risk represents an enormous problem for poor families; very often they would face questions such as will my family starve if I try a new crop and I fail? Should I risk buying a fertilizer? Or, can we afford a bus fare to look for the job? Therefore, cash transfers are very important, because they represent a guarantee of the future income, it permits risk taking and it provides a sort of insurance in the case of failure. Cash transfers also allow small farmers and entrepreneurs to take a micro-credit, because in the case of failure it may be paid by cash transfers.

There are 4 assumptions that have to be taken into account if the political leaders or aid donors decide to implement this strategy. Is poverty partly caused by lack of predictable income? Are opportunities available? Can we trust poor? Is giving money to the poor ethically right? Professor Hulme thinks that if cash transfers are applied contextually the answer to all the questions is yes and therefore cash transfers should be introduced.

There has been a change in the elite or middle class attitudes in the last decade in developing countries. There is a gradual rejection of the attitude that growth is enough, that the poor are lazy, that we cannot afford welfare or social protection. And there is an increasing consensus that if a country wants to have national development, there is a need for growth, human development and human security. It is accompanied by understanding that poor are good “economists”. A very important fact is that costs of social protection constitute only 0,5 -2,0 % of GDP and therefore it should not represent a real problem for the economy.

Among scholars there are 2 ongoing debates: conditions and targeting. There are arguments for and against conditions. In Mexico, there are highly conditional programs. In South Africa, programmes are unconditional. Arguments for are that one can improve the long-term impacts and change the culture of certain social groups. On the other hand, paternalism and low quality of existing services are main arguments against conditions.

Targeting is the second part of the debate. If you target you can give money to those who need it most. Targeting is different from country to country as well as from program to program, i.e. South Africa: pension is untargeted; meanwhile child benefit is targeted on poorest half. Arguments against targeting are that it is difficult to do it accurately, it is divisive and may be seen as unfair, it brings opportunities for corruption or manipulation and it represents additional administrative costs. The problem with targeting is also when you try to target the poorest of poor, i.e. in Africa it has proved to be problematic as people can say “we are all poor”. Professor Hulme in this case emphasized the necessity to apply contextual knowledge and to avoid taking extreme sides for or against it.

Cash transfers need to be seen as fair. This means that most citizens must agree on “who gets grants”. They need to be assured on a weekly basis, a monthly basis or annually. It needs to be practical, so you have to be able to deliver it. It needs to be more than a few cents. It should make at least 20% of poor household income. And finally, they should be popular and politically acceptable. Politicians, middle class and elites should support them. They should not just be a single programme, but they should become a part of an evolving social policy framework.

Professor Hulme thinks that cash transfers provide immediate poverty reduction and social protection; they may increase good governance and reduce risk. They increase investments and impact next generations. They are a necessary step on the way to a national welfare system. However, it must be seen as developmental, not as safety nets. Therefore, the main message is to give money to the poor. However, not as a charity or out of helicopters, but as a carefully designed programs deriving from national decision-making and experience and there is a role for donors and international agencies to support it with cross-national learning, help countries to recognize the affordability and joint financing, particularly in low income countries in Africa.

World economy and development

The structure of the world economy and the interaction between overall world growth and development has been changing. The great crisis of 2008 underlined global interdependence. It is also clear, however, that many developing countries weathered the crisis much better than many advanced countries. Looking ahead, are we finally entering the age of convergence? Which factors are going to cause convergence or divergence? What do these structural factors imply for development cooperation, the pursuit of the MDGs and global economic cooperation?

In his lecture, Dr. Kemal Dervis shares his perspectives on the world economy and shows the role of emerging markets in the new world economic order. How emerging market economies weathered the crisis much better than the advanced countries, how most of these economies have bounced back rapidly from the 2008 crisis.

To start his lecture Dr. Kemal Dervis refers to three quotes and wonders if they still reflect the reality of the economic situation:

– The first one from Sir Arthur Lewis’ Nobel Prize Lecture in 1979: “For the past hundred years the rate of growth of output in the developing world has depended on the rate of growth of output in the developed world. When the developed world grows fast, the developing world grows fast, when the developed slow down, the developing slow down. Is this linkage inevitable?” in [The Slowing Down of the Engine of Growth];

– The second one from Pr. Elhanan Helpman in 2004: “Although the differences in income per capita among rich countries have declined in the post-World War II period, the disparity between rich and poor countries has widened. At the same time the number of middle income countries has dwindled. We now have two polarized economic clubs: one rich, the other poor.” in [The Mystery of Economic Growth];

– The third and last one from a foreword by Angel Gurria, from OECD report “Perspectives on Global Development”, 2010: “This Report shows that the ‘rise of the rest’ is not a ‘threat to the west.’ Overall it is good news for the global economy”.

Using the GDP indicators, he demonstrates that the sets of figures prove that the emerging markets have gained weight more rapidly than the advanced countries.

He compares the ratio of per capita income of the richest countries compared to the ratio of emerging countries. The income gap started to widened during the 1990’s, going from about 2 to a peak of about 4 in the past two years in favor to the emerging markets. This trend got interrupted by the Asian crisis, but continued until 2008 and it is now at an accelerated rate and Dr. Kemal Dervis declares this trend will continue for the next 5 to 10 years.

After a long period of divergence, there have now been several decades of convergence reinforced by a more rapid growth in the emerging markets in term of GDP per capita and by a lack of acceleration in the advanced countries.

But it is difficult to explain how the growth processes in the advanced countries and the emerging markets are linked or de-linked. The fact that the emerging markets have gained much weight in the world economy, does not mean that there will be de-coupling of growth in the coming years. If the advanced markets experience a more serious slowdown than what is currently projected, with growth averaging less than 1.5 percent in the 2008-2009 period, the consequences will be severe also for the emerging markets. Pr. Olivier Blanchard reminds this point in: “The Initial Impact of the Crisis on Emerging Market Countries” – Brookings Paper on Economic Activity – Brookings Institution Press, Spring 2010 – “One of the striking characteristics of the financial crisis that originated in the United States is how quickly and how broadly it spread to the rest of the world. When the crisis intensified, first in the United States and then in Europe, in the fall of 2008, emerging market countries thought they might escape more or less unharmed. There was talk of decoupling. This was not to be.” There is a decoupling if we look at the trends, but if the cyclical components are taken in account, there is a very strong coupling.

Dr. Kemal Dervis has two main explanations to this phenomenon:
– Technology which works for convergence and no longer for divergence
– High savings rates

He explains this phenomenon is due to the fact that the emerging countries managed to build effective institutions which were capable of absorbing technology. However, in this sense, Dervis says how important it is to distinguish Asian development (with a forecast growth of 8% over the next five years) from other emerging countries (4.5%). He also shows the importance that ‘saving’ has for these countries. In the last decade, emerging countries in Asia have saved about 37% of their GDP – figures for China are above 44% – which inevitably makes them less vulnerable and less dependent on foreign finances. The Asian economies did very well.

Dr. Kemal Dervis draws also the audience’s attention to the role of the financial sector in the events of the last two decades. Over this period capitalism in the rich countries has increasingly changed its nature from one where the lead sector was manufacturing, to one where the role of traditional industries has declined, the share of services has increased and the financial sector is playing a leading role.
Emerging market economies as a group have done remarkably well but there are differences across emerging market economies in 2009. Some of them did rather well; some of them were hit very hard (Greece – Irlande for example). The European countries were hit very hard as they were more exposed to foreign banks.

Although the economies are still tied to each other, a slight dissociation has been produced in the world. While western powers struggle to overcome the crisis, the growth forecasts for the emerging countries are, however, positive.

Emerging markets economies are becoming more important players in the world economy and maturing rather rapidly. In term of trends Dr. Kemal Dervis says it’s good news and explains the role of development cooperation and organizations in term of perspectives.

Africa: new challenges and opportunities for assistance

After introductory remarks and welcoming words by Mr. Daniel Hanspach (UNDP), Ms Brigitte Luggin (EC) and Ms. Dana Zadrazilova (UEP), Professor Collier, referring to his book “The Bottom Billion”, continued with his, below-summarized account of problems poor countries in Africa have been facing.

About 50 countries basically stagnated from around the 1970s to the new millennium. As a result they diverged from the rest of the mankind. Forty years ago the world was divided into one billion lucky people in rich country and a five billion people in developing countries. Since then the world has fundamentally changed. Most of that five billion have been developing at a pace that has no historical precedent and they have been converging fast with the lucky billion. We are now in the world with one billion at the bottom, one billion at the top and four billion converging. Even though some of the people from the converging four billion are nearly as poor as the bottom billion, there is a fundamental difference and that difference is one word: Hope. Poor people from the bottom billion do not have a credible hope that their children will grow up in a different environment.

The challenge of development is thus to get the bottom billion to catch up with everybody else. The challenge is not to reduce poverty of the bottom billion, the goal has to be to replace divergence by convergence. Convergence means moving from stagnation to really rapid growth. Why should we meet that challenge? It is a mixture of compassion and enlightened self-interest. In a globalized world, having a continent so close to Europe, in which hundreds of millions are living without credible hope, is a potential nightmare.

First, we need some sort of diagnosis why the countries of bottom billion missed out on prosperity. But there is no single diagnosis, there is no big single explanation. Professor Collier sees several major difficulties, so-called traps. One is natural resources. It is a paradox that these countries have very valuable natural resources, but instead of being a platform for prosperity the fight for control over the natural resources has soured the political process and led to stagnation (e.g. oil in Nigeria) or even destruction (e.g. diamonds in Sierra Leone).

Another trap is being landlocked. If you are landlocked, it is your neighbours that matter. If you are landlocked with bad neighbours, that is a nightmare. Look at the neighbourhood of Uganda. Not only the neighbours are not growing enough to provide a market, but Uganda does not even have a reliable access to the sea as Kenyan government has not invested into roads and railways to provide such an access. Uganda is therefore in a lock caused by its neighbours. That denies Uganda a lots of development opportunities. Only one percent of the developing world outside Africa live in countries that are landlocked and do not have valuable resources. In Africa it is about 30 %. It is a historical legacy of dysfunctional political fragmentation. Third trap involves violent conflicts. Civil wars are highly persistent. The main legacy of civil wars is a high risk of another civil war.

There is a very limited scope for international solutions to these problems. Societies in the end have to save themselves. We cannot save Africa, Africa will save Africa. There is a real struggle going on throughout Africa between people fighting for change and people trying to preserve their own self-interests and status quo. We are outsiders, we are marginal players but we have a responsibility to do what we can. One, we should focus down on the real problem. We have limited resources and we should focus on countries that need it most. Secondly, we should broaden the array of policies we use – it is not just about our money. Aid is part of the solution, not part of the problem, but a relatively minor part of the solution. We forget that we have many other policies that affect the development process.

Lot of societies in Africa have to go through similar transformation the Czech Republic did. In addition to money the European Union offered integration into trade when assisting transformation in Eastern Europe. Trade policy, open market is fundamental to shaping the opportunities Africa faces as well. Europe’s scheme for Africa until very recently was the Everything but Arms. This scheme does not compare very well to America’s scheme called the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Nevertheless, now the European policy has been changing.

Trade policy can help Africa to diversify from a narrow range of primary commodities and break into the global markets the way Asia did. It is much harder for Africa to do it than for Asia to do it because Asia is now an established low-wage producer. The growth of Asia was so explosive thanks to producing clusters of manufacturers. Our trade policy can offset the disadvantage of being the pioneer firm in Africa. Once you get producing clusters they can be competitive. Thus Africa needs a privileged access to our markets, privileged vis-à-vis the established low-wage producers. That is what the American scheme has offered even though it works only in one narrow dimension – garments. Trade policy opens or closes off opportunities to get out of the traditional focus on commodities and agriculture.

Countries from Eastern Europe also benefited from rules of political and economic governance set by the European Community. With clear rules the transition process is faster and more secure, and there is less room for policy reversals. Without clear rules of governance the policy improvements in Africa have been slower and more prone to reversal. As a result there has been a much less credible environment. And credibility matters because that brings investments. Aid, plus trade, plus governance, is the minimum package that Europe can use for Africa. The international community, including Europe, should link its assessment of conduct in political election (governance) to its effort in trade policy and aid, i.e. set some minimum conditions of accountability,.

The global crisis has affected Africa through several transition mechanisms, the fastest being the falling commodity prices and falling demand for commodities. As commodity exports were the main source of revenues for African governments, the short-term fall in prices and quantities hit government revenues very hard. That has been supplemented by lower remittances sent back home by Africans working abroad. With contracting labour markets in Europe and America the African immigrants lose their jobs. And now even the aid is falling. This will be to a small extent offset by new entrants of aid (e.g. the Czech Republic or South Korea).

The final hit to Africa has been through investors’ perception of risk. We are witnessing a much heightened aversion to risk. This can be seen mainly on letters of credit (to finance exports) as they dried out specifically for Africa. Africa is perceived as the riskiest region in the world. The legacy effect of the global crisis in Africa will be this risk aversion that might persist for years and might result in reduced investment flows for Africa. Foreign investments to resource extraction will continue but this will lead to increased structural dependence of Africa on resource extraction. Investments for diversification will be very hard to get and fundamental reason for divergence is that Africais not investing enough.

What can the Czech Republic do in all this?According to Professor Collier, the Czech Republic is more important for its voice and perspective than for its money. Experience with transition is the real value of the Czech Republic and through multilateral agencies the Czech Republic can share experience of the process it has been through.

Fruitful discussion that followed included experience and views of Africans from the audience (incl. the Ambassador of South Africa), and such topics as the role of NGOs and the role of China in Africa.

MDGs: where human development meets results

Inequality barrier to human development

The past two decades have seen dramatic gains in human development. Poverty is falling, child survival rates are increasing, and education indicators are on a rising trend. During the same time period new modes of development ideas and practices have evolved that includes local communities and the poor in finding solutions, and, in addition, points to partnering with business to address systemic challenges such as poverty, environmental degradation and climate change. Yet, wealth distribution within countries is diverging – and persistent inequalities in opportunity are holding back progress in health, education and employment. This lecture will address these dilemmas and discuss possible ways forward, from both a human development perspective and a business perspective.

The lecture will be followed by a discussion panel „Role of business in development”. The lecture will be livestreamed at https://kapuscinskilectures.eu/. You can follow the lecture via http://twitter.com/kapulectures. Ask your questions to Kevin Watkins using #kapu.

Date: 5 March, 2013,  10:30am GMT / 11:30am CET – check time around the world
Venue: Stockholm School of Economics, the Auditorium

Get involved in the lecture! You can:


11.30–11.40 Welcome and Introduction by Stockholm School of Economics, European Commission (Mr. Pierre Schellekens, Head of the European Commission Representation in Stockholm) and UNDP (Ms. Monica Lorensson, Liaison Officer, UNDP Nordic Office)

11.40–12.10 Keynote speech: “Inequality as a barrier to human development” Kevin Watkins

12.10–12.45 Panel discussion: „The role of business in development”
Panel: Kevin Watkins, Marianne Barner, Christina Båge-Friborg,
Karin Holmquist, Mia Horn af Rantzien, Lin Lerpold, Örjan Sjöberg
Moderator: Susanne Sweet

12.45–13.00 Q & A and closing

Social business reducing poverty in Africa

Effective pursuing of sustainable development globally requires both political high-level agreements and practical implementation on the ground. Nick Moon takes care of the latter. As a co-founder of the KickStart International initiative, he promotes simple, cost-effective tools and solutions which increase agricultural productivity in Africa. Moon proves that social economy can bring benefits and effectively lift people out of extreme poverty through triggering their entrepreneurship rather than giving aid.


KickStart is an award-winning non-profit social enterprise, listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s Top 30 Social Enterprises. KickStart has to date enabled over 135,000 “base of the pyramid” entrepreneurs to invest in and build successful rural family enterprises, taking over 670,000 people out of poverty, providing an additional 210,000 on-farm jobs, and generating $130 million annually in net profits and new household incomes.

New decade in fight against poverty

Hungary through its transition already gained a lot of experience that it can share with the developing world. Piebalgs also brought up a new Hungarian initiative, the Africa-Europe Challenge as a good example.

Andris Piebalgs emphasized that we need to change our habit of giving the aid only when the country to support is already in a crisis. Also, when an aid is promised, it has to be transferred accordingly, and we cannot deny it because of our difficulties emerging in the meantime.

He was happy that the Hungarian government has agreed to monitor compliance with aid commitments when they hold the EU presidency in 2011.

Piebalgs talked about how aid from EC have helped people around the world. He also brought up numbers to support these successful programs. But, beside the aid, the development policy also has to be smarter by focusing on those areas where we have a real advantage in acting at EU level. Also, it must ensure that every penny we spend has a genuine effect.

For this sustainable and inclusive growth has to be supported in the partner countries as evidence suggests that a 1% increase in GDP will be far more effective in reducing poverty than an equivalent increase in aid. Europe is aiming for the same goal. The EC recently launched our 2020 strategy for inclusive, smart and sustainable growth. The Union’s development policy only mirrors what we want for our own citizens.

He outlined several factors which should be at the heart of our objective of putting high impact aid into practice over the next decade. He emphasized that without good governance, the effects of aid are limited.

Also, since their impact is tremendous, EU, and also international policies on matters such as trade and migration should also support development policy.

He strongly believes that if the Commission and EU Member States coordinate and consult each other on our aid intentions, a much better value for our aid money.

Also, as the developing world is expected to be one of the main drivers of global population growth over the next decades, the challenge this presents in terms of ensuring sustainable development is considerable. Many areas in the developing world represent ideal places to foster renewable energy, whether through hydro, or solar power. By investing in local, competitive, renewable energy, it would be possible to skip a generation in technology terms, and avoid the need to construct expensive power grids, which can account for 50% or more of a typical electricity bill.

Andris Piebalgs closed his speech mentioning that his services are also in the process of producing a consultation paper on modernising development policy which will go online in November later this year. He looks forward to receiving comments and suggestions from across Europe and invited also the audience to take part.


Poor economics – effective poverty reduction policies

Prof. Banerjee declared that people get themselves into an intellectual trap when thinking into these absolute categories of institutions. Indeed, there are all kinds of failures, even within the “good” institutions. Prof. Banerjee concluded that if we take the institutions of these countries as given and basically make ourselves buy standards rather than saying most countries have bad policies, not particularly by design but because of accidental failures, we delay the process of removing poverty by many years. For this reason, he emphasised that we need to be present and wisely intervene on an intellectual level, and not simply overbear through the policy process.

Grants, Governance, Growth to reduce poverty in Africa?

The conventional view regards slow growth as the main reason why so many countries will miss the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. However reducing human poverty requires much more that growth, grants or governance. Foremost, human development involves fundamental transformation in society, which transcend any macroeconomic or institutional model.

The global discourse about human development is dominated by the formula that ‘faster economic growth + more foreign aid + better governance = MDGs’. Slow growth stops implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, according to the conventional view. Others argue that it is insufficient foreign aid or inadequate governance that prevent so many countries from achieving the MDGs. In other words, human development is considered as either growth-, aid- or governance-mediated. Thus, the development narrative is reduced to a technical argument about these three aspects of development. To substantiate the argument, extensive use – if not misuse – is made of statistics. The latest poverty estimates of the World Bank, for example, claim that the absolute number of poor people in Africa declined between 2005 and 2008; this for the first time. Nine million fewer Africans living in poverty, is that not a reason to celebrate? Does it not prove that growth is reducing poverty?