Our Perspective

      • The 'foreign-aid-doesn’t-work' argument | Jérome Sauvage

        24 Jan 2014

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        A Hmong woman and her baby in the village of Sin Chai. Vietnam is an example of how successful foreign aid interventions can transform a country. Photo: Kibae Park/UN

        Since my arrival in the United States one year ago, I have come across authors such as Roger Riddell who ask pointed questions to those responsible for aid programs. There is an energetic and well-established body of literature that is skeptical of bilateral and multilateral aid. Here in Washington, I appreciate how USAID focused more on evidence-based reporting whilst we at UNDP are sharing our results much better (as our top IATI rating demonstrates), one person and one country at a time. Yet a significant piece of evidence is often missing in our demonstrations: the very countries that successfully emerged out of poverty. I just returned to Vietnam over the New Year holidays. Hanoi was my first post with UNDP. Then, in 1985, the country’s devastation from the war was everywhere. UNDP joined a small group of donors supporting various rehabilitation projects, notably in the coffee and rubber sectors. Today, Vietnam is the second-largest coffee producer after Brazil (OK, mainly Robusta) and is likely to become the world’s third-biggest rubber producer.  Although our presence needed much justifying internationally, we stayed, were able to support the reform process the moment it began, and later on advised the country’s leadership in its negotiations Read More

      • Working for the few: private power over democracy | Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva

        24 Jan 2014

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        According to a new UNDP report, to be launched next week, income inequality increased by 11% in developing countries between 1990 and 2010. Photo: Kibae Park/UN.

        Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years. In a paper released this week, Nick Galasso, from Oxfam America, and I explore the current growing concentration of income and political capture. Firstly: The rich are getting richer, faster. The poorest half of the world's adults, 3.5 billion people, own a total of $1.7 trillion worth of assets. That is similar to the wealth owned by the world's richest 85 people. In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth between 2009 and 2012, while the bottom 90 percent became ever poorer. Secondly: This growing concentration of income and wealth is closely associated with political power and influence. It sounds obvious but it's very easily forgotten. Either through lobbying, campaign finance, or avoiding regulation, the rich exert their power over how the rest of society is governed. In Working for the Few we explore the mechanism by which wealth brings political influence, which in turn breeds greater wealth for a select few. The lopsided influence of the wealthy occurs through different channels. Take the example of Mexico and Carlos Slim. Slim is the CEO and Chairman of Read More

      • Avoiding another crisis in the Central African Republic | Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

        22 Jan 2014

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        Akadus Zangoa, aged 10, carries a container of water to his mother, who sells manioc from a small stall to make enough money to feed her family. Without access to clean water the fear of an epidemic within the camp is heightened. Photo: UNHCR/S. Phelps

        First of all, I would like to draw attention to the tragedy unfolding in CAR. The sectarian violence in the Central African Republic has uprooted nearly one million people and it is estimated that 2.2 million, about half the population, need humanitarian aid. Now, a major food crisis is looming. According to the U.N., 94 percent of communities report that they do not have enough seeds to plant for the next agricultural season. There needs to be a strong and massive response from the international community. However, we must understand that the crisis has deep structural causes that are development-related. Extreme poverty, considerable inequalities, poor governance, weaknesses and failures of the political class triggered the crisis. While we invest in humanitarian action, we must also tackle the structural causes of that crisis as part of a wider effort aimed at putting the country back on a more robust development path.  When the violence subsides, attention must stay focused on rebuilding essential infrastructure such as water reservoirs, sewers, bridges and local clinics. To that end, public works projects can provide vital sources of revenue for women and men. Such initiatives can help restore trust and confidence among local communities across ethnic and Read More

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