Our Perspective

      • Welcome to a new generation of ‘development issues’ | Duncan Green

        16 Jan 2014

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        Health problems such as obesity, once more common in countries of the Global North, are increasingly rising in the South, and the development focus for health may need to shift as a result. (Photo: UNDP Fiji)

        As I browsed my various feeds over the Christmas break, one theme that emerged was the rise of the “North in the South” on health, or what I call Cinderella Issues: things like traffic accidents, the illegal drug trade, smoking or alcohol that do huge (and growing) damage in developing countries, but are relegated to the margins of the development debate. If my New Year reading is anything to go by, that won’t last long. ODI kicked off with Future Diets, an excellent report on obesity that shows the number of obese/overweight people in developing countries (904 million) has more than tripled since 1980 and has now overtaken the number of malnourished (842 million, according to the FAO). Other key messages include that diets are changing wherever incomes are rising in the developing world, with a marked shift from cereals and tubers to meat, fats, sugar and fruit and vegetables. While globalisation has led to a homogenisation in diets, their continued variation suggests that there is still scope for policies that can influence the food choices people make, particularly in the face of the serious health implications. Meanwhile, the Economist ran a two-page report and editorial on “the new drugs war”:Read More

      • What the international community can do right now on Syria | Sima Bahous

        13 Jan 2014

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        Women and children sitting at Atme camp in full view of the Turkish border post. Photo: IRIN/ JODI HILTON

        The tragic images of death, destruction, and suffering continue to pour out of Syria as the conflict nears the three-year mark.   More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed so far, with 6.5 million people now displaced from their homes by fighting. But Syria's plight is not just one of humanitarian suffering that will end when hostilities cease. With more than 50 percent of Syria’s population now living in poverty, this is a crisis that will have long-term implications for development. Ravaged infrastructure, collapsed services, economic disintegration and rampant unemployment — all a direct toll of the fighting — have now rolled back Syria’s development levels by at least 35 years.   More than 2.3 million Syrians have already sought refuge in neighboring Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt. Refugees now make up approximately 10 percent of Jordan’s population and 20 percent of all people living in Lebanon. This influx is changing the demographic balance in host countries and local communities, which threatens to stoke social tensions and increase competition for already-scarce resources such as land, water and jobs. The potential for instability is great. To prevent the conflict from sowing decades of poverty in the region, the international community mustRead More

      • Consumption consumes you | George Gray Molina

        10 Jan 2014

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        Casimira Sanchez prepares pieces of gym equipment at a plant in Mexico City. A UNDP programme to strengthen small and medium-sized businesses increased their access to new market technology. Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP for UNDP

        F. Scott Fitzgerald used to say about alcohol: “First, you take the drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.” The same thing could be said about consumerism as a way of achieving social status and recognition. First, let’s look at a few facts. Consumerism is the engine driving growth in Latin American economies. It represents 59 percent of the GDP in Brazil, 66 percent in Mexico, 69 percent in Chile, 77 percent in Honduras and 88 percent in the Dominican Republic — so more than two thirds of the economic growth in Brazil, Mexico and Chile over the past twelve months. Consumerism also led to a significant reduction in poverty and favored the emergence of the middle class in the region. Today, most of the population is no longer “poor” in the statistical sense of the term, but “vulnerable” as they work in precarious labour markets yet enjoy higher levels of income and purchasing power than before. Secondly, let’s look at some areas of concern. Consumption is intrinsically linked to high levels of liquidity, easy access to credit, and household debt. Household debt has increased throughout the region: According to Morgan Stanley, the ratio of household debt to income isRead More

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