Our Perspective

      • How can Africa achieve food security? | Tegegnework Gettu

        22 May 2012

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        It is a harsh paradox that sub-Saharan Africa, a continent blessed with ample agricultural endowments, still faces hunger and malnutrition. Photo: UNDP

        It is a harsh paradox that sub-Saharan Africa, a continent blessed with ample agricultural endowments, still faces hunger and malnutrition. Adding to that paradox is the fact that the region’s high rates of economic growth in recent years – some of the fastest in the world – and improvements in life expectancy and schooling have not led to commensurate improvements in food security. More than one in four Africans – nearly 218 million – remain undernourished and more than 40% of children under five – almost 55 million in total -- are malnourished. The spectre of famine, all but gone elsewhere, continues to haunt millions in the region. Yet another famine occurred in Somalia in 2011, and the Sahel is again at risk in 2012. Chronic food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa stems from decades of underinvestment in the countryside, where infrastructure has deteriorated, farming has languished, gender and other inequalities have deepened and food systems have stagnated. Smallholder farmers, on whose shoulders the recovery of its agriculture rests, have long been pinned between a rock and hard place. Erratic weather patterns and seasonal food price variations, coupled with new threats from population growth, environmental pressures and climate change, have only made Read More

      • Road to Rio: Growth and employment need to be the heart of development | Magdy Martinez-Soliman

        15 May 2012

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        Growth and employment are firmly back on the development agenda—and will be a key topic during the Rio+20 Conference next month. Photo: UNDP

        Growth and employment will be at the heart of a discussion taking place this week in Tokyo, organized by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the host Government of Japan on the ‘post-2015 development agenda’. The structural adjustment programmes that were common around the 1980-90’s, which sought to tackle intractable problems, ended up holding back development and growth—often  in a painful and insensitive way that exacerbated poverty and underdevelopment. Growth got a bad name.  But now growth and employment are firmly back on the development agenda—and will be a key topic during the Rio+20 Conference next month. The one Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target that relates to full, productive and decent work is unlikely to be met by 2015. The global financial and economic crisis have slowed growth, and led in turn to an employment crisis: Total global unemployment is expected to increase another 6 million over the next three years. to 206 million in 2016, up from 200 million today.  And this is not a challenge for developing countries only.  My own country, Spain, has nearly one in four working-age people out of work.  As a result, the growth agenda has currency with a large Read More

      • Look beyond the obvious | Ajay Chhibber

        11 May 2012

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        Better poverty measures are central for improving development programmes in India. Photo: UNDP

        India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision to set up a new panel for re-examining the measurement of poverty is a fresh opportunity to rethink India's approach towards poverty. The question is: if we no longer measure human progress by income alone, then why do we still use income as a measure of poverty? In 1990, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s Human Development Index (HDI) broadened the measure of human progress beyond income to include health and education. This idea had its initial skeptics but today HDI is an accepted measure of human progress. Twenty years later, UNDP, working with scholars of Oxford University, proposed a Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The MPI measures poverty by taking into account access to education, health, water, sanitation, etc. Such an approach will not only give us a better measure of poverty but it will also help widen our understanding of the nature of poverty. There are countries like China, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan, where the poverty rate based on the MPI is lower than the one based on income poverty because other criteria such as health, education and shelter come into play. Many countries have now started calculating both the MPI and income poverty, Read More