Thursday, 25 October 2012

Women and War

Patricia Justino and Becky Mitchell
Armed conflicts result in tremendous changes to the lives and livelihoods of women: women take up new jobs, join armies, act as peacemakers and provide essential support to their families and communities. However, post-conflict policy processes tend to limit the capacity of women to participate fully and take advantage of new opportunities after the end of the war. Post-conflict contexts are currently characterised by a mismatch between policy priorities and women’s needs and aspirations, and policy is being designed and implemented based on limited rigorous evidence on what works and what does not work for people living in contexts of violence.

There have been some important steps towards a more inclusive integration of women in peace, stability and economic recovery processes. The role of the United Nations has been instrumental in these advances, particularly the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000. Despite these important advances, there is still a considerable lack of systematic and rigorous understanding about the impact of armed conflict on women’s roles, activities and aspirations, or about the nature and magnitude of the benefits of including women more fully in economic recovery and peace-building processes.

At the beginning of 2012, we were invited to work on a project with Action Aid and Womenkind on the inclusion of women in peace-building processes. At the time, we were also working on a joint project with UN Women on women’s roles in economic recovery in post-conflict contexts.

As part of the first project, we visited Liberia, Nepal and Sierra Leone and talked to women about their experiences of peacebuilding in their families, communities, and the local area. We visited rural areas and remote communities and in all instances we were astounded by the women we met. The stories they told us about their experiences during the various conflicts they had lived through were heart-breaking. But, more importantly women described how they were all moving on, concentrating on the future, and trying to rebuild their lives, their families, and their communities by whatever means they could.

In all three countries we met women who have formed local women’s groups, usually without any external help, to support each other emotionally, financially, and practically, to find peace. The peace they are working towards is not just the traditional definition, an absence of conflict, but it is about normal everyday things, like being able to feed their families, send their children to school, having access to healthcare and water, and being able to live without fear.

It is this wide definition of peace that seems to be ignored by many of the peace-building programmes that are initiated in post-conflict environments, ignoring the real needs of women and their families. The project with UN Women has helped us adding further pieces to the puzzle of what happens to women in conflict areas. We looked at six case studies: Bosnia, Colombia, Kosovo, Nepal, Tajikistan and Timor Leste. In all cases, we have found that women participate more actively in labour markets during conflict. This is not a positive uplifting story though: these are usually low-paid, low-skilled jobs taken by women in addition to their usual household tasks, and reinforced by the type of gender livelihood programming implemented in post-conflict settings. Two main shortcomings of these interventions are the flooding of markets with ‘female-suitable’ jobs, and the lack of inclusion of men in gender-sensitive programming. New female employment activities in conflict-affected areas very seldom result in direct empowerment gains for women and often contribute to increasing their levels of vulnerability. In addition, women tend to lose their jobs once the war is over and face pressures to return to traditional roles.

However, and against all odds, we have found that increases in the labour participation of women in conflict-affected areas are in some cases associated with increases in overall household and community welfare, when compared with households and communities in areas less affected by violence. This is a remarkable result is a testament to the resilience of women and their families under extreme conditions. This needs to be supported coherently in post-conflict interventions, based on realistic assessments what happens to different people in areas of violence, rather than the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that characterises economic and livelihood recovery policy programming in post-conflict contexts.

Another lesson we have learned from these two projects is that while it is, of course, important to disarm rebel groups, demobilise armies, rehabilitate combatants, promote democratic processes and increase security and the rule of law, it is equally as important to help communities heal and rebuild. To understand what communities need to help them live in peace, policies and programmes must consult both men and women and give equal importance to each group. It is also imperative for women’s voices to be heard beyond community-level programming. For a peace-deal to be relevant for all citizens there must be representation for all major groups around the table. This must include women.

To find more about the research we have carried with ActionAid and Womenkind you can access the full report, From the Ground Up.

More information about the importance of women’semployment on post-conflict recovery (pdf).

Monday, 15 October 2012

Transforming nutrition – assessing the size of the task on World Food Day

by Nick Nisbett

Tuesday is World Food Day and – given that world food prices are once again making the headlines, it seems timely to be assessing the state of undernutrition in the world.  But it’s also depressing to see a topic returning to the media front pages that should never have gone away.  As David McNair blogged last week on Save the Children research (see also) “high and volatile prices are the new normal” and we shouldn’t allow the recent spikes in 2008, 2010 and this year to detract from both the constant urgency required to address global food security and undernutrition; and the longer term measures and understanding needed to ensure a century not as scarred by undernutrition and famine as the last. 

On World Food Day I will be meeting in Dhaka with partners from Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Ethiopia and the US to discuss our plans as part of an exciting new research consortium intended to transform thinking on nutrition relevant evidence in order to support the global effort to reduce undernutrition. Our work is intended to directly benefit the international momentum behind scaling up nutrition (SUN) or national efforts in countries such as India who have not signed up to SUN.

We’re shaping the research around three key research themes designed to tackle undernutrition holistically at its immediate, underlying and basic levels.  The first, led by Shams el-Arifeen of ICDDR,B, is focusing on approaches for scaling up direct nutrition interventions. There is a great deal of evidence on what works (in terms of public health, food and care interventions) in order to treat child and maternal undernutrition at this ‘immediate’ level, but a great deal still to be understood about how to turn this evidence into action on the ground rapidly, cost-effectively and at scale. 

Estimates suggest that direct interventions will only address one-third of stunting prevalence, with broader-based ‘indirect interventions’ needed to tackle the underlying drivers of undernutrition. So the second theme, led by John Hoddinott of IFPRI, is focusing on those wider ‘indirect’ interventions which are known to be effective, but where the evidence base is urgently in need of improvement. We need to know how to maximise interventions such as agriculture, social protection and women’s empowerment, so they are more nutrition-sensitive. 

IDS are leading on the third theme on the ‘enabling environment’ for undernutrition reduction. Why are some countries so much better at tackling undernutrition where so many others are failing? We think this is down to the politics and governance of nutrition - to tackling multiple political deficiencies, including: the lack of resources dedicated to direct and indirect measures; the lack of capable leaders with a the right knowledge and the means to implement a good plan; the lack of visibility of the malnourished; and their lack of power to access and monitor even basic nutrition services.

So this work incorporates and builds on some existing and exciting new work by IDS and our partners to try to better understand, measure and enhance enabling environments for undernutrition reduction. Behind this jargon, we’re looking seriously for example at the political economy of nutrition in Kenya; or how to enhance methods to hold policy makers to accounton their nutrition commitments. In Dhaka we’ll be discussing research planned by consortium partners on identifying political/governance determinants of undernutrition via multi-country analysis and at a district level in India; on building capacity for public health nutrition education in Bangladesh, India and Kenya; and on how to make nutrition more visible using frontline health workers equipped with mobile phone reporting. I’m particularly excited about a major trial we’re planning on how to support better integrated nutrition services at a community level via getting the community to monitor and feedback to providers on how services are delivered.

Please keep an eye on the Transform Nutrition website for further information about our plans and research.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

PSNP: Social protection triumph or fly in the ointment?

by Clare Gorman

The Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia has long been widely regarded as one of the most effective social protection programmes of its kind. Set up in 2004 by the Government of Ethiopia with the help of the international donor community, the programme’s objective is to reduce chronic food security amongst the poorest. It now targets approximately eight million people and has become the largest social protection programme in Sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa.

But the PSNP hasn’t been without its critics. On a political level, government officials last year had to deny claims that members of the opposition were being excluded from the programme.  At the field level, along with donors and government, the PSNP’s struggle to act more efficiently to the 2008 food crisis also exposed some of the limitations in the programmes capacity.

So is the PSNP one of social protection’s biggest triumphs or a fly in its ointment? Has it failed to adapt or can it still deliver effectively in times of crises? New IDS research reveals that the answers lie somewhere in the middle.

Group of women participating in Productive

 Safety Net Programme, Ethiopia 

 Maathan Ratinam Parsons New School for Design

Recurrent food crises and global economic shocks have posed a serious threat to the success of social protection programmes. At the same time more localised shocks, such as floods, droughts and hurricanes, are part of the wider pool of climate-change related events and natural disasters that are also increasingly impacting the lives and wellbeing of poor households.

In an IDS Working Paper published last month, researchers found that despite the PSNP successfully contributing to protecting households against some shocks, the positive effects of the programme are not robust enough to shield recipient households completely against the impacts of severe shocks. In particular, drought appears to be the shock for which both food security and wellbeing of PSNP households are significantly affected.

These findings have critical implications. They confirm that it takes time for households to become sufficiently resilient. During this period, it is essential to continue to protect progress, especially when severe climate or economic shocks threaten to reverse gains. So it would seem that the PSNP has more work to do.

As the World Bank announces it has sanctioned a $1.156 billion interest free loan to Ethiopia to help it deal with these ongoing shocks and the public scrutiny of aid continues (a frightening story for another time ), these findings also highlight why humanitarian relief may still be necessary in some countries. Different social protection instruments achieve different objectives, and these should not be conflated or confused. While the PSNP aims to smooth consumption and build household assets in order to reduce chronic poverty, humanitarian relief provides short-term protection to people who are vulnerable to transitory shocks. Poor and vulnerable Ethiopians do not need one or other of these – they still need both.


The research is part of the wider awareness raising and advocacy effort implemented by the Adaptive Social Protection (ASP) programme to encourage greater integration and knowledge sharing among the Social Protection, Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction communities of practice which would allow for policies that help poor people escape poverty. The ASP Programme funded by the UK-DFID and implemented at IDS aimed at demonstrating that by working better together, these communities have the potential to create tools and spaces that strengthen household resilience and make better contributions to sustainable development.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Safety for the urban poor: the complex taxonomy of security provision in cities

by Jaideep Gupte

With the world now mostly urban, an old question has resurfaced: Are cities the incontestable and inevitable context in which sustained poverty eradication will occur? For the first time, India reports higher population growth in its urbanised areas than across its vast rural landscape, with its urban population set to reach 600 million by 2031. And yet, India is only 30% urbanised, a rate much lower than China, Brazil or Mexico, leaving much room for further expansion. As in sub-Saharan Africa, only a minor proportion of India’s urban growth is due to migration from rural areas as most of it occurs due to natural increases in the urban population as well as the reclassification of rural areas as urban. By 2030, large cities could generate more than 70% of India’s net new employment and produce 70% of its GDP. This is consistent with a host of positive contributions urbanisation has had on development on the global scale, where nearly all urbanisation among low- and middle-income nations is associated with economic growth, higher life expectancies, and lower infant mortality.

These positive contributions notwithstanding, we also know that this growth is built upon acute inequality. A third of the world’s urban population live in slums, and the urban share of global poverty is increasing.[1] In India, a staggering 37% of urban households live in accommodation of only one room or are homeless. Many have argued that such a confluence of vast urbanisation and dense pockets of localised scarcity of resources often implies heightened levels of violence.[2] Recent evidence from India supports this claim: urban riots are persistent and widespread, with an average of over 64,000 riots per year over the last decade and 16 out of 28 states experiencing more than 1000 riots in 2010.[3] Moreover, this violence can be located quite precisely, with a vast majority occurring in urban areas, centred in impoverished neighbourhoods.

How the urban poor get access to security – for themselves, their families and communities and their assets – is however a neglected question. We know relatively little about whether the spatial and material parameters of the physical environment in which the urban poor live, which are often governed by informal arrangements, somehow pre-dispose the poor to insecurity.  The answers to these questions are not straightforward. The consensus that providing legal tenure protects the urban poor is beginning to be challenged. Tenure might not be a priority for the urban poor, while flexibility of living arrangements, or proximity to the workplace might be valued instead. Indeed, there are different levels of security of land tenure and unless there are very clear signals of an impending eviction, any action by the state (such as the provision of services or infrastructure) can be seen as a form of ‘recognition’ and therefore provide a sense of security to the settlement.

In my ongoing research on insecurity amongst the urban poor in Mumbai, India, I find a complex relationship between the urban form, security provision and poverty/wellbeing outcomes. I summarise two findings below (the full paper can be accessed here).

Urban Form Affects how Security is delivered

The nature of urban form (whether the streets are crowded, dense or sparse for example) affects how security is delivered, both formally and through informal agents. This can often happen in non-obvious, ‘ephemeral’ ways and through long chains of events, which go unnoticed until they suddenly come into focus during moments of extreme public disorder. Alternatively, the nature of space can interact more overtly with the mechanics of security provision in such a way that certain strategies are rendered unsuccessful, like police swift-searches for example, while other strategies become realised, like blocking off street with burning debris for example. This not only impacts who is secure and who is insecure, but importantly, also alters local perceptions of who needs security. Here, notions of criminality, illegality or even whether a person or household is poor have little impact. Instead, notions of who needs security are more closely linked to how groups, households or individuals relate to the urban space around them. This has the potential to reinforce structural exclusion and segregation. Moreover, it introduces a critical variation at a very local/micro level that is highly significant in determining outcomes.

One of the resettlement sites in Mumbai where pavement and shack dwellers have been relocated. It is not clear that tenure provides security. Image: Jaideep Gupte

Perceptions and Providers of Security highly localized

The highly localised variation in how insecurity is perceived or experienced, is reflected by an equally high degree of fluidity in terms of who provides security, how they provide it, and to whom it is provided. Furthermore, security can be represented as a collectively owned, but nevertheless excludable ‘commodity’, in that acts of public violence perpetrated by vigilantes function as markers that legitimate not only their own standing in the community, but in turn, also legitimate the long-term use of and reliance on extralegal forms of security provision. However, the institutionalisation of security, whether formal, informal, public or private, is not needed for this to occur. Rather, the commoditisation of security can occur in moments of extreme public disorder, through fleeting systems of extralegal and opportunistic activity.

Such a relationship between security, informality and extralegality in urban impoverished areas presents a challenge for formal (state) security providers. The slum panchayat system, a Mumbai Police initiative to involve slum dwellers in basic community policing, for example, would be at odds with this complex taxonomy of security, where ephemeral vigilante activity defines core notions of legitimacy. Broadly speaking, this reformulates the channels through which state and society respond to the challenges of urban poverty. Areas previously not regarded as slum areas on account of their tolerable spatial and material parameters could conceivably be classified as slums owing to heightened levels of vulnerability and insecurity. As a consequence, where the responsibilities of housing provision traditionally fall under the purview of national planning boards, city municipalities and the legislature, with non-governmental organisations and private sector actors also involved in various capacities, directly including vulnerability and insecurity parameters within the framework of adequate living conditions would imply the direct involvement of the police (or other private agencies/agents providing security) as well as the judicial, punitive and correctional systems within urban poverty alleviation efforts.

As we move towards an ever more urbanised era, where vast amounts of development resources are diverted towards cities, growing evidence highlights that accurately understanding urban form is therefore critical to delivering safe, sustainable and inclusive urban development. And, the calls for development professionals, urban planners, designers and architects to bring their skills together are getting increasingly louder!

Ravallion, Martin, Shaohua Chen, and Prem Sangraula. 2007. New Evidence on the Urbanization of Global Poverty. Washington, D. C.: World Bank. Policy Research Working Paper 4199. Available at.
See Urdal, H. 2008. “Population, Resources and Political Violence: A Subnational Study of India, 1956-2002. Journal of Conflict Resolution 52 (4): 590-617. Homer-Dixon, Thomas F. 1999. Environment, scarcity, and violence. Princeton, N.J. ; Oxford: Princeton University Press. Davis, Mike. 2006. Planet of Slums. London: Verso.
GoI. various years. Crime In India. New Delhi: National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

What if there were 5 clusters of quite different developing countries?

by Andy Sumner

In 1963 Dudley Seers wrote –in The Limitations of the Special Case– of developing countries:

[t]he typical case is a largely unindustrialised economy, the foreign trade of which consists essentially in selling primary products for manufactures. There are about 100 identifiable economies of this sort, covering the great majority of the world’s population (1963, p. 80).

And perhaps most famously, Seers wrote in The Meaning of Development:

The questions to ask about a country’s development are therefore: What has been happening to poverty? What has been happening to unemployment? What has been happening to inequality? If all of these three have become less severe, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development for the country concerned […] If one or two of these central problems have been growing worse, especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the result ‘development’, even if per capita income has soared (1969:24).

Since then many have challenged the use of income per capita as the primary proxy for development. Of course, in addition to low and middle income countries there are many classifications – notably those by Human Development and the Least Developed Countries classifications and the new pioneering work of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative.

Our new paper continues this tradition with a twist. The paper challenges the continuing use of income per capita to classify developing countries as low income countries (LICs) or middle income countries (MICs), given that most of the world’s poor live in the later group (see here, here, here, here).

Further, the ambiguity over the usefulness of the MIC classification given the diversity in the group of over 100 countries that includes Ghana and Zambia, as well as India, China and Brazil.

We used a cluster analysis to identify five types of developing country using a set of indicators for 2005-2010 covering definitions of development based on the history of thinking about ‘development‘ over the last 50 years from four conceptual frames:
  • development as structural transformation; 
  • development as human development; 
  • development as democratic participation and good governance;
  • development as sustainability.
This is what we found:
Our development taxonomy differs notably from the usual income classification of GNI per capita (Atlas method) used to classify LICs and MICs. Notably many countries commonly labelled “emerging economies” are not in the emerging economies clusters because they retain characteristics of poorer countries.

Our analysis generated 5 clusters as follows:

1. High poverty rate countries with largely traditional economies.

Those countries with the highest poverty and malnutrition headcounts, who are also countries with low productivity and innovation and mainly agricultural economies, with severely constrained political freedoms.
This cluster includes 31 countries, some of them might be surprising: Pakistan, Zambia, Nigeria, and India.

2. Natural resource dependent countries with little political freedom.

Those countries with high dependency on natural resources, who are also countries with severely constrained political freedom and moderate inequality (relative to the average for all developing countries).
This cluster includes 9 countries, such as Mauritania, Vietnam, Yemen, Cameroon, Congo, Swaziland and Angola.

3. External flow dependent countries with high inequality.

Those countries with high dependency on external flows, who are also countries with high inequality, and moderate poverty incidence (relative to the average for all developing countries).
This cluster has 32 countries, such as Senegal, Ghana, Indonesia, Thailand, Peru, Colombia, and Panama


4. Economically egalitarian emerging economies with serious challenges of environmental sustainability and limited political freedoms.

Those countries with most equal societies, who are also countries with moderate poverty and malnutrition but serious challenges of environmental sustainability and –perhaps surprisingly– limited political freedoms.
This cluster has 15 countries, including China, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

5. Unequal emerging economies with low dependence on external finance.

 Those countries with the lowest dependency on external finance and who are also countries with the highest inequality.
This cluster includes 14 countries, such as South Africa, Botswana, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, Chile and Uruguay.

Two-thirds of the world’s poor – not surprisingly given the characteristics noted above - live in Cluster 1 countries though this is largely due to the inclusion of four populous countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nigeria –and one should remember a third of world poverty is accounted for by India).
About a quarter of world poverty is situated in Cluster 3 and Cluster 4 countries and the remaining 5% live in Cluster 2 and Cluster 5.

What is most striking is that we find that there is no simple “linear” representation of development levels (from low to high development countries). We find that each development cluster has its own and characteristic development issues.

Building a development classification is not a simple task: once we overcome the over-simplistic income-based classification of the developing world, we find that there is no group of countries with the best (or worst) indicators in all development dimensions.

It thus would be more appropriate to build “complex” development taxonomies on a five-year basis than ranking and grouping countries in terms of per capita incomes, as this will offer a more nuanced image of the diversity of challenges of the developing world and policy responses appropriate to different kinds of countries.

Tezanos Vázquez and Sumner (2012) Beyond Low and Middle Income Countries: What if there were 5 clusters of developing countries? IDS Working Paper. IDS. Brighton

Sergio Tezanos Vázquez is an associate professor at the Economics Department and a research fellow at the Iberoamerican Research Office on International Development & Co-operation at the University of Cantabria.

Andy Sumner is a Research Fellow in the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. From 1st October he will beCo-Director of the King’s International Development Institute, King’s College London.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012 let’s make the technical more political – time for a Sure Start on global child nutrition?

by Nick Nisbett 

I’ve just returned from an event IDS hosted at the UK’s Labour Party conference in Manchester. At our roundtable, we asked Labour MPs, MEPs, NGOs and the corporate sector how we can put an end to global undernutrition by 2020 and discussed the UK’s role in ensuring that tackling undernutrition remains a global priority.
The debate followed a recent report by Action Against Hunger  authored by IDS fellow Stephen Spratt. We wanted innovative ideas for how we might find the funding (approx US$10-12 billion a year) to pay for a package of direct nutrition interventions shown to be effective in reducing child mortality and illness in the highest burden countries.
It was an inspiring meeting, but with some disheartening undertones for those of us who see the current global interest in nutrition as an opportunity to build a once in a lifetime consensus on ‘what is to be done’.
Inspiring, because of the depth of knowledge around the room from people returning frequently to the wider (past, present and future) structural factors underlying poverty and undernutrition. These include the neglected role of women, agriculture, food prices, commodity trade and global markets, biofuels and landgrabbing, current and future impacts of climate change, growing global and national levels of inequality, the powerlessness of the poor, and finding the right balance of state and corporate power.
As my colleague, Allister McGregor, pointed out last week, it’s critical that we avoid a technocratic and depoliticised vision of development which ignores the role of power, politics and access to resources.
Disheartening, because what governments and development agencies urgently need to do at a bare minimum in providing basic public health nutrition is still too easily characterised as a technocratic solution whilst these (essential, all encompassing, yet partial) debates roll on. I’m anxious that a new found fluency in the politics of the global food system might lead us to neglect a more nuanced understanding of nutrition which includes food access, care practices and wider health and sanitation.

Narrative gaps – and their consequences

This should not be a case of either/or. Perhaps this is a failure of the nutrition community to settle on a convincing narrative able to bridge the politics/root causes of undernutrition and the range of direct and indirect measures available to prevent and tackle it? Ok, to those in the know, it’s all there in the original UNICEF framework. But how frequently do we hear nutritionists explain convincingly the ‘ideological and political structures’ mediating communities’ access to resources at the bottom of the framework?
However, I would caution others against applying the technocratic label to what is, at its heart, a persistent, and therefore structural, inequality of access to the full range of basic goods and services which determine nutrition holistically.
We don’t hear anyone - at party conferences or elsewhere - arguing to hold back the UK’s public health provision while we solve the root causes of poverty or sort out the food system. But this is sometimes unwittingly implied in these more common development narratives – particularly when food is part of the picture.
There may be chink of light opening around a new narrative. Following the IDS event, Shadow International Development Minister, Tony Cunningham, spoke to us about the idea that the UK’s Sure Start programs (which try to deliver integrated services to children) could provide a model for championing early years development in developing countries. Just a few hours later Shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis announced in his speech to conference that Tessa Jowell and Sarah Brown will be spearheading a campaign to put an integrated approach to early childhood at the heart of a post-2015 development framework.
The idea is not all new - we’ve seen approaches like Sure Start put into practice, to varying degrees of success, in a number of countries (think India’s Integrated Child Development Services). But there’s great potential to build a new consensus around this narrative. By seeing nutrition as part of a wider package of services that all children deserve in equal measure – not in contrast to tackling the wider structural causes of poverty - but as part of a wider global push on equality of opportunity - we might start to shift the debate beyond the either/or of ‘technical’ and ‘political’ solutions to undernutrition.