Thursday, 11 December 2014

Povertics blog will no longer be updated but you can read all the latest opinions from the IDS community on our website

This will be the last post to be published on this blog. The Institute of Development Studies now publishes all our members’ and guest bloggers’ posts directly onto our website.

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The IDS Communications and Engagement Unit

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Tackling ‘hidden hunger’: Launch of the Global Hunger Index

The lack of essential vitamins and minerals in diets, known as hidden hunger, affects over two billion people worldwide. This was the focus of this year’s Global Hunger Index, launched on Monday by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide. Despite increased access to food, the absence of micronutrients in a person’s diet can wholly undermine efforts to tackle hunger and malnutrition.

Because micronutrient deficiencies in all but their most severe forms are invisible, affecting people’s ability to fight disease and work proactively, and for children, to grow adequately, but not producing a specific physical disease, they are often overlooked.

Focusing on nutrition security on World Food Day
Today, as civil society, governments and communities come together in a call to action on World Food Day (WFD), the GHI is a reminder that efforts are needed tackle the causes of malnutrition. The focus of WFD this year is on “feeding the world, caring for the earth”. It highlights significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition.

This marks a shift in how the global community thinks about hunger; moving beyond just thinking about consuming enough energy to thinking about nutrition more holistically and looking and what the nutrition community calls nutrition security. Nutrition security is about consuming the right amounts (not too little or too much) foods, in adequate amounts to meet both energy and nutrient needs to live a healthy and active life.

Governments need to support the fight against ‘hidden hunger’
Malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, are caused by a range of factors from poor dietary diversity by reliance on a few staple foods, to unsanitary environments due to lack of clean water and sanitation facilities leading to disease and poor absorption of nutrients. Additionally, wider structural barriers have an impact, such as a families’ ability to purchase ‘nutritious’ foods or maternity cover benefits allowing mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months.

As Lawrence Haddad, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI discussed on Monday night, the soon to be launched Global Nutrition Report found there is only data on micronutrient deficiencies for 5 out of 185 countries globally, highlighting both the need for more data on micronutrient status and the need for more actions to fight micronutrient deficiencies.

There are some interesting programmes underway seeking to improve micronutrient status of poor and vulnerable households and trial and ways of increasing dietary diversity. In Zambia, over 40 per cent of children under five are stunted or too short for their age due to inadequate dietary intake and disease. At the launch of the GHI, we heard from Richard Mwape, the District Programme Coordinator for Concern Worldwide in Zambia who told us about an agricultural programme he works on, Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) which aims increase household consumption of crops of high nutritional value, as well as increasing homestead gardening and small scale animal husbandry.

While programmes like these are critical to trial new programmes and reach those communities who often struggle to access government programmes, ultimately we need governments to step in and for people to hold their governments to account.

What needs to happen next?
What do we need to do as a global community to address the challenge of hidden hunger?

  • Post 2015 development goals need to include specific goals not just looking at hunger and food security but taking a much broader view of the need for nutrition security and ensuring goals and indicators will address hidden hunger.
  • There is a need to create an enabling environment globally that will increases people’s access, especially vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and adolescent girls, to micronutrient rich foods and invest more into sustainable and diversified productivity increases for a range of foods such as fruits, vegetables and animal source foods. 
  • Governments must ensure that they are creating a regulatory environment that promotes good nutrition- actions that range from enforcing the codes regulating the marketing of breast milk substitutes to ensuring that private companies are incentivised to produce nutritious foods. 

We need to make sure that the Global Hunger Index is used as a tool to incentivise action and that people can use the information to hold their government to account and push for more action to ensure that everyone, everywhere has adequate food to lead an active and healthy life.

By Katherine Pittore - Nutrition Convenor at the Institute of Development Studies

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Good news on Inequality in Latin America – Highlights from the UNU-WIDER Inequality Conference 5-6 September, Helsinki

Something ought to be done on inequality…..

I have just got back from a major UNU-WIDER conference on Inequality (5-6 September). Inequality is big news.

Something ought to be done.

It’s not just me that says so. Even the World Economic Forum has realized – and they should know about inequality. They live it. (Although Oxfam turned up this year and spoilt the fun with a report arguing that 85 people own as much as half the world population – quite brave really in a gathering which is reputed to attract 70 billionaires.)

It reminds me of the joke during the Yugoslav wars, when the international community was going through one of its all too frequents bouts of not knowing what to do. The cartoon showed an international general instructing peacekeeping troops – “On the command ‘do something’, do something”.

Something ought to be done ….. but what? Brazilian experience

The keynote address was by Marcelo Cortes Neri, Minister for Strategic Affairs in the Brazilian government. In an intellectual tour de force, he deployed a bewildering array of indicators to show how Brazil is doing on inequality and poverty reduction. See Inequality in Brazil: measurement, trends, impacts and policies (pdf)

Perhaps the most dramatic figure presented by Neri is the 69% fall in absolute poverty (US$ 1.25 per day PPP) in only 10 years from 2002-12. Half of this is accounted for by income growth and half by decreased inequality. So the good news is not restricted to cash transfers (Bolsa Familia) but is indicative of a much deeper social transformation. Declining inequality is illustrated by progress in the Gini coefficient from 0.607 in 1990 to 0.526 in 2012. The chart illustrating the trend in the Gini coefficient showed 30 years of increasing inequality to 1990, followed by over 20 years if decrease to a level below that of 50 years ago.

Per capita income for the poorest 5% (where the contribution of the Bolsa Familia is primarily felt) of the population has grown 138% in the period 2001-12, compared with 26% for the top 5% . Bolsa Familia is good value for money.
The Minister noted the contribution of education, but showed that there is much more to be done on quality (using the low maths ranking in the Pisa/OECD comparative chart, despite recent improvements).

Using the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI), 41% of municipalities showed a very low HDI in 2000. Ten years later, this figure was only 0.6%.Neri also argued that citizens seem determined to take matters into their own hands rather than wait for the authorities to help them. Improvement of housing conditions and acquisition of household durables serve as indicators, but so do studies of perceptions which show that people are more positive about improvement in their own living conditions than they are about the general society. In the Gallup World Poll rankings, Brazil’s score (averaging 8.69 out of 10) has been the highest in the world every year from 2006-14 (measuring self-perceptions of “highest future life satisfaction”). Bolsa Familia recipients showed the greatest increase in present happiness compared to past happiness. It is a scheme which covers 25% of the population at a cost of 0.5% of GPD and has a higher multiplier effect than other social transfers. Without Bolsa Familia, the numbers in extreme poverty would rise by 36%.

Income inequality remains high, but Brazil has the second lowest inequality of expected future life satisfaction (a Gini of expected life satisfaction in five years) – after Belgium.
The Minister used a telling image – that there is much to be done on inequality so that many of these snapshots represent a good frame in a bad movie. Inequality in 2011 was still 18th highest of 155 countries (calculations based on data from Milanovic and Neri). The presentation was  remarkably un-complacent – and he spent some time explaining the profile of those involved in the recent demonstrations (younger, better educated, mobilized through social networking).      

Although growth has slowed, Neri concluded that continued progress was achievable and sustainable because of the rising indicators for education, labour, HDI and housing.

Brazil is in many ways a microcosm of the world. As Neri showed the poorest in Brazil would be poor by Indian standards, and the rich are rich like rich Americans. Brazil’s growth in GDP per capita was similar to change in the world average (3.5% to 3.6% from 2002-12).

The conclusion which I feel one must draw is that policies matter. I first visited Brazil in 1983 and visited Diadema where Lula’s PT had just taken control locally and I saw early housing projects. I also saw some of the slum conditions and the work being done by progressive sectors of the Catholic church. The work of the social movements over the past thirty years has been the foundation for changed social attitudes – and has provided the bedrock of support which makes policies of this kind sustainable. It is a remarkable achievement – but not so remarkable that it cannot be replicated in different ways in different contexts. Policies matter. Redistribution is easier to finance in a growing economy.

Not just Brazil

Brazil is special – but also part of a continental trend. This is suggested by detailed work conducted in a UNU-WIDER project led by Giovanni Andrea Cornia which analysed Falling Inequality in Latin America since 2000. See Falling Inequality in Latin America: Policy Changes and Lessons.

Inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has fallen in almost all of the 18 countries studied (exceptions being Nicaragua and Costa Rica) returning the region to pre-liberalization levels (early 1980s) of inequality. It seems that the impact is lasting, not cyclical as inequality (unlike in other world regions) continued to decline during the crisis of 2009-12.

This is not only a story about social transfers. Accumulation of human capital by workers (education and training) has led to a decrease in the skilled-unskilled wage ratio, rising demand for less skilled workers and increasing minimum wages. Cornia and colleagues argue for a comprehensive understanding of the decline in inequality pointing to a range of factors: a shift towards left-of-centre governments committed to reversing inequality; prudent macro-economic policies; careful fiscal and monetary policies; commitment to using redistribution decrease net inequality (after taxes and transfers); avoiding financial crises, reducing dependence on foreign borrowing and increasing trade (intra-regional – and with Asia).

In this context, social expenditure and labour policies also play their role. A better protected and better educated work force, as well as policies designed to address inherited problems of the past including unemployment, informality and weakened collective bargaining institutions.

An even fuller picture can be gained by putting these results alongside the Commitment to Equity project coordinated by Nora Lustig. When I spoke with her at the UNU-WIDER conference, she explained that its purpose is to assess the readiness of governments to use the tax system and social transfers to address poverty and inequality. 

Other insights: Databases and beyond

Lustig was also the opening speaker in a significant panel on the evaluation of international databases on inequality, put together by the Journal of Economic Inequality. The timing was good as it coincides with an update of the World Income Inequality Database (WIID) which was developed and is maintained as the only fully global source. Stephen Jenkins (London School of Economics) expressed a clear preference for WIID (, albeit with some caveats on data ) over SWIID – the Standardized World Income Inequality Database devised by Frederick Solt which is entirely based on imputational methodology. 
There was much more to praise and think about at the UNU-WIDER inequality conference, including:

Material presented at the UNU-WIDER Inequality Conference can be accessed here (see presentations, papers, and video)

by Roger Williamson 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Jobs, light manufacturing and structural transformation - a comprehensive package for poverty reduction

The best thing about being a Visiting Fellow (in my case both at IDS and UNU-WIDER) is that you meet people from very different networks. Another good thing is that sometimes you stop “visiting” and get to sit down and record what you have learnt. Today is that day.

I was recently in Vietnam at the UNU-WIDER conference on “Institutional Reforms for Transformation, Inclusion and Sustainability”. Vietnam used to be one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world, but has posted sustained and remarkable growth rate figures, privatised most of its state-owned enterprises, the private sector has got into manufacturing, and the country has significantly reduced poverty rates. Is there a message here? Yes.

In the immortal phrase of The Economist, it is important to “make things you can drop on your foot”.

One of the things I do for UNU-WIDER is interview some of the brilliant conference presenters for their website. It is a crash course in their thinking for me, and an easy way in for viewers. I now want to give you some snapshots of what I learnt on work at the conference.

Think of the “new structural economics” and you think of Justin Yifu Lin, former World Bank Chief Economist. 

In his conference presentation on how to avoid the “middle income trap”, he gave a six-step toolkit for growth identification and facilitation, showing how to spot industries and competitors who are ahead which are “ripe for the taking" - provided a government in the poorer country can remove binding constraints and cash in on latent comparative advantage. He shows how to develop a sensible industrial policy and avoid the traps of the old structuralism, primarily “comparative advantage defying economics”. That sounds bad. It is. It does not fly. It costs money and wastes resources.

Hinh Dinh and colleagues have spent years looking at light manufacturing in great detail – both all over Africa also in China. Certain industries are key to getting industrialisation going – light manufacturing tasks such as clothes, footwear and leather, woodworking, basic metal work, agroprocessing. In short, stuff people need for daily life, shoes, a shirt, a table. If you can make them, you can sell them, and you can eventually move up the value chain in manufacturing. Hinh Dinh’s work is full of detailed case studies. Reading the Africa accounts, you can also learn that cherry tomatoes have more value to growers in West Africa than bigger ones, and the story of Michelle Obama’s “inauguration shoes” – and how Ethiopia (with Chinese investment and know-how) broke into designer footwear. (It also helps to have a lot of cattle in your country. The shoe industry – it’s what you can run if you have the hides.)
Martin Rama gave us a global run-down on jobs based on the huge amount of work put into the 2013 World Development Report. Surprisingly enough, it is only the second time in 35 years that the WDR has focussed on employment. This report is a comprehensive approach to making good that omission.

Gary Fields has spent a lot of time talking to ordinary people in the informal and the formal sectors about their working experience in different parts of the world. This wisdom and experience is distilled in his book Working Hard, Working PoorFields goes back to basics – for him economic development means “improvements in people’s material standards of living”. One of his key messages is that given the extent of informal and self-employment among the poor, rather than wishing it did not exist, ignoring or even repressing informal workers, policy makers should understand their lives, the decisions they have to make and finding policies which help them.

There was much more good work presented – and the outlines by Lin, Hinh Dinh, Fields and Rama can be found among the conference presentations on the website. Of course the real scholars among you will read the entire works – cover to cover – with much benefit! 

By Roger Williamson

Photo of Roger Williamson

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Going beyond sports: The Commonwealth has an important role to play in development

Photo of Sir Richard JollyWhat remains of the Commonwealth?

Watching the teams march past for the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games remains as stirring as ever, for the handsome diversity of the athletes themselves and the dazzling colours and contrasting styles of their uniforms: 73 teams from 53 countries for "the friendly games." But is this the best that remains of the Commonwealth today?

If so, it is a bit sad and perhaps a challenge to remember and revive some of the Commonwealth's earlier achievements. At its best, the organisation's Secretariat provided practical and highly professional support for countries coping with the early challenges of independence or grappling with such divisive issues as negotiating fair deals with mining companies or multinational corporations.

The Commonwealth also produced policy reports on topics such as ending corruption or engendering development. The Institute of Development Studies provided some of the experts contributing to these activities - Mike Faber, Roland Brown, Richard Longhurst and others.

Interaction and shared learning should not just be confined to the sports arena

Many of us believe that the Commonwealth could and should still have a role in such activities, providing support and speaking out with frankness on difficult topics in a way which too readily get lost or distorted in the larger UN or in more limited regional organisations such as the OECD or EU or ESCAP. The Commonwealth has English as a common means of communication but otherwise is a microcosm of the larger world, with rich, middle income and poorer countries and many of the LDCs and Small Island States which need special consideration.

Corruption, financial regulation, reporting on assets held in overseas tax havens are only the beginning of a list of hot economic topics suitable for Commonwealth consideration. What also about topics such as diffusing tensions arising from religious or cultural differences, on which many Commonwealth countries have rich experience to draw on? Or multicultural education? The UK as well as other rich members of the Commonwealth now have as much to learn as they have to contribute in these areas.

Sport should not be the only arena for interaction and mutual learning, or the only place where Commonwealth countries, large and small, can gain medals and recognition from such friendly participation.

By Richard Jolly

Friday, 18 July 2014

Sharing ideas and learning lessons about social protection

Last week the Centre for Social Protection (CSP) welcomed a group of enthusiastic and committed participants to the CSP short course ‘Social Protection: Policies, Programmes and Evidence’. After having developed and run multiple courses and trainings in recent years for professionals in international organisations such as UNICEF and FAO, donors including DFID and governments in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Nepal, this is the first short course that was open for all applications.

We shared an exciting and stimulating four days together. With a group of participants bringing together experiences from 17 different organisations spanning 23 countries across the globe, this was very much a two-way learning and sharing opportunity. Sessions covered topics ranging from conceptual frameworks and institutional approaches to targeting and delivery of social protection and the creation and assessment of evidence. Training methods included presentations, group exercises and ‘buzz-group’ discussions.

A particularly valuable element of the course was the ‘Social Protection Marketplace’. A self-selected group of participants occupied ‘stalls’ that served as a platform for sharing experiences and questions that they are grappling with in their work on social protection and receiving feedback on those. We discussed the challenges of monitoring and evaluating a cash transfer programme in the extremely volatile and rapidly changing situation in Iraq where people are constantly ‘on the move’. We learned about efforts to make the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) in Ethiopia more ‘climate smart’ and debated what this actually means and how such additional goals and components can be added on to a well-established social protection programme. We were also presented with the Egypt dilemma: there is political appetite for and commitment to promoting social justice but how can social protection play a role in a context of stringent fiscal constraints?

The four days of intensive interaction in Brighton provided participants with a stronger knowledge base about social protection and allowed for reflections about current practices in social protection, either in their own current work or future initiatives. Participants told us that the course “was extremely rewarding and very informative” and that they “will definitely recommend this to other colleagues”.

Following our own positive experiences and the participant feedback, we look forward to offering this course again next year. So spread the word and watch this space: join us in July 2015!

By Keetie Roelen, IDS Research Fellow

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Anyone but al-Shabaab: Kenya’s political divisions laid bare by spiraling attacks

Jeremy Lind
Weeks after deadly attacks killed 60 at Mpeketoni in Kenya’s Lamu County, new raids on July 5th in Lamu and Tana River counties left over 20 dead, sowing fear anew in a country growing accustomed to sophisticated attacks of murderous brutality. As before, a heavily armed group came during the night, striking the local police station, torching homes and businesses while targeting men on a killing spree that was rumoured to last for hours.

Less than a day after the latest raids on the settlements of Hindi in Lamu and Gamba in Tana River, Deputy Inspector General of Police Grace Kaindi claimed in a press briefing that the outlawed Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) was behind the attack. This was despite a broadcast on an al-Shabaab-affiliated radio station which stated that the Somalia-based group was responsible for the raid on Hindi (no group has thus far claimed responsibility for the Gamba attack). Explaining the police thinking, Kaindi revealed that a board had been placed at a road junction, with the following message scrawled in chalk:

‘Raila Tosha (Raila is enough, the one who should lead)
MRC munalala (MRC is sleeping)
Waislamu Ardizenu (Muslims, it’s your land)
Sina nyakuliwa (Your land is being taken away)
Amkeni mupigane (Wake up and fight)
you invade Muslim county
and you want to stay in peace 
Kick Christians out Coast
Uhuru down’

While Kaindi acknowledged that the board may have been intentionally placed to divert the attention of investigators, the initial police response to the raids is the latest episode in an unseemly politicisation of recent attacks that have shaken the country. As the al-Shabaab threat looms ever larger in Kenya, its divided political leaders risk leaving Kenyans even more vulnerable to appalling violence.

Westgate horror, political indifference

How did Kenya come to this point? Kenyans briefly united after the assault on the upscale Westgate shopping centre left 67 dead in September of last year. Across social media, Kenyans and friends of Kenya changed their profile pictures to an image of a lone-candle burning, emblazoned with ‘Kenya’. Ordinary Kenyans from across regional and religious divides brought food and thermoses of hot tea to the military personnel stationed at the blockades set-up in the city’s Westlands neighbourhood, as gunfire continued to ring out from the complex. President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose nephew was amongst those killed, cut a unifying figure on national television.

Days later, walking hand-in-hand with Deputy President William Ruto and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga into an inter-faith prayer service at the city’s eponymous Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the President announced that he would establish a Commission of Inquiry into the attacks. Nearly 10 months later, the Commission has yet to be created, and Kenyatta has been silent on the matter. In the weeks after the attack, CCTV footage aired on a Kenyan television network showed members of Kenya’s military looting a supermarket. Later, two soldiers were jailed, leaving bigger concerns of discipline and professionalism in the security services unaddressed.

Today, the partially-scaffolded, boarded-up Westgate centre stands as an eerie reminder of death and ineptitude. Surprisingly, the issue has generated very little public debate, even though attacks have multiplied, from bombed markets in the city’s working class neighbourhood of Gikomba, to exploding matatus on the Thika superhighway, to village massacres. Writing in Kenya’s Standard broadsheet, Kethi Kilonzo, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya, wrote, ‘to date the country does not know how, why, who, where, and when. Terrorism and the terrorists have not been stopped. The question — what next? — remains unanswered. If the failings leading to Westgate had been uncovered, and these gaps and the persons responsible dealt with publicly and resolutely, would this have stopped the terrorism acts that have followed Westgate?’

Although Kenyatta’s failure to establish a Commission of Inquiry has not caused a public backlash – perhaps owing to the fact that past Commissions of Inquiry have been a way for Kenya’s politicians to bury difficult issues – the lack of any official investigation feeds a feeling of despondency and fear over when and where attacks might happen next. In the UK, an inquest into the 7/7 bombings of London’s tubes and buses – the verdict of which was delivered in 2011 nearly six years after the attack – was significant as part of a longer process of reckoning and healing following the seemingly indiscriminate violence.

Although the then-Home Secretary, John Reid, ruled out a public inquiry into the bombings, as a number of bereaved relatives demanded, the inquest presided over by the high court judge Lady Justice Hallett shared considerable insight and findings on possible shortcomings in intelligence and emergency service responses.

So, Kilzono’s question stands: ‘What next?’ For the moment, neither the government nor the opposition seem to have much to say.

Mpeketoni and ‘anyone but al-Shabaab’

Since Westgate, grenade attacks, bomb explosions, ambushes and village massacres have affected Kenyans of many stripes – commuter, police officer and farmer, better off and poor, Somali, Luo and Kikuyu. Yet, as the violence spreads, affecting more and more aspects of ordinary Kenyans’ daily life, a creeping politicisation of the violence has polarised attitudes and occasioned greater discord in the face of a perilous threat. While al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the Mpeketoni massacres, in a televised address, President Kenyatta attributed the attack to unspecified ‘local political networks’, leaving little doubt that he blamed the political opposition. Kenyans from many tribes were killed in the massacre, yet Kenyatta’s Kikuyu tribesmen, who settled the area in the 1960s on land given by Kenyatta’s father and first President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, were disproportionately affected.

Vanished is the presidential figure who originally sought to unite and reassure shocked Kenyans after Westgate. Instead, Kenyatta has stepped right into the fray of politicians’ acrimonious statements as well as hate speech spread by social media and text messages. Already, even before the Mpeketoni attacks, loyalists of Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee Coalition sought to portray the earlier attacks as targeting Kikuyu. This, in turn, has fed a perception that the attacks were in fact ethnically-motivated violence perpetrated by sympathisers of the Odinga-headed opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). The fact that no one claimed responsibility left open the possibility that al-Shabaab was not to blame.

The Daily Nation columnist Machario Gaitho wrote, ‘By the time the Mpeketoni attack came about, it was almost as if to confirm the prevailing narrative about a domestic anti-Kikuyu plot. President Kenyatta’s statement now takes that out of the murky realm of Jubilee social media activism and soapbox political rhetoric and elevates it to the official government position on a key national security issue.’

Fast forward two weeks to the Gamba and Hindi attacks and Kaindi’s claim appears less a statement born from extraordinarily efficient investigative abilities by Kenya’s police service and more a knee-jerk reaction to sully Jubilee’s opponents. Anyone but al-Shabaab is now responsible for the attacks. Thus, Kenya has moved in the past two months from suffering a series of attacks that no one claimed responsibility for – but which were thought to possibly be part of an intensifying al-Shabaab campaign in Kenya – to a succession of massacres claimed by al-Shabaab, but which the government and police blame on a range of political dissidents and outlawed domestic groups.

People die, politicians fight

As Kenya’s politicians continue to fight, Kenyans continue to die. The one thing Kenyatta’s blundering response to the Mpeketoni attacks did – and leaving aside whatever the truth may be of who carried out the attacks (Commission of Inquiry anyone?) – is to highlight how effectively al-Shabaab has come under the skin of Kenya’s domestic politics.

A widespread misconception at the moment is to externalise the al-Shabaab threat. This is not of course unique to the current juncture at which Kenya finds itself. In 2009, after al-Shabaab militants kidnapped British holidaymakers at an exclusive idyllic hideaway miles away from Kenya’s border with Somalia, Kenya Defence Forces poured into southern Somalia in an operation dubbed ‘Linda Nchi’ (‘Protect the Country’). Its purpose, ostensibly, was to lend force to the establishment of the pseudo state of Jubaland as a ‘buffer zone’ protecting Kenya from the conflict in Somalia. Subsequently, the Kenyan government pursued a policy of repatriating Somali refugees to Jubaland. A more recent operation in April and May this year, ‘Usalama Watch’ (‘Security Watch’), rounded up thousands of Somalis from Nairobi’s Eastleigh and South C neighbourhoods, who were then incarcerated at the city’s Kasarani stadium for a ‘screening’ process to root out anyone who was in the country illegally.

What all of these security responses have in common is a predilection of blaming ‘the other’, and particularly Somali people, for attacks in the country. Yet, the politicisation of recent attacks only unmasks more fundamental afflictions in Kenya that exist irrespective of al-Shabaab or, for that matter, the conflict in neighbouring Somalia. These include significant regional and ethnicised political divisions, a polarised politics that thrives on scare-mongering and fear, a lack of public trust in policing agencies, and an ossified security apparatus needing reform.

Military adventures in Jubaland and the targeting of Somali populations in Kenya have not strengthened security and have probably worsened an already grave situation. Rather, the safety and security of all Kenyans will only be guaranteed through a serious and sustained effort from its political leaders to address the country’s many long-standing challenges.

By Dr Jeremy Lind
This blog was originally published on African Arguments on  11 July 2014. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

More nutrition science or political will?

The second Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) has just been launched, providing detailed evidence on efforts to reduce hunger (ten indicators) and undernutrition (12 indicators) in 45 developing countries. 

The data show that the richer among these countries often do better more resources should, after all, mean better outcomes. They also show that some poorer countries have been improving their performancedespite difficult circumstances. Brazil, Guatemala, Madagascar, Malawi, Nepal, Peru and Tanzania came out as highly committed to taking action,with Burundi and Liberia making progress on reducing chronic hunger and undernutrition.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, 842 million people were suffering from chronic hunger between 2011 and 2013 about 12 per cent of the global population. Undernutrition contributed to 45 per cent of the deaths of children under the age of five. And, in the first 1,000 days of life, it has long-term and irreversible effects, including on cognitive skills that can reduce an individuals potential for learning and earning.

To address such a comprehensive problem, effective, joined-uphealthcare systems and hunger and nutrition interventions are necessary. These need a proper scientific basis  so evidence-based policies are crucial. But so is the delivery of interventions, and political commitment to improve delivery.
Another new study, which looked at effective leaders in nutrition, emphasised the importance of locally collected and commissioned research, knowledge and data, as well as nationally relevant research. 

Elise Wach, the specialist who interviewed key experts in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India and Kenya for the study, stresses that, while evidence is necessary, it is not enough. She tells me: Getting effective policies in place requires an ability to understand the perceptions, priorities and relationships between different stakeholders — both within the (often fragmented) nutrition communities as well as among the broader policy actors. From here, she says, a leader might work to build alliances or to tailor how the problem is framed for different stakeholders. 

Champions for effective delivery of national nutrition policies need to marshal the evidence, for sure — but they also need other skills. They can be dealing with a policy environment where rhetorical commitment from political leaders is higher than real commitment, where complexmultisectoral coalitions need to be built and maintained, and where there are donor and community interests at play. 

By Roger Williamson. This blog was originally published by SciDev

Friday, 4 July 2014

Which 7 countries are most committed to ending hunger?

In a recently published index, researchers analysed the political commitment to hunger and nutrition of 45 developing countries.

Hanci 2013 ranks governments according to commitment: green is high or moderate, orange is low and red is very low. 
Some of the world's poorest countries are taking significant strides in addressing undernutrition and hunger, according to new evidence from the hunger and nutrition commitment index (Hanci) 2013. Guatemala, Peru, Malawi, Brazil, Madagascar, Nepal and Tanzania were rated highly committed, but Burundi and Liberia have made progress on action to reduce chronic hunger and undernutrition.

Findings from Hanci, launched on 25 June, show that in some countries, where there has previously been little action on these issues, significant efforts are now being made, including putting in place new laws and policies and increasing public investment. Burundi, for example, has improved access to clean water and sanitation and increased agricultural spending – significant improvements in a country with a hunger status of "extremely alarming", according to the global hunger index.
Hanci measures political commitment to reducing hunger and undernutrition in 45 high-burden developing countries, and compares their policies, laws and spending efforts. Where hunger is the result of an empty stomach, undernutrition is caused by multiple factors including poor diversity of food, lack of clean water and sanitation, inadequate feeding practices for infants and young children, and unavailability of healthcare. Therefore, government interventions must address both hunger and undernutrition, and commitment to tackling one does not necessarily automatically translate into tackling the other.
By shining a spotlight on how governments prioritise action differently on hunger and undernutrition, Hanci helps citizens to hold their governments to account. Annual updates can show how governments perform over time. Where evidence shows that action is lacking, more may be demanded. Conversely, where it shows that governments are taking positive steps, fair praise may reinforce further action.
This is needed because levels of hunger and undernutrition remain unacceptably high. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), between 2011-2013, 842 million people (one in eight) worldwide were estimated to suffer from chronic hunger. Recent research found that in many countries in Africa and south Asia, many children under five are stunted, or are too short for their age, and that undernutrition contributed to 45% of deaths of under-fives in 2011. Greater efforts by governments, businesses, civil society groups and citizens are needed to eradicate these scourges.
Nevertheless, it is evident that motivations for prioritising action on hunger and nutrition differ over time, and from country to country. Unlike Burundi, other countries with high levels of hunger and undernutrition are sliding back in their efforts. In Sudan, for example, Hanci shows that on many indicators, such as access to water and sanitation and women's economic rights, such efforts are weakening, threatening future progress.
Hunger and undernutrition are shaped by political choices, which are particularly important in the global hunger and undernutrition hotspots of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where economic growth offers unprecedented potential for governments to find revenues to tackle these challenges. However, high levels of economic growth do not necessarily lead to further action by governments. For instance, Zambia has enjoyed a decade of rapid economic growth but nearly half the population has suffered from hunger in recent years, and Hanci shows the Zambian government's efforts to reduce hunger and undernutrition are actually weakening.
Intriguingly, Hanci shows that in many cases, countries prioritise hunger over nutrition. Surveys of more than 500 experts in six countries show that spending on hunger is often strongly sensitive to electoral cycles, but spending on nutrition is not. Politicians anticipate that people vote on the basis of having their stomach filled, but know that electorates do not demand better nutrition.
Hence, those in power prioritise action to reduce hunger and lack political incentives to understand available solutions for chronic undernutrition. Many governments continue to overlook what a group of Nobel laureate economists has identified as one of the soundest economic investments for countries: spending time and money on nutrition.
By Dolf te Lintelo, research fellow in the vulnerability and poverty reduction team.
This article was originally published in The Guardian.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

What does fish have to do with food and nutrition security?

The short answer is: a lot.   Fish from capture fisheries and aquaculture is estimated to provide more than half of the world population with 15 – 20 % of their total intake of animal protein.  In some low-income countries such as Gambia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, the share is more than 50 %.  Fish also provides several of the micronutrients that are essential for healthy living and a large share of those who benefit are poor.  Fisheries and aquaculture, including the related value chains, are also very important sources of income for low-income people and the interaction with natural resource management is very significant.

I expect that those working in or with the fisheries and aquaculture sectors know that.  Unfortunately that knowledge does not appear to have penetrated the food and nutrition security deliberations.  If you do not believe me, think about how many of the last 100 articles, books or briefs about food and nutrition security you have read included a significant section on fish?  In fact my guess is that most of them did not even mention fish.  The current debate and the many papers written recently about how agriculture can be made more nutrition sensitive also miss the point.  We should talk about how the food system, including fisheries and aquaculture and the total supply chain, can be made more nutrition sensitive.  If we limit the discussion and policy recommendations to agriculture, we are foregoing some very big opportunities for improving food security and nutrition.  This is much more that semantics.  Ignoring fish in efforts to improve diet diversity and reducing micronutrient deficiencies is particularly troubling.   The CGIAR does include research and development for the fisheries and aquaculture sectors but the World Fish Center has the lowest budget of all the 15 centers and accounts for only 2-3 % of the total CGIAR budget.  

As a food policy analyst I am as guilty as the next guy.  It was not until a few years ago that I began to include fish in my food and nutrition security work, and it was not until I started interacting with the team who worked with the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security (HLPE), that I fully realized what I had been missing.  The HLPE report No. 7 (Sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for food security and nutrition) just completed, is a powerful reminder to all of us, that fisheries and aquaculture and what they produce, are critically important to any debate and action to reduce poverty and improve food security and nutrition.  The report, which is available at or in hardcopy from , is a goldmine of policy-related knowledge about the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, their importance, sustainability issues, governance and recommended policies for consideration by governments, the private sector, civil society and international organizations. It provides a comprehensive assessment of the interaction between the fisheries and aquaculture sector and food and nutrition security.  The report is a must-read for those of us interested in food policy.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen

Graduate School Professor, Cornell University and Chair, HLPE Steering Committee.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Kenya’s security crisis worsens after Mpeketoni attacks

 By Patrick Mutahi

The Mpeketoni attacks that took place on the 15th and 16th of June have led to a renewal of political divisions in Kenya and concerns over state responses to terrorism. While Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks as retaliation for “the [Kenyan] government’s brutal oppression of Muslims in Kenya,” President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed “local political networks”, insinuating that opposition figures were behind efforts to foment violence.

Wherever the truth may lie, Kenya has been affected by a spate of attacks in recent years. According to analysis by the Nairobi-based Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies, the Mpeketoni attacks were the 61st to take place since Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia (Operation Linda Nchi) began in October 2011. Over half of these attacks have occurred in the country’s northeast, in Mandera, Garissa and Wajir. Police stations and vehicles, nightclubs and bars, churches, and mosques have all been targeted. The frequency of attacks has varied over time, with sharp spikes (such as in April 2012 when seven attacks were reported) punctuating longer periods when there were few attacks, such as in 2013 when only eleven attacks were reported. However, there has been an uptick in attacks in 2014, with five attacks in May alone.

Al Shabaab only claimed responsibility for six attacks 


These attacks would advance its strategy to destabilise Kenya by instilling fear and contributing to a sense of insecurity. However, Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for only six attacks since October 2011, with no one coming forward to claim responsibility for the other attacks. One theory is that Al Shabaab sympathisers are carrying out attacks independently of its command structures. Al Shabaab has many supporters in Kenya and a strong presence in places like Eastleigh, the centre for Nairobi’s Somali community. [1]  Further, Al Shabaab has adapted its recruitment strategy, and increasingly draws in young Kenyans who are not Somali. This has become an achilles heal for the Kenyan government, raising counter-radicalisation of the youth to the top of the its security agenda.

Yet, in spite of the trend of worsening insecurity, there have been few arrests, feeding an impression that the state has lost control over the situation. In April 2014, the government launched Operation Usalama Watch, a crackdown on illegal immigrants. The operation was concentrated in neighbourhoods of Nairobi with large Somali populations, including Eastleigh and South C. The police conducted house to house searches, arresting anyone who did not have a form of Kenyan identification or valid travel document. Those arrested were taken to the city’s Kasarani Gymnasium and some were deported to Somalia, raising the ire of Somali leaders, other Kenyan opposition politicians, human rights advocates, and legal experts.

Draconian measures being adopted are counter-productive and breed resentment


The Kenyan government’s response to worsening security fits a wider pattern of draconian counter-terrorism measures adopted by governments in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. Governments curtail human rights and basic freedoms in the name of strengthening security and safeguarding poorly defined ‘national interests’. Yet, trampling on human rights and civil liberties is dangerously counter-productive. The smouldering resentment it breeds risks generating terrorist recruits, alienates potential anti-terrorism allies, and weakens efforts to curb terrorist atrocities.  In order to guarantee national security, protecting human rights and continued vigilance are paramount.

Ultimately, Kenya’s faltering responses to recent attacks only serve to feed a dynamic that further destabilises the country. They are also no substitute for serious security sector reforms. The Kenyan police forces are still largely reviled by a public that has long been accustomed to its corrupt, abusive and otherwise unprofessional practices. Other security agencies have been complicit in political repression, eroding public confidence in the state’s abilities to provide secure for all citizens without bias. A lack of adequate resources, poor training, weak leadership and an institutionalized culture of unaccountability in policing and security institutions have grievously undermined public faith and trust. Thus, security sector reforms – and not swoops by security departments that disproportionately target certain communities – will be critical for strengthening security and winning wider public support for the fight against terrorism in all its forms.

[1] Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration, Orwa Ojode likened the Al Shabaab to a snake whose head was in Eastleigh, Nairobi and tail in Somalia. Tom Odula, “War Fears: Somalis in Kenya Afraid of Xenophobia”, Associated Press, 11 November 2011.

[2] Roth Kenneth, ‘Human Rights, the Bush Administration, and the Fight Against Terrorism: The Need for a Positive Vision’ in

Patrick Mutahi is a researcher at the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies in Nairobi. Patrick has worked with the IDS Addressing and Mitigating Violence programme, and co-authored the report: Missing the Point: Violence Reduction and Policy Misadventures in Nairobi's Poor Neighbourhoods.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Towards Future Child Friendly Cities in Asia

Last week, researchers and practitioners, from think-tanks, academia, civil society organisations and various South Asian offices of UNICEF came together at a jointly hosted event by Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and UNICEF to think through the challenges of a rapidly pacing urbanisation in Asia, its impact on children and what can be done to make it happen better. 

The avenues of urbanisation

Since 2007, more than half of the World’s population live in cities. In 1960, according to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, it was one third. In South Asia, the growth has almost doubled from low 17% to 31%, in half a century. The average growth rate of the South Asian urban population has consistently outpaced the World’s suggesting that the 50% milestone will be reached in much less time. Noticeably, it was already reached by China in 2010.

According to estimates 60% of the area to be urban in 2030 has still not been built. We are, therefore in a juncture where there is an opportunity to think about how to build these new urban territories in a sustainable and more equitable way. To do it, we need to understand why and how cities are growing.

Urban – the “close unknown”

In the conference we faced a hard to admit truth. Some of our research instruments, tailored to work so well in the structured spaces of formal urban neighbourhoods or in the relatively stable rural spaces, fail in the organic space of fluid, hidden and many times deemed as illegal residence of urban slums. Politicians themselves fail to acknowledge this reality. After all, rural areas are far, urban areas, namely the ones in the capital are just there, close!

However, we heard how easy it is for poor urban children to be unseen. We heard about street children, deemed as outlaws to be controlled by police forces. We heard about working children, also outlawed themselves, hidden and underserved, for the policy cannot risk to ease the life of those whose cares chose to engage in a banned activity. Finally, we heard about slum children, unreached and therefore “invisible”. Yet, probably, children are the measure of a capacity of a city to sustain a dignified and aspirational human existence.

Urban children – the measure of human friendly cities

In the context of a UNICEF conference, nothing would make more sense than to place the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) as the benchmark of what a city has to meet to be, not only a child friendly city but one that properly responds to all of those most vulnerable. Andrea Rossi, UNICEF Social Policy Adviser, encouraged us to build cities as if it were for our daughter, son, nephew or  niece… (someone we care) and think: as s/he is living here, what does the city need to allow or provide so that s/he has the wellbeing s/he deserves?

In identifying the answer to these needs, we would build not only a child-friendly city, but an accessible city for all. It would be a city that would require us to address and look into the power structures surrounding the cities in all their territories and components. 

Power to exclude, power to transform

So how can we provide for the children of these growing cities? Well, the resources exist. If cities are spaces of opportunities, it became clear throughout the conference, that proximity isn’t a direct precursor of access. The decision of planners (or the lack of planning, a political decision in itself), the power of local authorities, the powers inside the slums (sometime illegal powers, such as drug-lords capable of command the organic map of a slum so as to assure that only one entry exists to it), mediate and (sometimes purposefully) exclude the access to otherwise close services.

Those same powers hold, however, the key of transformation. We were reminded of how in the first municipality the Brazilian Worker’s Party was elected to administer, a radical project endowed the residents of a favela (the common name for a slum in Brazil) the property of the tiny plots of land where they each had their residence. It then called and mobilised them to, collectively, renew not only the public spaces but their own private spaces so that electricity, water and sanitation became accessible to each of them.

Another power was fought and probably conquered, at that moment: the power of an idea that constructed those living in the favela as outlaws or irrational, as “lesser people” in need to be convinced or forced to leave those spaces. The moment they were acknowledged as equals, with personal aspirations and desire to contribute to a better living space, both private and public, some good change happened.

In the conference we were called to look at the legitimate aspirations we, off almost all the countries in the world (safe the USA and Somalia), bestow in our children through the CRC. In the Asian cities of today and the urban territories to plan in the future, these can be the benchmarks for better cities. The resources, the powers, the opportunities and perhaps the capabilities to plan, with those that live there, already exist in the urban settings. It is time to learn how to tap into these and transform the cities. As they say: “the future starts now”. So I can only repeat the question posed by Andrea at the start of conference – what’s our idea for Asian cities?

By Ricardo Santos (IDS PhD student and conference rapporteur)