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 www.fao.org/cfs/cfs-hlpe or in hardcopy from cfs-hlpe@fao.org , 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.