Friday, 30 March 2012

Why should politicians care about child undernutrition?

By Andrés Mejía Acosta

There is a consensus that sustained government action is needed to ensure the provision of public goods and promote development goals. But what exactly is behind “political will”?  What makes local politicians willing to deliver public services? And to whom?

IDS researchers have been trying to understand political commitment to tackling child undernutrition. Many countries are formally committed to reducing child undernutrition. So why have some made rapid progress towards this goal while others have not?

Analysing Nutrition Governance

Our work on Analysing Nutrition Governance explores the institutions, frameworks, funding sources, motivations and coalitions that make stakeholders willing to cooperate with one another in the quest to end child malnutrition.

We tested whether ownership by local political elites is key to making nutrition policies sustainable, responsive and effective. We conducted more than 150 interviews with elected and non elected government officials, NGOs, media, academics and donors across six countries: Brazil, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Zambia. 

What incentives push local politicians to respond to citizens? During one of our interviews, the mayor of Ayacucho, in the Peruvian highlands explained: "In the past, it was never a priority to work for children because they do not vote, but now we realize their mothers do" (Ayacucho, November 2010). 

Elections, political parties and legislatures

The comparative evidence shows how political institutions shape whom politicians are accountable to. Electoral rules, party organisations or decentralised structures determined the motivations for improved accountability.

  • In Ethiopia, local authorities were found to be directly responsive to the central structure of the country’s single ruling party (the EPRDF). Local authorities depended on the party for funding, candidate nomination and political survival.
  • In Bangladesh local authorities were focused on cultivating good relationships with Members of Parliament in Dhaka from whom they could obtain funds to deliver some public services and cultivate voter loyalties.
  • In India, local linkages with party leaders at the state (provincial) level usually trump linkages with national leaders in Delhi. The electoral connection with voters is also very important for local authorities. In both cases, caste-based representation is key to explaining political allegiances.
  • Only in Brazil did we find mayors willing to respond to the needs of their citizens for the provision of social services. This is not surprising given the success of Brazil’s flagship social programme Bolsa Família. But why were mayors from different parties willing to endorse a programme set up by the Workers' Party (PT)? The politicians we spoke with agreed that the electoral benefits outweighed political differences.

Nutrition governance and the role of political organisations

Unexpectedly, we found that organised political parties with strong voter linkages can provide quality public services. Organised parties can mobilise the necessary resources, incentivise career politicians and protect their loyal constituencies over the long run.

In Peru, the government was able to make very rapid progress in reducing undernutrition, but did so by delivering nutrition services without the participation of political organisations. Ironically, Peru is the only Latin American country in recent experience where an incumbent government or its political party did not reap the electoral benefits of having delivered a successful social programme to the population.

A forthcoming report will outline what we can learn from the six countries that we studied. Networks such as the Scaling Up Nutrition movement can learn from nutrition governance how they can better support and sustain government efforts to tackle nutrition.
And what happened to the mayor of Ayacucho? He was re-elected by a narrow margin in 2010, one of the small number of mayors in Peru who held on to their posts.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Global Drug Policy II: A budding renaissance of the international drug policy debate

The voices calling for a reform of the international drug control regime and drug policy are multiplying – and becoming louder. Recent years have seen significant shifts in how the debate is being led and who is participating. Despite - or perhaps because of - the conclusions in favour of the status quo that were reached in the 2009 UN drug policy review, the discussion is gaining momentum.

Alongside the usual suspects new faces are making an appearance. They bring fresh ideas and political clout to the table. For the most part, they are serious and open about their aims.

In 2009, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, co-chaired by three former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, launched the first ever high-level Latin American proposal on drug policy reform. This inspired the creation of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, chaired by ex President Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil. It gathered political and business leaders from around the world, including heavyweights such as Kofi Annan, Mario Vargas Llosa and Richard Branson.

The need to reform zero-tolerance drug policies

Both commissions made it abundantly clear: the existing evidence shows that the zero-tolerance, punitive drug policies that have been pursued in the past half-century on the basis of three UN conventions are ineffective and harmful. They need to be reformed, putting the emphasis on protecting and safeguarding the well-being and safety of individuals, communities and states - not on the blind application of the counter-productive international regulations.

The current regulations have a specific political pedigree and raison d´etre, as analyzed in a recent book by Christine Jojarth. They are not set in stone.

Other unusual suspects have forcefully joined the debate. Colombia´s current president, Juan Manuel Santos, recently announced that his government was open to consider all sensible, evidence-based drug policy alternatives.

The significance and legitimacy of this announcement cannot be overstated. Colombia has been the world´s principal ´laboratory´ for punitive drug supply reduction policies in the past three decades, and these policies have led to enormous hardship and sacrifice for its citizens and institutions.

The influence of transnational organised crime

Meanwhile, drug-policy-savvy security and governance experts are unpacking the nexus between drug and security policy, wrestling with transnational organised crime and emerging forms of networked state illegality powered by drug and other lucrative illicit trafficking and money-laundering.

As I have argued, global drug policy reform is a necessary but insufficient condition to rein in transnational organised crime. Criminal networks today are deeply rooted in state and other governance arenas in many countries and regions.

The international development community rejoins the debate on international drug policy

While dodging the issue of reforming the international drug control regime, the 2011 World Development Report zeros in on the violence and institutional damage spawned by illicit drugs and global drug-trafficking in fragile countries.

Other voices in the official international development community, generally not known for its political acumen, have begun to speak about ´external stresses´ and ´upstream interventions´. Although still shy about it, development officials in donor countries are beginning to sense that fragility and violent conflict in poor countries are driven not just by local factors but also global forces, including the international drug control regime to which their governments have signed up.

It would be useful if this awakening triggered, among other things, the re-framing of the worn-out debate on ´shared responsibility’ in the fight against illicit drugs.

Re-framing ‘shared responsibility’ in drug policy

It is no longer an issue of complementing the so-called ´supply side´ reduction efforts, such as eradicating coca and poppy crops, interdicting drug shipments and arresting traffickers, with action on the ´demand side´, including drug use prevention and treatment programmes. 

While this old framing of the problem suited the goals of the main adherents of the international drug control regime, ´shared responsibility´ today needs a more relevant and useful meaning.

Governments around the world have a responsibility to reform the existing international drug control regime in such a way that it stops “[promoting] destabilization, violence and human suffering in fragile source and transit countries and [increasing] the economic and social costs of dealing with drugs worldwide.”

Keep an eye on the Governance and Development blog for more on Global Drug Policy.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Solutions in Somalia: “When will they ever learn?”

By David Leonard

In late February the British government convened an international meeting in London to discuss the challenges that Somalia poses to the Horn of Africa. The last fully functional government of Somalia fell in 1991 and no genuinely credible successor is yet in sight.

Focussing on Somalias governance issues - not Somali piracy

Originally Britain proposed to focus the conference on Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean. (I’ve blogged elsewhere on the piracy issue.)

But the international community felt that was too narrow and a broader agenda on governance and development emerged. What I find most striking is that nothing new was proposed.

Is it a mistake to favour the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia?

On broader governance issues, the London conference pledged continued support for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. The TFG controls only a few modest parts of the country’s former territory.

The conference also endorsed continuation of African Union troops (from Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda and now Kenya) to protect the TFG, called for additional donor assistance, and proposed national elections to renew the government's expiring mandate.

Save for elections, none of this is new. And after 21 years of international effort there is little to suggest that such a strategy is going to work this time around.

The TFG is an internationally facilitated elite pact of militia and other factional leaders whose financial interests are advanced by donor assistance and who enjoy little popular support. In a country at war, an election to replace or legitimate this government is a fantasy. It is true that the Islamist militia of al Shabaad is affiliated with al Qaida and has diminished popular support because of its failure to deal adequately with the recent drought in the substantial portions of southern Somalia it controls.  

But Islamic terrorism is a western concern, not a Somali one and it is highly unlikely that armies from Christian countries (even if African) can find lasting support in a deeply Muslim country. In other words, more of the same efforts will produce more of the same failed results.

Top-down approaches in Somalia will fail - local and regional polities are a better option

Scholars who work on the country, Somali and Western alike, are strongly of the opinion that top-down efforts to rebuild a national government in the country will fail. Bradbury, Hagmann, Hoehne, Menkhaus and Inter-Peace as well as Samantar and myself, to name a few observe that the only things that have worked among the Somalis have been the extended bottom-up negotiations by local elders. These efforts have created Somaliland, Puntland and other sub-national entities in order to provide some kind of governance and legitimacy.

A TFG ‘government’ that claims sovereignty over the UN recognised territory of Somali, but which in fact can’t govern it, is much inferior to a patch-work of city states and regional polities that have clan legitimacy and govern moderately effectively.

Italy was populated with city states until the late 19th century and nonetheless mothered the Renaissance. Why should the expectations of the contemporary international system of ‘nation states’ force Somalis to do otherwise?

Could regional polities in Somalia help to control terrorism?

It is true that the realities of Somali politics mean that at least one such Somali mini-states will be Islamist. All Somali polities (even the TFG) claim adherence to sharia law; the only issue is which version of it. (And the question of which sharia law is hugely important).

Might an Islamist regional polity be willing to trade control of international terrorism in its territory in return for de facto recognition and international aid?

This approach is at least worth a try. It has a better chance of success than diplomats and generals continuing to bash their heads against the wall they have been facing for 21 years.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

How do we solve the resource curse? Try multiple channels for giving away resource revenues

by Mick Moore

Over the past decade, we have learned an enormous amount about the resource curse. Ten years ago, few people had even heard of the term. Others were sceptical that the discovery of large amounts of oil, gas or minerals could bring about less economic growth than originally expected.

There were also sceptics about whether resource reliance could worsen the quality of governance.

Today, there are few sceptics left. We now know that countries often do suffer from resource curse problems, sometimes massively so.

Looking for solutions to the resource curse

In recent years, a large number of intelligent and committed people have put a great deal of effort into seeking practical solutions. And solutions are really needed: the list of poor countries likely to become mineral and energy exporters is expanding steadily.

But we cannot stop countries using the resource they have. Once found, oil, gas, coal, copper or other minerals will inevitably be extracted and exported. How can we shield countries like Ghana, Mongolia, Mozambique and Uganda from the worst effects of the resource curse?

Who should control public revenues from resources?

The fundamental question is: Who will control the enormous amounts of money that can be earned from exploiting energy and mineral deposits? Countries have chosen to hand control to one of three bodies:

Candidate 1: Central government

Almost inevitably, central governments get their hands on most of the money. And governments are, arguably, best placed to use it for transformative developmental investments.

Most of the policy thinking has focused on how to make resource revenues more transparent: including the volumes, sources and uses of the money, and how to reduce the scope for ruling elites to go on spending binges, steal the money, or use it to keep themselves in power and in clover.

There is a range of good policy ideas, including institutional arrangements like the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, regulation in rich countries that obliges energy and mineral companies to be transparent about their payments to governments if they want to be listed on prime sharemarkets like New York (e.g. the Dodd-Frank Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 2011).

Investing some of the money in various kinds of long term funds is also a good solution. However no poor country has been spectacularly successful so far. – Poor countries tended to have poor quality governance institutions even before they became resource wealthy. It is however early days. Progress will be gradual and patchy. 

Candidate 2: Sub-national government

But should only central governments control resource revenues? Why not provincial, regional or local governments too? In some countries, especially those that have experienced strong local opposition to new oil or mining projects, sub-national governments have a right to a portion of revenues.

This seems like a good idea. But it can also backfire.

In 2004, Peru introduced a radical policy to transfer mining revenues to local governments. When world prices for silver, zinc, copper and tin soared, some Peruvian municipalities became very wealthy. Through careful empirical and statistical research, Javier Arellano-Yanguas showed that this new wealth brought few lasting material benefits and actually generated new political conflicts. (See J. Arellano-Yanguas, 'Aggravating the Resource Curse: Decentralisation, Mining and Conflict in Peru', Journal of Development Studies, 47(4), 2011)

Again, the core problem is that too much money is concentrated in too few hands. Spreading the money more widely can lessen the resource curse. Sub-national governments should have rights to share in resource wealth, but careful thought is needed on how best to implement sharing.

Candidate 3: Individual citizens and households

The most radical proposal is that resource profits should be redistributed as an entitlement to individual citizens or households. The American state of Alaska has long been practicing this idea on a limited scale. Iran recently introduced something similar, albeit without any clear entitlement.

Redistribution is a serious idea that has a future. But how much future, and where? Researchers with the Center for Global Development (CGD) have been promoting redistribution and exploring ways to implement it.

The CGD group’s research shows that one of the obstacles to redistribution is becoming less fundamental: the difficulties of proving personal identity and thus citizenship and entitlement. Taking advantage of new information technologies, some poor countries are quickly establishing comprehensive national identity systems.

Yet the CGD group underplay a potential problem: Unique individual identity numbers will give the recipients de facto citizenship and strong claims to local residence. In those parts of the poor world where large populations have been displaced by conflict or drought, or have migrated for work, the perception that ‘outsiders’ might suddenly win citizenship and a share in new oil or mineral wealth could stimulate serious conflict or even ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Concerns about identity are not a reason to abandon the idea, but a lot of thought, care, and experimentation is needed about the implications of these policies.

Who should control resource revenues? They should be split between the candidates

Each of the three main candidates for ownership of public resource revenues has potential, and each has problems. Any two of them combined are likely to be more effective than one alone.

Splitting revenues between the candidates will spread the money more widely, and also let us compare the performance of the different channels. This option allows us to shift some money from one channel to another, providing incentives for each ‘owner’ to show that that they are using the money well. By the same logic, we are likely to get better results if we use of all three channels simultaneously rather than two.

In the next few years, we can expect a lot of progress in finding solutions to the resource curse. Progress will be faster if we build institutional pluralism and competition into our experimental designs.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Global Drug Policy I: Why the International Narcotics Control Board has got it wrong

This year´s report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), released in early March, is a stark reminder of how far we are from dealing in a more sensible and effective - and less harmful - way with global illicit drug-trafficking and the enormous damage it does to individuals, communities, states, and societies around the world. It reveals how urgently we need a reform of the international drug control regime.

Dedicating the report to the one-hundredth anniversary of the adoption of the International Opium Convention, the president of the INCB, Hamid Ghodse, highlights that “over the past 100 years, significant achievements have been made in international drug control”.

“The international drug control system”, he continues, “is a great example of how multilateralism can succeed in bringing benefits to humanity, preventing the abuse of drugs, as well as the harm caused by such abuse, while ensuring adequate availability of drugs for medical and scientific purposes”.

Yet the findings of the report do not justify this optimistic preamble. To the contrary, they provide a snapshot of the failure of global drug policy and the enormous collateral damage it is creating in many corners of the world.

Damaging impacts of drug policies in Central America

Just consider Central America. Following the devastating anti-regime wars in the 1980s and their difficult political resolution in the 1990s, the region saw a dramatic hike in criminal and drug-related violence, as evidenced in the INCB report. The national homicide rates of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are today among the world´s highest, and there are no indications that this situation will change in the foreseeable future.

Why does Central America have higher levels of violence today than it saw during the wars in the 1980s?  In large part, this crisis is related to the region´s prime importance as a transshipment point for Colombian/Andean cocaine destined for the world´s single-largest illicit drug consumer market, the US.

Zero tolerance UN conventions on drugs and drug-trafficking make cocaine an illicit commodity. As a result, it is largely unregulated. Yet if cocaine were instead more effectively regulated, it would not wreak the kind of havoc it currently does in Central America.

It is true, as Hamid Ghodse writes, that “the diversion of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances [from legal sources to illicit channels] has been almost completely eliminated at the international level”. Governments and the chemical and pharmaceutical industry are today tightly regulated on what they can and cannot do with substances ´scheduled´ by the UN conventions.

Getting the causality right in drug control policy

But it is inconsequential to say that the problem is that “drug traffickers and illicit drug users now resort primarily to illicitly manufactured drugs”. This kind of argument confuses the causality.

It is the international drug control regime that creates the incentives and opportunities for drug-trafficking outfits to make huge gains and exploit the addictions, desires and vulnerabilities of millions of illicit drug users around the world.

It is a good thing that governments and corporations are dealing less in harmful substances than they did fifty or one-hundred years ago. But it is patently not good that the international drug control regime is creating huge economic incentives for all sorts of actors – including drug and war lords, rebels, terrorists, police officers, bankers, and politicians – to engage in what has become the most lucrative illegal business on earth.

The situation is deeply ironic. The international drug control regime, which was established to protect individuals and communities from the harm caused by drugs, in fact actually promotes destabilization, violence and human suffering in fragile source and transit countries and increases the economic and social costs of dealing with drugs worldwide.

Keep an eye on the Governance and Development blog for more on Global Drug Policy.