2015 started with some heavy bangs.
First came the terrorist attacks in Paris against journalists and against a Jewish supermarket. Then came the victory of the radical leftwing party Syriza in Greece.
You might think these two events have nothing in common. Yet, some elements make me think we should take some time to reflect on it.
A new report by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indisputably confirms what many scientists had predicted: 2014 is officially the hottest year on record. And this past year is not an anomaly -- the previous 10 hottest years on the books have all occurred since 1998. This announcement adds to the urgency expressed just last month in Lima, where political leaders and business tycoons from around the world met for the 20th yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The gathering in Peru was historic in that it was the last time the decision-making body would meet before COP 21 in Paris next December, where an international and legally binding agreement on climate will be signed.
The killing of polio workers in Pakistan by the Taliban is a tragic illustration of why no development program can ignore the political problems associated with poverty.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2015 annual letter outlines their vision for global development and poverty reduction. The letter outlines four areas where they expect breakthroughs over the next 15 years to transform the lives of the world’s poor for the better.
However, critics accuse them of being complicit in a “tyranny of experts”, which reduces development assistance to quick-fix solutions that do nothing to resolve the political problems that are seen as the main underlying cause of poverty.
Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws, a new International Consortium of Investigative Journalists investigation has found.
The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion.
Read more on Swissleaks and read more below
Despite snowstorm warnings and ice-cold temperatures in New York, the Financing for Development (FfD) negotiations managed to pick up speed when governments convened for the first drafting session at the end of January. They are currently negotiating the outcome of the upcoming Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development, which will take place on July 13-16 this year, and is planned as a key milestone ahead of the Post-2015 Summit and the UNFCCC Climate Conference later this year.
Human rights experts warned that World Bank plans to delegate responsibilities for environmental and social monitoring to private banking institutions sub-lending on its behalf will effectively weaken both the level of protection currently offered by environmental and social safeguards and the Bank’s accountability for their implementation.
The analysis was part of a letter to the World Bank President Mr. Jim Kim by 28 UN human rights thematic mandate-holders – an unprecedented number acting together on a single issue – conveying several concerns regarding the World Bank’s latest draft of its Social and Environmental Safeguards (“draft ESF”).
The Bank is embarked in a process to reform and streamline its Safeguard policies, process which Mr. Kim had earlier promised will not lead to their dilution.
The development industry needs an overhaul of strategy, not a change of language.
This crisis of confidence has become so acute that the development community is scrambling to respond. The Gates Foundation recently spearheaded a process called the Narrative Project with some of the world's biggest NGOs - Oxfam, Save the Children, One, etc. - in a last-ditch attempt to turn the tide of defection. They commissioned research to figure out what people thought about development, and their findings revealed a sea change in public attitudes. People are no longer moved by depictions of the poor as pitiable, voiceless "others" who need to be rescued by heroic white people - a racist narrative that has lost all its former currency; rather, they have come to see poverty as a matter of injustice.
The third high-level event will commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen, on 6-12 March 1995. The Summit’s outcome, the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action, constituted an agreement to give social development goals the highest priority. It set an ambitious people-centred agenda aimed to promote social progress, justice and the betterment of the human condition, based on full participation by all.
Six newly published RCTs show limited impacts on poverty
Two influential movements within the development industry collided head-on this month: the microcredit movement and the movement to subject development policies to rigorous impact evaluation. As Rachel Glennerster, the director of MIT's Poverty Action Lab put it:
The endorsement of a leftist party is a vote against global lenders imposing governance prescriptions on countries in crisis. If Greece successfully pushes back against its lenders, it will open the door to countries of the Global South to restructure their relationships with lenders such as the World Bank and IMF.
One of the myths outlined in the report The Poor Are Getting Richer and Other Dangerous Delusions that Global Justice Now (previously WDM) released last week to coincide with the Davos World Economic Forum, is that Africa needs our help. A variation of this myth, that African agriculture needs help from rich Western countries, is constantly spun out by the media, investors, agribusiness companies and other transnationals. It sometimes feels like we’re being forced to participate in a modified version of the BBC Radio 4 show The Unbelievable Truth where panellists have to give a lecture full of lies while smuggling a handful of truths past the other players. In the case of the ‘Africa needs our help’ narrative, the game is played so that a handful of truths are used to smuggle some hugely significant lies past unsuspecting governments, NGOs and civil society.