Will the post-2015 goals be any use?

Originally posted on Phil Vernon's blog:

The post-2015 development goals need show how to reduce fragility and increase resilience in conflict-prone contexts. They also need to be designed as a system of genuine incentives for participation and transformation.


The UN’s Open Working Group is nearing the end of its work and will soon make its recommendations for a set of global goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) next year. These will, presumably, guide people and institutions across the world in determining how to continue building increasingly prosperous, well-governed, secure, healthy, just, equal, well-educated and well-adjusted societies over the next fifteen years. As if this were not enough, they will also – presumably – attempt to square the circle between shared economic growth and sustainability, during a time when population and consumption demand continue to rise rapidly. Oh, and they also somehow need to accommodate the very different political perspectives of countries as diverse as…

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Soft Power

Originally posted on Phil Vernon's blog:

The House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s influence published its report this week, comeplete with mind map and pages and pages of evidence.


Their report urges the UK government and others with influence to continue to maximise the UK’s international influence through “soft” channels, and recognises the wide ranging ways in which UK institutions are networked for good in the world. The report appears to recognise the end of the Western domination and recommends the UK to be part of the way the worlds governance is changing. It also suggests a formal review to learn the lessons of the Afghanistan adventure, and suggests that “smart power” is the better way forward.

I appeared before the committe for International Alert, and we also submitted written evidence as follows:

Written evidence submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee on Soft Power and the UK’s…

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Worker’s Party (Singapore) on…International Development!

Disclaimer: I AM NOT  a member of any Singaporean political party or any political party in any country.

You don’t here this from the government but surprisingly, from the up and coming opposition party in Singapore:

Many developed countries in the United Nations have committed to target an ODA contribution of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI). What is Singapore’s ODA as a percentage of GNI?

While I don’t expect Singapore to target 0.7%, are there plans to increase our ODA contribution in the future?

Does the Government see international development as a cost-effective way of furthering our foreign policy goals?

Given the multifaceted nature of international relations today, what is the role the Government sees international development playing in the years ahead?


Mr. Giam, however may have incorrectly defined Official Development Assistance which is:

i.  provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies; and

ii.  each transaction of which:

a)  is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and
b)  is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25 per cent (calculated at a rate of discount of 10 per cent).”

See: http://www.oecd.org/dac/stats/officialdevelopmentassistancedefinitionandcoverage.htm#Coverage

It is dubious if scholarships to foreign students who study in the “donor state” can be counted as OECD’s definition of ODA. More of it is discussed here and in this link. After all, the OECD doesn’t exactly exclude educational scholarships as ODA, see this definition.

In any case, it is surprising and yet refreshing to know that the Worker’s Party in Singapore mentions international development as a topic.

Once again: I am not, repeat not a member of any political party.

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Operation Patwin: DFID and the MOD in humanitarian efforts

Many people in the UK and worldwide has criticised the British government (the Coalition government) for cutting the British military expenditure, personnel and hardware, while “ringfencing” the ODA budget (DFID administrative costs have been cut). Now, with the dreadful news of Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction, most people on twitter, and facebook, to a lesser degree, are cheering on the military’s effort in “Operation Patwin”, Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief response. Here are some of the links available on the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force website:

First order to HMS Daring to shift from Exercise Bersama Lima to the Philippines

Mercy Dash

Views of some of the crew

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/News-and-Events/Latest-News/2013/November/14/131114-Daring-Illustrious”>Lusty ordered to the area as well/a>


Aerial Surveillance


RAF C-17 ordered

C-17 lands

Lusty in Singapore, most definitely at the RN logistics depot, 20 November

(Even the Military Stabilisation and Support Group (MSSG) has been deployed there–one individual as well as the Commander Joint Logistics, Permanent Joint Forces Headquarters is there.

Thus it shows that military cuts do not affect the UK military’s ability to respond to disasters. Second, it shows how foresight and planning is crucial: HMS Daring was deployed to the region several months ago. (This mind you, was a significant move since the Royal Navy has been practically absent from the Pacific since 2003. Also, Daring’s deployment shows that RN policy makers are better off that the illogical SRN website–won’t tell you want that stands for).

Third, it shows want cross-departmental work means. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) could not have responded effectively without the Royal Navy and Royal Air Forces’ units. Neither could the RN or RAF correctly address the issue without the advice and possibly leadership of DFID, Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) officials, Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) members there.  I have of course, held the belief that development officials should be the key leaders/coordinators in a disaster relief zone, not the military. It is yet to be seen who exactly is the overall leader in the Philippines: Which UN agency? Which military force–US, UK ASEAN? Which development agency or NGO? After all,CGD has been calling on aid donors to remember the failures of Haiti and a similar call from ODI experts.

Fourth, back to the military part and just a bit. This shows how neither the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force can act alone. Both are needed in such HADR operations. Unlike the “disband the RAF” idiots from the SRN website, I see both the strategic airlift flights (C-17 and C-130 see this) and the two RN ships as work as a partnership and not a competition with each other. Only idiots like the SRN website, and to a lesser degree, the Phoenix Think Thank would argue the Senior Service is better off in HADR. All nonsense.


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The World Bank: how is it doing?


Very detailed article on the World Bank Group at present.


Originally posted on Phil Vernon's blog:

Last week I spent some time in Washington D.C., on the fringes of the World Bank/IMF autumn meetings. I was discussing International Alert’s recommendations for making the next round of the Bank’s International Development Association (IDA 17) funding as effective as possible in the fragile and conflict-affected countries which make up an increasing proportion of the IDA caseload. From what cab drivers told me, the autumn meeting came at an opportune time, since the impasse over the US federal budget has limited tourism and official travel considerably, hence is having an impact on their incomes. Given many D.C. cab drivers are originally from places like Pakistan, Ethiopia and Somalia and frequently send money there, this will be having an impact on the livelihoods of their relatives back home.

But the Bank is also supposed to have an impact on poverty and development in more direct ways, and for years there have been voices saying it…

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The new (and last?) Labour Shadow International Development team

Well, Ed Miliband has shifted his closet. Goodbye Ivan Lewis, hello Jim Murphy as the chief Shadow Secretary of State for International Development. Goodbye, Tony Cuninngham and Rushanara Ali, hello to Gavin Shuker and Alison McGovern. (See this link). Jim Murphy, with his Scottish accent, was former Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, and doing a good job there. He has sort of international development credentials, being a whip for DFID when Hilary Benn was SofS. If you check , he has asked relevant questions towards development and his debates with regards to Defence are not so partisan as Ivan Lewis’. Now, Alison McGovern is famous or infamous for being Gordon Brown’s Parliamentary Private Secretary/a> but she has served in the International Development Select Committee. Shuker? His experience is that of Shadow Environment Minister. Well that is relevant to development. But will this team work properly and create an effective development policy for Labour and not be so partisan?


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The Politics of International Development in major UK Political Parties

NB: A post after a very long time:

It is pretty well known that after the New Labour government won power in 1997, international or global development became a key priority issue of discussion amongst both the government and the legislature. Not only that, all three major political parties–the Labour Party, the Conservatives (Tories) and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) all had common ground in their party manifestos over the topic of development. (See UK Party Manifestos (incomplete) ) to compare the various party manifestos after 1997.

You would then assume that there’s nothing to debate about development, at least during parliamentary debates, written answers and even ministerial statements. But increasingly, post 2010, there’s been more unwarranted (in my view) from the now opposition (Labour Party) against the Government (the Conservative-Liberal Democrat) coalition.

Its not like the Coalition government has completed ignored development, or disbanded DFID, or make DFID part of the FCO (like the Australians have recent enacted, placing AusAid back under the DFAT). The coalition government has certainly not dramatically reduced the volume or proportion of aid, in fact,it has been held steady in 2011 and 2012 at 0.56% of GNP (a tiny drop from 0.57% in 2010)  and as well has pledged to meet the decades old target of 0.7% of GNI/GDP. Yes, there has been the Bilateral Aid Review and the Multilateral Aid Review, cutting aid to various recipients and International Organisations (IOs). These, however, were in good faith to reform the way UKAid/DFID has been operating. 

The Coalition government of course has room for improvement in its approach to development and ha made mistakes. This of course, is where the Opposition, that is, Labour should come in, criticising them and presenting alternatives, an alternative approach towards development. In comes the annual (am I right?) party conferences. The Liberal Democrats and Labour have held theirs. (Lynne Featherstone didn’t make a full speech on development, but here is her blog entry on her role in the Lib Dem Conference) The Conservatives have yet to hold theirs, so this post may be updated later. Anyhow, this link (took me a while to find an archive copy of it, wasn’t on the party website) in what Ivan Lewis, the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development siad to the hordes (maybe) of Labour supporters.

Wait a minute, it’s natural for any political party to claim leadership in development. So I guess there nothing wrong with the line, “A Labour Government which tripled aid, transformed DFID into a world leading development agency and ensured the world wrote off debt.” Yet beyond that, the rest of the speech has a targeted attack against the Conservative Party, (as if they are the only party in government), with an almost personal attack at Justine Greening–““I didn’t come into politics to help poor people.” (Did she really say those words?)

Nothing else in the speech accepting that Labour didn’t always increase its aid per GNI/GDP annual (See the above table again for OECD data of the UK’s aid). No acceptance that perhaps a neoliberal approach towards development, as seen by the 200 White Paper was not really the approach to development. No mention that under Labour, there was no big stringent Bilateral or Multilateral Aid Review (There were some some like Multilateral Development Effectiveness Summary but not on the scale of the MAR or BAR). Instead, Lewis congratulated the conference members on campaigning for the 0.7% target (Did all of them pressure their MPs? There was no formal legislation anyway. And was Lord West, a Labour Peer who wants to cut aid amongst the audience members?

The point I’m making, (and against I hold no political party affiliation), is that yes you can you your party conferences and parliament to show your own record versus the opposing party. But boasting about being the party that build up development and talking mostly about aid increases, doesn’t say much, especially in terms of development impact, especially the impact on development countries. Basking in your own glory doesn’t shift anything in international or global development at all. Saying you were the first in this and that doesn’t mean you are and always are right. Not to say Ivan Lewis only knows how to attack the government and harp on the previous government record. But saying you were always right changing nothing.

In fact, as I wrote this entry, there’s a twitter spat between @owenbarder (Center for Global Development Europe head), @alexevansuk (former special adviser to Hilary Benn, former Secretary of State for International Development) and @RDarlo (Richard Darlignton) (IPPR) regarding Labour, Ed Miliband and the Labour Party’s past and present record on development. Look at Owen’s twitter and take a look (around 25 Sept 2013)

Can we get a proper debate over development in the current UK political sphere?

NB: Again, I must stress, I have no affiliation to any UK Political Party. I have respect for all three major parties.

Update: Here’s a link to Justine Greening’s speech at the 2013 Conservative Party Conference. There’s only a short comment that she wished for a more Tory, less Lib Dem Cabinet. Other than that, no swipe at Labour’s development record or failures. Weak to good defence on the increasingly old 0.7% target. Shades of her Treasury or financial past; she talked more about businesses and their linkage to development. Just ok defence on why aid is important to the UK’s interests. Still, overall better than Lewis’ attack.


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