Advertisements
jump to navigation

FP: UN Sustainable Development Goals: No wonder the SDGs went all vague and utopian September 29, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

???????????Dounle digit Ethiopia

If there is something to salvage from the SDG debacle, perhaps it is the idealistic advocacy for “universal respect for human rights and human dignity,” not as a 2030 “target,” but just as an increasing recognition of poor people’s rights for self-determination. Similar language was there in the MDGs but ignored. Such advocacy is needed to accept and respect the mainly homegrown rise of the rest. Such advocacy is needed because there are still many aid programs that violate the rights of the poor (such as involuntary resettlement) or aid that supports others who callously violate the rights of the poor (such as autocratic allies of the United States in the war on terror). Such advocacy is needed, not only because the West itself is now far too prone to xenophobic insults of poor people over fears of migration. For this generation of young idealists in rich countries, development should still be a cause worth fighting for. The many humanitarian programs that have been doing good things should continue, even if they are not quite the transformational things that the MDGs promised. But the decline and fall of the pretensions of foreign aid only tell us to not put our hopes in U.N. bureaucrats or Western experts. We can put our hopes instead in the poor people we support as dignified agents of their own destiny.- WILLIAM EASTERLY

The SDGs Should Stand for Senseless, Dreamy, Garbled

The SDGs Should Stand for Senseless, Dreamy, Garbled

Nothing better reflects the decline and fall of hopes for Western foreign aid than the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, just launched at a summit this past weekend. TheSDG manifesto is called the “[draft] outcome document of the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda.” This not-quite-soaring rhetoric continues for 35 pages of 17 SDGs buried among phrases like: “Thematic reviews of progress,” “Implement the 10-Year Framework of Programmes,” and “Accelerated Modalities of Action.” The 17 goals in turn have 169 targets, a list that has both too many items and too little content for each one, such as target 12.8: “By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.”

As for foreign aid, it is barely mentioned. Has anybody else noticed the SDG emperor has a shortage of clothes? Well, the Economist called the SDGs “worse than useless.” Another commentator described them as “a high-school wish list on how to save the world,” which seems unfair to high schoolers. Even Pope Francis warned in his address to the SDG summit this past Friday against the risk to just “rest content” with a “bureaucratic exercise of drawing up long lists of good proposals.” It is a sad result for the much-hyped SDGs. Yet hope remains: The “rise of the rest” — the economic growth of low- and middle-income countries — is causing increased respect for the poor, who are mostly achieving their own homegrown development, a welcome move away from the condescension of the old aid effort.

To be fair, the SDGs sometimes do break through with welcome idealism that is ahead of the curve: “We will cooperate internationally to ensure safe … migration involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants … of refugees and of displaced persons.” Other inspirational rhetoric is available: “We envisage a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity…. We resolve to build a better future for … the millions who have been denied the chance to lead decent, dignified and rewarding lives.” The SDGs might have worked, and I hope could possibly still work, as just idealistic rhetoric that will motivate more people in the rich and free countries to care about the world’s poor and shackled.

But the Sustainable Development Goals are not presented that way — they really are goals and targets. They want to be like their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), announced in 2000 with targets for 2015 — but they are not. The MDGs were so appealing because they were so precise and measurable. In just one paragraph in the 2000 U.N. Millennium Declaration, the U.N. announced goals to cut in half the proportion of the world’s population that was in extreme poverty, to cut in half the proportion who suffer from hunger, to cut in half the proportion without access to safe drinking water, to achieve universal primary schooling, to reduce the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters, and to reduce under-five child mortality by two-thirds — all by the year 2015. As a later U.N. document in 2005 made clear, the MDGs held everyone accountable for actually meeting these “quantified and time-bound” targets.

In the SDGs, it is hard to imagine what the time-bound and quantified target is for harmony with nature.

Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs are so encyclopedic that everything is top priority, which means nothing is a priority: “Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development.” “Recognize and value … domestic work … and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household.” It’s unclear how the U.N. is going to get more women to play soccer and more men to do the dishes.

Beyond the unactionable, unquantifiable targets for the SDGs, there are also the unattainable ones: “ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions,” “universal health coverage,” “ending all … preventable deaths [related to newborn, child, and maternal mortality] before 2030,” “[end] all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere,” and “achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men.” Again, these could have been great as ideals — I share such ideals with great enthusiasm. But the SDGs are not put forth as ideals but as “targets” for the year 2030. The rejoinder to a utopian target should be: Wow, if something that great is possible, why wait until 2030? Why didn’t it happen already?

It’s a mark of how the SDGs don’t take seriously their own utopian promises that they keep repeating them over and over again for different sub-groups.

It’s a mark of how the SDGs don’t take seriously their own utopian promises that they keep repeating them over and over again for different sub-groups. After promising full employment of everyone, the SDGs also ask more modestly for full employment of “young people,” having already mentioned even more modestly they are “promoting youth employment.” They don’t seem to get how following a big promise with a much smaller one weakens the big promise’s credibility. You have already won $1 million dollars — plus a free toaster.As if the promises were not already weakened enough by being either unmeasurable or unattainable, there are still a lot of ways to opt out. The commitments “will be voluntary and country-led,” they can be modified upon demand for “different national realities, capacities and levels of development,” and they will defer to each nation’s “policy space and priorities.”

Part of the problem is the use of that word “sustainable” — the U.N. never defines it. “Sustainable” might have something to do with climate change, but the SDGs tell us that climate change will be negotiated in a different U.N. summit in Paris beginning in late November. “Sustainable” is so overused in so many different contexts that it means very little — we might as well call them the “Some-such Development Goals.”

The best chance the SDGs have at saying something with real meaning is the promise, by 2030, to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day.” This is one of the few endings promised by the SDGs that could actually be possible, mostly because it is such an extreme definition of extreme poverty and the trend on this poverty has already been sloping downward for decades.

Unfortunately, the one and only official international custodian of the global poverty line, the World Bank, chose just this moment to increase the confusion on where the global poverty line should be. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced last week that the poverty line is not really $1.25; instead, it is about $1.90 — which might add a hundred million or so poor to the global rolls (not yet determined). Princeton University’s Angus Deaton, one of the world’s leading poverty experts, suggested this confusion is because “[you’ve] got a line that no one knows where to put it,” all based on “underlying data that is bad,” creating a “statistical problem from hell.” So the headline goal of the SDGs turns out to be almost as unmeasurable as the others.

What about foreign aid? President Barack Obama endorsed the SDGs in a speech to the U.N. summit on Sunday, but if there is to be any new U.S. aid for the SDGs, he forgot to mention it. While a price tag for SDGs of $3 trillion is mentioned (with no explanation) in U.N. discussions, there is no talks in the document itself of foreign aid increasing to pay for these targets. The rich countries are “to implement fully their official development assistance commitments” (see target 17.2) — in other words, to keep previous foreign aid promises already broken. A surge in foreign aid had been at the heart of the MDGs, but the SDGs just change the subject as fast as possible — the next target (see target 17.3) is to “mobilize additional financial resources for developing countries from multiple sources.” Nothing better exemplifies the decline and fall of the millennium goals’ transformational hopes for foreign aid than this no-show for the SDGs.

So the SDGs are to monitor the attainment of goals that cannot be monitored or attained, financed by unidentified financing.

How did it wind up like this? Part of the challenge of the SDGs was following a MDG program based on meeting precise targets in 2015, which was a great success. Well, except for meeting precise targets in 2015. As the SDG manifesto notes in a buried paragraph: “[Some] of the Millennium Development Goals remain off-track, in particular those related to maternal, newborn and child health and to reproductive health. We recommit ourselves to the full realization of all the Millennium Development Goals, including the off-track Millennium Development Goals.” No wonder the SDGs went all vague and utopian.

There is something deeper at work here — that there is today a much less confident West compared to the MDGs heyday. The rise of the rest is so much more evident now than in 2000. Per capita GDP growth in low- and middle-income countries since 2000 has been rising much faster than in the West, even in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa now has twice as many cell-phone subscribers as the United States, after remarkable growth that had nothing to do with Western development aid. Remittances from the diaspora and foreign direct investment are together twice as large for Africa as foreign aid. There are so many other long-term trends in these developing countries that are positive — from poverty to health, education to sanitation, and democratization to technology. Yes, the MDG campaign itself and foreign aid commitments do deserve some credit — even if the goals were not met. But the aid was too small to significantly explain these large accomplishments — and these trends began long before the MDGs and will continue long after 2015.

The MDGs gave far too much attention to middle-aged white male experts in the West debating what should be done for the rest of the world (including this author, but far more prominently Bono, Jeffrey Sachs, and Bill Gates). Thank goodness this patronizing direction from the West is no longer seen as so acceptable. People in low- and middle-income countries must now be recognized as equals, the authors of their own development. The surprisingly savvy Pope got this: He called upon leaders at the SDG summit to recognize “these real men and women” in poverty “to be dignified agents of their own destiny.”

If there is something to salvage from the SDG debacle, perhaps it is the idealistic advocacy for “universal respect for human rights and human dignity,” not as a 2030 “target,” but just as an increasing recognition of poor people’s rights for self-determination. Similar language was there in the MDGs but ignored. Such advocacy is needed to accept and respect the mainly homegrown rise of the rest. Such advocacy is needed because there are still many aid programs that violate the rights of the poor (such as involuntary resettlement) or aid that supports others who callously violate the rights of the poor (such as autocratic allies of the United States in the war on terror). Such advocacy is needed, not only because the West itself is now far too prone to xenophobic insults of poor people over fears of migration.

For this generation of young idealists in rich countries, development should still be a cause worth fighting for. The many humanitarian programs that have been doing good things should continue, even if they are not quite the transformational things that the MDGs promised. But the decline and fall of the pretensions of foreign aid only tell us to not put our hopes in U.N. bureaucrats or Western experts. We can put our hopes instead in the poor people we support as dignified agents of their own destiny.

Advertisements

Poverty, Deprivation, Capability and Economics August 30, 2013

Posted by OromianEconomist in The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

World map showing countries by nominal GDP per...

World map showing countries by nominal GDP per capita in 2008, IMF estimates as of April 2009. Sbw01f’s work, but converted to an SVG file instead. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘It has to be known that  the social structures, the power relations, that have generated and continue to generate poverty.’

In the present world, poverty, particularly   as it is experienced in the developing countries, has become the main topic to a great deal of discussion among economists and policy
makers, and there have been various campaigns  going on to overcome it: “to make poverty history.” The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) project is for front of these undertakings. In these makings, the issue is absolute deprivation, and the current widely accepted standard defines poverty as living on less than $2 per day and extreme poverty as living on less than $1 per day. The $2 per day and $1 per day figures are in terms of 1990 purchasing power. The World Bank uses these standards to report each year on the number of people living in poverty and in extreme poverty. The definition of poverty in terms of absolute deprivation may make good sense. When people do not have the basic necessities – the food, the shelter, the clothing – that they need to lead a reasonable life, they are living in poverty. Although we might not agree over the exact baseline.  There may look nothing wrong with the term.
However, there are problems with this absolute deprivation term of poverty. Primarily, there is the problem of whether or not an income measure can actually handle what we understand by people living in an ‘unreasonable’  condition of deprivation; not all the things that
make for a reasonable existence can be directly  transformed to purchasable goods and services. Besides, there is the problem of what we mean by ‘deprivation’. Of course, economic well-being – cannot be properly  measured and clearly understood by a single, absolute measure. In particular, the meaning cannot be properly  captured by  individual’s or a people’s absolute level of income. Actually, this issue has been widely recognized by the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI), Sen’s capabilities concept, and to some extent by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) campaign. Achieving an income goal alone does not eliminate poverty. A closely related issue  is that poverty (or well-being) cannot be captured properly by any single measure or single combination of measures, such as the HDI. Both the terms of poverty and economic well-being do not take into account issues of inequality in the distribution of income or the distribution of other measures of well-being. This failure to take into account issues of distribution in defining poverty (economic well-being) is conceptually and practically  problematic. If poverty is understood in absolute terms without consideration of distributional issues, the social structures that generate poverty tend to be ignored. It has to be known that  the social structures, the power relations, that have generated and continue to generate poverty. As  Arthur MacEwan  of University of Massachusetts Boston argues: ‘To a large extent, the poor are poor because they lack power, and they lack power because they are poor. When power is brought into consideration, the focus of policy shifts towards such issues as land reform and the effective control of state actions – i.e., of the underlying factors that determine spending on health care, education and other social services. The problem of poverty, then, would be approached as a socio-political problem, not simply as a technical problem. (Technical changes can bring about changes in socio-political relations, and that is one of the reasons, in addition to their direct impacts, that they are often good. But technical solutions are less likely to be effective when they are implemented without consideration of power relations.’  For instance, as studies on the Horn of Africa recognize, the colonizing Abyssinian Ethiopian structure has been  a very serious development problem in Oromia. In recent debates the UN and other international organizations are taking human rights issues to a center stage in the discussions of eliminating poverty as it is to  define the post 2015 actions. Actually, individual human rights and collect (group) rights must be at the center stage  in processes of poverty eliminations and achieving development. A person can be  socially and economically deprived and made incapable to achieve life goals not only as individual but also because he/she is a member of a group.  That is what we have learnt from the experiences and studies on  indigenous people such as the Oromo nation under Ethiopian social and political structures.

The discussion of  poverty may be as old as disciplines of economics and philosophy.  Economists  and philosophers including  Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Rawls, Amartya Sen, and many more have discussed the subject. The capabilities concept of economic well-being has been established  and extensively discussed by Amartya Sen. He maintains that “…the right focus for assessing standard of living is … something that may be called a person’s capability…., the capability to function …that comes closest to the notion of standard of living.”  The following site is interesting  further discussions: http://scholarworks.umb.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=econ_faculty_pubs&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bing.com%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dpoverty%252C%2520capability%2520and%2520deprivation%253Awhat%2520economists%2520say%26pc%3Dconduit%26ptag%3DADE7BA551541340B0B5F%26form%3DCONOMX%26conlogo%3DCT3210127%26ShowAppsUI%3D1#search=%22poverty%2C%20capability%20deprivation%3Awhat%20economists%20say%22

Another Interesting current economic article on the subject of poverty is rebeloged  here with kind acknowledgement to the author:

“How important should the subject of poverty be within the discipline of economics? Some economists appear to think it is a very small issue compared to the magnificent mathematics of general equilibrium theory. Others believe that economics should fundamentally be about the sources of human well-being and misery, and that understanding poverty is absolutely fundamental for economics. How should we try to sort this out? Among the contemporary economists who have given the greatest attention to poverty and deprivation, Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze are particularly outstanding. Their research on well-being, quality of life, and hunger set a standard for the point of viewthat says that life quality and deprivation need to be at the top of the list of economic research goals. Here I’m thinking of books like Inequality ReexaminedPoverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, and Hunger and Public Action. The neoclassical free market purists stand at the other end of the garden.  The economists of the Chicago School put primary emphasis on the beneficent effects of untrammeled market behavior, and they give little attention to the “market imperfections” that poverty and deprivation represent. (The word “poverty” does not occur in the index of John Van Overtveldt’s good intellectual history of the Chicago School, The Chicago School: How the University of Chicago Assembled the Thinkers Who Revolutionized Economics and Business.) Poverty seems to be viewed as a normal and fair result of the workings of market institutions: some people make large contributions and earn high income, and others make small or zero contributions and earn low income.”  Daniel Little, Rebloged from http://understandingsocietyglobaledition.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/poverty-and-economics/ read more from http://understandingsocietyglobaledition.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/poverty-and-economics/

As disccused in the above sources, poverty is not only a matter of lack of income.  And also economic  growth alone does not alleviate poverty.  As it has been analysed in following sources: “The problem with seeing poverty only through the lens of income is that it leaves economic growth as the only option to remove poverty. The underlying assumption is that the poor will be someday and somehow able to earn enough money to take care of all their needs, starting with having sufficient food. The problem is that the poor also lack skills to earn sufficient money, they are denied credit or loan by the banks, they have no access to quality education and healthcare facilities, and face social discrimination and political marginalization. Therefore, it is rather naive to expect that just because the economy is doing well, they will suddenly start having good income and come out of poverty. Thanks to the efforts of eminent economists such as Indian Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and late Dr Mahbub ul Haq of Pakistan, better ways of measuring poverty and human well-being than income have emerged. If the UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI) launched in 1990 provided the first global tool to probe the standard of living, a bigger thrust was given in 2010 by the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) that uses 10 different indicators to probe various deprivations the poor face. An application of the MPI analysis on the above two countries reveals an entirely different picture. Ethiopia has 90 percent poverty while Uzbekistan reveals just 2 percent multidimensional poor. What we learn from this is that the society in Uzbekistan looks after its people much better than the Ethiopian society. Therefore, poverty is better understood in terms deprivations, not lack of income. Economic Growth Alone is not “Development.” The real purpose of development is to enhance the well being of people and raise their standard of living, for which economic development is an important tool. However, this tool has been converted into an end in itself. Another popular view sees “development” as technological development; other contemporary concepts of development are industrialization and increasing the GDP growth (and keep doing it forever!). The way international business is being steered through global treaties, it appears that the world is being converted into a big bazaar and people into mere tools of production and consumption. The per capita consumption has emerged as modern measure of development and hence, of the well being of people. Hence, people of “developed” nations are the biggest consumers on the planet. Rest of the world is catching fast to beat them in this competition.” http://goodpal.hubpages.com/hub/Looking-at-Poverty-Beyond-Lack-of-income

Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom. Poverty is a call to action – for the poor and the wealthy alike – a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities. Poverty is the state of being without, often associated with need, hardship and lack of resources across a wide range of circumstances.’http://www.fightpoverty.mmbrico.com/poverty/what.html

“Since poverty is often so linked with human development, or lack of it, the 1996 report took a special look at poverty and concluded that income poverty is only part of the picture. “Just as human development encompasses aspects of life much broader than income, so poverty should be seen as having many dimensions,” says the report. As a result, the report introduced a new, multidimensional measure of human deprivation called the capability poverty measure, (CPM). The CPM focuses on human capabilities, just as human development index does. Instead of examining the average state of people’s capabilities, it reflects the percentage of people who lack basic, or minimally essential human capabilities, which are ends in themselves and are needed to lift one from income poverty and to sustain strong human development. The CPM considers the lack of three basic capabilities. The first is the lack of being well nourished and healthy, represented in this case by the proportion of children under five years who are underweight. The second is the lack of capability for healthy reproduction, shown by the proportion of births unattended by trained personnel. The third is the lack of capability to be educated and knowledgeable, represented by female illiteracy. The composite index emphasizes deprivation of women because, says the report, “It is now well known that the deprivation of women adversely affects the human development of families and of society.” Comparing the new capability poverty measure with the income poverty index, the report found that while 21 per cent of the people in developing countries are below the income poverty line, 37 per cent face capability poverty.   That is, 900 million people in developing countries are income poor, but 1.6 billion are capability poor.”    http://www.womenaid.org/press/info/poverty/cpm.html