Global Development Institute Blog

Global Development Institute Blog

Critical visions of development from the Global Development Institute: Uniting the strengths of IDPM and BWPI.

Find out more
Upgrading informal settlements: Mukuru to point the way

Upgrading informal settlements: Mukuru to point the way

Prof Diana Mitlin, Managing Director, Global Development Institute

While global attention focuses on the Kenyan election, a process that will (arguably) make a much more significant difference to the wellbeing of 300,000+ residents of Nairobi is already underway: in August, Mukuru was declared a special planning area.

Mukuru is a large informal settlement, home to 105,000 families, on the edge of the industrial area in the south of the city. Like many similar areas in Nairobi, it has long been ignored by the authorities. For decades political leaders have simply seen the residents of Nairobi’s informal settlements as a source of money. Land has been allocated by elites to elites. Nairobi’s informal settlements are notorious for having a large number of landlords who are “structure owners”, building shacks for tenants on land that they in turn rent from a smaller number of land owners. There is very limited access to formal services; instead a wide range of informal traders provide water and electricity. Frequently they operate as cartels establishing monopolies by force and charging whatever is possible.

However, in February 2017, Nairobi County announced the creation of a special planning area (SPA) in Mukuru. The Physical Planning Act lets subnational county governments designate SPAs to help plan neighbourhoods that have particular potential or problems or both. The SPA was gazetted on 11 August and all current developments are now suspended for two years with the Nairobi County Government initiating a participatory process to develop a Physical Development Plan for Mukuru.

read more…

Reflections on the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping missions: local encounters in Darfur

Reflections on the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping missions: local encounters in Darfur

Dr Tanja Müller, Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, Global Development Institute

On 13 Jan 08 at approximately 18:30 hrs a UN WFP driver was shot and wounded in an attempted carjacking. The UN WFP driver picked up a UN WFP radio operator to commence night shift in the Hai Elmitidad area in Geneina town. Four unknown bandits, three armed in military uniform, one unarmed in civilian clothing, approached the vehicle and one of the unknown armed bandits fired without warning a single shot into the vehicle. The bullet went through the side window and injured the upper arm of the UN WFP driver. The driver accelerated to leave the location and communicated the incident to the UN WFP radio room. UN WFP security assistant advised that the driver sought medical treatment immediately at the nearby El Geneina hospital. After initial treatment, the staff member was taken to the UNAMID clinic by UN WFP Security/UNDSS. The staff member suffered a non life-treating gun shot wound without fracture to his upper arm and was admitted to the UNAMID clinic for observation.

The above is a slightly abbreviated entry in the UNAMID Joint Mission Analysis Centre (JMAC) dataset from 13 January 2008. The dataset describes security incidents of any kind at the micro level in Darfur, the area of operation for the UN-African Union hybrid mission in Darfur, UNAMID.

The driver in question described in this incident report has possibly many roles: as a local who has secured a good employment position, as working for any UN organisation – in this incident the World Food Programme (WFP) – usually pays well. He – it as a safe bet to assume it is a man, as women do not usually occupy jobs as drivers for any UN entity in the context of Darfur – might be a member of an ethnic group regarded as rebellious by the central government in Khartoum (and thus deliberately targeted). He might simply have been targeted because those who attacked him wanted to carjack the vehicle, a very common occurrence in UNAMID’s deployment environment. Or he might simply have been at the wrong time in the wrong place. Maybe he was targeted within a broader scheme to make work difficult for any UN entity, eventually forcing them to leave or at least put enough pressure on them to abstain from certain activities. Indeed, a former employee of UNAMID’s human rights section told me in February 2016 that at some point during his employment with UNAMID, patrols to check reports on human rights abuses had largely ceased – due to fear of cars and equipment being hijacked (he showed me pictures of a huge car-park full of white landcruisers at Nyala supercamp in Darfur that he said were not moved sometimes for weeks). read more…

When poor households spend big: part 2

When poor households spend big: part 2

In the previous article about a daily ‘financial diary’ research project in Bangladesh, we looked at the biggest expenditures made by our diarists (“When poor households spend big”). Here we tell the stories behind a few of those big expenditures.

 

A spending storm

We had been tracking Dipti, an illiterate brick-breaker with a disabled husband, since August 2015. For the first year and a half her biggest single purchase was 2,450 taka ($61 in PPP dollars) for subsidised rice. Then, starting in December 2016, she made eight of her ten biggest-ever expenditures within thirteen days.

Dipti (on the right) with her youngest daughter and our data collector

Dipti (on the right) with her youngest daughter and our data collector

Life-cycle events triggered this spate of big spending. On 16th December her husband died, and relatives gave her $140 to pay the immediate funeral expenses, like firewood (the body was cremated) and a burial cloth. Over the next ten days many more gifts came in, totalling $625, and by 27th she could arrange the funeral feast, buying food (with big amounts of milk and treacle), paying the event organiser, and paying the priest (she bought him a calf). These accounted for seven of her ten biggest-ever expenditures. Meanwhile, her married daughter was nearing childbirth, and came to Dipti’s house to prepare. On 8th January the child was born in a hospital, but, just in time, Dipti’s son-in-law provided $375 out of which Dipti paid a $302 hospital bill – her biggest ever outlay.

After that her spending returned to normal, and she has never again spent more than $50 at a time (again for subsidised rice). We had categorised Dipti’s household, based on their earned income, as extremely poor, living on $1.02 a day per person. But the total income – of which 61% is composed of gifts – pushes her up into the second-highest quartile (as described in the previous article). Dipti didn’t draw down any of her savings for the funeral or the birth, even though she had over $1,000 in MFI savings accounts, and no debts.  She continues to live modestly and save regularly.

Eight of Dipti’s ten biggest expenditures were for life-cycle events, were unplanned and uninsured, and were financed entirely by gifts from family and the wider community, a pattern that is not uncommon among our diarists – or at least among those enjoying good relations in the area.

read more…

A chocoholic’s dream – National Chocolate Week at GDI

A chocoholic’s dream – National Chocolate Week at GDI

Dr Judith Krauss, Lecturer in Environment, Climate Change and Development, Global Development Institute

The UK’s National Chocolate Week is here! What a fabulous invention for all those of us who love cocoa and chocolate – which, at least based on my non-representative PhD research on cocoa sustainability, is close to 100% of the population. As we at the Global Development Institute also love chocolate, we will be celebrating this awareness-raising week in various ways – watch this space! One example is this blog post, which is to draw your attention to two interrelated recent developments causing chocolate lovers some concern.

The first concern is the future of Fairtrade chocolate. As many UK residents will be aware, Cadbury took the decision at the end of 2016 to move its sustainability focus away from Fairtrade certification: it has shifted towards the “Fairtrade Cocoa Program” as part of its parent company Mondeléz’s broader Cocoa Life initiative. As Cadbury Dairy Milk acquiring Fairtrade certification was considered a milestone for Fairtrade chocolate in the UK, this and other similar moves in the cocoa-chocolate sector raise important questions both for the future of Fairtrade and the future of cocoa sustainability. read more…

GDI Lecture Series: urban development and inequalities with Prof Diana Mitlin

GDI Lecture Series: urban development and inequalities with Prof Diana Mitlin

On Wednesday, 4 Octobe, Prof Diana Mitlin gave a lecture entitled ‘Addressing shelter inequalities: Lessons from urban India’. You can watch the live stream below


Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.
Writing about Africa – in defence of more journalistic inspiration for academic writing

Writing about Africa – in defence of more journalistic inspiration for academic writing

Dr Tanja Müller, Global Development Institute

In a contribution for a book on Africa’s media image in the 21st century, Michela Wrong provides a strong defence of Western journalists writing about Africa. One of her expertly made arguments concerns the different roles academics and journalists may have – one concerned with all possible nuances, the other to sum up those complexities in a shorthand headline or story that readers without that nuanced knowledge can understand. Some complexity might get lost in the latter, but that does not necessarily mean a simplistic picture (certainly not when the journalist is skilled in his or her profession).

Yes, there is also the commercial pressure to see stories of suffering and horror in particular out of Africa published, but journalists like Michela and, it should be emphasised, many of the local journalists on the African continent, at least if they live in countries with a lively media scene, do an excellent job in combining what I will call ‘good-enough nuance and detail’.

When reading Michela’s piece, something else crossed my mind – and as a former journalist turned academic (albeit of feature stories and working with a freedom then that would let me starve today), this is something I feel I am in a unique position to comment on: Often, when taking a ‘journalistic approach’ to academic inquiry, at least in the social sciences, one gets it right. This may start with uncovering a story or a theme by accident, and as an academic one might in this day and age write a preliminary blog on it. The next step might then be to conduct more in-depth research, maybe apply for a research grant big or small, depending on what the issue in question may be. Three years or so later, a nuanced piece of research might have emerged that not only comprehensively engages with all that was written before, but provides new empirical evidence and/or theoretical insights . A number of articles will be published in so-called high impact academic journals usually behind a pay-wall – unless ‘gold-access’ can be paid for with said research grant, and new blogs will be written in order to advertise those and communicate at least some of main findings to the wider world (not least to those without access to academic journals). read more…

When poor households spend big

When poor households spend big

By Stuart Rutherford, Honorary Research Fellow at Global Development Institute

In an earlier article in this series about the findings of a daily ‘financial diary’ research project in Bangladesh, we looked at the spending patterns of households (“What do poor households spend their money on?”). Here, we zoom in on their biggest expenditures, using daily data for 40 ‘core’ diarists for the period from mid May 2015 to end July 2017.

We begin with a chart that sets out, for each diarist, their single biggest expenditure during the whole of the time we have been tracking them.

As a way of checking how unusual these biggest-of-all expenditures are for the households, we show the average value of their ten biggest expenditures: in some cases (17, 23, 33 and 37 notably) we see that the biggest ever expenditure was several times bigger than other big expenditures they made. read more…

The fiscal implications of hurricane strikes in the Caribbean

The fiscal implications of hurricane strikes in the Caribbean

By Osman Ouattara, Global Development Institute; Eric Strobl, École Polytechnique; Jan Vermeiren, Kinetic Analysis Corporation and Stacia Yearwood, Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility.

This blog first appeared on the Global Development Institute blog in January 2016. 

Worryingly losses associated with tropical storms have risen considerably over the last few decades and are currently estimated to be about $US 26 billion a year. Moreover, some predict that the intensity of these phenomena may increase with climate change. In this regard, arguably the small disaster prone island economies in the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable, as their limited budgetary capacity prevents them from establishing sufficient financial reserves to absorb such potentially large negative shocks.

Added to this, their high level of debt restricts their ability to access credit in the aftermath of a natural disaster, while high transaction costs associated with the relatively small market restricts access to private catastrophe insurance covering potential losses. International aid also does not provide a solution since, when it comes, it is often too little and too late. read more…

In Conversation: Dr Pablo Yanguas and Chris Jordan

In Conversation: Dr Pablo Yanguas and Chris Jordan

Dr Pablo Yanguas, Research Associate at ESID, sat down with GDI’s Communications and Impact Manager Chris Jordan, to talk about the politics of aid and whether DFID fund Obamacare if the US was a developing country. They also chat about Trump, the Daily Mail, internationalism, pedagogy of aid, political courage, and of course Dr Yanguas’s upcoming book, Why We Lie About Aid.

read more…
Operation Florian in Lebanon: gendering fire risk among refugees

Operation Florian in Lebanon: gendering fire risk among refugees

Dr Helen Underhill, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester

In July, I accompanied Operation Florian – volunteers from the UK Fire and Rescue Services and affiliated to UK Fire Aid – to Lebanon as part of their humanitarian response in informal settlements. Largely led and supported by Save the Children Lebanon, the trip focused on supporting local NGOs in the design and delivery of fire risk and prevention training to refugee communities living in camps (informal tented settlements – ITS) and substandard buildings (SSB) in the Bekaa Valley. Travelling shortly after the Grenfell Tower fire in London, I was reminded that, even in a country like the UK that has made huge progress in reducing the number of fires, it is the most vulnerable within our communities that still face the greatest risk. The trip with the Operation Florian team demonstrated that the injustices of fire exist in even the smallest communities.

Upon arriving into Zahle, the town in which we would be based, the importance of highlighting fire risk and prevention within communities living in informal settlements became even more stark: whilst transiting the 45km from Beirut, a fire swept through one of the ITS, destroying all 102 tents and killing a two-year-old boy. The following day, a neighbouring ITS suffered a similar tragedy, with a six-year-old girl being killed when a tyre (used to weight the plastic sheeting in place) fell from the roof and trapped her in the burning structure. Having spoken with survivors of the first fire and learning of the importance of creating a fire break, the community leader had been able to limit the second fire’s path and it burnt down just 19 of the 120+ tents. Having already fled war in neighbouring Syria, the refugees in these two settlements face the challenge of, once more, having to build their lives. read more…

Sign up for Global Development Institute mailing list

* = required field

powered by MailChimp!

Archive of posts

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
%d bloggers like this: