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Global Development Institute Blog

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

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GDI Lecture Series: economics of populism with Prof Dani Rodrik

GDI Lecture Series: economics of populism with Prof Dani Rodrik

On Thursday, 26 October, Prof Dani Rodrik of the Harvard Kennedy School delivered the Global Development Institute Annual Lecture as part of the GDI Lecture Series. The lecture was entitled the economics of populism.

You can watch the livestream below. You can also listen to the podcast below

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The trouble with stubble: The politics of cleaning India’s air

The trouble with stubble: The politics of cleaning India’s air

Dr Pritish Behuria, Hallsworth Research Fellow, Global Development Institute

Farmer burning stubble Credit: Raschpal Singh and Hansa Singh

Farmer burning stubble
Credit: Raschpal Singh and Hansa Singh

Over the last few years, there has been increased public attention on the dangerously high levels of pollution in New Delhi and in other parts of India.  In 2014, a World Health Organization report found that New Delhi had the dirtiest atmosphere of 1,600 cities across the world. In November 2016, one CNN report claimed that New Delhi was the most polluted city in the world at that time. India’s Central Pollution Control Board found that air in other Indian cities (including Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, Kolkata and Agra) was even worse than the capital.

Much has been written about the sources of India’s pollution. In 1997, the Ministry of Environment published a white paper on pollution in Delhi (though very little action was taken). Two government reports highlighted key pollutants including the burning of coal, petrol, diesel, gas, biomass and waste and dust (road and windblown) – though other government studies arrived at different conclusions.  Dust generated through infrastructure projects in the capital and annual increases in the number of cars have also contributed to increase in carbon emissions, particularly through diesel cars and trucks. One report suggested the number of vehicles registered in Delhi increased from 2.3 million in 1975 to 4.2 million in 2004 and is estimated to be around 7.2 million as of 2016.

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Podcast: Richard Heeks on the digital gig economy

Podcast: Richard Heeks on the digital gig economy

Professor Richard Heeks recently delivered a seminar entitled ‘Decent Work and the Digital Gig Economy in Developing Countries’. You can listen to the podcast of the seminar below.

This talk was based on Prof Heeks recent Development Informatics Working Paper, Decent Work and the Digital Gig Economy: A Developing Country Perspective on Employment Impacts and Standards in Online Outsourcing, Crowdwork, etc.

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Open Access Week at GDI

Open Access Week at GDI

Prof Diana Mitlin, Managing Director, Global Development Institute

The majority of research at GDI is made available either Green or Gold Open Access, and our GDI Working Paper Series is always free to download. Open Access is key in supporting the core values that GDI holds as an Institute: inclusivity, responsibility, equity and sustainability.

GDI takes a three-pronged approach to delivering our vision of promoting a socially-just world, and one of the three is to produce and co-produce research that extends knowledge frontiers. This cannot be done unless research is available and disseminated widely and freely. And Open Access is exponentially important in a field such as Development Studies, where many of our colleagues and partner institutions in the Global South cannot afford expensive journal subscriptions. There is much to be done and that can be done to help close the information and research gaps between the Global North and South, and publishing Open Access whenever possible is a small step many of us can take.

#OpenInOrderTo

Open Access Week is taking place for the 10th time this year, and the theme is “Open Access in order to…“. To celebrate, GDI will be highlighting Open Access research from across our research themes, so stay tuned.

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.

 

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 the more than 3 million 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.

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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…

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