29 November 2012

An exciting Post-2015 Development Agenda. Is it time for trees?

By Dr. Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive, TREE AID

It appears we are entering a new and exciting phase in development. For over a decade, the Millennium Development Goals have provided a focus for all those working in development. As the first holistic strategy for addressing the world’s development needs, they have also provided an opportunity to evaluate successes and failures. 

This evaluation, three years from the deadline is sparking new debate and action across the globe. There has been success. Parity in primary education between girls and boys is happening. The target of halving the proportion of people without access to improved sources of water has been met. So too, has the goal of halving extreme poverty and hunger.

But what does that actually mean? 

According to FAO General Director Jose Graziana Da Silva the overall number of hungry people may be decreasing slowly in the world, but not in Africa. Here the number of hungry has gone up in the last 20 years - from 175 million in 1990 to 239 million, figures included in this year's The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report.

It is this issue that has seen an increased and timely focus on the role trees play beyond that of carbon catchers and nurturers of the environment. Joining the post-2015 debate means that the role trees can play in ending poverty and hunger can now be explored.

In Africa, it is no coincidence that incidences of drought and famine are taking place in areas where efforts to slow rates of deforestation have failed – or that such events are increasing in frequency. Loss of trees clearly leads to increased vulnerability to climate change and erratic weather patterns for those living there. It also leads to the loss of vital sources of food and income, and therefore opportunities to break free from poverty.

Malava, Kenya
'Conventional' crops are often not indigenous, and can require expensive inputs, significant irrigation and land preparation in order to produce a successful harvest. Trees on the other hand often survive when other crops fail. Commonly seen by smallholder farmers as 'famine foods', tree foods form a significant part of daily diets across rural Africa, providing fruits, nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, sepals and even sap, which can all be used as high nutrient food.

The Thiombiana family, from Burkina Faso recently told me how they “escaped starvation”during this year’s food shortages in the country as a result of eating baobab leaves and fruit, and because of the income they were generating through the sale of tree foods when the in families granary was empty.

This existing, localised ‘emergency relief’, is what the international community must seek to strengthen. To do so, it must listen to the men and women on the ground, to the community groups to which they belong – and to the local government representatives that provide the bridge between them and the rest of the country.

Such an approach has seen Ghana and Burkina Faso receive endorsement of their far-reaching plans for sustainably managing their forest sectors as part of their goals for climate-resilient economic development earlier this month. Pitched as a “catalytic investment in an all-important sector for both sustainable development and climate change,” this is forestry that considers the interests of local communities’.

Crucially the research is there to back it up – research that the new Director General of the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Peter Holmgren, recently wrote about in an article for the Guardian. “Scaling up sustainability: time for forestry to come out of the forest” discusses how food security is an area where, previously, conservation and human development agendas have been framed as opponents.

Yet, results released from a six-year study by the CIFOR, show that forest income, on average, constitutes more than one-fifth of total household income for people living in or near forests. This includes income from wood for fuel and construction, bushmeat, edible and medicinal plants. Forest products also contribute significantly to global business and trade; wood and non-wood forest products constitute 4% of global trade in commodities. 

The role trees play protecting the environment, increasing biodiversity, improving crop production and diversifying food supplies, combined with their ability to provide a viable case for economic development, sees many of the boxes needed for ending poverty and hunger ticked. 

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recently announced his plans for a "Zero Hunger Challenge" that links the achievement of food security to the elimination of hunger and poverty through sustainable production and increased small-scale productivity.

Trees, as an integral part of agricultural systems, need to be part of the solution.

A new World Bank report,“Forest Trees and Woodlands in Africa” agrees, citing that Africa’s forests have often been narrowly viewed as a source of export revenues from industrial timber and a global public good. When in reality, forests play much broader roles, as diverse sources of jobs and livelihoods and as providers of valuable ecosystem services that are vital for increasing economic and social resilience – including combating climate change.

In the words of Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region, “The objective of sustainable management of forests, trees and woodlands in Africa can best be met by taking a fresh approach that recognizes the diverse roles that forests play, both in nurturing peoples’ lives and nature.”

The UN has recently named Prime Minister, David Cameron, as co-chair of a panel set to for advise the global development agenda beyond 2015. TREE AID wants trees to be firmly on that agenda. www.treeaid.org.uk

28 November 2012

AIDS Progress is Off Track, says ONE Campaign Report

Progress over the past two years against AIDS leads advocates to speak optimistically about the end of the devastating pandemic. In the same period of time there have been five million people newly infected with HIV, a number that represents a slowing of progress according to a new ONE Campaign report.

"The world is off-track for achieving the beginning of the end of AIDS by 2015," says the report which shows that the number of new infections are continuing a slow decline while the number of people newly put on ARVs has flat-lined since 2010. To alter the trajectories of prevention and treatment efforts will bring the world to what the ONE campaign calls "the beginning of the end of AIDS."

Projections based on current trends show that the point where the number of new people who receive ARVs will not exceed the number of new infections until 2022. ONE proposes an alternative projection where 140,000 people are added to ARV treatment each year and a doubling of prevention efforts will accelerate the transition point to be met by 2015.

To do so will require a global effort, not one that only involves traditional donor nations. "I call for a shift from the perception that aid is charity to an understanding that it is our shared responsibility and a smart investment that reaps dividends for all. Together, we must foster a more sustainable response to the HIV epidemic for the sake of our common future," says UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon in the report.

More specifically, the level of financing must fill the gap of $6 billion estimated by UNAIDS. Seven countries and the European Commission are singled out in regards to their AIDS donations. ONE commends the United States, UK and France while adding pressure on Canada Germany and Japan. The per capita spending by the United States ($14.54), which is also the largest net donor, is roughly three times greater than Germany ($3.82) and more than twenty times greater than Japan ($0.66).

ONE's head Michael Elliott made sure to tell Reuters that he understands that many countries are under financial stress since 2008 and the earthquake in Japan was out of the country's control. "You have to be an unfeeling idiot, which we're not, to fail to recognize that the last few years have been tough economic times for people in many places all over the world," he said. "(And) Italy may have fiscal problems. But it's not going to solve its fiscal problems on the back of development assistance."

African countries also have a role to play in filling the spending gap. The members of the African Union  signed a commitment to allocate at least 15% of their budgets on health as a part of the Abuja Declaration. Only four countries (Togo, Zambia, Botswana and Rwanda) have met the target as of 2010. Three years remain to meet the goal and the majority of African nations are above the 10% threshold. However, there are thirteen countries that will need to make drastic changes by at least doubling their health budgets in order to meet the goal.

The report recommends using 2013 as a year to step up efforts. "Here's a moment to put your pedal to the metal and go for it," says Elliott. A replenishment meeting for the Global Fund in September and the ongoing discussions about the post-2015 agenda are instances, says ONE, where donors, organizations, governments and individuals can show their commitment to ending AIDS.

"Without scaled-up financing, more targeted programming and expanded displays of political will, this will remain a distant ambition, and millions of lives will hang in the balance. But with renewed urgency and concerted action, the world can transform the beginning of the end of AIDS from a vision to a reality and chart a course towards ending this pandemic," conclude the authors.

Visualizing the Sharp Rise of Aid to Least Developed Countries

The global financial crisis caused a slow-down in foreign direct investments in least developed countries, but aid is still rising quickly. Remittances are on the up and up, but The Economist notes that it is in some part due to an increase in migration. However, remittances play an important economic role accounting "for 4.4% of the LDCs' GDP, are equivalent to 15% of their exports, and are their second-largest source of foreign financing"

27 November 2012

Where is the best place to be born in 2013?

According to the latest index from The Economist the answer is Switzerland followed by Australia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. For those of you looking for the United States (16) and Britain (27) in the top ten, look down a bit further Only 80 countries are evaluated in the index making it no surprise that emerging economies of Kenya, Nigeria and Bangladesh occupy the spots on the bottom of the list.

The big loser in the list, other than the US and UK, is the Euro Zone. The top ten is littered with small European nations that are all not a part of the Euro Zone. The Netherlands acts as the sole outlier of the group.

Scoring is determined by looking a life satisfaction surveys taken by Gallup and a series of measured well-being indicators such as life expectancy, GDP per head, divorce rates, rate of corruption and gender equality. The data showed that, "GDP per head alone explains some two thirds of the inter-country variation in life satisfaction."

As with any index, there are places to raised questions. Quality of family life is measured by divorce rates which is unable to capture unstable living situations where the parents remain together. Gender equality is determined by the number of parliamentary seats held by women, which can be skewed by countries that have mandatory limits. Such measures are rather hard to adequately quantify, so the Economist Intelligence Unit does deserve some slack in trying to create the index.

The short article from The Economist that introduces the list also includes a picture of the the 1988 article and index. The United States sat high at the top alongside other European countries like France and Italy.

The Economist calls itself out on the differences between the two lists by pointing out how the index indicators can impact the overall scores. It makes a cased for the less dynamic economies that site at the top of the list writing, "In the film “The Third Man”, Orson Welles’s character, the rogue Harry Lime, famously says that Italy for 30 years had war, terror and murder under the Borgias but in that time produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance; Switzerland had 500 years of peace and democracy—and produced the cuckoo clock. However, there is surely a lot to be said for boring stability in today’s (and no doubt tomorrow’s) uncertain times."

Libertarian think tank the Cato Institute released its annual Economic Freedom of the World report which includes an index of countries ranked by economic freedom. It should come as no surprise that the index does not look favorably upon the United Sates who comes in ranked 18th in the world. There are some interesting points of similarity and divergence between the two indices 

Cato's 5 most economically free countries (Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland and Austria) are all in the top ten of the Economist's index. However, Mauritus and Bahrain, two nations considered to have high economic freedoms, do not make the list for The Econmist. Also, Norway (3) and Sweden (4), are ranked 25 and 30 by the Cato Institute.

There appears to be some level of correlation between economic freedom and the best place to live, but it is not perfectly aligned based on a quick comparison of each index. Developing economies are largely not included in The Economist's index, so it becomes a bit harder to make a comparison from the angle of development.

Kenya is just ahead of Nigeria on the Economist Index for the last spot, but is well ahead in the Cato index coming in at 78th as compared to Nigeria at 120. That variance may be due in some part to the fact that more countries are evaluated by Cato's index. A lack of data makes it hard to then draw any conclusions in regards to development policies.

26 November 2012

Since Busan, A Changing Aid Landscape

Rwanda went to the 4th High Level Fourm on Aid Effectiveness in Busan last year with the agenda of increasing transparency and ending untied aid. Paul Kagame challenged the attendees asking, "While donors may not be entirely to blame for bypassing these systems where they are weak, or non-functional, why not use aid to build up and strengthen such critical systems?" Rwandan Minister of Finance John Rwangombwa echoed the same sentiments in an interview to the Rwandan newspaper The New Times.

The implementation and measurement of aid accountability have changed since the agreement that came to be known as the Paris Declaration. South-South aid cooperation, the rise of the BRICS, and the graduation of countries like India to middle-income status have all contributed to a changing accountability landscape. 

Rwanda, the very country that advocated for untied aid only a year ago, is now serving as the sparkplug for a wider discussion on how aid can be used by donors to achieve political goals. The application of aid as a political tool is not new, but the case of Rwanda is one that offers a glimpse into the evolving relationships between donor and recipient countries. 

World leaders like Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Bill Gates have found it easy to say nice things about Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the progress made by Rwanda. Clinton ended his annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York this past September by inviting a group of leaders from Rwanda to commend them on their efforts to implement a universal healthcare system.

However aid accountability became a political issue for Rwanda when a leaked U.N. High Level Panel report disclosed findings that linked the Rwandan government and the M23 rebels in eastern DRC. The U.K. decided to withhold £16 million in funding it was set to disburse, following a visit to the region by then international development secretary Andrew Mitchell. Countries such as the Netherlands also suspended aid to Rwanda and human rights groups voiced support for suspending aid from the Kagame government.

Mitchell surprised many when he then reinstated aid to Rwanda, a move that was supported by the Cameron government, before assuming the role of government chief whip in September. He argued in a letter dated August 31, that pulling aid from Rwanda would only hurt the country’s most vulnerable. 

“Taking away budget support would have no effect on the elite in Kigali, but it would, bluntly, take girls out of school elsewhere in that country,” wrote Mitchell. “It might make us feel better to remove budget support and avoid taking these difficult decisions, but it would not affect who makes decisions in Kigali and it would have the effect of damaging the poverty programme." 

A public investigation followed as pressure from human rights groups mounted. Hearings were held earlier this month and Mitchell defended the decision. While awaiting the outcome of the hearing from Mitchell’s replacement Justine Greening, the M23 rebels continued forward to seize control of the city of Goma, eastern DRC’s main hub and home to numerous NGOs. 

A U.N. source told the Guardian the suspension of aid, the decision reversal and a very public debate has caused another kind of harm. 

"The mixed message from the U.K. obviously emboldened the Rwandans. They probably thought they could get away with it. They were delivering equipment and new uniforms in the run-up to this offensive, so it is no surprise,” said the source.

The same Guardian report says that the capture of Goma is building further pressure for the U.K. to seriously reconsider the suspension of aid to Rwanda. There are concerns about the message sent when providing aid to a country that is funding a rebel group seeking to overthrow the Congolese government.

Goals leading up to and following HLF-4 focused on accountability through a lens of reporting and data collection. Stakeholders talked about publishing data according to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards and ensuring that countries have the capacity to measure results.

The reaction to Rwanda’s support for M23 illustrates a different form of accountability that can lead countries to withhold aid. Other examples include India, where public and political pressure over the past few months led to the recent announcement by the Greening administration that DfID would move to ending aid to India and increase its focus on expanding and supporting trade.

Furthermore, questions emerge following recent examples of organizations and countries admitting to the misuse of funds. Findings by the Global Fund’s Inspector General of waste and fraud in some programs led donors to withhold money and ignite a series of reforms that ranged from the resignation of the Executive Director to the implementation of a new funding scheme.

An audit into Uganda’s aid spending found that money was transferred from Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi's office into private accounts. The European countries, including the U.K., announced the suspension of aid to Uganda this month following the news. The Ugandan government is attempting to regain the trust of donors as the effects of suspended aid are being felt. Money meant to support over 6,000 new community health workers in Uganda was not released this month as a result of the reduction in aid.

As aid actors work towards meeting the accountability measures set forth in the HLF-4 outcome document, the events of the past year are evidence of the political complications and pressures on accountability. Wielding aid disbursements as a political tool can lead to new partnerships (India), reform (Global Fund) and possibly lead to negative outcomes (Rwanda). Going forward, the process of accountability will have to continue to adapt to the changing politics of aid.

Thanks to Jennifer Lentfer for some editorial help.

21 November 2012

Thanksgiving Eve Twitter Debate: Sachs vs Everyone

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson finally responded to Jeff Sach's review of their book Why Nations Fail. It in turn led to a spirited Twitter debate. Here is the debate, warts and all. I will attempt to put it into separate conversations to make it easier to read.

Meet the New (Global Fund) Boss...

A series of big announcements were made regarding the Global Fund following the November 15th board meeting. Among other changes, the board unveiled the appointment of the next Executive Director, Dr. Mark Dybul. As the  United States Global AIDS Coordinator during the Bush Administration, Dr Dybul helped to lead the PEPFAR program. Deborah Derrick, president, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, expressed her support for the decision earlier in the week by writing in The Hill blog.

"As Dr. Dybul and the Global Fund move toward implementation of this new funding model, resources will flow more efficiently to support lifesaving programs," wrote Derrick. "With these changes under its belt, the Global Fund is prepared to save many more lives in the years ahead, and Dr. Dybul is well positioned to capitalize on the work of the past year and build on the Global Fund’s legacy."

Further glowing praise came from leaders in the press release announcing the appointment. “Mark Dybul is a true leader, who can take the Global Fund to the next level,” said Simon Bland, Board Chair of the Global Fund. “He has a really impressive vision of how to achieve global health goals. He is passionate, energetic and focused.”

20 November 2012

Quick Post: M23 Rebels take Goma

The M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo took control of the provincial capital, trade port and NGO hub of Goma this morning. According to the Associated Press, "Explosions and machine-gun fire rocked the lakeside city as the M23 rebels pushed forward on two fronts: toward the city center and along the road that leads to Bukavu, another provincial capital which lies to the south. Civilians ran down sidewalks looking for cover and children shouted in alarm. A man clutched a thermos as he ran."

Reports indicate that the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) have provided little support during the advances by the M23 rebels. "MONUSCO is keeping its defensive positions. They do not have the mandate to fight the M23. Unfortunately, the M23 did not obey the MONUSCO warnings and went past their positions (at the airport). We ask that the MONUSCO do more," said UN Congolese military spokesman Olivier Hamuli to the AP.

M23 made it into the city today and took the city airport after noon. Andrew Gatehouse, a correspondent from the BBC, reported this morning that no fire was exchanged as the rebels entered the city and they took what he described as a 'victory lap' around the city of Goma before a good portion exited the city. However, some rebels to remain in Goma and appear to be taking position in a director towards the city of Bakavu having taken control of a part of the road that connects the two cities.

M23 soldier near Goma, Congo

An M23 soldier in Rubare, north of Goma. The Congolese army has denied reports its troops were refusing to fight and were fleeing. Photograph: Jerome Delay/AP

Rwanda makes a few appearances in reports due to regional allegations and recent findings by a UN panel that the government is providing support for M23. "On Tuesday, a colonel in the Congolese army who was in Goma fighting the rebels said by telephone that the soldiers he is fighting are Rwandan. He requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press," reports the AP.

19 November 2012

A Comprehensive Approach to Bringing Improved Sanitation to 2 Billion People

Toilets may not be a topic that get as much attention as others, but over 1 billion people around the world must defecate out in the open and over 2 billion people do not have access to clean and private toilets. That means that billions are at risk of diseases that are spread through fecal matter such as diarrhea and cholera.

Today's World Toilet Day is meant to make some noise about the issue by raising awareness. The stakes are high and the issue is serious. According to the WHO, the areas with the lowest access to proper sanitation are sub-Saharan Africa (31%), southern Asia (36%) and Oceania (53%). "World Toilet Day has a serious purpose: it aims to stimulate dialogue about sanitation and break the taboo that still surrounds this issue," says the World Toilet Day website. "In addition, it supports advocacy that highlights the profound impact of the sanitation crisis in a rigorous manner, and seeks to bring to the forefront the health and emotional consequences, as well as the economic impact of inadequate sanitation."

Satire: Africa Aids Freezing Norwegians

What happens when you take the formula used by Band Aid in 1984 and flip the script? You get Radi-Aid. Some nice satire to kick off your week. Enjoy.
HT Tom Paulson

16 November 2012

DAWNS Goes Mobile! Join the Experiment.

We have a new mobile app. We think this app can lay the groundwork for a sustainable and revolutionary new model for supporting global humanitarian journalism.

Here’s why.

We started DAWNS Digest on a hunch that a community of global news consumers could be nurtured, inspired and empowered to support compelling global humanitarian journalism. Our idea was pretty simple: We sell subscriptions to a global humanitarian news aggregation service to people who value easy access to that kind of news, then use our revenue to support nuanced international reporting and storytelling that this community craves.

We are one year into this experiment and we think we are onto something. So far, major international NGOs and government agencies, students, and the general news consuming public have signed up for an email version of our aggregation service. Through a competitive voting process, these subscribers helped chose three very interesting international reporting projects to support over the past year.

With the launch of our new mobile app, we think we can take this model to the next level. You can learn about all the great features of our mobile here, but the reasoning behind it is what I want to emphasize. We think 1) There are a few thousand people out there who would pay a couple dollars a month to receive timely updates on parts of the world the mainstream media tends to ignore. 2) This community has a rooting interest to help journalists, photographers, and online media tell local stories of global significance.

Over the past year, we have found that this process helps develop a community, ensures that audiences can access stories of interest to them, and provides journalists with the chance to pursue stories that might otherwise not be told.

We have not yet reached our few thousand subscriber threshold, but with or new app we think we can. If we succeed, we would be pioneering a sustainable financial model to support global development and international human rights reporting.

That’s our gamble. And that’s why we are launching DAWNS Digest mobile. Join us.

15 November 2012

Emerging Economies to Take Off, What Does that Mean for Aid?

The global economic map in 2060 will be radically different from the one today, predicts the Organization for Economic Co-operation of Economic Development (OECD). A report released by the organization shows that developing economies, led by China and India, will eclipse the major powers in the next fifty years.

Such gains indicate a rebounding global economy and giant strides in the global South. "The shifting balance of long-term global output will lead to corresponding improvements in living standards, with income per capita expected to more than quadruple in the poorest countries by 2060," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. "The increase could even be seven-fold in China and India. With these gains, the gap that currently exists in living standards between emerging-markets and advanced economies will have narrowed by 2060"

14 November 2012

Boston NGOs Keep Up Family Planning Summit Momentum

Family planning became a high profile topic over the past year thanks to controversial remarks from American politicians and a renewed effort by the Gates Foundation. Melinda Gates said that family planning is not a controversial issue in a TED talk that served as a precursor for the London Summit on Family Planning.

World leaders, organizations and advocates gathered in London in July to make financial commitments towards ensuring that the 250 million women around the world who lack access to family planning services will see their need filled. Prime Minister David Cameron delivered remarks at the event where he advocated for further partnering with countries.

"Studies show that limited education and employment opportunities for women in Africa mean annual per capita growth is almost a whole percentage point lower than it should be. Had this growth been achieved, Africa’s economies would have doubled in size over the last thirty years. Providing girls with just one extra year of schooling can increase their wages by as much as 20 per cent," said Cameron in July.

12 November 2012

Calling Attention to the Leading Killer of Children

An estimated 1.3 million children under the age of five die from pneumonia each year. Children can be treated with antibiotics, but as many as 30% of children with pneumonia are unable to access the antibiotics that can save their lives. Prevention of pneumonia starts at birth and includes ensuring that children are not malnourished and are immunized against pneumonia and other diseases that put them at risk. The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities issued a recent report estimated that the lives of over 1.5 million children can be saved over the next five years if amoxicillin is made available in a dissolvable tablet.

The number one killer of children under five oftentimes flies under the radar. “Pneumonia can be prevented and cured. Yet, for too long it has been the leading cause of global deaths among children. We know what to do, and we have made great progress – but we must do more. We must scale-up proven solutions and ensure they reach every child in need,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marking today's World Pneumonia Day.

What it Takes to be an Africa Expert

It is becoming just as popular to write satirical pieces about Africa as it is to be what the pieces of satire are criticizing. Duncan Clarke writes in the Guardian Africa network about how to be an expert on Africa and includes a few zingers. He does a pretty good job of including just about everyone who says anything about Africa in his piece.
Remember, Africans are "entrepreneurial" (you saw that in three places on your 10-day tour de l'Afrique). They would be more so but for colonialism, imperialism, francafrique (add Eurafrique), "unequal exchange", foreigners (except Chinese), apartheid, prejudice against the "global south", or other harbingers of disadvantage and victimology like anthropogenic climate change (admittedly difficult to predict, just like Africa or the weather).
"Africans" should always be seen to prefer "African solutions" (and you too) even where no one knows what these might be. Speak "of them and to them" so they know they "exist", alike vague socio-anthropological entities, notwithstanding a couple of thousand languages, 55 "nation states" in balkanising evolution, hundreds of fragile borders, multiple power-brokers, and an unfathomable mix of ethno-linguistic societies and competitive entities seeking survival under Africa's sun.
Read the whole thing here to get the proper context.

09 November 2012

Nigeria's Ignored Floods and Western Media's Role

Flooding across Nigeria since July has displaced over 2 million people. Some are calling it the worst flooding the country has seen in half a century. It is a story that is only now beginning to get some press attention following the new estimates regarding the number of people displaced and the 363 deaths attributed to the floods.

Before the data became available, John Campbell lamented the lack of media coverage in the Council for Foreign Relations blog. "It baffles me that the Western media is paying so little attention to the flooding in Nigeria. There are dramatic aerial photographs of the flooding in the Delta, and affected areas spread as far afield as Kano and Kogi states in northern and central Nigeria," begins Campbell.

He proceeds to call out Oxfam and the Red Cross and Red Crescent for not making enough noise about the problem. IRIN reported in early October that Oxfam was seeking $850,000 to respond to the floods. Though it appears that singling out Oxfam may miss the mark. 

“Never before has there been a disaster of this scale or magnitude,” said Oxfam’s deputy regional humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, Dierdre McArdle to IRIN today. “Finding partners who have the capacity to deal with it is challenging.”

McArdle proceeds to say that problems include the scale of the flooding, a lack of information and a lack of technical knowledge to respond. Earlier estimates of the people displaced by the flooding were under 1 million. The jump to 2.1 million reflects the time it took to properly assess the situation and come up with a reasonable estimate regarding the number of people affected by the floods.

A coordinated appeal from Oxfam, Nigeria's National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA) and the UN requires $38 million to relief and recovery services in 14 states. According to a UNICEF official, NEMA had established plans to respond to disasters that displace 500,000 people, only a quarter of the number of people displaced by the current floods.

The emerging information regarding the challenges to respond helps to explain the lack of noise from NGOs. The problem was easily apparent, but it is possible that organizations were reluctant to react too quickly without the proper information. Campbell criticized the media, but it should come as no surprise that the story did not pick up any steam until the 2 million number was determined.

Part of the problem for media in the story is connected to the response by the NGOs. A severe lack of data and information makes it hard for the NGOs to communicate the scale of the problem to media outlets and garner interest on the story. That is only compounded by a small amount of space that is given to international reporting and a lack of staff reporters in sub-Saharan Africa.

The issue is not Nigeria itself or really the story as much as it is a pattern of a lack of Western media reporting on the continent. Little was reported in regards to the Sahel crisis. It took a famine declaration to get any attention to the Horn of Africa this year and northern Mali is all but off the map save a few mentions from Mitt Romney when talking about al Qaeda.

Campbell is on to a bit problem, but it is much bigger than the flooding in Nigeria. I spoke about this problem on Wednesay night with Jaclyn Schiff and Mark Goldberg. Blaming the media misses the totality of the problem. When it comes to reporting on developing countries, the information provided is like one of those puzzle games where pieces are removed to show a picture that is never completed.

A few pieces are taken away to reveal a partial picture. NGOs issue reports and make calls to action that tell what is happening relative to their own work. Local media will tell a bit more, but the stories rarely reach an international audience. When it comes time for Western media to step in the reports are informed by the NGOs on the ground and are restricted due to resources and time/page space allotted to such issues.

All these factors contribute to the incomplete picture. What is often forgotten is the audience. There needs to be a demand for more and better reporting regarding developing countries. News consumers can voice this demand by frequenting the sources that do provide better reporting or urge their favorite outlets to cover more stories.

There are some excellent reporters who are telling important stories.The talent and desire is there from the side of the storytellers, it is a challenge of getting to the right audience. NPR is trying to reach the audience through its Shots blog, PRI is ramping up The World, the Guardien has its Development section, DAWNS is chugging along to pull together news and there are many more attempting to find ways to remove the pieces from the incomplete puzzle. Yes, Campbell is right that it needs to be better, but there are efforts underway to address that problem and ensure that issues like Nigeria's flood are not ignored.

07 November 2012

Malaria Woes: Rising Resistance and the Future of AMFm

The development of artemisinin-based drugs to treat malaria proved to be one of the most important advancements in stopping malaria. Malaria deaths are down from 1 million in 2000 to 650,000 in 2010 due in part to medical advancements, greater coverage of insecticide treated bed nets and improved coordination. However, evidence of resistance to artemisinin-based drugs is popping up in southeast Asia.

What further complicates the problem is the location of the resistance. Experts are observing resistance on the Thai border with Myanmar and Cambodia as well as in Vietnam. "Resistance to chloroquine and pyrimethamine started here," said Arjen Dondorp, director of malaria research at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit in Bangkok, to NPR. "Those two were very important drugs until recently. Very cheap, good drugs. We've lost them to resistance, especially here in the region. And then it has spread from here to the rest of the world."

Evidence of resistance first cropped up in 2009 and the WHO has taken steps to work towards preventing its spread from the region, bu encouraging countries to improve monitoring efforts. "Antimalarial drug resistance is like a cancer, it must be fought at every level – affected countries need to be in the frontline in combating the emergence of drug resistance. WHO should be empowered and supported to take a strong lead. It is crucial to protect ACTs as they are the best treatments for millions of people against malaria," said Professor Nicholas J White, of the Mahidol-Oxford Research Unit in Bangkok, Thailand in 2010.

Data Confirms Growing Resistance

A study published in April edition of the British medical journal The Lancet provided a longitudinal approach to artemisinin resistance in western Cambodia. From 2001 to 2010, the researchers tested the efficacy of treatments on patients with malaria ranging from mefloquine to doxycycline. They observed an increase in the time it took for patients to recover from malaria when using ACTs, regardless of the age of the person.

The researchers found that resistance was spreading west from Cambodia and called for a review of the present containment strategies. "Increasing the availability of artemisinin combination therapies in southeast Asia will reduce the incidence of malaria but provides a selection pressure driving artemisinin resistance. The development of strategies to reduce the selection and spread of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum while continuing to drive down the incidence of malaria is of the highest priority," concluded the authors.

Global Partners Seek Solutions

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership issued a report earlier this month on the state of malaria around the world. “Anti-malarial drug resistance is one of the greatest challenges to continued success in controlling and eliminating malaria in the Asia-Pacific,” said the Director of the Global Malaria Programme of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Robert Newman, at the launch of the report.

It included a section on the problem of resistance faced by southeast Asia calling for further investments in drug monitoring, increased access to quality diagnostics, the scale-up of prevention methods, new government regulations and programs that target migrant populations. "Asia accounts for the second highest burden of malaria, second only to Africa. In the face of persistent economic uncertainty and profound changes in the landscape of global development aid, the region needs strong political leadership. It also needs to develop financing strategies that include substantive and sustained domestic investment, traditional multilateral and bilateral aid and truly innovative sources of funding," said RBM Executive Director, Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré.

All Eyes on AMFm

The Global Fund will soon hold its board meeting and the Affordable Medicines Facility for Malaria (AMFm) program is on the chopping block. AMFm is a pilot program that attempts to leverage the private sector as a way to increase the supply of antimalarial drugs, especially high quality ACTs.

Oxfam published a report recommending the Global Fund to stop hosting the AMFm. Oxfam said in its report that AMFm created a higher demand for ACTs in countries with low malaria prevalence.  More importantly it provided an incentive for untrained retailers and pharmacists to sell ACTs without taking the proper diagnostic measures to determine if a person had malaria. 

Finally, the report said that there is no evidence that ACTs were reaching more vulnerable populations. AMFm successfully reduced the price and inceased the availability of quality malaria drugs, but it matters little, argues Oxfam, if it does not reach the people who need it most.

The report makes three recommendations to the Global Fund:
  • The Global Fund should take a decision at their November board meeting to cease hosting the AMFm;
  • UNITAID and the UK Department for International Development (the AMFm‟s main funders) should discontinue funding beyond current commitments (the end of 2012);
  • If pilot countries wish to continue providing ACT via the private sector, they should do so through normal Global Fund or other donor grants.
Oxfam senior health policy advisor, Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, told the BBC, "It is dangerous to put the lives of sick children in the hands of a shopkeeper with no medical training, and to pursue a scheme that doesn't help those people who need it the most.

The Global Fund disagrees with Oxfam’s claim. It issued a statement saying, "Some Western aid groups oppose a pragmatic approach that includes any involvement of the private sector. But the reality of this programme is that it is getting life-saving medicine to people who need it most from the private sector outlets where they already seek treatment. Before the launch of AMFm, life-saving malaria treatments cost up to 20 times as much. An extensive study has shown that AMFm has increased availability and reduced prices for high quality anti-malarial drugs."

Victoria Fan of the Center for Global Development took a more cautious approach in regards to the study findings. She was more optimistic than Oxfam and pointed out the problems caused by suddenly terminating the program writing, "Regardless of the precise merits of the evaluation, the evaluation alone does not represent all that the Board will need to consider in its decision. For one, it should be obvious that the sudden termination of a $225M supply-side market intervention would (again) distort the market and likely for the worse. If only for this reason, AMFm should continue, potentially with modification, in the pilot countries where an attributable effect is believed to be seen. But in Niger and Madagascar, where no effect was seen in the evaluation and implementation was somewhat limited, careful decisions are needed to determine whether to “resume”, “suspend” or “terminate.”"

Note: A version of this originally appeared on the PSI Impact blog.

06 November 2012

The Presidential Candidates on Foreign Aid

Election Related Coverage On AVFTC:
Politics and Foreign Aid: What Romney and Obama can Learn from Huckabee and Lincoln http://bit.ly/RvW58s
Romney at CGI: Foreign Aid Flop http://bit.ly/TvZw44
Romney Vs the Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://bit.ly/QkQW74
Preview: Obama vs Romney on Foreign Aid http://bit.ly/QkQWUC
Romney's Misread on Culture's Impact http://bit.ly/RRjK2g
The Important Topic Missing from the Presidential Race: Poverty http://bit.ly/RAo8CH
Election 2012: Where do the Candidates Stand on Foreign Aid? - Humanosphere http://bit.ly/OYoORw

Other Sources Covering Foreign Aid and the Election:
Romney and Obama on Foreign Aid for the One Campaign  http://bit.ly/RRk94G
Devex: Where they stand: Democrats and Republicans on U.S. foreign aid http://bit.ly/RRkuo2
US foreign aid: why there's little to choose between Obama and Romney - Guardian http://bit.ly/Vv5aBT
Devex: Romney and Obama: Same on aid? http://bit.ly/QkRlGM
Factbox: U.S. candidates Obama and Romney on foreign policy - Chicago Tribune http://bit.ly/RRl8BZ
Romney calls for foreign aid overhaul at Clinton Global Initiative event - The Washington Post http://wapo.st/RRDFOu
Mitt Romney speech to Clinton Global Initiative (text, video) http://politi.co/RRDNOb
Back to Africa - By Mvemba Phezo Dizolele | Foreign Policy http://bit.ly/Ql0DSZ
The Golden Thread: Bush, Romney, and Cameron on Aid - CGD http://bit.ly/RREjeW
Development Hits the Debates (Kind of) - CGD http://bit.ly/S25Uho

The Blurry Line Between Fact and Fiction in The Ambassador

Danish journalist/filmmaker Mads Brügger's film, The Ambassador, is causing a small stir regarding the people that Brügger films as well as the director/star's own role in the story. Some wonder if ethical lines were crossed in the making of the film in order to tell the story. The Al Jazeera show The Stream hosted a discussion with Brügger about the film and I had the opportunity to participate through a Google+ Hangout.

The Ambassador features Brügger posing as a wealthy businessman who wants to gain diplomatic status to the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to access the nation's nefarious diamond trade. He employs hidden cameras to record conversations about how he can purchase a diplomatic ambassadorship and ends up working with one many to become the Liberian ambassador to the CAR.

Once in country, the newly appointed ambassador sets out to link up with a diamond mine owner, meets with top government officials and other diplomats, sets out to build a match factory that he knows will never come to be and exploit the nation's pygmies. All in all, the ambassador is a character that is only less detestable than the shady men with whom his attempting to do business.

Some are concerned that by taking part in the story and in supporting the diamond trade through his actions in the film Brügger crossed over the line of journalism. Brügger addressed this point by saying that there are instances when a different kind of journalism has to be employed in order to tell the story. To him, the CAR is a place to do that because of the nature of the country and the fact that it is not on the radar for the people in his audience. Rather than present a film about corruption, blood diamonds and colonialism, Brügger felt that he needed to illustrate the issues through a fictional character.

After some technical problems, I asked Brügger what separates him from actor Sasha Baron Cohen who is famous for his characters Bruno, Borat and Ali G. Brügger said he respected Cohen, but the difference was that he acts as a journalists rather than a performer. Unfortunately I could not follow up to press Brügger a bit further do define what he sees as the difference between performance and journalism. I also wonder to what extent we can see the truth when a fictional character is implanted into real life situations.

Brügger in The Ambassador
The character that Brügger plays is different than an investigative journalist attempting to spend time in a certain area or as a part of a group. The fictional character does not solely exist to extract valuable information, it is the center part of the story and the cause, in some part, of the action of others.

There is a feeling similar to the Bob Dylan documentary 'Don't Look Back.' Pennebaker gained access to Dylan at a time when his popularity was at its peak and the performer was equally hated for going electric. There is a famous scene where Dylan meets fellow pop musician Donovan and he proceeds to make fun of the shy Scot.

Dylan, like Brügger, put on a performance for the documentary. He assumed a sort of neurotic character that would have mystifying conversations with the press and acted indifferent to nearly everything. The actions of Dylan impacted the people around him in a way that suspended reality.

The challenge with Brügger's film is that he takes on this character so well that it is hard for the audience to see where fiction may impose itself onto fact. In an interview on Africa is a Country with Aaron Leaf, Brügger addresses the ethical concerns of the film saying, "I am fully aware that in some regards the ethics in my film, to say it simply, kind of suck. They do. But what is important for me is that 95 percent of the people in the film, myself included, are crooks. Furthermore, they are men of power who because of their positions and their wealth should be able to fight for themselves. And seen from a Central African Republic perspective I am not picking on the little guys, there are hardly any ordinary Central African Republic people in the film apart from the pygmies."

The film managed to cause a stir in Liberia where there are rumors that the government will set out a warrant for the arrest of Brügger. In one scene, Brügger meets with the chair of the ruling Unity Party Varney Sherman to discuss the progress of his ambassadorship. Sherman encouraged Brügger to make a 'donation' to the Unity Party to help the process move along.

Reports from Liberia indicate that the government is more concerned with Brügger than with the corruption he exposes through the film. Leaf summarized this problem in African Arguments, saying:
Indeed, the Liberian government, which counts on its international reputation to attract investment, is eager for revenge calling the film “not only immoral but also criminal and offensive to the government and people of Liberia.” Nobel laureate President Johnson Sirleaf has told Liberia’s largest newspaper FrontPage Africa that she is “exploring extradition proceedings to bring the Danish national to Liberia to face justice.” 
My friend Wade Williams, an editor at FrontPage echoes Lamii’s sentiment saying that many Liberians “feel it is a shame that President Sirleaf cannot call a probe but decides to take issue with the journalist.” Sherman, she tells me, has denied that he dealt with Brügger as head of the ruling party or took a bribe. An email exchange Sherman released earlier this year implies that the money exchanged was part of a processing fee that he tried to return after the deal fell through.
The conversation from yesterday is worth watching. The last section is particularly good because Brügger is pushed a bit further and Aaron Leaf asks an excellent question that came from Sean Jacobs of AIC regarding the ethics of Brügger's use of the pygmies in order to move the narrative. The progress of the story will be one to watch, especially in regards to Liberia, to fully understand the impact of the film.

05 November 2012

The Goldilocks Debate (or Much Ado About a Golden Thread)

David Cameron's Wall Street Journal OpEd caused a bit of a stir in the aid blogosphere. The UK prime minister described his 'golden thread' theory of economic development  The thread is formed by focusing on the strands of rule of law, corruption, conflict, property rights and institutions. "A genuine golden thread would tie together economic, social and political progress in countries the world over. And we need to make a new priority of strengthening the vital institutions that enable and defend that progress," wrote Cameron.

Pulling together the individual strands into a single thread will create "conditions that enable open economies and open societies to thrive" argues Cameron. It is an idea that Cameron has advocated for in the past, but it is more important in light of the UN high level meeting on the Post-2015 agenda that he co-chaired last week.

Gold threads with a twist

His theory regarding development matters because it will influence the set of goals or agenda that follows the end of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Owen Barder said in August that the theory falls short in three ways: 1) It is too narrow in talking about growth, neglecting issues line inequality and civil society; 2) There is no mention of change in developed countries; 3) A lack of humility in terms of affecting social change in countries.

The three concerns raised by Barder are somewhat addressed  in the WSJ OpEd. The inclusion of accountability gets a bit at the issue of social change, but there is no information about implementation which was one of the main sticking points for Barder. The second point regarding developed nations is included when Cameron writes, "[W]e in the developed world must also put our own house in order, including by tracking down and returning plundered assets, refusing visas to corrupt foreign officials and stopping bribery involving our companies. The U.S. has introduced legally binding measures to require oil, gas and mining companies to publish key financial information for each country and project they work on. And I want Europe to do the same."

Chris Blattman took a more critical view of the Cameron's theory disagreeing with the focus on corruption. "Anti-corruption is a 20th century Anglo-American fetish, important, but nowhere near as important as political stability or basic property rights," says Blattman. In a follow up post today, Blattman expanded on the point of corruption arguing that the available evidence regarding corruption shows that it is not very important.

Institutions themselves sit a the forefront of Blattman's mind. He points to the US and Britian as examples of the development of institutions. "What did the US and Britain do? They gradually strengthened the capacity of their central governments while slowly diffusing power to a wider and wider group of people. They designed or evolved checks and balances that kept one cabal from taking over the state. A free press was one, but so were strong parties, professional militaries, judges, professional associations, unions, and civil societies," he writes.

For Errol Yayboke, the question that arises from the discussion is the issue of aid dependence. Questions must be raised in regards to the effects that aid has on countries and if it is capable of moving the development of a country forward. He says that we are handicapped by sexier and more pressing issues like starvation. That in turn makes it much harder to build support for growing the private sector and improving governments.

He argues that leaders like Cameron are in a position to change the way that people talk about and implement development and aid. "[T]his must start with a gradual shift in mentality. One that must start from David Cameron and his peers at the highest levels of government in the 'developed' and 'developing' world. One that involves a tough transition from reactive humanitarian aid to economic growth and stability-encouraging initiatives. One that may take a generation (or more) to fully realize. One that will be unpopular with inherently protectionist constituents justifiably worried about their own domestic economies and jobs. One that nonetheless just might allow us to eventually shift from ‘helping developing countries’ to ‘dealing with trading partners’," he writes.

Todd Moss and Justin Sandefur both took a more optimistic view in regards to the OpEd. Sandefur explains that Cameron strikes a good balance between the aid policies espoused by Gov Romney and President Bush. He says that conservatives agree largely on the golden thread idea, but the how question is where the paths diverge.

Moss also writes in the context of US development policy pointing out his three takeaways and concluding that he hopes that the principles he picked out are adopted by whomever will enter/remain in the White House following Tuesday's elections.

As the discussions continue in the echo chamber that is aid blogging, the question is if these discussions will actually influence Cameron. It is hard to make the exact causal link, but it is promising to see that some of the concerns raised by Barder a few months ago are now making it into the remarks by Cameron.

Various interests will attempt to be heard during the process of determining the frame work for the post-2015 agenda. Hopefully that robust discussions, as witnessed in the wake of Cameron's OpEd, will find their way to a larger audience.

02 November 2012

The Important Topic Missing from the Presidential Race: Poverty

One of the more important but rarely discussed issues in next week's presidential election is how to address issues of poverty. Debates and rhetorical barbs between candidates have centered on issues related to poverty, such as education, jobs and benefits, but tend to steer away from discussing poverty itself.

That may be because the idea is to remain a bit more universal. The general issues that affect poor Americans also have an impact on every other American. Everybody wants better education in terms of quality and cost. That makes it easier to debate the issues in a more abstract sense without ever really having to address the people who are struggling with poverty.

The Chicago public radio station WBEZ recently produced a two-part series that profiles a woman named Sarah (her name was changed to protect her identity) who is struggling to make ends meet in the small town of Warsaw, Indiana. She is a single mother of two and a welfare recipient.

Sarah works for minimum wage at a local childcare center part-time, but that is not nearly enough for her to make ends meet. She still has debt from school that she cannot pay off, meaning that further education is not possible.

Full time work is hard because it requires Sarah to use childcare services and it moves her off the TANF benefits she used to meet the needs of her family.
For example, last spring Sarah got a job at a local deli. She was excited to work full time. But once she had the income, the government started reducing her benefits. First they decreased her food stamps. Then they took away TANF. Finally, she lost child care benefits. At that point, keeping the job seemed impractical. 
“Well if you make $7.25 an hour and you work 40 hours a week. You only bring home, what? $250," Sarah said. "If your daycare expense is $200, you only get $50. What about gas? So it was costing me more to have a job than I was making. I was having to pay them to let me have a job.”
The minimum-wage work at the deli was not enough to cover Sarah's basic needs. With the loss of welfare support, Sarah had to move back into part-time work if she could not secure a better paying job. Such a situation has lasting consequences on Sarah's two children.

The second part of the story reports on Pew research that finds that children born to single moms are four times more likely to be in poverty as opposed to children born in two-parent households. The stress of poverty is felt by the children. Allie, Sarah's daughter, is having behavorial problems in school and was found hiding a knife under her bed. “It turns out that it’s actually physical process. Neuroscientist have actually found that under prolonged periods of stress that brain development is affected,” said University of Wisconsin School of Social Work professor Katherine Magnuson to the program.

What makes Sarah's story interesting is that fact that she is a person who grew up middle class, she even owned a home for a period of time. Poverty was an outcome that Sarah fell into, but she is struggling to climb back out of the poverty trap.

The program concludes with Sarah summing up her dreams. “My American Dream was to find somebody who didn't need me but wanted me. Someone who helped raise my children and who would eventually buy a house. I want to have something so when I pass away, I can pass it along to my kids. My goal in life is to someday have something that is worth leaving behind that my children are proud of, she says."

One of the emerging questions from the program, which is at the heart of the elections in the US, is how to ensure that people can not only get out of poverty, but stay in the middle class. It is popular in some circles to dismiss poverty in the US as a matter of laziness or bad choices. Some might blame Sarah for having her two children, but that misses the point. The children do add an additional cost to Sarah, but she is not waiting around for a government handout.

People want to work, that is why jobs continues to be the oft-used phrase during this campaign season. Both tickets offer ideas about how to get more people back to work, but say little about creating the conditions for people to get out of poverty. Paul Ryan made comments about poverty in Cleveland a few weeks ago where he questioned the efficacy of poverty alleviating programs without offering a clear idea as to how the Romney-Ryan policies would be an improvement.

Hurricane Sandy exposed the level of inequality and the burden of poverty in New York city. Though time is running out before people cast their ballots (some have in fact already done so) and it is unlikely that policy debates about poverty will swing votes, it is paramount that discussions about poverty take place in the public realm. Reporting like the work by WBEZ is helpful to illustrate the complexity and challenges of poverty, but more must be done to raise the level of discourse.

01 November 2012

Inequality Must Be a Part of the Post-2015 Agenda, says Save the Children

The global fight against extreme poverty is progressing well with a reduction from 2 billion people living in extreme poverty in 1990 to under 1.3 billion today. The gains provide reason for celebration, but hide a rising level of inequality between the rich and the poor. Inequality in some countries has risen by as much as 179% in some developing countries, says a new report from Save the Children.

While reduction in poverty is improving the lives of many, inequality has negative impact on the health and development of children, say Finnish Minister for International Development in the report introduction. Born Equal is one of the first attempts to measure inequality among children.

Researchers surveyed 32 developing countries finding that children born to the richest 10% of households have 35 times the effective available income, meaning the amount of money available to spend on the child, as opposed to children living in the bottom 10% of households. Further, the gap between the two groups has expanded by 35% over the past two decades.

Girl working at the hills near Kayonza
Girl working at the hills near Kayonza, Uganda. Credit
The report comes out at the time when a high level UN panel meets to begin outlining the agenda that will follow once the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015. UK Prime Minister David Cameroon, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia serve as the co-chairs for the panel that was convened by the Secretary General earlier in the year.

“I have asked my High-level Panel to prepare a bold yet practical development vision to present to Member States next year,” said Secretary General Ban ki-Moon when announcing the panel. “I look forward to the Panel’s recommendations on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core.”

Prime Minister Cameron published an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal this morning calling for a "radical new approach to address the causes of poverty." He outlines his 'golden thread' theory that seeks to make aid a catalytic force in the development of low and middle income countries.

Cameron explains, "A genuine golden thread would tie together economic, social and political progress in countries the world over. And we need to make a new priority of strengthening the vital institutions that enable and defend that progress. Because only then will farmers be able to get their crops to market quickly and safely. Only then will people escape the fear of seeing their homes bulldozed just because they don't have property rights. Only then will girls in Pakistan have the skills and education to get decent jobs when they grow up. And only then will women the world over have the same legal rights as men to own farms, take out loans or inherit the family home."

Save the Children hopes that it can lean on Cameron and the co-chairs to take the issue of inequality seriously. “Unless inequality is addressed, the MDGs and any future development framework will simply not succeed in maintaining or accelerating progress," said Save the Children's CEO Justin Forsyth. "What’s more, it will hold individual countries – and the world – back from experiencing real growth and prosperity.”

With inequality twice as high among children as compared to the general population, the report sets forth a series of recommendations for the Post-2015 framework. At the forefront of the recommendations is the inclusion of goals that tackle inequality and focus on alleviating the burdens felt by the poorest people in the world. The report encourages strong coordination between countries, robust accountability mechanisms and financial support for implementing the goals.

The frameworks that are to be determined for 2015 and onward will be different from the MDGs. One of the criticisms of the MDGs was that they were determined at an international level and largely by Western influencers. The UN panel represents a different approach by including experts and leaders from around the world.

Claire Melemed of the Overseas Development Institute advised Cameron in the Guardian earlier this week on the importance of the post-2015 agenda. Melemed points to the environment as one area that is as important as it is challenging. "A good agreement on a post-2015 development agenda will be simple (not too many issues), specific (some numbers), and symmetrical (with obligations and commitments for all countries). If that's not what we get, it will be a sign of an appalling failure that will affect the poorest people most," she writes.

As the leaders meet today to begin the process of determining what will follow the MDGs, international actors will watch carefully to see what topics and trends emerge to potentially shape the new agenda. Save the Children's Head of Research, Alex Cobham, hopes that inequality will find its way into the discussions. "Without challenging these deeply damaging trends in the post-2015 framework, there is little hope of making the scale of development progress that we are aiming for," he writes.