Poverty, democratic governance and poverty reduction strategies

I have given a presentation today at an International Symposium in Istanbul, Turkey, organised by Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University and Sosyal Politikalar Dernegi.  The argument was this:

The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers have become a significant experiment in world governance.  Poverty is a complex, multidimensional phenomenon, and responses to poverty need to be adapt to a wide range of circumstances.  In the belief that deliberative democracy is the route to prosperity, international organisations have directed governments around the world to undertake a process of strategic planning, based on participative development and negotiation of policy with stakeholders. However, the emphasis in the PRSPs seems to have fallen more on the methods they use than the substance of the strategies.  Democracy is not valued only for its process; it matters what it achieves.   If PRSPs are to help the poor, they need to extend their focus, moving beyond procedural issues towards substantive policies that stand to benefit the poor.

Here is a copy of the slides and a copy of the paper.

Symposium in Istanbul

Good news from Africa

This table is drawn from a recent study looking at the fall of mortality in Kenya. It points to a general trend: across Africa, more children are surviving.

Under 5 mortality (per 1000 live births)
Previous studies (1998-2007)

Most recent study (2005-2009)
Benin

160 (2001)

125 (2006)
Ethiopia

166 (2000)

124 (2005)
Ghana

111 (2003)

80 (2008)
Kenya

115 (2003)

74 (2009)
Liberia

110 (2007)

114 (2009)
Madagascar

94 (2004)

72 (2009)
Mali

229 (2001)

191 (2006)
Namibia

62 (2000)

69 (2007)
Niger

274 (1998)

198 (2006)
Nigeria

201 (2003)

157 (2008)
Rwanda

152 (2005)

103 (2008)
Senegal

121 (2005)

85 (2009)
Tanzania

147 (1999)

112 (2005)
Uganda

152 (2001)

128 (2006)
Zambia

168 (2002)

119 (2007)
Zimbabwe

102 (1999)

83 (2006)

Stephen Radelet, in Emerging Africa?, claims that the factors behind this improvement are

  • “more democratic and accountable governments
  • more sensible economic policies,
  • the end of the debt crisis and major changes in relationships with the international community
  • new technologies that are creating new opportunities for business and political accountability, and
  • a new generation of policymakers, activists, and business leaders.”

There are problems – such as the recent (hopefully short term) increase in mortality in Liberia. But the trend is clear, and it is very good news indeed – especially for those who are concerned about population increase, because there is a clear and strong association between infant survival and the number of children a woman must have.