A Deeper Look

  • Education and the SDGs in sub-Saharan Africa

    Over the past decade, there has been important progress in achieving the target of universal primary education. The total enrollment rate in developing regions reached 91 percent in 2015, and worldwide the number of children out of school has dropped by almost half. Still, disparities between children living in the poorest and wealthiest households and between those living in rural and urban areas remain high. How can these disparities be tackled to make education inclusive?

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  • Peaceful and inclusive societies

    A little more than a year ago, the world rallied around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a historic plan to improve the lives of people everywhere. This past year was a reminder of just how ambitious these goals are and how achieving them will test the commitment of the international community.

    The year 2016 turned out to be a time of political, economic and social upheaval — from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the U.S. election of a president vowing radical change to America’s domestic and foreign policies, to ongoing war and conflict in the Middle East and a global refugee crisis. We also witnessed extraordinary achievements, including a peace agreement that ended Colombia’s 50-year civil war and the discovery of a vaccine for Ebola — progress made possible by people working together for the common good.

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  • A Deeper Look: Making development more relevant and effective

    How can we make our work more relevant and effective?

    Earlier this summer, FHI 360 held its first summit on integrated development, Greater Than the Sum of its Parts. Ben Ramalingam, a researcher and the Leader of the Digital & Technology Cluster at the Institute of Development Studies, delivered our keynote address. While Ben was in town, we talked about how to maximize the effectiveness of international development and how we need a paradigm shift to generate real change.

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  • A conversation on coming to terms with the high cost of human development

    How do we measure nonprofit organizational effectiveness?

    I was delighted to have a conversation with Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Partner & Global Development Practice Head at the Bridgespan Group, about the challenges in financing development. This was a great opportunity to discuss emerging trends in how organizations manage their programs in order to deliver the most effective results while maximizing value for their stakeholders, especially the beneficiaries of their work.

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  • A conversation on ending extreme poverty

    What will it take to eradicate extreme poverty?

    I sat down with Carla Koppell, Vice President for the Center for Applied Conflict Transformation at the United States Institute of Peace to discuss the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) ambitious Vision to End Extreme Poverty. A former Chief Strategy Officer at USAID, Koppell shares her insight on how the international development community can turn vision into reality.

    Why focus on extreme poverty? How do strategies for addressing extreme poverty differ in states with weak institutions? How do we balance getting rapid results with strengthening local capacity? These are just a few of the topics we dive into as we search for ways to turn ideas into action.

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  • The age of integration

    The Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in September provide an expansive vision of what we can accomplish over the next 15 years. Unlike the previous global development agenda, they include goals for all countries, not just poor ones, and more consideration for protecting our planet. The language also emphasizes that the new goals are integrated and indivisible, something the authors explain as win-win cooperation among the social, economic and environmental domains.

    Now that the new global agenda is officially launched with slick logos and celebrity endorsements, and as the cheers (and some boos) start to die down, it’s time to talk about the hard stuff: How do we actually operationalize an integrated development agenda?

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  • Cognitive dissonance in the development community

    There is an interesting contradiction emerging in the international development community in the run-up to July’s third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and September’s U.N. General Assembly in New York, where member states are expected to adopt the new sustainable development goals.

    On one hand, there is growing recognition of the value of more comprehensive programs that integrate interventions such as combining HIV and AIDS and reproductive health services, or nutrition and basic education, or women’s rights and income-generating activities. The planning for the goals has been accompanied by a growing chorus to adopt the common-sense use of integrated approaches.

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  • The specter of segregation haunts global health

    There is no question that the greatest health achievements under the Millennium Development Goals have focused on single diseases. Arresting the spread of HIV and AIDS and malaria is perhaps the most significant development success of the new century. And vaccination, especially of measles, is one of the reasons that deaths among older children have fallen faster than deaths among infants or women during pregnancy and childbirth.

    In contrast, the lowest-performing areas across all eight MDGs — reducing infant and maternal deaths — are targets that don’t lend themselves to a single disease strategy. Just six countries have met the MDG target for reducing infant deaths, and only 15 countries have achieved the target for reducing maternal deaths.

    Could these targets have actually been achieved if we had pursued an integrated approach to advancing the health of women and children? Did our fascination with and confidence in the segregation of single-disease initiatives cost us achievement in other areas requiring more complex solutions?

    Read the remainder of the blog here.

  • Let’s get real in Addis: The high cost of people-centered development

    When heads of state, ministers of finance and leaders of the international development community gather in Addis Ababa this July for the Third Conference on Financing for Development, I hope that the discussion will be grounded in the hard realities facing the least-developed countries struggling to provide basic services to their growing populations.

    I also hope that conference participants rise above the popular but misleading narrative that the private sector is the panacea.

    Looking to the private sector as the primary source of financing for development is particularly seductive for two reasons: Statistical evidence seems to support the argument, and it provides a rationale for reducing official development assistance at a time when donor nations are struggling with debt and budget crises.

    However, placing unrealistic expectations on the private sector to meet basic needs in health, education and public administration clouds a critical debate.

    Part of the problem is definition. “Private sector financing” is one of those catch-all terms. It encompasses business spending (foreign and domestic direct investment), remittances from migration in a globalized world, user fees to private providers of public services, and large-scale private philanthropy that has exploded out of the technology revolution.

    Read the remainder of the blog here.

  • Words count!

    Let’s start the New Year by looking at how we talk about development. It is striking how certain concepts and buzzwords rally people around ideas and mobilize us into action. The buzzwords themselves become powerful change agents. Yet, when they mature into unquestioned orthodoxy, they can restrict our vision and dull our understanding. Here are two buzzwords we love to use in development that are ripe for a deeper look.

    Sustainability

    Development and sustainability go together like bricks and mortar. But this term now has two distinct meanings in development parlance. One meaning refers to policies and actions that safeguard the environment and do not deplete our natural resources. This meaning has gained currency over the last 15 years. The second, and at least in my experience more common use, refers to a recipient partner’s interest and ability to continue projects or reforms financed by donors once donor funding ends. This use is closely associated with the concept of country ownership. When USAID adopted sustainable development as its credo in the mid-1990s, it was a response to the criticism that donor-funded projects collapsed when the funding ran out, often up-ending years of effort. This was partly a result of donors not wanting to take on recurrent costs that were seen as the partner’s responsibility. The lack of serious planning for recurrent costs remains a major challenge in international development.

    Yet, should sustainable development even be an objective in a world where technology is changing everything around us at an exponential rate? Do we really want to sustain yesterday’s solutions? I think not.

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