October 26, 2012

What our new case studies on the Istanbul Principles tell us about development

This week, CCIC published to its web site 24 case studies profiling best and innovative practice among Canada’s development and humanitarian sector – relating this practice to each of the eight Istanbul Principles for CSO DevelopmentEffectiveness.
It is a process that has been nine months in the making, but I think well worth the wait.
When CCIC conducted a series of workshops on the Istanbul Principles out West in the winter, one message was clear: while everyone was enthusiastic about the Principles, it all felt just a little too abstract. What was needed, we kept hearing, was a series of case studies that would help organizations better see how the Istanbul Principles could be translated into practice.
And so CCIC kick-started a process, working in collaboration with some of our members, the Provincial and Regional Councils and their members, to pull together more than 30 different case studies (some are still forthcoming) with at least two or three on every Principle.
Each case study speaks volumes about the incredible work that organizations across the country are already doing.
But having been intimately involved in helping to bring these all together, there are eight reflections that I wanted to share from reading the case studies as a collection. They are all obvious, but still worth mentioning since I think we often neglect them in the stories we tell our supporters about development.
1.      Best practices are rooted in diversity. No organization has a monopoly on best practices. The case studies are drawn from across the country, from Antigonish to Vancouver, from small groups like Women’s Empowerment International Foundation to big ones like Oxfam Québec.
2.      The Istanbul Principles are complementary and interrelated. To some degree, the Principle under which some of the case studies fall is somewhat arbitrary. KAIROS’s “Womenof Courage” tour is as much about human rights and empowerment as it is about gender equality. Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s “Conservation Agriculture” is as much about the promoting environmental sustainability and realizing positive sustainable change, as it is about creating and sharing knowledge.
3.      Learning is invaluable and needs to be integrated as a core component into our work. The Humanitarian Coalition, from the outset, invests in evaluations of its interventions in Pakistan, Haiti and the Western Sahel. Oxfam Canada engaged in a process of blind evaluation by its partners, to see what they really thought of Oxfam. Inter Pares set out to document the connection between its recognized program results and its feminist values and approach. In each case, organizations found the resources in their budget to learn and to improve their practice.
4.      Long term outcomes require long-term investments. For groups like CAUSE and EQUITAS, working with human rights defenders in countries with a long history of violence and conflict, change is slow – but when it comes, also deeply rewarding.
5.      Sustainable Projects mean people are the subjects of development, not objects. The Agha Khan Foundation’s Community Development Councils, World Vision’s Child Health Now Program, Change For Children’s “Community Water Committees”, and Save the Children’s “As We learn, We Grow” (forthcoming) all put men, women and children in the drivers’ seat, not as passengers, of development.
6.     Civil society is incredibly innovative and resourceful.  CARE Canada has developed a toolkit for practitioners to help them better integrate climate adaptation issues into their development programs, making them more resilient and sustainable. Light Up The World is working to equip remote communities with renewable sources of energy and the knowledge to be able to maintain the equipment. Engineers Without Borders work on transparency has translated into both an advocacy campaign to make the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) more transparent, and measures to placed their own organization under the same set of standards they were demanding of CIDA.
7.      Sustainable change is key. CAWST has set up Water Expertise and Training (WET) Centres in the areas where it work to provide education, training, and consulting services on water, sanitation and hygiene so that this knowledge stays in the community. Christian Children’s Fund has made building the skills, capacity and professionalism of its partners a key pillar of programming, not just an afterthought.  CODE’s approach to education goes beyond the students, to enhancing the professional development of teachers, the community, government officials and national teaching standards. While enhancing the literacy of marginalized women and children in India is primary focus of the programs that World Literacy Canada runs, WLC is also slowly creating space for women in the political life of their villages. 
8.      Development is an iterative process. This is true of all the case studies. Good development identifies a challenge, proposes a solution, and then adapts and readapts until the program has a life of its own within the community of country.
Finally thanks to all of the organizations who have put in a huge amount of time and energy (and probably, some blood, sweat and tears), to help us pull this off. It was certainly worth it!
To read these and other case studies, go to http://www.ccic.ca/IP-case-studies.php
This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst (Aid), CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

October 17, 2012

A wealthier nation doesn’t necessarily mean lower poverty rates.

The world has marked Oct. 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty every year since 1993,when the United Nations General Assembly designated a day to promote awareness that poverty and destitution in all countries must be wiped out. This has become a stated development priority for most donor countries as well as many national governments and local groups working on the ground in both developed and developing countries.

Despite the multiple commitments and efforts to do away with extreme poverty, there are as many poor people today then there were in the early 1990s, with poverty in some nations, including Canada, being stubbornly persistent. Even with the progress made on the Millennium Development Goals, and in particular the goal that tackles poverty and hunger, the fact remains that there are only four to five per cent fewer poor people in absolute terms in the world today. And, notably, the vast majority of those living below the poverty line today (72 per cent) live in countries now considered “middle income,” whereas these same states were low-income countries in the early 1990s. At that time, 93 per cent of those below the poverty line lived in low-income countries. In other words, the increasing wealth of a nation does not necessarily correspond to decreasing poverty rates. High-income countries like Canada are a good example of this phenomenon. Canada is one of the richest countries in the world. Yet there are between three million and 4.4 million people living in poverty, representing 10 to 13 per cent of the population. This level of poverty is unacceptable in an affluent country well capable of a poverty rate close to, if not right at, zero.

Little attention paid to underlying causes
How do we explain that middle-income countries (such as Pakistan, India, China, Nigeria, and Indonesia) that have increasing resources to fight poverty, and even developed countries like Canada, allow for such sizeable numbers of their citizens to remain unable to meet their basic needs? Part of the answer is in the limited attention that has been given at the global and national levels to the underlying causes of poverty—including inequality, discrimination, and disempowerment. To date, mobilization to eradicate poverty has focused on addressing the symptoms of poverty instead of on the policy changes needed to do away with the causes of poverty. Canada has a historic future opportunity to provide leadership at the international level on this critical global issue. In 2013, the UN has convened a major event to assess progress on the Millennium Development Goals (before they expire in 2015) and prepare the ground for the post-2015 development framework. Global leadership is urgently needed to ensure that in the next round of goals, the structural causes of poverty are boldly addressed.

Canada can provide that international leadership, building, for example, on its role in maternal child health. But to do so with credibility, Canada must first show leadership and robust action at home. The federal government must urgently address poverty, homelessness, and hunger in Canada starting with the adoption of national intergovernmental strategies based on national and international human rights principles including equality and non-discrimination. This should include rights-based participation, such as complaints mechanisms and independent monitoring and review with enforceable targets and timelines. Canada must also show leadership by increasing and enhancing its aid commitments directed exclusively at ending poverty in the world.

The theme for this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty,“Working together out of poverty,”highlights the need for all levels of government to work in concert to end poverty in Canada, as well as for a truly global anti-poverty alliance, one in which both developed and developing countries participate actively in addressing poverty issues everywhere. We are encouraged that today parliamentarians will be attending an evening panel discussion called “Ending Poverty Together: Real Stories, Real Solutions,” organized by the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus. We are also encouraged that today a group of civil society organizations, working on poverty issues internationally, are launching the “Reverse the Cuts” campaign, aimed at garnering popular support for the needed boost in the quantity and quality of Canadian aid. We are moving in the right direction, and with federal leadership we could make significant progress.

Julia Sanchez is the president-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Canada’s coalition to end global poverty. Leilani Farha is the executive director of Canada Without Poverty and the CWP Advocacy Network, organizations dedicated to the elimination of poverty in Canada.

This Op Ed was published in Embassy Newspaper on October 17, 2012.

October 5, 2012

Wheels in motion for establishing a new set of global development goals

In the year 2000, at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration. A commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and just world, the declaration included a set of global goals for development and poverty reduction, to be reached by 2015.  These goals came to be known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight goals on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, HIV/AIDs reduction and environmental sustainability in developing countries, as well as a ‘global partnership for development’, covering rich countries’ commitments to aid, an open and non-discriminatory trading and financial system, technology transfer and debt relief.

Some goals look set to be achieved by the 2015 target date. For example, the share of people living in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 per day, has fallen globally from 47% in 1990 to 24% in 2008. This is largely thanks to China’s phenomenal growth and poverty reduction, but is also part of a global trend. The world is on track to meet the targets set on access to safe drinking water and achieving parity in primary education between girls and boys. But progress in other areas has been disappointing. Hunger remains a global challenge and decreases in maternal mortality are far from the 2015 target. Progress on the ‘global partnership for development’ has been slow. Indeed, the MDG Gap Taskforce Report, released last week by the UN, says that in 2011, Official Development Assistance, or aid, from rich countries to poor countries fell for the first time in many years.

As the 2015 target date approaches, attention is turning to what should replace the MDGs. This was the focus of a conference hosted by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) and the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID) in Ottawa last weekend. It will also be the focus of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which will meet for the first time on September 25th, alongside the 67th UN debate session of the General Assembly in New York.  The panel, co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, has been asked by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to prepare a bold yet practical vision for a global post-2015 development agenda. It is expected to submit its report in May 2013, which will serve as a key input into a UN special event on the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda in September 2013.

If the MDGs are anything to go by, the post-2015 development agenda will have much influence over international development priorities in the decades beyond 2015.  It is likely that the High-Level Panel, and others attempting to influence the post-2015 process, will suggest that some elements of the MDG approach be kept. For example, the clear, quantifiable and time-bound nature of the MDGs helped galvanize political and public support for global poverty reduction efforts like never before, and served to unite the world around a common set of development targets. Given this success, building the post-2015 agenda around a set of global goals that can be clearly communicated, and that resonates with the public, makes sense.

But to be relevant and meaningful not only in 2015, but also the decades following, the post-2015 agenda will need to go further than the MDGs.  To really tackle extreme poverty, and capture a vision of development that is environmentally sustainable, it will need to focus on more than poverty reduction in developing countries, and will require policy commitments from developed countries, such as Canada, that go far beyond aid.  Given the planetary crisis of global warming, and the implications of this for the world’s most vulnerable people, the post-2015 agenda will need to prioritize sustainability and climate change and incorporate targets on these for all countries.   With trade  such an important driver of development in developing countries, a global development framework that does not expect rich countries to commit to fairer trade rules will fall short.  With inequality on the rise in many countries, as the Occupy movement and entrenched poverty in middle-income countries attest, incorporating inequality into the framework could recognize and seek to tackle one of the biggest problems that many rich, emerging and poor countries face.

Ultimately, the post-2015 agenda will be a political agreement, negotiated by member states of the United Nations. Given the world’s recent track record on global governance – the failure of Doha and disappointments in Copenhagen on climate change and at Rio+20 on sustainable development – stakeholders will need to be balance ambition with pragmatism. The changing nature and composition of global politics will also need to be taken into account.  The line between rich and poor countries is more blurred now than it was in 2000, and a global agreement that does not reflect the views and commitment of emerging economies would be a disappointing outcome.  Non-state actors, such as philanthropists, business, international NGOs and anti-poverty youth movements, are much more prominent in global affairs today than they were at the start of the millennium, and the framework will need to make sense to them and clearly show that they can contribute.

2015 may seem like a long way away, but the wheels for establishing the post-2015 development framework are well and truly in motion. The process itself will consume a lot of time, energy and money, and critics will surely question its relevance in a context of diminishing aid resources. But based on the MDGs experience, the post-2015 agenda is set to play an important role in framing global development for decades to come.

By Kate Higgins, from The North-South Institute.

Kate Higgins leads the Governance for Equitable Growth program at The North-South Institute.

This article was first published in iPolitics: http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/09/25/wheels-in-motion-for-establishing-a-new-set-of-global-development-goals/, on Sept.25, 2012. Thanks to iPolitics for permission to post on CCIC's website.