Who is going to pay for international development?

The world does not require another inventory of financial problems and solutions. It needs a list of priorities

The time is coming for the big ideas in targets such as the sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be enhanced into politically realistic commitments.


There is simply not enough time or resources to do everything so what should the world’s development finance priorities be?

Addis Ababa is hosting a UN financing for development conference in July 2015, and the timing of the talks, before the goals are announced in September, is a strong message from member states that if credible financial commitments are not made, the whole exercise to refresh the millennium development goals (MDGs) would be little more than words on a page.

One thing is clear: the agenda is broad. How should progress be paid for? What is the role of the private sector? Who should keep an eye on sources of finance? Isn’t it now finally time for structural reform in global financial institutions, such as the World Bank? And what proportion of development should be paid for out of domestic as opposed to international resources?

With such a large number of issues defined as «development», it is hard to draft declarations that are useful for overburdened decision-makers who are used to being presented with shopping lists in which all the points are considered equally important to achieving improvements.

But politics is prioritisation. Politicians and bureaucrats love a map of options to choose from, usually collapsing for the path of least resistance. And anyway, there is simply not enough time or resources to do everything.

So when development finance experts arrive in Ethiopia next year, they should remember that the world does not need another list of financial problems and solutions, another meta analysis of the situation. It needs priorities.

First, identify the most important issues. One of the main problems of the MDGs, as noted in incalculable analyses, was their failure to bring the major structural issues to the table. I know of no one who thinks that aid is the most important contribution that wealthier countries can make to development, but the nebulous terms of MDG eight allowed politicians to get away with aid promises (which in some cases they didn’t keep) rather than setting an audacious agenda for transformational change in global financial governance, dealing with illicit financial flows, for example, taking bold steps towards international tax reform, and introducing better mechanisms for working out debt repayments.

Today it is even clearer than 15 years ago that such major structural issues need to be managed if the world is to adopt a sustainable path. Such issues could be unequivocally prioritised in the UN finance for development declaration next year. Aid is not unimportant, but it is less important, and could be lower in the list.

Second, achievability. One of the most depressing conversations I can remember was during a NGO coordination meeting in Barcelona with an adviser from Mali. Reflecting on the way cotton subsidies abroad had all but destroyed Mali’s cotton industry, its one big chance to emerge from aid dependency; I asked why they weren’t campaigning harder on the issue. He replied that it was useless – incentives in subsidising countries were too strong to overcome; better to work on things with a chance of progress.

The same analysis needs to be applied to the prioritisation of goals and commitments in development finance. Some issues remain fairly stubborn – such as subsidies in richer countries – but the international context for progress on other systemic issues is better than ever, as people in rich countries clamour for fairer burden-sharing in times of austerity.

The achievability test is also key to the public vs. private debate. The role of the private sector, both domestic and multinational, is critical to development outcomes. But our ambitions with regard to making it a partner in the SDG process should be proportionate to a sensible analysis of achievability. Rather than focusing on getting commitments from the private sector, which follows a particular set of incentives, it may be more sensible to set out how public actions can encourage – and sometimes force – companies and banks to be as pro-development as possible.

Prioritising some issues doesn’t mean forgetting others – it means allocating time and resources most appropriately after an assessment of importance and achievability, just as has happened for the SDGs.

Changes in the way that development is financed could be treated as goals in themselves, with a 15-year horizon and short-term monitoring mechanisms, just like the SDGs. This is the approach suggested by the in many ways visionary report of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development agenda. These commitments will, inevitably, fall more on wealthier and more powerful countries, and could be seen as a key part of the «universality» agenda, in which all countries, not just developing countries, have clear and binding targets.

Next year is a chance to write the next page of the development finance book. As well as a reaffirmation of the critical importance of international public action to achieve collectively agreed objectives (of which international public finance is a part), we also need not just a wish-list but a prioritised plan of action with a specific timeframe for changes in global finance.

What Does ‘Sustainable Development’ Really Mean?

The model for ‘sustainable development’ as espoused in official UN documents cannot withstand a serious critique. A real sustainability requires a change of economic paradigm, not a continuation of the industrialist/capitalist/consumerist economic model that is dependent on unimpaired profits.

An Attempt to Define SustainabilityImage

There is a conflict among the different ways people understand sustainability and sustainable development. The definition of the 1987 Brundland Report of the United Nations is classic: Sustainable development is one that attends the needs of present generations without endangering the capacity of future generations to attend to their needs and aspirations. This concept is correct, but it has two important limitations: it is anthropocentric (it only considers human beings) and it says nothing about the community of life (other living beings that also need a biosphere and sustainability).

Let’s make a formulation that is as inclusive as possible: Sustainable development is every action destined to maintain the energy, information, and physical-chemical conditions that make all beings sustainable, especially the living Earth, the community of life and human life, seeking their continuity, and also to attend the needs of present and future generations in such a way that the natural capital is maintained and its capacity of regeneration, reproduction and eco-evolution is enriched.

Let’s rapidly explain the terms of this holistic vision:

To make sustainable all the conditions necessary for the creation of all beings: they exist starting with the combination of energies, of the physical-chemical and informative elements that, combined together, give origin to everything

To make sustainable all beings: this is about completely overcoming anthropocentrism. All beings emerge from the process of evolution and enjoy an intrinsic value, independent of human use.

To especially make the living Earth sustainable: the Earth is much more than a «thing» (res extensa), lacking intelligence, or a mere means of production. She does not contain life; she is alive, she self-regulates, self-regenerates and evolves. If we do not guarantee the sustainability of the living Earth, called Gaia, we take away the basis of all other forms of sustainability.

To also make the community of life sustainable: the environment does not exist as something secondary and peripheral. We do not just exist: we coexist, and are all interdependent. All living beings are carriers of the same basic genetic alphabet. We form the net of life, microorganisms included. This net creates the biomass and the biodiversity that is necessary for the subsistence of our life on this planet.

To make human life sustainable: we are a singular link of the net of life, the most complex being in our solar system and a spearhead of the process of evolution as we know it, because we are carriers of consciousness, sensibility and intelligence. We feel that we are called upon to care for and to guard Mother Earth, to guarantee the continuity of civilization and also to be vigilant of our destructive capacity.

To make the continuity of the process of evolution sustainable: all beings are conserved and supported by the Basic Energy or the Source that Creates all Beings. The universe possesses an end in itself, by the simple fact of existing, of continuing to expand and create itself.

To make tending to human needs sustainable: through the rational and caring use of the goods and services which the cosmos and the Earth offer us, and without which we would cease to exist. To make sustainable our generation and the generations that will follow ours: the Earth is sufficient for each generation so long as a relation of synergy and cooperation with the Earth is established, and goods and services are distributed equitably. The use of those goods must be guided by generational solidarity. Future generations have the right to inherit a well preserved Earth and nature.

Sustainability is measured by the capacity to conserve natural capital, that it may renew itself and, perhaps through human genius, that it may be enriched for future generations. This widened and integrating concept of sustainability must serve as criteria for evaluating whether or not we have progressed along the path of sustainability, and should serve equally as inspiration or idea-generating for making sustainability a reality in the different fields of human activity. Without it, sustainability is pure rhetoric of no consequence

Durban Conference: Questionable Expectations

As the world meets in Durban, South Africa, for what has become a yearly attempt to secure a global response to climate change, let us look back on 20 years of events that have brought negotiations to this point.

1988. The IPCC is born
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is established in response to record heat levels, droughts and studies that point to carbon dioxide as a factor in global warming. Set up by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) ant the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the panel is seen as both a political and a scientific body. Through the review and assessment of the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information, it aims to enhance global understanding of climate change and the consequences thereof.

1990. Experts warn of a pressing need to tackle global warming
In its first assessment report, the IPCC predicts a rise in global mean temperature of some 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade throughout the 21st century. The increase would be greater than the experienced over the previous 10,000 years. The panel warns that the trend towards serious global warming can only be stopped if ‘strong measures’ are put in place to tackle it.

1992. US shows first signs og going it alone
Rio de Janeiro hosts the Earth Summit which leads to 154 nations signing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The aim of the convention is to reduce emissions from industrialized countries to 1990 levels by the year 2000. While the majority of signatories call for mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, US President George W. Bush insists that any targets or timetables must be entirely voluntary and non-binding.

1995. Berlin mandate paves the way for the Kyoto Protocol
In the spring of what is the hottest year on record thus far, Berlin hosts the first UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP). Industrialized nations agree on the need for longer-term action to prevent climate change, and the session results in the Berlin Mandate. Under the terms of the declaration, which lays the groundwork for the Kyoto Protocol, legally binding obligations commit industrialized nations to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By now, economic growth in China means it is en route to become the largest greenhouse gas polluter by 2010.

1997. Kyoto Protocol is adopted but not ratified
On December 11, the Kyoto Protocol is adopted in the Japanese city of the same name. According to its core principle of «common but differentiated responsibility,» industrialized countries responsible for climate change have to do more to solve the problem than developing nations. The document agrees legally binding emissions cuts for industrialized nations and sets a target of reducing 1990 levels by 5.2 percent before the year 2012. The USA says it will not ratify the Protocol until it sees developing countries do their bit.

2001. President George W. Bush pulls the US out
Despite campaign promises to tackle the problem of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, when George W. Bush enters the White House, he pulls the US out of the Kyoto Protocol, which he describes as «fatally flawed in fundamental ways.» He justifies the move on the grounds that Kyoto fails to address two major pollutants –black soot and tropospheric ozone– and would have «a negative economic impact.» The Bush administration’s decision not to ratify the Protocol forces the delays of its implementation.

2002. Russia is put in a decisive position
In order to come into effect, Kyoto has to be ratified by nations collectively responsible for 55 percent of emissions from the industrialized world. European Union countries and Japan press ahead with ratification, but with the US no longer in the game, there is little room for anyone else to back out. Australia follows Bush’s lead, leaving Russia holding the final card.

2004. Moscow finally agrees to ratify Kyoto
After a long period of uncertainty, on November 18, Moscow ratifies the Kyoto Protocol. Although there are fears that the agreement could have a negative impact on economic growth, talk of stronger EU support for Russia’s bid to become a member of the World Trade Organization helps to tip the scales.

2005. Kyoto comes into effect but its limitations are clear
Kyoto comes into effect seven years after it was agreed. Ratified by 144 countries, the treaty aims to reduce the emissions by 5.2 percent by 2012. Major developing nations, such as India and China, are not yet required to meet targets. The European Union launches its Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), limiting levels of greenhouse gases from large industrial emitters of carbon dioxide. Under the scheme, companies are given emissions allowances to buy and sell among themselves. The plan is to cut allowances gradually to reduce emissions.

2007. Bali talks start a critical countdown
Tensions reach a boiling point at the 2007 Climate Conference in Bali. Countries’ failure to reach consensus on a successor to Kyoto proves too much for UN climate chief Yvo de Boer, who dramatically breaks down in tears. Nerves fray as China appears to walk out and the US chief negotiator is openly jeered. The world eventually agrees to pursue two tracks of negotiations: one on extending Kyoto and another on a potentially new agreement. Delegates give themselves two years to settle the question.

2009. Copenhagen descends into farce
Hopes abound that Copenhagen will conclude with a tough legally-binding agreement for the planet. Not since the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 have so many world leaders come together in one place. With Barack Obama in the White House, there is speculation of grater US commitment and many hope China and India will sign up to targets. The talks end instead in acrimonious chaos. The most to emerge are references to significant financial incentives for poor countries, and grater –if voluntary– pledges to cut emissions under the Copenhagen Accord.

2011. The death knell for Kyoto
Government representatives and climate experts meet in Durban for COP17. With the first phase of the Kyoto agreement due to expire at the end of next year, the need to decide on its future looms large. Japan, Russia and Canada have said they will only sign if all major economies, including China (now the world’s largest emitter) and the US are bound by mandatory targets. UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has already made clear that it is too late for Kyoto and that an interim solution will have to be found.

Business and Human Rights, a difficult bridal

After six years in office the UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie, acknowledges that he has made ​​progress in his job since his appointment in 2005, but he has been mainly driven by many NGOs that accused for decades the companies’ manners in some countries, particularly international businesses. Carlos Lopez, a senior legal advisor to the International Commission of Jurists, an NGO based in Geneva, reports that national and international corporations – and the states from which they originate – are opposed to excessively restrictive obligations or texts.

These firms consider that these rules could affect their ability to compete against other companies from China, India or Russia, which have different standards. But precisely a hundred years ago, the International Labour Organisation was created to establish standards that everyone would agree to meet.

It goes now beyond the rights of workers. Some suggest e.g. a set of standards, such as the right to a healthy environment. But businesses and their respective states do not want to hear about it. They say we must leave the markets go without putting rules that may impede business operations. Otherwise, facing too many binding rules (eg. taxes), they are afraid they will make less profit. There’s the rub.

A country where standards should urgently be implemented is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Navanethem Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has repeatedly criticized the serious violations of human rights in the region, breaches connected to the mining activities and the extraction of natural resources, which are often contracted with transnational industries.

Many armed groups control these areas and they do it for economic reasons. They want to make a lucrative profit because these regions are rich in minerals. It is very well described in the meddling report to the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is precisely in these pockets controlled by armed groups that mining is organized. They manage resource exploitation in situations of terrible abuse that could be defined as international crimes. In addition, international companies and companies located in other countries buy these minerals and are therefore involved in transactions. So there are different levels of involvement of foreign companies. And the international community does little to change that.

Yet the situation in DRC is closely followed by the Security Council. It has established codes of conduct and asks corporations to pay particular attention to the fact that minerals mined in the DRC do not benefit armed groups and do not help fueling the conflict. Companies should have clearer objectives in terms of respect for human rights. It should set more rules to ensure that the entire chain, all activities in any way, do not violate human rights. And that in addition they do not contribute to ensure that others do so.

Last June John Ruggie’s mandate ended. The first Special Representative of the UN for Business and Human Rights has succeeded anyway adopting common principles. However, he did not want that these principles were binding. Thus, only the goodwill shall prevail. That is a bit thin in the competitive world of these often lawlessness areas where victims have often no remedy at law.

Do Reforms Inhibit or Support African Development?


After the analysis of decades  of public sector reform in Africa with special focus on Ghana, one can draw the conclusion that the  external support during the 1980ies has been  vital,  but  to  some  degree  harmful  due  to  a  “faulty  diagnosis  and  prognosis” (1). The African public sector during that time cannot be described as too big, but as expanding. This growth was a direct result from the new-won independence and was therefore a necessary step of taking control.

In order to overcome the economic decline in the 1980ies African states were dependent on foreign investments. While the IMF, the World Bank and individual donors did provide the money, they also set unfitting goals and an unrealistic time schedules. Instead of strengthening the existing system of public administration, Western NPM methods of downsizing, retrenchment and cost cutting were introduced. As has been stated in the above, African states did not have an oversupply of qualified civil servants, but a demand for the latter. Instead of ensuring their loyalty and providing a better education for them, many positions were cut and the crucial increase of salaries was implemented with reluctance (2).

The results of these reforms of the public administration of the 1980ies in Ghana and other countries were modest to say the least. From a different point of view, one could even assert that they were modest from a short-term perspective, but fatal in a long-term perspective, because they focused on technicalities in order to save money – that actually weakened the civil service (1) and ignored the core aspects of successful public sectors. While it might make great sense to concentrate on cost-cutting and downsizing of the public administration in Western countries like the UK or  Germany – where  a  certain ethic belief may  be  attributed  to  the  public officials because of centuries of institutionalized rules and norms – African bureaucracies were nowhere near this point of development. If one observes the economic progress of Asian tiger states whose economies greatly strengthened during the past decades, one is also able to attribute this success to strong systems of public administration (3).

As there is no such history in African public management, it seems obvious that an emphasis has to be laid on the establishment of civil service ethics and accountability. One could conclude, that the reforms of the 1980ies in Africa skipped one step, because they  aimed  at  shrinking  something  that  wasn’t  even  stable  to  begin  with.  Only technicalities were at focus. Therefore, one is drawn to argue that reforms from this time period inhibited the development of committed reformers in Africa.

Of course, this statement must be handled with care, as one does not have the possibility of comparison with an African country that did not follow the NPM reforms at all. However, cutting costs at the wrong places led to the “unfolding challenges” (4) African countries encountered during the 1990ies and even in the new millennium. While techniques for more ethical behavior and accountability are decided on, their implementation must be coordinated among the African states. Instead of relying on external help, the more successful countries have to set an example and support  the weak links.

Dealing with these problems, the UN concludes:

“For poor, resource-constrained countries, the reform challenges are daunting, not because the countries do not know what to do, but because they lack the resources to initiate and sustain a comprehensive program of change.” (4)

Financial aid is thus still vital today. But instead of forcing these different systems to adapt Western ideals of public administration reforms, the support should be engaged on the  education  of  civil  servants,  hence  human  capacity  building  and  training.  In combination with a rise of public official salaries, the two core weaknesses identified in this work would be tackled. While the downsizing of the public sector has already taken place, one could attempt to stabilize this system now. Therefore, the current trend of African civil service reform can no longer in any way be attributed with an inhibition of the countries’ development.

On the whole, it has been clear that the reforms of the NPM-wave during the 1980ies did   little   to   promote   sustainable   development   in   African   public   sectors   and consequently in the countries’ economies (1) (2). Despite these negative experiences and the sentiment of wasted money, external support is a sine qua non in Africa now. The necessary strategies can only be implemented after the application of sophisticated analyses and diagnoses and with the involvement of all stakeholders, especially the civil servants in regard to more ethical behavior (2).

Only by doing so, policies – such as the liberalization of markets, vital for a more successful participation in global trade – can be implemented.

In order to highlight the difficulties encountered by Ghana and other African states in establishing an efficient and sustainable civil service resulting in a stronger economic development, this paper concentrated on the introduced governance crisis (2). However, there are of course great inter-dependencies between the public administration and the central government of a country. The best governance system would only get so far without a stable, organized and constitutional government (4). It would be interesting to analyze these realities for African states, as it seems logical that weak governments are another trigger for underdevelopment.

On the whole, one can conclude that reforms of the 1980ies were not customized for African   developing countries and most probably inhibited a quicker economic development. The second  wave of reforms however, is much more focused on the involvement and training of civil servants, which is – as seen in the cases of Developed Countries and Tiger States – crucial for a stable public  administration and economic growth. If provided with the necessary financial aid, reform-committed African states like Ghana could indeed face an overcome of economic underdevelopment.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target


(1) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(2) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.
(3) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the Secretary General.

Rehabilitating the African Civil Service


The customary  problems  of  public  sector  ineffectiveness  due  to  erroneous  reform movements – leading to a reduction instead of a reinforcement of the system – and the ongoing  danger  of  corrupt  public  officials,  give  reason  to  speculate  about  more successful policies for the reinvention of the African public administration. In order to do so, public service ministers came together in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 2003 to respond to “unfolding challenges” in African public administration (1).

In accordance with some reform approaches of the late 1990ies, the aim of new reforms is to switch to home-grown and demand driven methods directed at specific problems and challenges instead of the donor-pressured goals of broad downsizing and cost- cutting (1). While the UN observes that contemporary reform methods do still aim to improve business and customer satisfaction techniques –“a  carry-over from the early days  of  New  Public  Management”  (1),  intangible  reform  topics   such   as  the implementation of norms and values as well as public service ethics and accountability play a vital role.

Since African countries like Ghana do not possess the financial assets necessary for a much needed rise of public servant salaries, it seems crucial to at least stabilize the employees feeling of normative obligations. Despite negative experiences citizens have encountered with corrupt public officials so far, the latter must still be expected to have a  special  awareness  for  accountability  since  they  belong  to  the  directly  elected government of the country (2). Von Maravic argues that ethics in public management influence the quality of decisions made in public administration as well as the trust the citizen has in the system. (3). Hence, if one could ensure the ethical comportment of public officials, African (and more precisely Ghanaian public administration) could highly improve.

However, at this point another problem must be faced: the lack of resources. In this way, the UN states:

“In many countries, public administration remains weak largely owing to a shortage of human resources and to deficiencies in staff training and motivation.“ (4).

When speaking about the amelioration of African public services, one must be cautious not to attempt to apply the same public sector reform logic to all African countries. The differentiation of Adamolekun provides a possible classification of African states that has been mentioned before when referring to Ghana as a reform-committed country.

The above  table  or  a  similar  one  could  be  used  in  order  to  ensure  a  sustainable improvement  of  African  public  administration  systems.  In regard to this, the UN highlights the necessity of information sharing among reforming African states (4). Implementing the homegrown, but still NPM influenced methods of public sector reform in combination with the support of ethical and accountable changes in countries of the “virtuous circle” could be a first step (5). While the public service ministers all attempt to work on similar criteria they must accept countries like Botswana, Namibia or South Africa as a ‘primus inter pares’and a focal point of orientation. Moreover, it is obvious that foreign investments are still necessary; however one must not repeat the mistakes of the 1980ies and let donor schedules pressure the implementation of reforms.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target


(1) African Press Organization. (2008). 6th Conference of African Ministers of Public Service Opening Remarks.
(2) Solinski, H.M. (1993). Ethic-conscious outlook behavior in public administration in Switzerland. Considerations and suggestions for the introduction of an ethics understanding based on the American experience. Reports and contributions of the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen.
(3) Von Maravic, P. (2009). Ethical challenges in administrative action. 5/4/2009.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the Secretary General.
(5) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.

The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service


 “Since the late 1980s, many African countries have been reforming their civil services (…) Unfortunately, these reforms have not been very successful because of faulty diagnosis and prognosis. They have failed to tackle the major problems confronting African civil services.” (1)

Before the analysis of African public administration reforms can be undertaken, one must remember that the landscape of Africa’s civil service was not build from scratch. With its independence from British colonial rule, countries like Ghana inherited a system of public management that fulfilled tasks of “assuring the continuity of the state and maintaining law and order” (2). However, the civil service was doomed to re-orientate after independence in order to follow national interests instead of the ones of former colonial rulers. The African Development Bank thus asserts  that  an  enormous  expansion  of  the  civil  service took  place  until  the  grave economic decline at the  end of the 1970ies leading to a full-scale development crisis (2). This is when reforms of the civil services this paper aims to concentrate on were launched. Ghana shall be utilized as a hands-on example in this work, because it may be identified as a reform-committed country (2) that demonstrates strong efforts to rehabilitate its public service despite tremendous economic shortfalls. Therefore, a lack of commitment can be dismissed as a possible inhibiting factor to a successful development of Ghanaian public administration.

The goal of the following chapter is thus to properly understand why policies from the 1980ies aiming at the economic stabilization and development of African states such as Ghana have shown little success (1). One of these policies is the liberalization African markets (3). Taking this as the initial point of  this  work’s  analysis,  one  is  more  likely  to  comprehend  the  nature  of  reforms launched  during  the  1980ies.  The question whether the latter actually inhibited or actually reversed Ghanaian administrative, hence ultimately economic progress shall now be at focus.

NPM-Waves in Africa

Influenced by donor countries providing the necessary financial support for reforms (4), the ideal of New Public Management began gaining ground as a leitmotif for reforms in Ghana and other SSA countries. In general one can follow Bamidele Olowu in asserting that “African civil services [were] originally modeled on their metropolitan precursors.” (1). Although New  Public Management does not  translate  into  the  same  dogmatically  closed  catalogue  of  instruments  in  every country, in this work NPM shall be understood as a business interpretation of administrative action, hence a trend toward micro economic behavior in public management.

According to Peter Evans, this phase of reforms in developing countries may be seen as market-centered (5). After decades of viewing the state as the ultimate instrument of development, reforms in the 1980ies were initiated under the sentiment of negative experiences with the central government, hence a thrive for a reduction of the state.

As mentioned before, Ghana like many other African countries experienced a great expansion of the civil service sector after the 1960ies (1). After the global oil crisis, African economic decline and the ideal of a business-oriented reform wave  of  the  public  administration,   this   growth  of  the  state  was  to  be  ended (2). Donor countries provided African states with the necessary financial aid for the cutback of civil services (4). To make this more accessible, one must look at some exact data, in this case from Ghana.

The shrinking of the Ghanaian public administration was tackled through a myriad of reforms steps. The most important ones for the analysis in this paper are as follows. A grand movement of organizational restructuring led to a reorganization of government ministries eliminating four agencies during the reform efforts. Hence, seemingly unnecessary agencies were cut.  Another method, which was very well received by donor countries, was Ghanaian retrenchment. The core goal of this policy may be seen in the cutback of unneeded civil servants in order to shrink the countries’ public administration system. Therefore, Ghana reduced its civil servants from 131 089 in 1990 to 80 000 in 1995 (1).

Despite the reduction of civil servants, the payment of the latter was to be increased. Therefore Ghana foresaw decompressing wages and providing higher salaries for public managers. While information on the actual increase varies depending on the source, it is safe to say that actual salaries in Ghana did not rise significantly. Although still higher than for many African countries, the increase during the reforms in Ghana was modest (2).

These three aspects of Ghanaian public sector reform are sufficient for the following line of argumentation. However it shall be noted that Ghana was also at the forefront in regard to privatization and decentralization of public services (1). Due to its British past and organizational influence, reforms like the latter were faster implemented than in other African countries (1).

Evaluation of the NPM Reforms in Africa

The crucial part now lies in the evaluation of the New Public Management reforms and their effect on policy-making capabilities of the African civil service.

As mentioned above, the size of the Ghanaian public administration was decreased in regard to the number of agencies as well as the number of employees. Donor countries favored this approach due to  the conviction that a smaller public sector would work more  efficiently  as  for  instance  experienced  in  the  UK  (3). Moreover, the state’s involvement was seen as one of the core problems in developing countries after the 1970ies (5), thus the idea of a roll back of the state was widely popular (6).

However, the African civil service was never abnormally big in comparison to other regions (1).

      Figure 1: Government Employment as a Percentage of Population (various recent years)

Source: Olowu, 1999, p. 9.

As visible in the above chart, the central as well as the local government in sub-Saharan Africa is much smaller than the OECD average. While the observation that there was an enormous growth of the latter may very well be correct, this must be viewed as a post- colonial necessity. It seems rather logical that a growing economy must increase its public administration capacities. In regard to the number of public employees, the UN states that the African public administration “is significantly understaffed in professional and managerial areas, and perhaps overstaffed in semi-skilled and unskilled areas.” (4).

Therefore, one must conclude that a reduction of Ghana’s civil service at all levels was contra-intuitive and defeating the purpose of a more effective public administration.

The retrenchment in the civil service in general has proven to be more costly than expected in the beginning. More precisely, the research on the proper identification of cost saving possibilities mostly exceeded the actual ex-post cost saving (1).

Ghana is once again a perfect example for this miscalculation as the country actually encountered cumulative losses as a result from downsizing in the 1980ies. Although  Ghana  has  been  classified  as  a  committed  reformer,  the  former  head  of Ghanaian civil service, Robert Dodoo asserted his dissatisfaction in regard to the reform movement. According to him, the reason for the lack of improvement of the country’s development lay in the “donor time-tables, agendas and conditionalities” (7). While external support was necessary and vital for an improvement of the African  civil  service  the  provision  of  money  came  with  unreasonably  short-term expectancies.  It  does  not  seem  surprising  that  a country in  danger  of  loosing  all monetary  support  decides  to   hustle  through  a  reform  and  risk  less  successful implementation instead of the loss of crucial financial aid.

There are two core weaknesses to be identified after this ex-post evaluation of the first part of African civil service reforms: (1) the way reform was embarked upon, along with (2) the goal of the reform.

The first point has been made quite clear with the previous statements of Robert Dodoo. The pressure for success coming from donor countries was in no way beneficial for the improvement of the Ghanaian civil service. As one of many, Ghana had agreed to reduce the cost of the public sector and implement questionable structural adjustment programs: “This was an explicit condition for financial support from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.” (2). Although the size of the civil service was reduced, the results in cost saving were modest.

But why reduce the African public administration at all? As demonstrated with the graph, the African civil service was in no way bigger than ones from many other states. While it was indeed expanding after the colonial rulers granted independence, this was a vital step toward a functioning economy and a sustainable development of countries like Ghana. State and market building are mutually dependent; hence a strong state in combination with a functioning market could be seen as the more adequate policy for Africa at this delicate time (3).

The World Bank itself states that

‘An effective  state  is  vital  for the  provision  of the  goods and  services  – and  the  rules  and institutions – that allow markets to flourish and people to lead healthier, happier lives. Without sustainable development, both economic and social is impossible.’ (8)

The problem  of  the  1980ies  believe  that  effectiveness  would  be  achieved  through downsizing is  made clear in the above. However, it now becomes tangible that the effects of the 1980ies reforms may very well have resulted in lacking capabilities to implement crucial policies for the countries’ development, i.e. the liberalization of markets. If there are too few agencies and employees to oversee the realization of liberalization, this process is doomed to fail.

The third reform step that shall be evaluated here is the alteration of salaries in the civil service. While there was indeed some increase in the salaries of civil servants in Ghana, they are still stunningly low (1).  When being confronted with unattractive   employment   opportunities, the reaction of workers is universally comparable. High-qualified human capital either leaves the country in order to find better-paid jobs or the employee opens him – or herself to corruption. A report by the IMF shows a strong correlation between wages in public administration relative to wages in manufacturing: “It is estimated that government wages needed to be 2×8 (…) times higher to make corruption negligible.” (The Economist 1997, Reasons to be venal).

Corruption is another major weakness of African public administration and must be seen as another NPM-influenced repercussion (1). Peter Evans asserts in this regard that methods of personalism and plundering at the top levels of African civil service destroy all possibilities of rule-governed behavior in the lower levels of public administration (5). More precisely, in order to make a living less qualified officials go along the example set at the top.

Another fatal repercussion of corruption for these countries is not only the waste of financial  resources,  but  also  the  cancelation  of  international  aid  programs  as  a punishment (5). Weak public administration with corrupt officials therefore results in a vicious circle for the whole country.

After evaluating the three vital reforms in Ghana, the downsizing of the public sector as well as an insufficient rise of civil servant salaries, in the following, this paper aims at observing some of the latest reform movements. By doing so, the goal is to make a recommendation as to where the development of the Ghanaian and African civil service should be headed in order to guarantee more capable ways of implementing policies for an improvement of the countries’ development.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target


(1) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(2) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.
(3) Chaudhry, K. A. (1993). Myths of the Market and the Common History of Late Developers.
(4) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the
Secretary General, Sixtieth Session.
(5) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(6) Goldsmith, M. J. & Page, E. C. (1998). Farewell to the British State? In: Public Sector Reform by Jan-Erik Lane. London: SAGE Publications.
(7) Dodoo, R. (1996). The Core Elements of Civil Service Reforms. In: African Journal of Public Administration and Management
(8) World Bank. (1997). World Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press

A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems


Index of African Governance Human Development

Index of African Governance Human Development © European Statistical Laboratory

The underdevelopment of developing countries and the attempted overcome of the latter are at heart of international debates ever since development politics began gaining ground in world politics in the 1960ies. Today, African states receive special attention in regard to possibilities of an amelioration of their economic status quo.

Core problems  of  these  so-called  Least  Developed  Countries  (LDCs)  are  a  highly restricted  access  to  basic  human  needs  such  as  food,  water,  energy  resources  or medicine.  Moreover “social services and infrastructure have largely collapsed  owing  to  a  lack  of  resources  for  their  upkeep.”  (1). Although the Millennium Development Goal aiming at a worldwide reduction of extreme poverty by 50% is expected to be reached until 2015, this data must be considered with caution in regard to Africa. While countries such as India or China, who are also targeted by the UN agenda  do  indeed  face  an  incredible  improvement  of  public  wealth,  sub-Saharan countries are at risk of being left behind permanently. More precisely, the UN today expects goals such as the reduction of extreme poverty to be reached in Africa no sooner than in 150 years (1).  This vicious circle of underdevelopment is well highlighted in the Human Development Index. From the 1980ies until the end of the millennium 13 of 22 countries that suffered large setbacks were African (1). Among a great number of possible explanations for this economic disaster, one of the most plausible ones is the conviction that “governance and public administration  weaknesses,  [and]  the  failure  to  reflect  poverty  concerns  in  budget allocations…” (1) generate economic gaps. This analysis thus aims to demonstrate that so far weak governance institutions are one of the main causes for the above-depicted underdevelopment of some African countries.

But how exactly does the public administration system of sub-Saharan LDCs affect their (economic) development?

Many theories regarding the economic improvement of these poorest countries have been launched and abolished. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been at the receiving end of a myriad of developmental experiments ranging from modernization concepts to self-help and good governance approaches. The core train of thought driving these, mostly Western models of development, has been the ideal of market liberalization (2) as  a  motor  for development.  But  what  is  often  forgotten  when  dealing  with  the  approach  of  free markets is the vitality of  strong governance institutions. Kiren Chaudhry and Peter Evans acknowledge that market building and state building must go hand in hand (2)(3). More precisely, they hereby avert from the idea of a simple roll back of the state of New Public Management (NPM) reforms launched during the 1980ies (4).  The UN General Assembly corroborates: “With challenges of poverty and growing inequality (…) organized and constitutional Government becomes the only guarantee of personal and collective security.”  (1).

Although development aid or development strategies in general may have fallen into some disgrace during the last decades due to little trickle down effect and images of corrupt African leaders wasting  Western money for their personal pleasure,  increased  financial  aid  might  be a sine qua non at this crucial time of development of African governance institutions. A lack of financial resources leads to dramatic human capital flight in the African public administration (1). Further, NPM-like cuts in administrative resources in order to minimize the size of African public management could have led to a setback and to less development in the target countries.

The reforms of the civil sector in Africa so far have been mainly concerned with technicalities, such as the reduction of the size and the cost of the public sector (5).

However, this approach fails – as I shall argue later in more detail – to comprehend the crucial task of building lasting human and institutional aptitudes.

This contribution therefore aims to concentrate on the civil service sector of underdeveloped sub-Saharan countries. Questions such as: ‘What kind of reforms were implemented?’ must be answered before diving into the complex task of evaluating the latter and discussing a different approach to possible improvement in the civil service, hence in the countries’ development. Thus, in a first step, this paper will focus on some major reforms in reform-committed African countries such as Ghana and underline the weakness of the attempts to change the system of public management (6).

A second step will then be dedicated to suggestions of a new direction for the handling of the African public administration.

In a last step, this paper then aims to draw a conclusion and answer the initial question whether public sector reforms in Africa so far actually inhibit or support development.

Related posts:
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target


(1) United Nations. (2005). Public Administration and Development – Report of the Secretary General. Sixtieth Session.
(2) Chaudhry, K. A. (1993). Myths of the Market and the Common History of Late Developers.
(3) Evans, P. (1995). The State as Problem and Solution: Predation, Embedded Autonomy, and Structural Change. In: Politics and Society.
(4) Goldsmith, M. J. & Page, E. C. (1998). Farewell to the British State? In: Public Sector Reform by Jan-Erik Lane. London: SAGE Publications.
(5) Olowu, B. (1999). Redesigning African Civil Service Reforms. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 37, 1 (1999). Cambridge University Press.
(6) Adamolekun, L. (2005). Re-Orienting Public Management in Africa: Selected Issues and Some Country Experiences. In: African Development Bank – Economic Research Paper Series No. 81.

High Food Prices Endanger Food Security

Along with officers from the Food and Agriculture Organization, mankind is only two bad seasons away from a disaster on a global scale.

This spring already, the previous year’s deficient harvests contributed to the social unrest in North Africa. Even though the World Bank asserts that rising food prices have not initiated the protest movement in the Arab world, the price ramble however contributed to an intensification of tensions. Exploding prices are a main headache for political and economic decision-makers across the globe. One thing is clear: A search for solutions needs to be made a top priority.

The developments in the markets over the past year certainly give full reason for concern: Within the past decade, prices for agricultural goods rose by 83 percent. In 2010, inclement weather proved a major challenge for food security: In the spring, heavy rainfall in Canada destroyed a quarter of the wheat harvest. During the summer drought and bushfires in Russia, the Ukraine and Kazakhstan lowered yields. In China drought and sandstorms have made life difficult for farmers ever since last spring and significantly decreased their income from wheat sales. In early 2011, strong snowstorms threatened winter wheat plants in the leading export nation, the United States. In the southern hemisphere in 2010, La Nina led to drought and losses for soya beans and maize plantations. Floods in Australia made half of the planted wheat there unfit for human consumption. The wheat price has doubled since last summer. Lower wheat supplies led consumers to switch to maize. The maize price shot up by 73 percent as a result in the second half of the year. Meanwhile numerous Mediterranean countries like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, and Turkey have engaged in panic-buying and hoarding large stocks of wheat. China is expected to follow suit sometime later in 2011. This will further push up prices in the world markets. It is not only climate change and the bad weather that is responsible for the increasing shortage of food stuffs. In many emerging countries, changing consumption patterns – especially increased reliance on meat as a dietary source – encourage prices escalate. Moreover, additional agricultural land is lost to planting crops for biofuel instead of food stuff. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, one third of the price rise needs to be attributed to the increasing use of grain as a biofuel.

Despite these disquieting numbers, it is not predictable that the United States, the European Union, or Brazil will in the short-term abandon their biofuel projects. Neither can consumption patterns worldwide easily be changed. The developments observed therefore point that supply shocks caused by bad harvest today can more easily upset the delicate balance in the increasingly globalized food chain. Structural changes render it difficult for the system to deal with such shocks at the present time. In order to prevent further upset on the supply side, much more investment in agriculture is needed today. It is necessary to be better prepared for the challenges posed by climate change. It is high time to coordinate on a global level in order to stabilize agricultural markets in such a manner that external supply shocks will not automatically lead to systemic consequences and social unrest.

Development, Democracy and Human Security

An approach to the concerns on democracy promotion.

There is a great debate about the principles that should guide promotion of democracy abroad.  There are sensitivities involved in promoting democracy and we should be mindful of how its democracy assistance is perceived in recipient countries.  Others should raise the importance of democratic assistance to Western interests and values.

Many analysts see democracy promotion as a key foreign policy responsibility and suggest that Western states should focus on a holistic approach with a specific focus on developing civil society and establishing long-term goals. Western countries need to be accountable for their actions abroad. They can best promote democracy by leading by example.

Other analysts note that Western countries should only engage in democracy promotion activities when invited by other states, arguing that democracy must take root from within.  Still others felt that democracy promotion was best left to NGOs with indirect support from Western governments.

Significant elements of democratic governance

There is a wide variety of elements of democratic governance.  Some think that developed countries should focus on civic education of children (particularly girls) and youth while others think the establishment of democratic institutions and rule of law are of greater importance.

There is a great debate on what should come first: democracy or development – yet, no consensus is formed. Views diverge on whether economic development is sufficient to bring democracy to other countries.  Many specialists suggest that a market economy is not a precondition or impetus for democratization. Some others focus on the need for an empowered civil society, human rights and free media as essential elements of democratic governance.

How developed countries can promote Democracy

Following along from the discussion of guiding principles above, one should agree that democracy is best cultivated using a bottom-up approach:  hence, the important distinction between democracy promotion and imposition.

In this light, West can promote democracy through its participation in international or regional forums (i.e. by sharing best practices).  In that way, EU missions abroad could support democracy promotion by engaging citizens who had previously lived in the EU.

Developed countries could assist with enhancing the elements of democratic governance.  For example, contributing to dynamism of civil society, supporting the logistics of a free media, encouraging forums of assembly, giving support to international exposure of grassroots democratic struggles, promoting human rights and generally providing consultation and support for countries who request it.

Barriers such as conflict and state fragility, poverty and authoritarian regimes are often interlinked.  Western countries can work to increase transparency and accountability through their efforts to strengthen corporate social responsibility, meet an Official Development Assistance (ODA) level of 0.7% of GDP and restrict financial support to countries with authoritarian regimes (Note that some countries just focus their resources on one region of the world.)

Other analysts mention that it could best assist democracy by focusing at home and implementing, for example, a proportional representation electoral system.

© Department of Political Science, Duke University (1)

Main obstacles to democracy promotion

The state, whether authoritarian or exaggeratedly bureaucratic, is the main obstacle to democracy promotion.  In these situations, it is highly recommended to support the community-based democratic initiatives and a strong focus on the mobilization of civil society and a strong middle class.

Lessons learned from South Africa

In this regard, it is interesting to note the South African experience. According to the South African Institute for Security Studies, four critical elements are particularly important to strengthening democracy:

1. Fairness of elections and electoral processes;
2. Freedom to form and participate in an opposition party;
3. Adherence to limits on time served in office as outlined by constitutions; and,
4. Independence of the judiciary.

Another remarkable action is the relative success of US NGO involvement in the colour revolutions (2) that occurred in three countries of the former Soviet Union.  But note that although this method was an example of productive outside intervention, it may not be appropriate in other areas of the world.


· David Held, Models of Democracy, Polity and Stanford University Press, 1987.
· New Institute for Multiparty Democracy (IMD).
· openDemocracy.
· Rights & Democracy.
· Samantha Power, Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Take a view on her very interesting approach at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUUOO5cCNVg.
· Wikipedia.


(1) This graphic is world imports in 2002, Colors reflect the level of democracy (blue) or autocracy (tan) in each of these countries (based on the POLITY IV indicators). What is most notable about this cartogram is the disappearance of the African continent: Africa is almost invisible in terms of global trade patterns, a continuing point of contention in (barely) ongoing global trade negotiations.

(2) Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance to protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy. These movements all adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol. The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organizing creative non-violent resistance. So far these movements have been successful in Serbia (especially the Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), and (though more violent than the previous ones) in Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005). Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.

More than 70 cities sign pact in Mexico to fight against global warming

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Over a thousand local and regional representatives from 114 countries get together, from November 17 to 20, in Mexico, during the third World Congress of Cities and Governments (UCLG) that will go on Sunday 21 with the first World Summit of Mayors on climate in which will be signed the first International Register of sustainable initiatives in cities. The document will be presented to the UN Conference on climate, from November 29 to December 10 in Cancun, Mexico.

The mayor of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, said that the “Pact of Mexico” would be signed November 21, during the first World Summit of Mayors on climate, by which cities around the world undertake to adopt figured and tangible targets on reduction of their CO2 emissions to fight against global warming. Hence, Los Angeles, Dakar, Mexico, Amsterdam, Jakarta, Sao Paulo, Paris want to commit to carry out ambitious climate policies – hoping that many other cities will join them.

The Mexico agreement will be presented at the 16th UN Conference on climate Nov. 29 in Cancun (Mexico). “This agreement is a way of pressuring governments that have not listened to the cities at the Copenhagen conference, ended in total failure”, said M. Delanoë, the mayor of Paris.

The claim of the presence of cities in climate negotiations is more than justified: more than half the world population lives in urban areas, which generate between 60% and 80% of CO2 emissions. Moreover, many cities have already committed more ambitious approaches than their countries’: “It is in the cities that the battle to curb global warming will be won. Yet we have not even been invited to Cancun”, Ebrard said.

Beyond this symbolic recognition, direct access from the cities to financial instruments to fight against climate change is at stake – future “green fund” and clean development mechanisms. At the end of the deal: billions of dollars that local officials hope to capture in a significant split – while in Copenhagen, states had decided to create an aid fund for the South without stating how money will be provided nor who will be granted to get hold of it!

It is with this objective that the Pact of Mexico wants to make local climate policies “measurable, reportable and verifiable”, according to UN criteria. Then the Pact must list them in a climate inventory of cities, called “Carbonn”, located in Bonn, Germany.

To set an example, the mayor of Mexico City has agreed a 14% reduction of greenhouse gases in the city by 2012. The “Green Plan” of the Mexican capital – launched in 2007 – plans to fall CO2 emissions by 7 million tons in 2012. This program has already helped cut greenhouse gas emissions by 4% (2,000,000 tons). Car traffic was limited, water pipes refurbished, bike paths and bus lanes built. Next step: to double the recycling of garbage, replace 45,000 polluting taxis, inaugurate a twelfth subway line and extending to 30,000 m2 area of rooftop gardens.

However, not all the signatory cities to the (not compulsory) pact will lead to similar commitments: most of them lack access to technologies to assess their reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, these cities need adequate training and technology to grow without polluting. The initiative, in short, is complicated because of the heterogeneity of urban areas in terms of size and richness. Its success will depend on transparency and decentralized cooperation between the cities of South and North.

Millennium Development Goals: Fragile states claim summit outcome off-target

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From September 20 to the 22nd, world leaders gathered at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to assess progress and challenges in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Adopted at the Millennium Summit in 2000, the eight goals represent a global commitment to reducing poverty and improving the lives of citizens in poor countries including through improved education and health.

What are the Millennium Development Goals?

* Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
* Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
* Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
* Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
* Goal 5: Improve maternal health
* Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
* Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
* Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

The eight MDGs break down into 21 quantifiable targets that are measured by 60 indicators.

These goals are unique – unlike many summits and partnerships, they committed governments to specific and clear targets to be achieved by 2015. However, in the lead-up to the Summit it became clear that many of the identified targets would not be met in the next five years, despite real progress in several areas. Of particular concern is the group furthest from achieving the MDGs, fragile and post-conflict countries.

What distinguishes so-called fragile states from other low-income countries? These are the countries struggling with the legacy of conflict, and hampered by weak government legitimacy in addition to chronic poverty, particularly persistent in fragile states. According to the World Bank, 54 percent of the population in fragile countries lives in poverty, compared to an average of 22 percent for all low-income countries. A recent report by the Center on Global Development identifies the ‘MDG laggards,’ those furthest from achieving the goals. As the report notes, “Not surprisingly, the list of MDG laggards consists mainly of post-conflict countries or fragile states.” Eight of the twelve currently have UN peacekeeping operations, one of the clearest signs of fragility.

This is no surprise. Shaken by customary cyclical violence, the institutions of government and their ability to deliver services are often severely weakened or shattered. Limited infrastructure and, frequently, corruption and poor governance breed significant obstacles to the realization of the MDGs, as the basic foundations for development are missing.

In fact, the preeminence of the MDGs as a guide for aid to fragile and post-conflict countries is questionable. In the group of fragile states, not one has achieved even a single MDG. The emphasis by international aid and development institutions on achievement of the MDGs has also shifted attention – and financing – away from other, urgent needs in fragile states. This reality challenges long-held assumption about development, raising the question of whether these are the right – or the only – global goals for this set of particularly vulnerable countries.

Recognition of this incongruence has led to efforts to enhance the MDGs with specific goals for post-conflict countries. In Afghanistan, a ninth goal – security – was adopted after Afghan citizens identified insecurity as their greatest challenge, emphasizing that basic security is a prerequisite for achieving the MDGs. In 2010, the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, which brings together representatives from fragile states, donors, and international aid and development organizations, identified a set of goals for post-conflict countries “as stepping stones to achieve progress on development” that could serve as the foundation for further articulation of peacebuilding and statebuilding goals. As the Minister of Finance in Timor-Leste, Emilia Pires, recently noted at a side event to the MDG Summit on fragile states, “Aid is given based on MDG criteria, and from our experience we have found out that before we can get the MDGs, we have to do a few things first. We have to have peace and stability.”

Debates in the overture of Summit saw a split between those advocating for a particular focus on the least developed countries and those in favor of additional focus on middle-income countries that have demonstrated progress towards the MDG. Institutional support has either sought to focus on those areas that have demonstrated results, or those that are most in need. However, these distinctions fail to depict the specific needs of fragile states, identified in the Outcome Document of the Summit, which recognizes “the specific development challenges related to peacebuilding and early recovery in countries affected by conflict and the effect of these challenges on their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”

As leaders return from the Summit, reflecting on progress made and challenges ahead, it is critical that they stop to assess current efforts in fragile and post-conflict states. These countries are furthest from achieving the MDGs, the most in need, and those most at risk of setback to conflict or failing – presenting real security challenges both regionally and globally. Any action plan moving forward requires a specific focus on the MDG ‘laggards’ to ensure that they are not left out of any ‘big push’ for the achievement of the MDGs over the next five years.

Related posts:

· The African Governance Crisis (1/4) · A sift inventory of Africa’s development problems
· The African Governance Crisis (2/4) · The Consequences of Reforms on the African Civil Service
· The African Governance Crisis (3/4) · Rehabilitating the African Civil Service
· The African Governance Crisis (4/4) · Do Reforms Inhibit or Support African Development?


· Together for a Better Peace
· Center for Global Development
· Eurostep
· Sustainable Public Financial Management
· Guardian Development Network

The Ideology of Economic Growth

The end of the continuous economic expansion

The never ending economic growth within a finite planet is basically impossible. A child can understand that. But the belief in economic growth bringing peace and prosperity to everyone is tough enough.

How is this mystification possible? How political and economic elites can maintain the deceit? What is the interest of everyone to consider or pretend to accept the assertion as true?

Economic growth involves extra consumption of energy, natural resources – water, oil, mineral substances … – constantly further waste, pollution, and aggravation of global warming, loss of biodiversity in sum, and poses ultimately the question of the mankind survival.

The persisting and tiring arguments put forward by the “green skeptics” to give support to economic growth, despite the obvious damage, is that of technical progress, the use of renewable energies or that we are entering a new economic era on information, digital and services supposed to have no impact on the biosphere.

Technological progress has improved (and will go on improving) the energy and resources outflow consumed to produce an object (former televisions and cars did consume more energy and resources than today’s). But this theoretical efficiency gain does not compensate for practical and concrete bulimia of consumer populations – and the most technologically advanced countries make ample evidence since their citizens exercise the biggest environmental pressure so far.

What’s more, renewable energy handled on the margin can not solve the problem of the finiteness of fossil resources and of ecological disaster under way.

Finally the different adjectives joined to the so-called new economy do not change the assumption of more and more physical resources: everyone wants a car, a television, a computer, a mobile phone … and to renew it all as quickly and as often as possible! The new economy, whatever its name, has not diminish at all the environmental impact of industry, agriculture or chemical engineering. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Why are we growth addicted?

The ideology of growth points to the quasi biblical reign of plenty. Everyone expects to get more, and the widespread accumulation of material resources would supposedly stop the social violence. Traditional societies, however, had not lost sight that the accumulation is quite a factor of social tension and violence. Facts and reality clearly show it, but the belief in a society of growth bringing abundance and peace is constantly pushy.

Takis Fotopoulos explains well enough the dynamic of the growth economy:

“The growth economy can only survive through its continual reproduction and extension to new areas of economic activity.” And doing this, the growth economy opens to new action scopes introducing “new discoveries, improvements in efficiency, possibilities for substitution, and technological innovations” in the mature growth economies – or through a destructive approach of geographic expansion of most self-reliant economies in the world. (1)

Economic growth is measured by the number of dollars per head. Everyone runs under this benchmark, being understood that the logic that prevails is to climb the highest and fastest possible in the income pyramid.

International institutions, such as the World Bank, are concerned about the fate of that billion of human beings whose regular earning is less than $ 1 per day, thus representing the stage of absolute poverty. These billion human beings located primarily in rural areas therefore benefits from the attention and interest of institutions to help them out of their extreme conditions, and tools such as micro-credit are highlighted.

Armatya Sen, Nobel Laureate, demonstrated in the late 1990s that one could live in the heart of the richest state in the world, in New York, at Harlem, and have a life much more miserable that within the poorest state of the planet, in the state of Kerala in India – measured on criteria as simple as that compelling example of life expectancy.

The facts show abundantly that many peasants, who abandoned their land in return for income in the city, live in subhuman conditions. The difference between this real city misery and that of peasants living autonomous on their land is that the former are involved in the growth of the economic pyramid (including miserable income not allowing to live with dignity), unlike the latter who do not give further support to the consumer society.

Hence the interest of the institutions to worry for the rural population who do not receive income.

Economic growth requires everyone’s participation as the system does not leave aside several billion people representing potential consumers, and thus substantial growth.

The terrible conclusion is that economic growth creates more miserable individuals than people who could reach a decent revenue.

And regarding those luckier people whose revenue allow them to live in dignity, the mechanical construction of their earnings is disastrous both for the environment and social issues.

Economic growth does not lead us to abundance and peace, but to war and continuing shortage, i.e. insufficiency of absolute vital assets such as land or water.

Our blindness on this reality, our unwavering support to the tyranny of the growth economy, derives from our relative and provisional material well-being, and from our indiscriminate faith in the saving science.

As Marie-Dominique Perrot (2 )says:

“We confuse the quantity and quality and we consider the accumulation of anything as a synonym for progress”.


(1)  In Takis Fotopoulos, Development Or Democracy? SOCIETY & NATURE,  Vol. 3, No. 1 (issue 7), 1995

(2)  From the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Africa Underrepresented

Beyond Africa, Developing World should have more say in key forums. African officials dismayed not to have a bigger voice in key global economic forums.

When world leaders meet to tackle the global financial crisis, Africa is represented only by South Africa. African officials argue that the continent need better representation, given the effects that the turmoil is having in Africa as well as the continent’s growing financial importance. The complaint could apply equally to other developing countries.

The global crisis has come just as many African economies were turning a corner, carrying on  improvements in governance, technological change, debt relief, higher prices for their exports as well as inflows of funds from Asia and from Western investors seeking higher yields. Many African countries have spent decades gearing economic policies to attract more private capital and chase away a reputation as unreliable investment destinations.

But turmoil on world markets has cut the supply of money as the world’s biggest banks shift funds from new projects to shoring up balance sheets, leaving African governments wondering how their infrastructure will get built.

But should Africa be better represented?
Compared to its own recent history, African economies have been doing extremely well, but they are still small in global terms. As Africa’s biggest economy, South Africa will be attending, together with representatives of the main developed and developing countries. Is that enough? What advantage might Africa gain from having a bigger voice at the key summits? What about the world’s other poorer regions? Should they have more say too?

Current Crisis,  Cure or Croak

The real economic situation is constantly in a state of fluctuation and the ready made solutions in the classical or neoclassical patterns avoid an enduring and secure solution to the current crisis. Over the years the very concept of ‘economy’ has undergone a sea change. The models that concentrate on national economies of olden years have become redundant and they don’t go beyond a transitory solution suppressing the real economic forces, side tracking the long term perspectives. The durable solution needs a fresh debate among the political economists to come out with an integrated co-operative model, keeping in mind the linkages of the so called developed and the developing economies, in which the monetary and the fiscal policies play a incidental role.

Simon Kuznets was a far sighted development economist who could foresee more than half a century ago that “poverty anywhere is a threat to development everywhere”. The ‘national economy’ is a misconception today and an attempt to resolve the existing depression at the national levels will always contradict the expectations, specially of the developed countries, and they are likely to slip from devil to the deep sea.

I look at the present crisis as a consequence of too much monetarism of the developed countries for maintaining their growth rates overlooking the potential development of South Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. This might lead to persistent speculative tendencies, playing down the primary role of money and ultimate crash down of core economies of the world creating a worldwide economic chaos.

The retrieval from it might take a century.

The Complex Game of Wrong Impressions – A First Balance on Copenhagen

>> Haga clic aquí para la versión en castellano

Beyond the political and scientific debate, economists make different analysis on a meeting that brought together more than 180 countries whose commitments regularly lacked of consistency: some advocate the growth model through expansion, other propose corrective measures more or less significant.

U.S. and Chinese positions, though contradictory, are no less obvious and essential, since it is impossible to imagine a positive outcome to the climate challenge without the support of both countries.

And what about the help of more than 7,000 million promised by the European Union that seemed initially to account for and optimistic output of the summit?

The rush of numbers is exhausting and often unnecessary. In this case, let us aim at misconceptions…

First: Macro meetings as Kyoto and Copenhagen have a realistic chance of success? Unfortunately, not (not always). In Kyoto, the aim was to limit the effects of the emission of greenhouse gases by 2012: Russia agreed to limit at 33% – in fact it simply did 0% – Spain promised to increase up to 15% – and did so by 54%. We better look after more realistic goals…

Second misconception: China is the leading global polluter. True, in gross terms, false in relative terms. Just remember that each Chinese pollutes four times less than an American. Furthermore, much of China’s pollution is the result of production for developed countries.

US is self-centred and does not make a move. Fascinating misinformation – manipulation? During this time American industry continues to invest in green energy. The Obama plan is a firm commitment to renewable energies, with volumes going from 1 to 20 in contrast to what Europeans planned – the ineffective French stimulus plan, for example. Many U.S. states have long acted individually. And since a decade, the US public opinion has evolved. What is more, American industry and business circles have changed their frame of mind. American employers face two opposing clans: on the one hand, polluters with hard entrenched positions – the powerful coal industry provides over half the energy consumed in this country, so huge interest which one cannot imagine in Europe – and on the other, a group of companies that calls repeatedly the federal government to establish clear standards and set uniform federal marks in order to harmonize practices rather than lead to a patchwork in which the industry – and in fine jobs — cannot develop properly. They also wish to clarify the price of oil in the mid term so as to know what kind of investments they will perform. The inimitable Sarah Palin issued an article in the Washington Post that gives a good idea of the hardness of the debate in the U.S. …

Europe is exemplary. Overall yes, Europe has played the game and has done more than other continents. On the other hand: no. Austria, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Spain have not achieved at all what they promised. And let us speak of Denmark, the summit’s host, which boasts of making 20% of its electricity from wind power, forgetting that 80% comes from highly polluting hydroelectrics.

Transportation segment is the main cause of GHG emissions. False. The main polluter is the production of energy itself. Even worse, agriculture, which in developed countries represents every day a smaller portion of its GDP, is one of the most important sources of CO2 emissions, even greater than the automotive: a cow produces 3.4 tonnes of  CO2 per year, while a usual car produces 1.8 Tn.

Some may point out miracle solutions to survive. i.e. renewable energy, electric car. All it takes to be convinced of the contrary is to recall that those energies and devices represent only 2.5% approx. of global electricity consumption. That consumption is projected to be 10% in 2030 but nothing is less certain. Regarding the electric car, its theoretical part is expected to be of 10% of the fleet in 2020 – the most reasonable analysis expect it to reach 3%

When the true ideas?

Just in case: Would you prefer that your car emits less CO2 or would you rather prefer to lose your job? It is not necessary to go against climate progress to choose the correct check box.

Related Posts:

Countdown to Copenhagen
Climate Change: Preparing a New Protocol (I)
Climate Change: Expectations for the New Protocol (II)
Climate Change: Upcoming meetings (III)