Politics, Private Sector Aid, Fair Trade, and DevNet – August 2014

Given just how acute New Zealand’s own governance issues have been revealed to be in the last few weeks, it feels distracting to focus on international development and the woes of other countries. Yet — in addition to having written to the World Bank imploring them to send TA in the direction of our government (ideally in the form of ethicists) — we have some goodies for you.

The Social Dimensions of Inequality in the Pacific
In the lead up to next month’s Small Islands Developing States conference in Apia, Associate Professor Yvonne Underhill-Sem has written an NZADDs commentary on social inequality in the Pacific.

In it she argues social inequality is amplified by forms of population mobility, growing numbers of young people, and the ongoing dis-empowerment of women in the region. Download and read the commentary here

New Zealand Aid and the Private Sector
Oxfam’s Luke Roughton has a blog post up as part of the NZADDs/Development Policy Centre blog series on New Zealand aid. In his post Luke summarises the findings of case study work Oxfam has undertaken in the Pacific investigating the potential for New Zealand’s private sector to contribute to poverty reduction in the region. The blog post and the research it is based on are fascinating, with some valuable findings on the way New Zealand businesses engage in the Pacific, and what needs to be done if this engagement is to be sustainable and pro-poor. This is exactly the sort of research needed in an era where the Minister in charge of New Zealand’s ODA wants more aid money devoted to facilitating New Zealand business activities.

DevNet 2014!
Registrations are now open for the 2014 DevNet conference. This year the conference is being held in Dunedin from 27 to 29 November. The conference is New Zealand’s premier development research conference, and attendance is a great way of learning what other researchers are doing, and meeting the development community. You can register here.

Election 2014!
In case you haven’t noticed, New Zealand has an election coming up. The Council for International Development has done those of us who are development voters a great service by asking all registered political parties five questions on foreign aid. The responses of those parties who replied can be found here. Also, an anonymous aid-worker blogger has a post on the Daily Blog assessing the ODA policies of the major parties, which is interesting reading, although marred slightly by a couple of shortcomings, as noted here.

Fair Trade and the Labelling of Products from Developing Countries More Generally
For those of you still agonising about whether fair trade really helps, U.S. economists Raluca Dragusanu, Daniele Giovannucci, and Nathan Nunn have a very useful (and readable) review article just up in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, which you can download (hopefully free access) here. The key passage being:

“In side-by-side comparisons, Fair Trade–certified producers do receive higher prices, follow specified work standards, and use environmentally friendly methods. We review this evidence, but also explore the more difficult questions of interpretation. Are the changes that are correlated with Fair Trade production also caused by certification or is some other factor like the entrepreneurial capacity of the producer affecting both outcomes? What factors make producers more likely to join Fair Trade? What may happen to the advantages of receiving a higher price from being a Fair Trade producer as more producers seek to join? After taking these factors into account, the balance of the evidence does suggest that Fair Trade works—but the evidence is admittedly both mixed and incomplete.”

Although, before anyone starts feeling too sanguine, it seems only fair to point you to a recently published paper by Ed Challies (NZADDs steering committee member and senior research associate with the Research Group on Governance, Participation and Sustainability at Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany) in which he discusses the limits to what consumer based programmes can achieve, especially when confronted with structural injustices, alongside the risks of green-wash style capture.

Can Aid Buy You onto the Security Council?
Sticking with academic papers, the January issue of the journal Public Choice has an interesting paper, or at least a paper which might be of interest to Minister McCully, as it provides econometric evidence suggesting that sloshing aid around the world does not, on average, help countries buy their way onto the UN Security Council.

A Dangerous World to be an Aid Worker
Of course, the most important, and most saddening, fact of the tragedies currently unfolding in the Middle East is the massive toll they are taking on the lives of the locals, but to add a small closer-to-our-development-community-home statistic to the bigger tale of suffering: last year, according to this thoughtful ODI blog post, thanks mostly to conflict, 155 aid workers were killed while working, a 31 per cent increase from 2003.

And finally, to end on a happier note, it turns out there are parts of the world where aid programmes are getting better. The Guardian reports:

“After 20 years of debate, negotiations and setbacks, Italy is finally stepping up its efforts on international development. Last week the parliament approved a new law setting out an ambitious agenda for reform, including the creation of a development agency and financing facility, funded by Italians’ postal savings.

Much remains to be seen, as the article points out, regarding whether this will really lead to better ODA from Italy. But here’s hoping!

Terence, for NZADDs admin.