One of the most productive outcomes of my visit to Istanbul was the time spent in reading and reviewing four papers that were presented at the session on ‘Varying perspectives on the global development agenda’ at the Southern Voice Global Conference that preceded the TTI 2015 Exchange.
The papers were:
Ibrahima Hathie’s (IPAR, Senegal) The post-2015 Development Agenda – favourable for Africans?
Mireya Villacis’ (CEDA, Ecuador) Alternatives for or to Development
Ajaya Dixit’s (ISET-N, Nepal) The Changing intersection of society and development goals: an examination aimed at improving policy
Bitrina Diyamett’s (STIPRO, Tanzania) Is the current booming growth in Africa worth celebrating? Some evidence from Tanzania
The papers produced some clear messages that cut across the geographical divide of three continents. They emphasised the need for inclusive growth, recognising that economic growth in itself is not enough, that it is a necessary but not sufficient condition for sustainable development and poverty eradication. They confirmed that what we need is growth that creates/expands employment opportunities for the poor, growth that creates decent work for men and for women, and growth that enhances the incomes of poor households. They stressed the importance of environmental sustainability, natural resource management and disaster risk reduction. They celebrated the diversity within countries, within regions and globally and rejected any formulaic one-size-fits-all solutions.
The prescriptions for achieving (or not) inclusive growth were varied. One paper argued for a focus on labour intensive manufacturing, citing the case of Malaysia where there was a highly state interventionist, social engineering project that integrated poverty eradication into development plans through labour intensive manufacturing in textiles, garments and electronic products. The paper suggested that countries like Tanzania could do the same with agro-processing. There was a call for more emphasis on science, technology and innovation, that can help labour intensive industries improve their innovative capability. Some studies pointed out the danger of relying on remittance income which can lower the incentive for governments to create productive employment opportunities for poor people.
I would have said also that there was insufficient attention paid to the question of gender and women. The Nepal paper talks about migration resulting in the feminisation of agriculture, but falls short of discussing the implications of that for creating a dynamic decent job agenda in the agricultural sector. The same paper also talks of “creating of new jobs that enhance the income of households’ without taking into account intrahousehold income dispairities. The Malaysian case, cited in the Tanzanian paper, admits that while Malaysia juggled class interests and horizontal inequalities (e.g. ethnic inequalities) in its attempt to develop a growth with distribution strategy, it was less successful with strengthening gender equality. And the Latin American paper highlights the difficulties of dealing with the macho culture of Ecuadorian society, bolstered by religion, and limiting the conversation on gender.
In discussing the environment, the papers recognise that despite the existence of a large natural resource and bio-diversity base, Africa has not been able to garner its potential for employment or for economic return. In both Africa and Asia, the environment is being threatened by climate change.
With this backdrop it seemed to me that we were bringing some fundamental points to the SDG debate. Hathie’s paper refers to an ODI Rough Guide to emerging consensus and divergence in post-2015 goal areas by Gina Bergh and Jonathan Couturier (2013) that suggests that while the MDG type goals (education, health, energy, gender, poverty)feature strongly on the agenda of all the global institutions, the issues that the papers in this session have raised are not so strongly on the global agenda. So for instance, according to ODI, inclusive growth and employment is on the radar, but not very strongly, and the same with environmental sustainability. Science, technology and innovation is not prioritised at all, and neither is social inclusion, even though gender (in terms of ‘empowering’ women and girls) is.
The ODI analysis is scary, and hopefully things have moved on a bit since 2013, but if we really haven’t deviated from that path it could be that without really realising it, we may move away from the five principles articulated by the SDGs
Leave no one behind
· Put sustainable development at the core
· Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth
· Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all
· Forge a new global partnership
What WE are bringing to the debate is a different set of priorities, and I guess, if we want to make a difference there are at least two things we must do:
One, we need to recognize the political economy of global decision making, and the resilience of the global paradigm. What we need to stress is that the issues of poverty, vulnerability, ecosystems etc are systemic issues, embedded in what the authors of the papers have acknowledged as the ‘traditional’ forms of development and we need to advocate that this system is overhauled.
Two, we need to communicate more widely the alternatives – where they have been implemented. The difficulty is that even those who see the value of the alternatives and don’t have a vested interest in the system, feel that a country cannot have its own unique system that works outside the global system, and so are willing only to tinker at the edges. Partly it’s because there is so little communication about nations (or groups within nations) that have implemented alternatives – so examples like Ecuador’s National Plan for Good Living need to be celebrated more widely.