What do people want a post-2015 agenda to do for them?

my worldHere, my post-2015 friends, is the very beginnings of an answer.  The ‘MY World’ survey, available through the internet, by mobile phone, and in the old-fashioned way with clipboards and pens, has now been completed by tens of thousands of people in 188 countries.  It’s very global – the top five countries with most votes are Brazil, the USA, the UK, Liberia and Mexico.

In particular, the focus is on making sure that people who can’t access the survey online or by mobile phone are well represented.  We had a first go at that in Liberia last month, surveying a representative sample of 2000 people before the meeting of the UN’s High Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda met there last week.

Pleasingly, and not by design, the results in Liberia echoed very strongly what the panel talked about.  The need to keep working on the current MDG agenda was clear, with education and health high on the list of people’s priorities.  Infrastructure also featured highly – with transport and roads the third most important priority in the sample, and jobs were, unsurprisingly also very important.

Some fascinating details emerged which need closer examaination – the most unexpected one for me was that while women consistently ranked gender equality as more important than men, both men and women in urban areas ranked it about twice as highly as men and women in rural areas.  Does urbanisation make people more in favour of women’s rights?  And if so, why?

There’s lots more data to gather over the next few years, and the votes should rise quickly into the millions.  The first mobile phone MY World survey will be launched in India very soon. Civil society organisations are ready to take the survey offline to hundreds of thousands of people.  Global advertising for the online survey is being developed.  And working with global polling company IPSOS Mori we’ll be able to work out what all of this is really telling us about the global and country ranking of different priorities among different groups.

There’s a lot of talk in post-2015-land about finding out what people want from a new agreement.  MY World is just one of the ways that people are finding out.  I’ve written before about how translating the results of different opinion-getting excercises into a language that policy makers can understand and act on can be a challenge.  With numbers and clear priorities MY World can help to provide useful and useable answers to the question ‘what do people want’ for the politicians constructing the post-2015 agenda.  We had a first go at that this week in Monrovia, and there’ll be a lot more to come…..

The continuing Wall Street crisis

The ever-reliable Michael Lewis, reviewing a new book by a repentant Goldman Sachs employee, nails the (continuing) financial/political crisis:

Stop and think once more about what has just happened on Wall Street: its most admired firm conspired to flood the financial system with worthless securities, then set itself up to profit from betting against those very same securities, and in the bargain helped to precipitate a world historic financial crisis that cost millions of people their jobs and convulsed our political system. In other places, or at other times, the firm would be put out of business, and its leaders shamed and jailed and strung from lampposts. (I am not advocating the latter.) Instead Goldman Sachs, like the other too-big-to-fail firms, has been handed tens of billions in government subsidies, on the theory that we cannot live without them. They were then permitted to pay politicians to prevent laws being passed to change their business, and bribe public officials (with the implicit promise of future employment) to neuter the laws that were passed—so that they might continue to behave in more or less the same way that brought ruin on us all.

What the OECD Does Not Understand About Fragile States

OECD fragile states

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and its International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF) do an admirable job bringing together policymakers, collecting and synthesizing information, and helping set the agenda for donors.

But, as exemplified by Emmanuel Letouzé’s (lead author) and Juana de Catheu (co-author)’s recent report Fragile States 2013: Resource Flows and Trends in a Shifting World, its analysis of fragile states is flawed in a couple of important ways. Continue reading

Goals after 2015

As the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda meets in Liberia, New York University’s Center on International Cooperation has published a new paper of mine on the role that global goals can play after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. You can download it here.

The paper:

  • Explores what different types of goals can (and cannot) achieve.
  • Sets out options for integrating poverty and sustainable development goals.
  • Clarifies the choices that must be made if the post-2015 development agenda is to end poverty within a generation.

I don’t advocate any of the options in the paper. Instead, the aim is to try and clarify what can be quite a muddy and confusing debate. Why do we need goals? Who should they be for? How can they best be constructed?

This work forms part of CIC’s broader engagement on the post-2015 process. Alex and I have published a series of papers for CIC and the Brookings Institution (1, 2, 3). For me, this goes back to a post on Global Dashboard from 2011, which offered a first sketch of a post-2015 agenda that aimed to end absolute poverty.

Many thanks to the UN Foundation for funding this work.

Game changer time: China’s working age population is now in decline

Last year saw a big tipping point in China that went relatively unnoticed: its working age population shrank, kicking off a trend that will carry on over the next 20 years.

The head of China’s national statistics bureau, quoted in the FT, carefully says that “there are different opinions on whether this means that the demographic dividend that has driven growth in China for many years is now coming to an end”, but admits that the trend is “worrying” – all the more so, presumably, since it hadn’t been expected this fast. Here’s HSBC’s co-head of economics, in the same article:

“Most projections … estimated that the decline in the working-age population would start around the middle of this decade. But [these numbers] show it has already happened, which suggests the decline over the next few decades will be faster than expected.”

To see this tipping point in its larger context, it’s worth taking another look at a presentation that David did for the British Council in 2010, available here on Global Dashboard. In it, he notes that the world has now split into three demographic groups:

–          One in which population is stable or shrinking, including Europe and Japan, and in which half of its people will be over 40 in 2015;

–          A second group of countries in which the population peak is in sight, including China and India, and in which half the population will be under 30 in 2015; and

–          A third group that includes the world’s most fragile states, mostly in Africa, where population growth is still rapid – and where half the population will be under 20 in 2015.

Each of these groups faces distinct challenges, he argued. For group 1, it’s how to “grow old gracefully” – not just coping with rapid ageing, but also using their last shot at being ‘rule-makers’ on the global stage. Group 3, meanwhile, faces the challenge of providing jobs for its mushrooming youth bulges, so that demographic change is a springboard for prosperity rather than a driver of anger and instability.

But for countries in group 2, like China, the challenge is especially demanding. They face a balancing act: on one hand, they need to work at home to build the infrastructure needed to underpin the next wave of prosperity, while managing both middle class aspirations and the needs of the poor. But at the same time, they face growing exposure to transboundary threats, and need to figure out where they fit in to managing them – and how this will affect growth strategies at home. No easy task…

Open borders: the great taboo

Matthew Yglesias in Slate has worked out some of what would happen if the United States opened up its borders:

According to Gallup there are 150 million people around the world who say they’d like to move permanently to the United States. Right now the United States has about 89 residents per square mile. Add another 150 million people and we’d be at around 135 people per square mile. How would that stack up in context? Well, France has 303 people per square mile and Germany has 593. Japan has 873. The Dutch have 1,287!

Of course, such a radical move would be anathema to most Americans (including most of those who themselves migrated to the country), but as Yglesias points out, ‘all those places have their share of problems (and so do we) but none of them are exactly post-apocalyptic hellscapes.’ Indeed, there may be large benefits to the US if it worked towards freeing up immigration:

The United States ran an open borders regime throughout the 19th century and we weren’t worse off for it. On the contrary, it laid the foundations for American greatness. Shifting back in that direction—with exceptions for dangerous criminals and other select problem types—over time seems perfectly feasible to me and would substantially increase overall human welfare.

We tend to value the welfare of our fellow countrymen more highly than that of those unlucky enough to be born in other countries (and particularly that of those born in poor countries), so open borders are likely to remain a taboo for now. For those interested in the sum of human wellbeing, though, it’s good to see such arguments getting an airing.

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