For the past few months, in a joint effort between post2015.org and the Southern Voice Initiative, we have been sharing different perspectives from researchers in the Global South on the new global development agenda. With this post, we close the first season of this endeavour, which contained twenty posts from researchers from Latin America, Asia and Africa.
As a means of closure we revisit some of the common themes and expressed ideas on post-2015 development from our colleagues, without meaning to be conclusive on what these perspectives mean. In fact, the posts and papers in the series demonstrate that the Global South is indeed very diverse. We know that, of course, but in terms of the discussion on the post-2105 agenda, this means that concerns are heterogeneous, research methods are diverse and that new visions on development are emerging. In fact, the article by Villacís, Fernanda Mora and López gives us a taste of these new perspectives.
Without disregarding this diversity, here we share some of the persisting themes we have found so far.
The existing inequality along various axes – gender, social group, income – and the failure of development efforts to adequately reduce inequities is one of the main concerns expressed by researchers in our series. Researchers arrived at this concern from various perspectives.
Sabharwal’s blog brought out how despite aggregate progress on the MDGs, socially excluded groups of poor remain alienated despite increased welfare provisioning and implementation of anti-discrimination measures. Goyal, Ali and Srinivasan discussed the disproportionate vulnerability the poor suffer due to environmental changes while lacking basic services such as access to energy.
Some researchers discussed the need for policies to specifically target the most disadvantaged. For instance, Ortiz discussed lessons from the massification of education in Paraguay, which positively impacted school attendance but benefitted students from privileged groups more than those from lower social classes, bringing out the need for social inclusion policies to consider inequity from the start.
In turn, both Tilakaratna and Khadka and Dixit identified the need to track how inclusive progress has been through disaggregated data – at the sub-national level as well as for different social groups and genders.
The researchers from the series advocated going beyond the ‘low hanging fruits’ as indicators of development, and called for a more complex vision of development accompanied by holistic indicators to accompany it. This could, at first glance, seem overoptimistic. However, as Khadka and Dixit recognise, nuances of development cannot be reduced to a number or a checklist. In this sense a perspective grounded on the reality of developing countries is proposed.
Indicators that are too general, superficial or aggregated won’t suffice. As Tilakaratna mentioned, post-2015 development must go beyond ensuring access to services and take into account the quality of services. For instance, we need to look beyond merely school enrolment rates and look at the quality of education and learning levels. In line with this, Linares and Prado called for aligning education and technical training with the needs of the job market in order to create decent jobs and reduce informal employment among the poor.
More holistic goals also need to go further on integrating environmental sustainability and inclusive development. As Villacís, Mora and López discuss, environment and development were not properly integrated in the MDGs, and going forward current world problems can be solved if all actors work together to change the current paradigm.
Stronger institutions and capacity
A range of authors have directly or indirectly tackled the issue of institutions, both in terms of the constraints caused by lack of institutional capacity and the potential for greater progress due to the development of those capacities.
Toru, for instance, discussed how institutional challenges relating to peace, security and governance have constrained the achievement of MDGs. In the case of countries such as Pakistan, with a lack of transparency, ineffective accountability and inefficient rule of law, political and economic elites have not protected the rights of marginalised populations and limited their access to valuable resources and opportunities.
In addition, as pointed out by Das, implementation of development policies can also be constrained where the government apparatus lacks the capacity to perform its roles. Going forward there is a need to build capacity in these institutions and ensure the availability of skilled personnel in government, without which even a transparent and inclusive government would struggle to fulfil its responsibilities.
One of the most challenging issues pointed out was how future development would be financed. On the one hand, there is a growing realization that developing countries require changes from within, including the mobilization of domestic resources. As both Kwakye and Uneze stress, while aid will remain significant, domestic resources – which have risen substantially in recent years, and are more sustainable – should play a critical role in financing development. Developing countries can strengthen fiscal institutions and become more independent by financing their own development.
On the other hand, the unfulfilled expectations of the first generation of MDGs, especially in terms of the ‘partnership for development’ still leave ample room for the developed world to be involved. In terms of the environment, there is not only room but also a responsibility to tackle the issues caused by industrialization.
The blogs in this series have helped shed light on many of the development concerns of the Global South that need addressing as we embark on a new development agenda. In the future, we will be hosting a new series, bringing more perspectives and ideas as the post-2015 agenda reaches its due date.