June 10, 2013

Will the world be transformed in 2015?

I am of two minds about the new report by the High Level Panel of Experts on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP).

The HLP was set up in July 2012 by UN Secretary General Bank Ki Moon to present an “ambitious, yet achievable” development framework for what will succeed the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established in 2000 and intended to be achieved by 2015. They delivered their final report last week in New York.

So here’s the good news – despite sky high expectations, somehow, the Panel has delivered.

The new framework has brought the environment and development back together. Many have argued (like Open Canada) that the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development that emerged from the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio, were never integrated into the MDGs. This meant that the two have been running on parallel tracks for the past two decades. But the new framework now “put[s] sustainable development at the core,” building on the outcomes of the Rio +20 review, and framing this as one of five transformative shifts that need to occur post-2015.

Transformation is one of the other welcome themes in the new report. The new framework includes four other key transformative shifts to move beyond business-as-usual. Whereas the MDGs sought to halve extreme poverty and hunger in the world, the second shift aims to “leave no one behind” by addressing issues related to inclusion and inequality (although inequality overall still gets a bum deal).

Third, it seeks to “transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth.” This means tackling growing inequality, youth unemployment and decent work, financial stability, fair and pro-development trade, and sustainable activities, among other things.

The fourth shift tackles something that was sorely missing from the MDGs – peace and conflict (a welcome addition), and open, accountable and effective institutions in all countries to help deliver on all of these transformations.

Finally, it envisages a new global partnership for achieving all of this, and one that embraces all actors in development – from government, to business, to civil society, academics and people.

The framework also builds on the unfinished business of the MDGs by integrating some of the lessons learned from the past 13 years. For example, it draws attention to not just creating decent work for poor people, but securing land tenure for them; it focuses on the quality of education and lifelong learning, not just getting more kids in schools; and it looks at ending hunger, but also ensuring people have nutritious food to eat.

It also introduces a range of important new issues: ending gender violence and child marriage, enhancing access of the poor to social protection systems, universal sexual and reproductive health and rights, increased access to energy and more renewable energy, ensuring basic political freedoms and rights to information and data, and a focus on tax evasion, among others.

All of this it has bundled up into 12 illustrative goals, with corresponding targets, disaggregated indicators (that would measure the realization of the targets) to ensure shared progress by different groups within a country, and a call for a data revolution to ensure that countries can gather this information.

Finally the panel has also been extremely strategic. They have sought to fill gaps and identify new issues, be ambitious but also practical (by translating transformative shifts into concrete goals and targets that the panel argues everyone can rally behind), and ensure that the framework applies to all countries but can also be adapted to national contexts.

So what’s not to like?

While the MDGs have helped spur huge progress on a number of fronts (half a billion less people living below the poverty line, 3 million less child deaths per year, 25% reduction in deaths from malaria), the world is facing a series of global shocks – the financial crisis, a food system in disarray, the Arab Spring – that could completely undo global progress on development. Inequality is on the rise. Carbon dioxide emissions hit 400 parts per million, bringing us closer to a global catastrophic climate crisis.

So yes it is time for transformation. But, to quote renowned development thinker Michael Edwards, “like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, [this means] that something qualitatively different and better, not simply something quantitatively bigger or more of the same, can emerge from old or existing structures.”

While the HLP’s recommendations mark a significant shift in how we need to address these issues, and may have a big impact on the lives of millions, it tackles symptoms rather than the emerging set of systemic crisis we’re facing. This requires not just retweaking and refining the current system so it works better, but doing things fundamentally differently for people and the planet.

I am willing to do so. I guess we will have to wait until 2015 to see whether millions of Canadians (and the government) feels the same.

This article by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst at the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, was first published in the Ottawa Citizen Blog on Aid and Development, on June 6, 2013.

May 28, 2013

My Experience Volunteering with CCIC

As a novice volunteer and recent grad, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when it came to volunteering with CCIC.  I have been very focused on studying and working for the last few years but have always wanted to volunteer.  Last spring I volunteered at a Management Development Conference for Women at Carleton University and found the experience to be very rewarding so I jumped at the chance to volunteer at the Forum and AGM.

From the get-go, our volunteer coordinator Amy offered us a choice of meaningful tasks and roles as well as the chance to actively participate in the forum. I joined a workshop for emerging leaders, chatted with those who participated in the public debate and also volunteered as a rapporteur during one of several breakout groups. Other volunteers have been busy tweeting, snapping photos, taking videos and even engaging with parliamentarians.

Although I have no experience in international development, I have worked at Natural Resources Canada through the Federal Student Work Experience Program and was immersed in several international development issues related to sustainable mining in Canada and abroad. During the emerging leaders workshop, I was able to share my experiences and learn from others who were working in their respective fields. This was experiential learning at play, which reminded me so much of the seminars that I had participated in during grad school at Carleton. I was instantly impressed and filled with anticipation of what the next few days would bring.

Later that evening I attended the public debate. After recently participating in some heated classroom debates, I was excited to get the chance to sit back, relax and enjoy. Nevertheless, I found myself taking notes, as if I was still in school anticipating and preparing my rebuttals. During the networking session, the debaters were gracious enough to partake in interviews with volunteers. At times I felt like I was the one being interviewed but was luckily able to integrate some of the issues that were discussed in the emerging leaders workshop. The debaters also took the time to offer young volunteers timely advice to help us in our career ambitions, which I know was greatly appreciated.

Thus far, I would have to say that my role as a rapporteur was the most surprising and rewarding. Our breakout group approached the session in a unique manner by first sharing personal stories and then analyzing these experiences.  Listening to such passionate and open-minded thinking was inspiring. After creating our flip chart, I couldn’t wait to see what other groups had come up with and was proud to see some of the exceptional recommendations that were developed!

The gala awards, dinner and dance capped off day one of the forum. I know that my fellow volunteers were happy to end an eventful day by sitting back and relaxing at the Museum of Nature. What a beautiful setting to enjoy good food, conversation and dance!

I am so happy that I decided to volunteer with CCIC and thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Annual Forum. Initially, my motivation for volunteering was to make some sort of contribution while learning more about pertinent development issues. But this was no ordinary volunteer experience and has far exceeded my expectations! Several voices have been represented with the common aim of working together to improve the human condition. I feel like I’ve developed a better understanding of these perspectives and would have to say that my own perspective has been broadened.

Thank you CICC for an amazing opportunity and congratulations on a successful forum!

Zainab Bekkari

Emerging Leaders’ Initiative a Hopeful Sign for Canadian Development Cooperation

This year’s CCIC Forum, which wrapped up on Friday, focused on envisioning what the future of Canadian international development co-operation could look like, 25 years from now. During his plenary presentation, Michael Edwards of Demos led his audience through an exercise where we were actually asked to close our eyes and picture this future. What did we want it to be? What might it look like?

One of the older participants later noted, “When I did that exercise, at first all I could think of was…in 25 years, I’ll be dead!” Certainly, most of the attendees, including almost all the current NGO leadership, hope to be retired by then. Luckily, one of the most prescient moves by the CCIC was to introduce, for the first time this year, the ‘Emerging Leaders’ category of participant. These are younger professionals, most under 30 years old, who work for, and are nominated by, CCIC member organizations. It is these emerging leaders whom we must count on to carry on the baton in realizing the hopes and the dreams of today’s leadership. And of course, since Canada’s international NGO sector values inclusion, it is only right that these young leaders also add their voices to the collective conversation about the future.

This year, 18 emerging leaders registered for the Forum, and it seems likely that this number will increase in future years. Their participation was a resounding success. Paul Heidebrecht of MCC Canada worked closely with Amy Bartlett, this year’s forum coordinator, to put together a special program for emerging leaders, in addition to the regular forum schedule. This included a pre-forum workshop on “Influencing policy in interesting times”, visits with Liberal and NDP MPs most engaged with international development and foreign affairs portfolios, and a final meeting to determine a vision and next steps for the more immediate future of the emerging leaders’ network.

Having sat in on many of these events, I was struck by how well the key themes from the main conference echoed with those specifically for young leaders. Kathy Vandergrift, the chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, spoke to the young leaders group about the changing Canadian political context. According to her view, the leading public discourse is based on fear, and our challenge is to move it to one of compassion. How, Kathy asked us, can civil society organizations develop an “empathetic imagination” within the Canadian public? And how do we find our own courage in doing so, if CSOs are afraid to take up advocacy roles because doing so may threaten their funding bases?

This theme of moving out of, and towards, a vision of hope and compassion came up again and again throughout the forum. It was raised by Michael Edwards, by many Forum participants, and even by some of the MPs we met with. As the legislation around the recent DFAIT/CIDA merger calls for the restructured development program to reflect ‘Canadian values’, there is a wide sense of optimism that these values really are based on compassion and solidarity. Young Canadians clearly share the desire to look outwards with compassion: international development is the most popular undergraduate degree amongst students, despite the uncertainty of future employment in the sector.

Personally, I have a very hard time imagining where Canadian international development cooperation may be in 25 years, because I am simply not sure what the world will look like in 25 years, given accelerated rates of social, political, ecological and technological change. Will we still be dependent on oil in 25 years? What will the gap between rich and poor be? Who will be the world’s super power? What will our national and international political organisation look like? What will the state of the environment be?

I’m not sure about any of these, but I am sure that the world we will gift to future generations is built on the actions we take today. I vote for a world of love, rather than fear, of open cooperation rather than closed competition. For Canadian CSOs, this starts with revisiting and reinvigorating their links with the Canadian public, as well with the world, reminding ourselves of the values we hold dear, celebrating the good work we have already done, and working collaboratively and creatively as we move forward. More than ever, Canadian CSOs depend directly on the Canadian public to understand and support their work, and they must open themselves to greater exchange. Likewise, while Canada has much to give to the world, we also have much to learn from our friends internationally, now more than ever.

I do not mean to downplay the current challenges, nor those that lay ahead, for CCIC and its members. They’re formidable. But I think we’re up to it. Having spent time in the last three days with the first group of CCIC emerging leaders, I can’t help but walk away with the impression that the future is bright.

Sarah Parkinson

May 24, 2013

Comment s’adapter à un monde en transformation?

Le forum annuel du Conseil canadien pour la Coopération internationale porte cette année sur le thème du développement et de la transformation sociale, une responsabilité partagée. Cette première journée interpelle toutes les organisations de la société civile, car elle aborde leur avenir. Les défis auxquels font face les organisations sont grands dans cet environnement en évolution. 

Le point de départ de cette réflexion débute avec l’essai de Michael Edwards, chercheur principal distingué à Demos et rédacteur en chef de Transformation@openDemocracy. Celui-ci s’intitule « Réflexion axée sur l’avenir : quatre questions qui interpellent les ONG ». Les participants ont pris part en matinée à un exercice de visualisation où ceux-ci étaient invités à imaginer le monde dans lequel ils voudraient vivre dans le futur. Michael Edwards conçoit les relations mondiales en termes local-global et non nord-sud.

Pour Anabel Cruz, directrice fondatrice de l’Instituto de Comunicación y Desarrollo en Uruguay, le concept d’aide étrangère n’est pas le terme à utiliser, car il implique une idée de supériorité. Selon elle, les organisations non gouvernementales (ONG) devraient plutôt promouvoir la coopération horizontale, par exemple entre les différents pays d’Amérique latine. La situation politique de cette zone a beaucoup évolué depuis une trentaine d’années. Désormais, plusieurs gouvernements sont de tendance progressiste. Cette coopération devient donc possible et souhaitable. Elle réduirait ainsi leur dépendance envers l’influence des puissances occidentales. Nous devons nous interroger sur les capacités qui ont été développées par le passé et construire à partir de ces bases.

La transformation de l’aide étrangère depuis vingt-cinq ans et plus récemment avec la réorientation des priorités de ses bailleurs de fonds publics oblige les organisations à repenser leur structure, leurs pratiques et leur ancrage au sein de la société civile canadienne. Pour certaines, cela signifie qu’elles doivent trouver de nouvelles sources de financement pour continuer leurs activités nationales ou internationales. La transparence de leur financement devient donc un élément essentiel du lien de confiance qui les unit à la société civile. Comme l’indique Anabel Cruz, les organisations doivent accepter les politiques gouvernementales pour survivre. Le financement public de la responsabilité sociale des entreprises, notamment des compagnies minières, semble être à la mode. Par conséquent, l’impact des décisions gouvernementales est très important sur le mandat des organisations. De plus, le financement public oblige maintenant les organisations à obtenir des résultats plus rapidement. L’âge d’or du développement international est révolu.

L’explosion du nombre d’organisations non gouvernementales indique également que les barrières à l’entrée sont très faibles. Barbara Levine, professeure adjointe à l’École de politique publique et d’administration de l’Université Carleton pose la question du besoin d’alliances stratégiques. D’après elle, ces alliances ne doivent pas être forcées, mais plutôt créées dans une perspective de vision commune de l’avenir.

La pertinence de ces organisations est également mise en doute. Anabel Cruz indique qu’il est important de revitaliser les liens des ONG avec les réalités locales. La plupart d’entre elles sont déconnectées des mouvements qui transforment la société (exemple : la place Syntagma ou le mouvement étudiant chilien).
La définition de client est également examinée. Selon Brian Emmett, économiste en chef à Imagine Canada, la dichotomie des donateurs et des États / organisations récipiendaires place les organisations dans une position difficilement soutenable. Les donateurs ne souhaitent plus traiter par un intermédiaire et souhaitent que leur contribution ait des résultats concrets à court terme. De l’autre côté, les récipiendaires ne souhaitent plus être passifs dans l’attente d’une solution deus ex machina. Il existe plusieurs exemples de partenariats avec des organismes locaux qui sont impliqués dans l’élaboration de solutions (exemple : venir au Canada pour travailler de concert avec l’ONG) et qui visent à les rendre autonomes. 

En conclusion, dans un contexte de changement structurel et de crise économique mondiale, la transformation semble inévitable. De nouveaux modèles d’aide internationale, humanitaire ou d’aide au développement doivent être développés. Il semble pour l’instant y avoir plus de questions que de réponses. Cependant, les organismes se devront d’être proactifs s’ils désirent conserver leur influence, mais surtout s’ils désirent renouer avec leurs racines. Les ONG doivent se réinventer et elles devront en payer le prix, au risque de perdre leur identité. 

Emilie Carrier

May 23, 2013

Inspired or deflated? Discussing the future of Canadian development aid

As a fly on the wall, or as my badge has it, a volunteer, at the Annual Forum of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) I’ve gotten to listen in on discussions and debates on the most pressing issues to Canada’s development CSO (Civil Society Organization) community. It is clear that Canada’s foreign development sector is entering some interesting times, and I do mean interesting in the most attention-grabbing form. Not only is CIDA amalgamating with DFAIT, but also the global development landscape is changing in front of our very eyes. The economic ascension of developing countries is rearranging the traditional relationship between providers and receivers of aid. With this in mind, I have witnessed discussions with an atmosphere of urgency, but also with a lining of optimism. As this forum goes on I hope this urgency will lead to a sense of a common purpose.

One of the more grand ideas behind this year’s gathering is the idea of shared responsibilities, or as Mathias Fiedler (whose paper provides a fundament for some of the discussions) puts it, the “One world approach”. Keynote speaker Michael Edward describes this concept as a bridge. This bridge rests on foundations that are equal at both ends and people are able to cross over in both directions. Development needs to happen in both hemispheres with a global participation and sense of responsibility. This week, over 150 leaders and participants gather here in Ottawa to discuss where Canadian organizations can fit into this picture.

This concept of shared responsibilities got me thinking. How would I feel as a citizen of Canada, if a group from for example China came to Ottawa to influence the development of my surroundings? Obviously, the answer to this question depends on the approach, methods, and area of interest (among many other factors) of the organization in question. If the bridge allows passage both ways, “developing” countries should be allowed to make what might at first be unwelcome demands of “developed” countries. The first of these should probably be to ask developed countries to stop referring to themselves as developed and recognize their own need for change. As Kathy Vandergrift proposed to the forum’s emerging leaders, maybe Canada is at a point where instead of sending aid workers abroad, we need to ask other countries to come here to help us reinvigorate the public discourse on for example sustainable consumption.

Canadians should not be afraid to challenge themselves, particularly in handling some of the more uncomfortable discussions. This means that aid should be an important topic at all levels of society, and also that us in the CSO environment should be open to discussing new development methods. As these ideas are being discussed here at the forum, I hope they do not get caught up in too much idealism (and perhaps a fear of offending), but that they also remain well planted in the reality of things. As Mr. Fiedler warns, the development discussion has a tendency to foster sycophants and self-congratulation. The CCIC has done a good job in seeking to avoid this, particularly through Wednesday’s debate.

A particular point of contention has been Canada’s role in the changing aid landscape. Our government is shaping its policies to try to keep up (or withdraw as some will have it) with these external changes. How can the new combination of strategic interests, trade, and aid be successful? Wednesday’s debate participants seemed to share the opinion that the new structure is functional, but depends on the actors inserted into it (think passionate leaders). Lucien Bradet ceded that the current personnel did not make his job of arguing for the new policy easier. Across the table, John Mckay to some extent in agreement, accepted that a cross party commitment, as seen in Britain, would make the new policy more persuasive.

In agreement or not, the situation remains that the Canadian CSO community will imminently find itself working within this framework. After hearing some of the ideas discussed today, I am left with the image of a turning of the ages. As the extinction of the dinosaurs brought on the ascension of the mammals, I am sure that the restructuring of the Canadian aid policies will see the fall of some outdated ideas, but I am also hopeful that it will see the rise of new innovative methods that will strengthen the plethora of Canadian aid organizations.

After taking in the impressions from the first day of the Annual Forum, I am left, after an influx of ideas, at a point of reserved optimism. Yes Canada’s CSO community is entering uncharted waters, however, from the signs of today’s discussion, it is not doing so without a will to adapt and prepare for a thorough exploration of these new territories.

Peder Soeraas

April 16, 2013

Who says trade and growth will lead to development?

This article first appeared on the Ottawa Citizen blog on aid and development.

Aid hasn’t done much for development, and even less for sustainable growth in countries. In fact everything but aid – trade liberalization, productivity and technology gains, income redistribution, remittances, the new “gangnam style” dance (ok, I made that bit up) – have been at the heart of the dramatic improvement in living standards in a number of emerging economies in recent years.

This is the main premise of the Globe & Mail’s March 29 editorial, “Towards better, smarter foreign aid”, on their rationale for why merging the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) into one Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development makes total sense.

Forget building bridges, roads and dams. Together, aid can better used to promote trade, which in turn will lead to more sustainable growth and long-term development. Just look at Brazil and Mexico and South Africa, the Globe says.

So I did.

In recent years, there has been a growing body of evidence that has analyzed some of the factors that encouraged sustained and inclusive growth and development in many emerging and developing economies.

The World Bank -sponsored 2008 Commission on Growth and Development drew its “strategies for sustained and inclusive growth” from 13 developing economies that enjoyed a sustained (25 years) period of strong growth (seven percent) and human development. The UNDP’s 2013 Human Development Report on “The Rise of the South” was released just one month ago. It taps the experience of 40 countries that had “done better than expected” in terms of both income and non-income dimensions of human development.

Both reports (like me) unequivocally agree that while trade and growth are important, growth is an insufficient condition to ensure long-term, positive and sustainable human development.

So what then? Each report highlights a number of key factors that contributed to the success of these economies in terms of both positive growth and human development outcomes. They overlap in three areas worth highlighting:

1)      Strong leadership and an active government and society  – While the private sector has an important role to play in development, both the Commission and UNDP reminds us of the necessity of a pro-active developmental state and society. Supported by a talented and well compensated public service, the Commission’s cases identified the importance of active governments that were invested in, and committed to, long-term plans to bring about inclusive growth in their economies and to effective institutions to deliver on this commitment.  But governments also need social policy that promotes inclusion, adds the UNDP, to ensure non-discrimination and equal treatment. As the Arab Spring has reminded us, this also requires space for people – in particular young people - to voice their concerns and demands, influence and shape policy, participate in political processes and demand accountability.

2)      A healthy questioning of unfettered liberalization – While the Commission acknowledges the need for open markets and a responsive economy that supports innovative new industries and dumps obsolete ones, it acknowledges that none of the countries they studied were free market purists (nor was the US and UK, for that matter). These countries developed industrial strategies to promote investments in new sectors, subsidized industries that otherwise wouldn’t have emerged, managed their exchange rates, implemented capital controls, and built up their reserves. (It is enough to make Adam Smith roll over in his grave.) Although neither the UNDP nor Commission advocate for such policies long term, they do recognize that there is a time and a place for such policies. Likewise, while the UNDP notes that tapping global markets is key, “success is more likely to be the result not of a sudden opening but of gradual and sequenced integration with the world economy, according to national circumstances, and accompanied by investment in people, institutions and infrastructure.”

3)      Impressive levels of public investments – Both the Commission and UNDP underscore the importance of investing heavily in people (quality education and skills development, in particular for girls, and nutrition and health care), and in infrastructure (roads, ports, airports, electricity, telecommunications). But this must also be accompanied by a strong focus on job creation and equality of opportunity that can shape (and be shaped by) the nature and pace of the job market, in synch with the skill-set of the new workforce. Furthermore, social safety nets, legal empowerment and access to basic services help smooth the transition for people between jobs. According to the Commission, this produces “healthy, educated workers, passable roads, and reliable electricity” and actually crowds in private investment, creating what the UNDP calls “virtuous cycles in which growth and social policies reinforce each other.”

Which leaves me wondering: wouldn’t “better, smarter foreign aid” have more leverage and impact if it aligned less with how we think growth and development works, and more with how it is actually happening – and quite successfully – in many parts of the developing world?

What do you think?

This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst (Aid), CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

April 9, 2013

Human Development Report 2013: Operationalizing Sen’s Development Framework through the Multidimensional Poverty Index

Development is frequently framed solely in terms of economic growth. Welfare and poverty measures’ paramount focus has been on income, consumption of goods, and availability of resources. Hence, development processes have traditionally been evaluated and quantified using economic indexes such as the Gross Domestic Product. Likewise, poverty is defined by a threshold of income, or alternatively of household commodities consumption, that one must cross in order to escape from being labelled “poor.”

However, examining income alone is inadequate for describing human poverty. Utilitarian-focused poverty measures do not reflect concerns over other aspects of human deprivation, such as well-being, happiness, sustainability, freedom, capabilities, and the like. In short, these poverty measures’ preoccupation with setting the right components and prices in evaluating those metrics overshadow the non-economic aspects of human development.

Unsatisfied with current measures of poverty and welfare, and wanting to capture the full complexity of human capabilities, development economists such as Amartya Sen have expounded the capability approach throughout the past few decades. Sen’s work seeks to reorient development work to expand individuals’ capabilities in achieving valuable beings and doings. Departing from orthodox measures of poverty and the Rawlsian emphasis on primary goods or utility measures, Sen examines an individual’s level of functionings – that is, the “various things that a person may value doing or being.” This framework reorients human development to expand a person’s real opportunities or freedoms to live lives he or she has reason to value.

Notwithstanding his other contributions to the development discourse, Sen’s conceptualization of capabilities as a kind of substantive freedom is an advancement for those who are traditionally disregarded in decision-making processes. Recognizing the poor’s agency in voicing their own needs and laying claims to opportunities for living lives they have reason to value, the marginalized are cast to the forefront as actors – in lieu of passive beneficiaries of aid – within development processes. In sum, Sen’s philosophical reframing of poverty and development has the potential to effectively democratize development processes.

His conceptual framework laid the foundations for the Human Development Index, which was created in 1990 for the Human Development Report. This index is supplemented by the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) in 2010, which “identifies multiple deprivations at the individual level in health, education and standard of living” across 104 developing countries (UNDP). Its developers advocate for its use in order to complement income poverty measures. By measuring acute poverty instead of extreme poverty (based on the World Bank’s $1.25/day poverty measure), the MPI sheds light on those who “do not reach the minimum standards in several indicators at the same time” (Alkire and Santos 2011:30).

The legitimacy of the MPI stems from how it reflects the Millennium Development Goals in its indicator cut-offs, making it a more direct measure of human development aspirations that are internationally agreed-upon (Alkire and Santos 2011:30). Drawing from data sources such as the Demographic Health Surveys (DHS), the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), and the World Health Survey, the MPI focuses on the wider dimensions of poverty and underdevelopment than traditional income poverty measures. Unlike the Human Development Index, however, the MPI’s variables are linked to a particular household (i.e. same survey source). The MPI is also decomposable by population sub-groups, allowing policy makers to analyze poverty data and target their development policies to specific groups accordingly.

OPHI’s analysis of the global MPI 2013 spans four topics, of which one is an analysis of where the poorest “Bottom Billion” live using both national averages and individual poverty profiles. By identify where the poor are and how they are poor, the MPI 2013 can be used to divert resources effectively to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 MDGs. The analysis is especially important in dispelling common assumptions of where the poor are: almost 10% of the poorest billion people live in High Income or upper Middle Income countries. This demonstrates the need for going beyond traditional monetary poverty measures for identifying the poor.

Because the MPI can be disaggregated, it can highlight inequalities across regions and social groups. If one examines national poverty levels, the MPI shows that the “Bottom Billion” live in 30 countries, with 66% of the poorest billion living in Lower Middle Income countries. An analysis of subnational poverty levels shows that the bottom billion live in 265 subnational regions across 44 countries. Finally, individual poverty profiles reveal that the poorest billion are distributed across 100 countries, with over 9% living in upper Middle Income countries. Geographically speaking, South Asia is home to the majority of the world’s poorest billion, ranging from 52 to 62%, depending on the level of disaggregation. Most of the rest of the “Bottom Billion” live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

From the discussion above, it is clear that the MPI is a crucial tool for analyzing the effectiveness of poverty alleviation efforts on national, subnational, and individual scales. Moreover, it provides a more comprehensive picture of human development and takes into account the voice of the poor. By focusing attention on people’s capabilities, the MPI is one step closer to realizing Sen’s call towards a development paradigm that centers on the poor’s agency in reframing what poverty means, thus bringing about a more inclusive development regime that truly addresses the deprivations faced by individuals.

Esther Kwan is a first year MPhil student at the Oxford Department of International Development.