If, When and Whom to Marry: Young Women Choosing Their Best Future of Health

28796175381_0b954aa4ae_zIt is perhaps easy to envision what should constitute quality health care for all people. What about choice in what quality health care means per person, according to what one wants for their lives?

When a person reaches the age of adolescence, they become more aware of how their surroundings and choices affect their future. When that adolescent is entrenched in a patriarchal society, the set expectations for their future more so affects their current life and health. Examples include teen pregnancy as a result of early and child marriage, lack of access to age-appropriate sexual and reproductive health education, and young women dropping out of school.

The Hunger Project is working in Africa and South Asia to shift these patriarchal mindsets and empower youth – both young women and men – to make decisions about their health and future through the Her Choice Program.

Through a community-based mentoring approach, including peer mentors, the program mobilizes relevant community actors to build local ownership over ending child-marriage. Activities aim to foster empowerment among girls and young women to take control of decision-making, and sensitize the community to value such.

Girls and communities become increasingly aware of the negative [health] consequences of early, child and forced marriage, which allows girls and young women to better participate in society and apply newly gained knowledge from sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) into their life choices. “If, when and whom” to marry is the primary choice in focus.

Early, child and forced marriage pervades the cycle of poverty, especially for young women: dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, limited or no household decision making capacity, poor health of young mothers and newborns, lack of decisions around one’s sexual and reproductive preferences, and stagnated economic empowerment and income generation among women. The program aims to improve access to formal education for girls by supporting girl-friendly schools and access to youth-friendly SRHR services.

035Relevant community actors are key in helping shift the patriarchal social norms to ensure an enabling environment wherein girls can make their own life choices. Women’s “self-help” groups carry out trainings and education about financial services to improve economic security of girls and their families. This helps to decrease incentive for marrying off daughters and increase women’s independent economic empowerment. Relevant community actors also include traditional leaders and supportive groups of men of all ages to help transform social and traditional norms toward inclusion of women and girls in decision-making. Traditional leaders are especially crucial in helping enforce national policies around child marriage, in not approving or overseeing child marriages in their respective communities.

By imbedding youth-friendly SRHR leadership and program activities into communities, Her Choice is influencing sustainable results. They can continue building on local assets and train additional young leaders to continue fostering women’s choice in marriage.

Do you want to marry? If so, when would you want to marry? And to what kind of person would you like to be married? Do you want to finish school before you consider marriage? Do you want to finish school and pursue work more than you want to be married? The choices – at least in some way – affect health and economic security.

There are many ways we can degrade, stabilize or improve our own health. Everyday habits like washing your hands, drinking clean water, eating healthily, to more long-term choices like getting vaccinated. Young women have a right to choose their future of health, and that right includes choosing “if, when and whom” they should marry.

 

 

Gender Focus: The Promise for Self-Reliance from a Transformed USAID

25897178921_13df6cb2b1_oThe DC community of civil society organizations (CSOs) has been buzzing, often in direct engagement with USAID, about the current USAID transformation. It seems promising and the timing could not be better, but given that the majority of the world’s poor are women living in patriarchal societies, will it deliver on gender?

The Agency has not undergone such an extensive transformation at all levels since the 90s, and this one could realize sustainable implementation that will be more efficient in cost, time and management. The new structure of USAID bureaus could also be more conducive to integrated solutions and adaptive programming, wherein local persons can take on greater leadership roles in their own development process.

The new Policy Framework for USAID (1. focusing on country progress, 2. seeking resilient, sustainable results, and; 3. partnering for impact) would purportedly preside others. There is concern among CSOs and USAID partners that without gender as a priority in the Policy Framework, USAID’s transformation will fall short in the transformation and implementation processes.

It is a fact that inequality undermines economic growth and development; gender inequality must be addressed as a key factor that pervades social and economic barriers. The Policy Framework is therefore the most promising “home base” for gender in order to build the self-reliance required for host countries to end their need for foreign assistance.

Gender analysis is good, but it is not enough.

The inclusion of the “economic gender gap” metric in USAID’s “Journey to Self-Reliance” does provide a valuable measure of the gender gap in salaries, work force participation, and professional leadership. It is in alignment with a 2015 McKinsey Global Institute study, which states that a “scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men… would add up to $28 trillion, or 26%, to the annual GDP in 2025.”

Secondary metrics for gender in the areas of health and education offer space where USAID has a suite of indicators (see: USAID’s Child, Early and Forced Marriage Resource Guide) that can be “inserted” across silos. Women and girls’ health indicators, such as maternal mortality ratios and rates of HIV among adolescents, can help determine health and well-being as a key means to empowerment and gender equality. Sex- and age-disaggregated data should be collected across all sectors to show a holistic “picture” of the status of women and girls in society.

Finally, it will be beneficial for the Policy Framework and gender in secondary metrics for USAID to continue to use the standard foreign assistance indicators (F indicators). These measure country capacity and commitment, as they measure performance across multiple program categories and are structured to include both State and USAID spending.

Having gender roles is good, but it is not enough [if such are dual “hatted”].

Full-time staff – at any level – dedicated exclusively to gender would be ideal. The value of such could be well argued by the Gender Development team of USAID, which has extensive expertise and experience with gender-focus in USAID programming, monitoring and evaluation, and analysis.

It would be equally complimentary and useful for the Senior Coordinator on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment to maintain a full-time, whole-of-agency focus on strengthening gender integration while housed in the Office of the Administrator – with appropriate staffing to ensure relevant work can be done effectively.

Beyond staffing, embedding the Gender Development Office within the new Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI) would help to ensure and foster strong gender mainstreaming throughout USAID: 1) support for [evidence-based] gender program design and technical assistance to Missions, and; 2) cutting-edge monitoring, evaluation and analysis of gender investments for applied learning.

Gender as a priority in the Policy Framework of a newly transformed USAID makes deeper impact in monitoring host country progress and achieving self-reliance promising.

Keeping it Real for Migrants and Refugees

By: Mary Kate Costello and Maurice A. Bloem

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Get real, yo. This was the concluding summary of an important event about migration and refugees held during the United Nation’s 2017 High Level Political Forum. Executive Vice President of Church World Service, Maurice A. Bloem, determined in his closing remarks that the global community needs to face the reality of the migration crisis and get serious about meeting human rights for each human.

Church World Service, a global and first responder to the migration crisis, collaborated with the gender-focused global development organization, The Hunger Project, to host an event that honed in on inexcusable gaps in supporting migrants and building resilience in a time of the most migrants in the history of the human population. Senior Policy Analyst and UN Representative, Mary Kate Costello, prodded the panelists to address the contentious issues of culture, xenophobia and donor restrictions in times of protracted crisis.Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 3.43.57 PM.png

Andrew Fuys, Director of Program Innovation and Evaluation at Church World Service, addressed that while many funders place limitations on contributions to humanitarian efforts and displaced persons, implementation of response-efforts can still prioritize livelihood opportunities toward migrants’ self-reliance and mitigate cases of extortion and other threats against refugee women who seek to meet basic needs.

Throughout HLPF, many UN Member States report out on their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) about progress toward the SDGs and other recent resolutions. Challenges, successes and gaps reflect impact for and by their resident populations, and often without clear mention of present migrant populations or refugees within their countries. So, who is accountable for ensuring the human rights – and therefore dignity – of migrants and refugees? How can host governments, responding multilateral agencies and civil society organizations uphold progress toward SDGs for migrants and refugees?

Migrants and refugees do not have voting rights and in many cases cannot obtain decent or any employment due to policies and lack of employability in their new context. Most live in their new surroundings without recognized voice. In the short term, they suffer immeasurably and irreversibly. And in the long term this means slowing progress writ large.  

Migrants and refugees are not a homogenous group. They are persons from various religions, genders, sexual orientations, income levels, education levels, and so on. Thus, their needs are just as varied – especially in the areas of education, skills building and health access. Of utmost importance, and priority for UNFPA and Church World Service in working with migrants, is community leadership, cultural sensitivity and creating livelihood choices to ensure individuals’ autonomy and dignity.

FullSizeRenderThe latter can be especially challenging given immigration work permit processes, job availability, demand versus supply, and any migrants’ personal funds for investment lost during their displacement. Thus, responding organization and agencies are crucial in making market expansion assessments to determine possible and dignified income options for migrants.

UNFPA, the United Nation’s Population Fund, is paying particular attention to the politicized dynamics of providing sexual and reproductive health rights, as well as other personal needs such as head scarves for women to feel comfortable leaving their camp to obtain basic goods. These human rights based health approached and faith-revering responses are helping provide migrants with both comfortable and life saving transitions to life in a camp or new host country.

Panelist and UNFPA’s Senir Advisor on Culture, Dr. Azza Karam, explained that both secular and faith-based responders must increase their collaboration and break down any preconceived notions of their initiatives simply because of a specific religious affiliation or none at all. She noted that organizations such as, Church World Service, World Vision and Islamic Relief prioritize people writ large, not only people of a certain religion.

In response, Mary Kate reminded event attendees that the youth attendees of the 2016 CSW Youth Forum included in their Youth Declaration the need for interreligious and intercultural dialogues, especially for young women’s economic empowerment. If youth see this is as the way forward for a peaceful, productive and sustainable world, it will behoove us to heed this call to action and leverage their leadership.  

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As it concerns displaced and other migrant youth, 50% are women and girl, yet according to UN Women’s Ravi Karkara, only 4% of global resources are allocated specifically for their empowerment. UN Women’s Gender Framework, LEAPs, encapsulates programmatic needs for young women’s empowerment, and is easily applied to any initiative. Ravi stated that it is especially crucial for such to be monitored and evaluated using data that is disaggregated by both age and gender.

Internal migration also disproportionately affects women and girls. Rosie del Pilar Garavito, HLPF Youth Delegate for the Mission of Peru to the UN and Founder of The Millennials Movement, spoke about the unique prevalence of internal displacement and migration for Peruvians due to climate change and seeking economic opportunity. In coping as the third most affected nation by climate change, a diverse Peruvian population faces exacerbating xenophobia as cultural groups’ home areas change and attempt to integrate with others. However, she noted that Peru is astutely looking beyond the Global Goals’ deadline of 2030 and aiming toward a plan for development and climate change adaptation through 2050. More from Peru’s VNR can be read here.

In thinking about migration response, improving local capacities and leveraging indigenous technologies and innovations can be efficient efforts for those at-risk of becoming displaced. Leveraging local resources and capacities is more often than not more time and money efficient in building up resilience of persons on the verge of displacement.

In summary, we learned that we need to #GetRealYO (see text box).

As one of the audience participants said: No one should be left behind. Every human being is a resource for dignity of any community, nation & global village. #GETREALYO because we are #GREATERAS1.

 

Next year there is an opportunity as Goal 6, 7, 11, 15 and again 17 will be especially reviewed while the theme will be Transformation toward sustainable and resilient societies.

Advocating for Youth Leadership to Achieve the SDGs

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Mary Kate Costello addresses youth attendees of 2017 Winter Youth Assembly.

In keeping with The Hunger Project’s priority to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals through community-led development, advocacy for youth leadership and engagement has been at a forefront. The Hunger Project took a leading role in both the United Nation’s 6th Annual Youth Forum and the Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations at the beginning of February 2017.

Follow-up: Click here to read Mary Kate’s article on young women’s cooperatives.

The Hunger Project’s Senior Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, has been an active member of the United Nation’s Interagency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality, and is now co-chair of its new Task Force on Young Women’s Economic Empowerment. Such engagement afforded The Hunger Project the opportunity to chair two sessions during the Youth Forum: breakout sessions on SDGs 2 and 5.

Mary Kate participated in the SDG5 session as a panelist, focusing on the importance of young women-led cooperatives, especially at the grassroots. Not only will cooperatives provide improved income generation for young women, but also offer unique social inclusion – especially for marginalized persons such as those with disabilities and indigenous women. Mary Kate stressed Coop UK’s research that cooperatives have an 80% success rate in their first five years compared to 40% for other economic initiatives and investments. Discussion during the breakout session included hindrances to gender equality in the economy as a result of both discriminatory laws and discriminatory practices that do not adhere to favorable laws for women. One such example noted was Ghana’s policies entitling women and men to have the same allowances in owning land. However, this is not reflected in the percentage of land owned by women. Approximately 15% of men own land in Ghana, whereas less than 10% women own land.[1]

The Hunger Project, as a leader in integrated community-led development, was asked to moderate one of the Youth Forum’s Media Zone Panels. Mary Kate Costello engaged with three youth leaders about their work toward SDG2, ending hunger, in their respective home countries of Trinidad and Tobago, Nepal, and Colombia. Issues covered included how to encourage youth interest in agriculturally focused employment, mobile phone technology and grassroots capacity assessments and rehabilitation of abandoned fisheries to generate exponential income. The full panel is available here.

The week rounded off with chairing and speaking in the Winter Youth Assembly

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Winter Youth Assembly attendees discuss their leadership initiatives toward SDGs 1 and 2.

interactive session on SDG1, ending poverty. The Hunger Project, alongside cohosts Campus Kitchens Project and FeelGood, looked
at existing youth-led initiatives toward ending hunger that mitigate poverty. The United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) delivered the keynote address via their Lead Technical Specialist, Mattia Prayer Galletti, challenging that youth development need not only include youth in program design and implementation, but more important youth leadership in both aspects.

The Hunger Project, out of its pillar to empower women, is an organizing partner of the upcoming CSW Youth Forum from 10 – 12 March 2017, and will be featured in a plenary panel on the topic of young women-led cooperatives again. This year’s CSW Youth Forum is the second of its kind, chaired by UN Women and YWCA, as a youth-focused “opening” to the annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN. The Hunger Project will maintain its engagement in the arena of youth development and leadership as a key element of community-led programming to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

[1] http://news.trust.org/item/20160516120134-jqvsx

Youth Leadership and Voice in Post 2015: UN Resolution 2250

Youth Representative of Burkina Faso and Restless Development, Cheick Faycal Traore, meetings at the United Nations with The Hunger Project, the Government of the Philippines and MCC to discuss youth in community-led development.
Youth Representative of Burkina Faso and Restless Development, Cheick Faycal Traore, at the United Nations with The Hunger Project, the Government of the Philippines and MCC.

It is not new knowledge that half of the world’s population is made up of persons under the age of 35, the majority of whom are youth older than 15. As the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals near, the world will be responsible for achieving sustainable development within only fifteen years. In the absence of the estimated two trillion dollars per year to realize the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, development initiatives must be implemented efficiently and – ideally – through community leadership to reduce loss of money from trickle-down approaches. Volunteerism, local capacity building, local and youth leadership and community mobilization will be necessary, not optional.

The United Nations has keenly prioritized youth leadership and youth mobilization to not only implement the SDGs, but to also establish youth’s rightful ownership over their communities’ and nations’ development. Without their ownership and engagement for both current and future leadership in alignment with the SDGs, the goals are at a serious risk of not being achieved by 2030 – a window of development opportunity that may very well be the last to ensure stable security and the eradication of hunger and poverty forever.

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 2.32.24 PMTherefore, on December 9, 2015, The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2250 to emphasize the importance of youth leadership and inclusion to achieve peace and security worldwide. The approach? Youth (ages 18-29) representation for decision making – at all levels – must be increased.In my opinion, this is the most important Resolution adopted by the Security Council since Resolution 1325 in 2000, which similarly acknowledged the need for increased inclusion of women in peace building processes due to the unique gender roles of increasing warfare. Like women, youth account for a significant number, if not majority, of civilians affected by armed conflict and living as refugees or displaced persons. In under 10 minutes, Resolution 2250 was adopted, proving that the Security Council finds it significantly less advantageous to “marginalize” a majority population that has significant capability than leverage and include them as a priority resource for peace and security. A lack of youth leadership and representation poses the risk of losing youth to other priorities such as joining rebel groups or contentment with helplessness.

The millennial generation is uniquely positioned on the global stage amidst globalized technological communication and exposure to improved living standards or policies through available internet connections. Millennials living in extreme poverty are arguably the first from which a majority are rejecting a rural livelihood built on agriculture, instead opting for informal or illegal employment in more urban settings or internet means. They are at a higher risk than youth of any previous generation to be recruited in greater numbers by terrorists or rebels through exploitation of internet access and other forms of modern communication (i.e. texting hot lines). They are also at a significant risk of long-term unemployment and continued poverty should they not be included in the discourse of development plans, from which we risk their disagreement with approaches or priorities to achieve the SDGs. These are risks we must mitigate.

Beyond what I consider to be a moral imperative of the inclusion of a youth voice – at all levels – in peace building and dispute resolution, it is to the world’s economic advantage that UN Member States implement Resolution 2250 [promptly] into practice, establishing conducive policies if need be. Especially for those nations whose conflict has hindered youth education and employment opportunities, their inclusion in decision making will undoubtedly positively impact economic prosperity as solutions are deliberated and established together through the lens of youth and their desires for development.

What is the role for development actors such as foundations and CSOs to contribute to this process? Firstly, advocating for 1) meaningful implementation of Resolution 2250, and; 2) the establishment of relevant policies. Advocate also for the implementation of development initiatives, ideally in partnership with [local] government, that provide opportunities for youth leadership, education, employment and vocational training to motivate positive youth engagement and contribution to society. Lastly, I encourage the design and implementation of locally-led, youth-centered development initiatives that empower youth with leadership skills, dispute resolution skills, seat quotas within relevant committees, and program design input and leadership. Positive engagement and outcomes thereof will not only be an example to governments and multilateral implementers of the positive impact of youth leadership and inclusion in discourse, but will also increase the number of youth engaged in development practices in the absence of government or others’ capacity to scale-up initiatives.

Youth have experiences to share, ideas to discuss, opinions to contribute in discourse and a unique capability given their available time, especially in the absence of employment or education. They are driven to seek and enact change due to their interconnectedness and lifestyle exposures through globalized technological communication. Youth are not the leaders of the future; they are able to be leaders now. Their risks and tribulations are issues of the present, and likely to worsen without their inclusion in development and peace building leadership. Just in time for the start of the SDGs, Resolution 2250 was adopted and must be duly implemented and recognized by all actors if we need to achieve sustainable development by 2030.

IFPRI and The Hunger Project feature ODESZA in 2015 Global Nutrition Report Video

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 10.47.50 AMThe official video for the 2015 Global Nutrition Report (GNR), featuring popular electronic music group ODESZA‘s song Kusanagi, launched on Monday, November 9th. The video summarizes key messages about global malnutrition and its effects on strong development. Produced by The Hunger Project’s Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, the video features imagery and video donated by The Hunger Project, accurately depicting the realities of extremely impoverished persons and the challenges of malnutrition.

As Post 2015 nears, the 2015 GNR bears heavy weight in development dialogues about priority issue areas to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The reality that no country is on track to achieve all of the nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly is sobering given that countries can lose up to 11% GDP as a result of malnutrition. To meet health, WASH and economic indicators, nutrition must be prioritized.

This video marks a turning point for nutrition experts and champions as it aims to reach new audiences by featuring music from a musical group such as ODESZA, which has a social media following of more than 70,000 millennials and electronic music fans. This type of video calls on the millennial generation that beholds the chance to end extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all of its forms to share the message and take action: “To policy makers everywhere from everyone: malnutrition affects everyone on earth.”

Music:
ODESZA – “Kusanagi”
http://odesza.com

Sustainable Development by 2030 Requires Community-led Development

“For us, then, to reach our twin goals, three things have to happen—inclusive economic growth, investment in human beings, and insurance against the risk that people could fall back into poverty. Grow, invest, and insure: that’s our shorthand for it…We reject “trickle-down” notions that assume that any undifferentiated growth permeates and fortifies the soil and everything starts to bloom, even for the poor.  We need to find an economic growth model that lifts up the poorest citizens rather than enriching only those at the top.”

-Jim Young Kim, President, World Bank Group address at the 2015 WB/IMF Annual Meetings

At the United Nations on September 30, over a dozen INGOs and other likeminded development stakeholders officially launched the Movement for Community-led Development during UNGA70. The motivation for this Movement stems from the need to push for an exponential increase in bottom-up development initiatives that mobilize and empower citizens as the key agents of change for their own development.

Co-hosted by the Government of the Philippines, featuring local representatives from the Kalahi-CIDSS program, the Movement launch yielded provocative discussion around the inefficiencies of prioritizing top-down development approaches and resource provisions [in the absence of humanitarian needs]. On the heels of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, there are already sobering concerns around the realistic capacity and resources to achieve all of the goals and targets by 2030. Experts from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Restless Development, Institute for State Effectiveness and Heifer International explained how the sweat equity from community-led development, notably youth and women, would undoubtedly provide crucial capacity to achieve the goals at all levels. 

The discussion included two prominent elements: 1) strengthening good, local governance for effective partnerships with communities, and; 2) integrated strategies to build the whole of communities and individuals.

Using the example of rebuilding infrastructure and effective service delivery in his community after Typhoon Haiyan, Mayor Pelagio R. Pecson Jr, of Tanauan, Leyte in the Philippines, one of Kalahi-CIDSS’ operational areas, explained how strides in community-led development built significant resilience to trauma and devastation in the wake of disaster. The accountability and leadership skills of citizens and their responsive local government meant shorter crisis and less costly crisis management to rebuild.

Heifer International’s Partnerships and Business Development Manager, Kamil Madanat, spoke specifically about the crucial need for integrated programming at the community level in order to break the cycle of poverty. Strategic interlinkages between sectors such as health, education, sanitation, improved agricultural techniques and food storage results in increased income due to healthier living standards and overall improvement in livelihoods. This includes decreasing time poverty, and expanding local economies through better market access and new value chain entry points. Kamil explained that the key implementers of these interventions were few others than trained community leaders and grassroots volunteers. He stated that “empowered communities will make better decisions,” defending that investment in human capital is greater than resource or monetary investments. John Coonrod, Executive Vice President of The Hunger Project added to this, saying that the “2030 agenda demands that people work together.”

While continuing the unveiling of the Movement for Community-led Development, Clare Lockhart, Founder and President of the Institute for State Effectiveness gave examples of how [at least] millions of crucial donor dollars are wasted as they “trickle down” from high-level and managerial positions through resources spent on program design without input or leadership from community members. Implementation and monitoring is then not only carried out in shorter time frames than from which significant impact can occur, but it often fails to fulfill intended goals due to poor applicability to the community and a lack of community ownership to ensure sustainability. One such example was the distribution of logs to repair and strengthen clay homes in rural Africa. The logs did not fit the existing home structures and time did not allow for complete reconstruction of the homes. The time and money intended to repair homes became fuel for local stoves; the people were still essentially homeless and the project did not yield a sustainable outcome.

Civil society and its most important partners – the local citizens for whom our work is intended – are increasingly demanding community-led prioritization from donors, bi-laterals and government funding agencies. This includes multi-sectoral funding streams, longer funding windows and flexible funding to ensure community ownership and leadership. This global call for action begins with the Movement for Community-led Development.

If your foundation, organization or company wants to join the Movement, please visit the site and submit your inquiry: www.communitydev.net

Making the Case for Investing in Nutrition with CONCERN Worldwide

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Financing Community-led Development: Putting People First

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 1.08.18 PMThe United Nations’ much anticipated Third Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) has come and gone. Over four days, more than 6,000 high-level development actors gathered to discuss the needs and means to finance the implementation of the Post 2015 Development Agenda. What was declared as the final draft of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) left much to be desired, especially according to CSOs.

In the wake of the Zero Outcome Document of the Post 2015 Development Agenda, The Hunger Project and CONERN Worldwide‘s FfD3 side event, Financing Community-led Development: Putting People First, proves to be timely and crucially relevant. The Preamble of the Zero Outcome Document outlines five areas for intended outcomes by 2030: people, planet, poverty, prosperity and partnerships. The content states the need for integrated programming, cross-sectoral partnerships, leaving no one behind, and creating self-reliance for sustainable development. These points were key points made during the aforementioned FfD3 side event.

Chaired by Tom Arnold, coordinator ad interim of the SUN Movement, challenged attendees to consider grassroots, bottom-up development initiatives that place women at the center and prioritize partnerships with local governments. Orla O’Neill, Assistant Country Director of CONCERN Worldwide Ethiopia, spoke specifically about resilience-building and why it must be achieved at the community level. Orla noted the truest fact in development: poverty is complex and solutions must be designed accordingly at the local level. Much like her co-panelists’ affiliations, Orla explained that CONCERN integrates sectors of development and engages community members as partners and key stakeholders, rather than beneficiaries. CONCERN’s specific purpose around their efforts is “the ability of a community, to anticipate, respond to, cope with and recover from the effects of shocks and stresses that drive or exacerbate malnutrition in a timely and effective manner, without compromising their long-term prospects of moving out of poverty and hunger.” This is backed by the inalienable priority of communities being at the center of decision-making because of community members’ skills, experiences, opinions and closest understanding of their culture and needs.

Neguest Mekonnen, Country Director of The Hunger Project-Ethiopia provided the programmatic example of The Hunger Project’s Epicenter Strategy. Focusing closely on the role of women and voluntary leadership roles in local community clusters, Neguest discussed the need to mobilize several communities together to leverage available resources and capacities in order for people to invest in and be agents of their own development. A cluster of communities yields strength in numbers in establishing strong social accountability mechanisms to hold local governments to account and successfully partner with them to fulfill basic human rights services in the long-term. In the Epicenter Strategy, this includes training of trainers in local communities to fulfill “animator” roles as HIV educators, literacy and numeracy teachers, agricultural farming technique teachers, advocates for healthy pregnancies and micro-finance committee leaders. Without these local leaders and community knowledge, the lynchpin in mobilizing and transforming mind sets from hopelessness to empowerment would be impossible.

What is the role of youth at the local level? Burkina Faso’s UN Youth Envoy for the Post 2015 Development Agenda joined the panel as a youth representative for Restless Development. Cheick, a young male and development leader of several NGOs, spoke about the critical role of leveraging the large youth population for leadership roles at the grassroots level to mobilize and positively impression youth, especially at the adolescent age. Telling examples of failed development attempts to construct desirable and central water pumping stations in a village, Cheick explained that such a shortcoming was due entirely to a lack of community decision making and youth leadership. Without awareness of cultural traditions and emerging changes as recognized by youth, development initiatives risk failure – and wasting money – when solely implementing based on “expertise” or data. Cheick stated that the reality is that “youth want to be agents of change, not passive recipients of action.”

Speaking on behalf of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the United States Government, Beth Tritter, Vice President of Policy and Evaluation spoke from the lens of a foundation that stemmed from the UN’s first Conference on Financing for Development in Doha. Beth explained that MCC aims to yield results that outlive investments through prioritizing country ownership and country implementation to adapt initiatives most appropriately to local conditions and needs. Two mutually benefitting strengths of MCC: strengthening good governance and investing directly in citizens. Beth also noted that MCC’s scope covers all sectors and seeks to work with a multitude of stakeholders to achieve a shared vision of sustainable development. From the CSO perspective, it is encouraging that a community-oriented foundation that results from the first FfD still operates today, proving to other donors that their approach is worth adopting.

Financing community-led development is not only appropriate, but economically and sustainably promising. To achieve this, panelists called for multi-sectoral funding streams for longer term programs – estimating between five and eight years – as well as flexibility to accommodate changes to maintain relevance. There was also a strong preference for funding that benefits collaboratives or alliances. Such groups bring a multitude of expertise across sectors and are accountable to one another to fulfill goals. Most importantly, financing community-led development must prioritize community decision-making, community ownership, and country ownership in the longer term. Development initiatives must mitigate dependency, providing hand ups, solutions, training and alleviating time. This will not be accomplished to the utmost through “trickle-down” funding, higher level decision making and exclusive resource provisions. Invest in empowerment, locals, women, youth and integrated, long-term programming is the means if the goal is truly sustainable development that leaves no one behind.

Financing for Development – Civil Society Forum

CSO Development Roles and Calls to Action for FfD and Post 2015

SG_CSO2sizedThe United Nation’s Third Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3) was immediately preceded by the CSO Forum on July 11-12 at the Desalegn Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Hunger Project’s Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, attended the several plenaries and meetings, noting that priority was placed on human rights-based approaches, increasing people-centered development initiatives, and consensus around the fact that the world’s current ways of production and consumption are not sustainable.

In the opening plenary, UN Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Council, Honorable Wu Hongbo, spoke vehemently about the need to look at the social impact of development through changing mindsets of the most impoverished persons. He reasoned that this must be realized through integrated approaches to ensure holistic livelihood improvement and community mobilization. Siloed approaches are essentially a development way of the past.

CSO aid and initiatives cannot sustainably be a resource upon which people are dependent. The role of civil society in carrying out and meeting the goals of the Post-2015 Development Agenda was deemed most relevant in catalyzing and urging governments to coordinate between ministries and partner with citizens, especially at the grassroots level. This will eliminate vacuums of sustainability as citizens and governments are mobilized together, ultimately mitigating dependency and disempowerment.

Regarding financing development, public-private partnerships (PPPs) and domestic resource mobilization were discussed as critical. PPPs will only be promising if avenues of sourcing and use are strategic and seek to cut risk for both parties. The main priority of action and monitoring such should be accountability and transparency wherein there lies no competition, rather broader space for opportunity. The issue of domestic resource mobilization stemmed from the fact that developing countries abundant in raw resources are obtaining poor revenue in comparison to what could be obtained within stronger systems of taxation, domestic resource processing and eliminating illicit financial flows. This issue continues to be one of key disagreement between UN Member States. There has yet to be broad consensus on reforming tax policies for the purpose of domestic ownership for development. In the meantime, many governments are not implementing necessary legal processes to behoove development via the private sector. This includes taxation of multilateral corporations and no demand for private sector to place priority on human rights and environmental solutions.

The CSO Forum’s Closing Plenary featured remarks from UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon. He also placed specific priority on the advocacy role of CSOs for the Post 2015 Development Agenda, rightfully stating that accountability for the SDGs are heavily reliant on CSOs’ mainstreaming awareness amongst citizens and stakeholders at all levels. For this, Ban Ki-Moon noted civil society’s expertise and rapport of legitimacy in the public arena to use its prerogative to speak to world leaders and assist in making the world sustainable. He also affirmed Hon. Hongbo’s statements around development being a people-centered process: bottom-up from the grassroots.

Outcome calls to action from civil society in concluding the CSO Forum were the following:
Redefine the global objective for sustainable development regulations to attempt to displace attention from the state
Rules for tax cooperation need to be rewritten
Address underlying systemic issues of the UN
Instrumentalization of gender
Countries re-adhering to the 12 ECOSOC Principles determined in 2002
Follow-up processes need to be stronger, especially for monitoring and implementation

FfD3 is one of the top three high level UN gatherings leading up to Post 2015. Member states will meet to attempt to declare consensus for the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Civil society will be prominently present as a tripartite partner to government and UN agencies, listening to specific priorities and imparting proposals and remarks through plenaries, roundtables and hundred of side events. Adoption of the Post 2015 Development Agenda is fast approaching.

The goal of sustainability is clear, however consensus on the process[es] of implementation and financing for such remain undetermined. For civil society, the main hope is that the final drafts of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Post 2015 Development Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda be unreasonably ambitious.