Proposed Federal Budget 2018 Fails to Defend the World’s Most Vulnerable Persons

 

Lobby Day Feat Image

On June 13, three of The Hunger Project’s DC team members joined over 500 people to meet with congressmen and women on issues of hunger and poverty as part of Bread for the World’s annual Lobby Day. Lobby Day brings together NGOs, church groups, and individuals from all over the US to spend a day advocating on The Hill in Washington, D.C.for anti-hunger and poverty legislation. With the proposed 2018  federal budget – which includes cuts to health care and food assistance programs – this year’s Lobby Day was especially important in making heard the voices of those whose human rights could be most compromised. 

Participants in Lobby Day made three important requests in the fight to end suffering:  

1. Oppose any budget cuts that would increase hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

In the United States, 1 in 8 families are food insecure and 1 in 6 children are at risk of living in hunger. Around the world, 800 million people are hungry and nearly 20 million people are facing starvation as a result of the famines in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.

Federal budget allocations for nutrition are investments that will have economic benefits for our society. Representative Dan Donovan recently wrote an op-ed article about why cutting foreign aid is a mistake:

“In 2015 alone, 18 million children under five improved their nutritional intake thanks to support from U.S. programs. Children who get the right nutrition early are 10-times more  likely to overcome life-threatening childhood diseases. They are also more likely to achieve higher levels of education. Growing evidence also suggests a strong positive correlation between nutrition and lifetime earnings. Think of the impact — for every dollar invested in nutrition, we see a $16 return. If that’s not a smart, worthwhile investment, I don’t know what is.”

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Image courtesy of Bread for the World.

Donovan also argues the moral benefits of foreign aid, including US leadership toward a decrease in maternal and child mortality:

“…because of the U.S. commitment to reducing the child mortality rate, an estimated 100 million children have been saved since 1990. Additionally, maternal mortality rates have dropped 44 percent. Our support for measles and polio eradication efforts have rapidly reduced child deaths in even the most remote corners of the planet.”

We asked our congressmen and women to oppose these cuts, and instead support US leadership toward improved development that will not only save lives, but also improve livelihoods, and therefore mitigate migration and the security threat of recruiting extremist terrorists.

2. Fully fund domestic safety-net and international development programs that end hunger and poverty.

Foreign assistance is the soft power that binds US alliances and promotes global stability through decreased hunger and poverty. At less than 1% of the federal budget, international aid costs the United States a fraction of the cost of military interventions – which are typically short-term, inefficient and unsustainable.

FY2018
Image courtesy of Oxfam.

Domestic safety nets, such as SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, refundable tax credits, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) nutrition program, and summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) also risk major budget cuts. Basic provisions provided by these programs allow families to prevent hunger while getting “back on their feet” and breaking out of the cycle of poverty. In an effort to bolster the US economy, Congress must fully fund safety-net programs that eliminate hunger and poverty amongst Americans.

Medicaid
Image courtesy of Bread for the World.

3. Oppose harmful structural changes to SNAP, Medicaid, and international development assistance.

Block Grant
TANF: A block grant study. Image Courtesy of Bread for the World.

Congress has proposed structural changes such as block grants and per capita caps that shift the cost of domestic safety-net programs to states. This allows states to determine how much funding to provide to those eligible for SNAP, Medicaid, and refundable tax credits. As a result, the most vulnerable people may not receive the proper amount of life-saving assistance they need. We insisted that Congress oppose these structural changes and stand up for our fellow citizens in dire need.

“By slashing our foreign aid budget, we risk undoing 30 years of remarkable progress.” – Rep. Dan Donovan

After Lobby Day

You do not need to go to The Hill in D.C. to seek congressional support in opposing the proposed cuts to the FY18 federal budget. Phone calls, letters, and emails make a powerful impression on your senators and representatives. Hearing from organizations, congregations, and constituents  will influence the way our elected congressmen and women vote. Your voice can help end hunger and poverty.

For more information on how to contact your senator or representative, please visit the following websites.

What to say to your congress men and women: http://bread.org/sites/default/files/virtual-lobby-day-call-script-june-2017.pdf?_ga=2.188894315.1365439319.1497472412-1786586522.1487878423

Find your representatives: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Find your senators: https://www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_correspond_senators.htm

 

Featured image courtesy of EURACTIV.

PNPM Progress: A Path Towards Sustainability in Indonesia

Indonesia’s Program Nasional Pemberdayaan Mandiri (PNPM), or National Program for Community Empowerment, is a government-led, multi-donor trust-funded pilot program, which is managed by the World Bank Group (WBG) and delivered through the PNPM Support Facility (PSF). Also funded by: AusAid, CIDA, DANIDA, USAID, EU, UKAID, and the Dutch Government 

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Photo Credit: World Bank, PNPM (Peduli) Indonesia: Caring for the Invisible

 As the Government of Indonesia’s flagship community-driven development (CDD) program, PNPM strives to improve the socio-economic welfare of the poor and most marginalized groups by expanding opportunities through community consultation at all phases of the program, empowerment, and capacity building of civil society organizations (CSO). The key elements of PNPM-CDD programs include: community development, institution building, community block grants, strengthening local governance and partnerships, and technical assistance for program development

In working with numerous Indonesian and local CSOs and a handful of implementing partners, PNPM programs are currently active in roughly 6,000 sub-districts, 73,000 villages, and 33 provinces. Nearly Rp1.4 billion, which roughly equates to USD 21 million, is allocated to each village per year solely for development purposes. In the first year, PNPM programs helped nearly 12,000 marginalized individuals to build confidence, gain new livelihood skills and training, access information and public services, and to create new opportunities to participate in community life.

However, addressing the root drivers of social inclusion are not just about improving economic conditions, but about fully integrating individuals into every nook and cranny of civic life—increasing participation and breaking down social barriers by changing mindsets and reversing engrained stigmas. The Government of Indonesia realizes the marginalized are important and unappreciated assets (financial, labor, social), and often benefit less from public programs and poverty reduction schemes.

In this manner, local and national CSOs have a comparative advantage and are well positioned to empower marginalized groups to become more self-reliant and able to live dignified lives. CSOs work with a diverse range of marginalized groups in rural and urban Indonesia: female micro-entrepreneurs, street children, LGBTQ, violence against women and girls (VAWG), and people living with HIV/AIDS among others. Though CSOs have a limited financial capacity to provide services and activities such as mentoring and training, the PNPM has established grant making to mitigate the costs.

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Photo Credit: Source Unknown, PNPM Program Indonesia

PNPM programs have provided women, specifically, with business training and equipment, skills training, and loan arrangements to start businesses. As a result, women’s groups are now running laundries, phone card counters, food production, and coffee shops, for example. However, CDD programs in Indonesia could benefit from a thorough gender analysis needs assessment to identify which constraints women face particularly in a rural environment. Programs also need to collect and analyze disaggregated data between men and women, between rural and urban villages, and among communities, households, and individuals, to best target those in need and to measure participation. Affirmative action and inclusion of marginalized groups, such as women, must be addressed through quotas.

In 2015, the Government of Indonesia introduced the new Village Law, which is the new master framework for village development and community empowerment and embodies many of the aforementioned principles of the PNPM-CDD program. Although adopted and enacted to ensure sustainability of the PNPM programs, this framework also brings attention to the many challenges and implications it faces for future implementation.

Firstly, the programs must find a better, comprehensive way to measure accountability. Under the new law, the some 73,000 villages are seeing a large influx of resources from the government and outside funding agencies such as AusAid, CIDA, DANIDA, USAID, EU, UKAID, and the Dutch Government. The district governments have low capacity to monitor the cash flows and implementation of village governments. Who will provide the accountability and oversight and perform the audits? Or, who will be responsible for strengthening the oversight? The programs need a strong monitoring, evaluation, and learning (ME&L) framework—built-in accountability targets and performance-based indicators—to ensure precise development results and to prevent elite capture of village transfers.

A community-led development (CLD) approach, however, introduces such social accountability measures, supporting regularized processes such as public forums, at which local governments can demonstrate transparency and accountability and citizens can review and challenge the progress of targets and goals. CLD also supports communities to generate and access timely, locally relevant data that informs priority setting and strengthens progress tracking.

Secondly, it is important to remember that an increase in resources does not necessarily equip the villagers with the skills and expertise needed to obtain jobs and administer good service delivery. CDD projects often do not benefit everyone and takes years to trickle down to the most marginalized groups. How do we streamline this process to ensure that the most vulnerable are receiving the resources?

Lastly, although the law provides a strong legal framework for mainstreaming PNPM-CDD principles in village socio-economic activities, it does not necessarily guarantee sound implementation in practice. The PNPM-CDD programs must be sustainable and fully integrated into the local system of government. The law does not specifically address what it can impact in the short term versus what it can affect in the long term, which is necessary to ensure sustainability and resiliency. PNPM-CDD programs could learn from the CLD’s approach to sustainability and resiliency.

The CLD approach addresses sustainability and resiliency by addressing challenging factors such as climate change and population growth and how this in turn puts strong pressures on rural areas. The CLD approach calls for a process that includes actions to ensure that a program and community are resilient to climatic, political, and economic shocks. Local communities must have a regularized process of disaster risk reduction and disaster preparedness.

The PNPM-CDD programs in Indonesia are promising and making considerable progress. However, the programs can build upon this progress by introducing several key distinguishing principles introduced by the CLD approach, namely: a keen focus on facilitators as mobilizers and “agents of change” rather than “beneficiaries,” a gender-mainstreamed approach, built-in social accountability measures, timely and disaggregated data, strengthening legal existence through ME&L, and implementing sustainability and resiliency safeguards.

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

The Role of the Small-Scale Farmer in Minimizing Climate Change Impact

Climate Change and Food Security

The State of Food and Agriculture 2016 has made it clear that the agricultural industry is currently at a point in time where the actions taken by farmers, development organizations, and governments today will directly affect the livelihood of millions in the future. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that “in order to meet the demand for food in 2050, annual world production of crops and livestock will need to be 60 percent higher than it was in 2006”. The remarkable challenge we have ahead of us, however, it to not only end hunger by 2030, but to also limit the impact of climate change. We must put our most sincere efforts into making our agriculture systems and local capacity as efficient and sustainable as possible.

In order to limit the global impact of climate change, it is imperative that the global temperature increase remains under 1.5 degrees Celsius. 81 nations of the world have committed to combat climate change and to adapt to its effects by signing The Paris Agreement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. Coming into affect November 4th, the committed nations will begin efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions, adapt their energy sources, and to enforce policies that lesson their impact on climate change.

Climate change and food insecurity are very interrelated global issues; they each are negatively impacting the other. Compared to a projection discounting climate change, the world will experience a 5-7% crop yield loss by 2050. As climate change becomes more predominant, we will see rising temperatures that limit crop growth, loss of freshwater sources that negatively impact aquaculture, and heat waves that adversely affect livestock. Likewise, agriculture contributes to at least 21% of global emissions worldwide, releasing carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. These effects will vary regionally, but by 2030 will negatively affect all four food security dimensions: access, availability, utilization, and stability.

  • In South America, climate change will greatly impact hunger in less-developed regions. Much of South America will struggle in aquaculture due to fish species moving southward, much more frequent and extreme tropical storms, and species extinction. Tropical forests will be affected by water availability, and rainfed agriculture will experience higher crop losses.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa will experience similar problems to South America. Because 95% of crops in this region are rainfed, the frequency of extreme wet and dry years will drastically decrease crop yields of the small farmers. Fishery employment is expected to decrease by 50%. Plants and animals will also undergo reduction in numbers region-wide.
  • Climate change will alter Asia’s agricultural zones northward and will limit rice and other cereal crop yields. Many countries in Asia will see coastal flooding as well as a loss of aquaculture and freshwater resources. Similarly to South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia will experience biodiversity loss.

What Small-Scale Farmers Can Do

In the midst of a problem that is generally regarded as a policy issue, small scale farmers have a large role to play in decreasing the impact of climate change on agriculture and livelihood. There are several key actions that must be taken to address the constraints on agriculture by climate change:

  1. Strengthen small-scale farming systems. Farmers must learn how to adapt practices to changing climate, build adaptive capacity in implementing effective actions in changing situations, and must
  2. Diversify both their agricultural production and their income sources. Farmers need to diversify their crop so as to be able to withstand weather variation. They must also spread financial risk by diversifying how they are making their living.
  3. Manage natural resources in a sustainable way. Farmers must implement sustainable growing systems, such as FAO’s Save and Grow model, which cuts down fossil fuel use and doesn’t exhaust their resources. Agroecological production systems also efficiently utilize inputs (i.e. recycling biomass).
  4. Improve infrastructure, credit, and social insurance. Improved infrastructure ties into more efficient farming techniques. Support to risk management and diversifying finances allows farmers to adapt to changes in their markets.
  5. Reduce gender inequalities. Women face disparities in responsibilities, knowledge, and training opportunities in farming innovation. Rural women also face an increased workload when freshwater becomes scarce.

Though small-scale farmers may disproportionately bear the financial burden of reducing climate change impact, it is important to state that the costs of doing nothing greatly outweigh the costs of implementing these interventions. FAO’s Director-General Jose` Graziano da Silva believes “We have the opportunity to end hunger within our lifetimes. This is the greatest legacy we can leave to future generations”. Our actions today can lessen the impact of climate change and ensure a productive food system for the future.

IFPRI and Partners Release 2015 Global Hunger Index

IFPRI

According to the 2015 Global Hunger Index (GHI), a joint publication by IFPRI, Concern Worldwide, and Welthungerhilfe, significant progress has been made in decreasing levels of global hunger. The 2015 GHI for the developing world fell 27 percent from the 2000 GHI. However, the levels of hunger in the world are still unacceptably high, with 795 million people going hungry, one in four children affected by stunting, and 9 percent of children are affected by wasting.

For the last ten years, IFPRI has calculated the GHI in order to chart progress over time and country by country. This is the tenth year that IFPRI has calculated the GHI, with an interactive map showing where hunger levels are most dire.

More than 13 million people were uprooted due to violence in 2014. Conflict has forced 42,500 people per day to flee their homes. More than 40 countries have been affected by internal conflict since 2000, most dealing with multiple civil wars within the last decade. These conflicts deeply affect human welfare, trapping citizens in a cycle of poverty. Countries suffering from repeated and protracted conflict are more likely to experience higher levels of malnutrition, reduced access to education, and higher infant mortality rates than a more stable country.

It is unsurprising that the first two of the three countries with the highest index numbers – the Central African Republic, Chad, and Zambia – are experiencing persistent violent conflict and instability. Due to insufficient data, indexes could not be created for some of the world’s most dire situations, such as Libya, Syria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia.

Conflicts in areas such as Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and South Sudan have presented complex situations with a shifting nature to the conflict that make peace settlements challenging. This year’s report has drawn a direct linkage between regions where poverty is most severe and persistent and armed conflict. In order to properly address the implementation of this year’s UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the international community must find durable and long-lasting solutions to conflict in order eliminate food insecurity.

Below is a chart of index numbers from The Hunger Project’s program countries.

Country 1990 1995 2000 2005 2015
Benin 46.1 42.6 38.2 33.3 21.8
Burkina Faso 53.0 46.1 48.4 49.6 31.8
Ethiopia 71.1 67.3 58.6 48.5 33.9
Ghana 45.7 36.8 29.9 23.3 15.5
Malawi 58.9 55.9 45.3 39.1 27.3
Mozambique 64.5 63.2 49.2 42.4 32.5
Senegal 36.8 36.9 37.9 28.5 23.2
Uganda 39.8 40.9 39.3 32.2 27.6
Bangladesh 52.2 50.3 38.5 31.0 27.3
India 48.1 42.3 38.2 38.5 29.0
Mexico 16.8 16.9 10.8 8.9 7.3
Peru 30.7 25.0 20.9 18.8 9.1

What constitutes an enabling environment for the poor to succeed in their own development?

Working paper for a National Strategy Forum, April 1994, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework that will facilitate the participants in the upcoming strategic forum to identify new openings for action to provide an enabling environment for the poor. As will be shown below, the lack of a clear and shared understanding of what constitutes an enabling environment is a major obstacle to mobilizing concerted, strategic action to providing one.

We envision this forum to be the first step in an ongoing process. It will reveal openings for action that The Hunger Project and other organizations can take to provide an enabling environment. In addition, it has the potential to identify areas where the next breakthrough in thinking is required, thus pointing the way to the next strategic forum.

Acknowledgements

We would like to express our appreciation to all the individuals and organizations in Bangladesh whose dedicated work has demonstrated to the world the critical importance of providing an enabling environment for the poor. In particular, the preparations for this strategic forum has depended on the generous assistance of:

  • Mr. Fazle Abed, founder and director of BRAC, who first suggested this topic and who has advised on the format and design of this meeting;
  • Mr. Alex Counts, senior advisor in the international training division of the Grameen Bank, who wrote an initial overview analysis of the experience in Bangladesh in providing an enabling environment, and Prof. Muhammad Yunus for generously permitting Mr. Counts to assist us in this way;
  • Mr. Abdur Rab Chaudhury, MP, for his advice and willingness to facilitate the discussion;
  • Mr. Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Daily Star, whose recent round-table discussion on Pro-Poor Planning highlighted the importance of a breakthrough in thinking in how economic planners must think of the poor; and
  • The Asia Foundation, which has provided funding both for this meeting and for the follow-up actions that it inspires.

Section one: Setting the context

Empowering the poor — the key to a self-reliant future for Bangladesh

The concept of an “enabling environment” is new, and it reflects nothing less than a paradigm shift in thinking as to how nations like Bangladesh can achieve a new, self-reliant future — a future where all citizens have the chance to lead a healthy and productive life. This paradigm shift rests on two major recognitions.

First: People now recognize that the poor are the principal agents to improve the quality of their own lives.

No matter how successfully society allocates resources to help meet the needs of the poor, these are small compared to the resources that poor families will spend to meet their own needs. Therefore, to make any significant difference in the lives of the poor, public investments must “enable,” or leverage, the enormous investment the poor make in themselves.

Second: People are now beginning to recognize that enabling the poor to move out of poverty is the key to the nation’s economic development.

This represents a profound transformation in attitudes towards the poor and their role in the economy. The statement made by Mahfuz Anam at the recent round-table on “pro-poor” planning published in the Daily Star put it clearly:

“Recent examples, especially in the SAARC countries have shown that given the right type of environment in terms of credit, in terms of decision making, in terms of empowering the poor, it has been possible to prove that [the poor] are perhaps the most effective group to produce wealth…. it is perhaps the way that the poor has been looked at that is responsible for the continuation of poverty.”

Dr. Maqsood Ali underscored the new view that the poor are economic assets: “There must be a social mobilization of the poor which recognizes the intrinsic dynamism of the poor and goes straight to organizing the poor and releasing their dynamism, the hidden capability of capital accumulation potential which they have. The World Bank and IMF are saying that you have to raise growth in order to reduce poverty. Now we are saying you have to reduce poverty to raise the growth.”

This revolution in thinking comes at a propitious time — a time when Bangladesh is transforming its own structures and when international institutions are increasingly open to human-centered approaches to development.

Society’s institutions still, by and large, reflect the old paradigm. Transforming them to be useful to providing an enabling environment will require rigorous, systematic and scientific thinking and concerted, strategic action. It is the intention of this meeting to develop the framework of that thinking, and identify new openings for action.

Section two: Establishing key distinctions

It has been The Hunger Project’s experience that many meetings fail to generate any meaningful action because they fail to develop a set of sufficiently powerful distinctions. Too often, meetings about poverty alleviation produce only lists of problems, rationales, goals, targets, and opinions about service programs.

To actually make something happen, distinctions must be created that are powerful enough to cut through the unclarity, to get underneath the differences of opinion, to generate alignment on key principles and to reveal strategic openings for concerted action.

Therefore, establishing powerful distinctions for thinking rigorously about providing an enabling environment is a major objective of this meeting.

A. The Distinction “Enabling Environment” vs. “Service Delivery”

A service delivery system is the organized provision of critical services, such as healthcare, education and emergency relief to people who can benefit from those services.

Clearly, much important work is being, and must be done to improve the delivery of human services. However, this paper will NOT discuss service delivery issues. It will devote itself exclusively to the issue of creating an enabling environment.

Often these two distinctions are collapsed. When the distinctions are collapsed, the inquiry into these issues lacks the rigor, clarity, precision and discipline that would reveal pathways to effective action, and galvanize the will to take the action that is necessary.

Effective service delivery is critical, and particularly for governments. People create governments specifically to provide services that are best provided collectively rather than individually.

The notion of “enabling environment” however is new, and reflects the recognition that most human progress is not a function of service delivery, but rather of the creative and often organized efforts of people themselves.

The strategic thinking called forth when considering “enabling environment” and “service delivery” is completely different. One must consider different actors, different resources and different constraints.

In service delivery, the actors are the functionaries, the primary resources are the official budget and the pool of trained personnel, and key constraints are managerial factors: resource scarcity, planning, management and staff effectiveness.

In an enabling environment, the actors are the people themselves, and the primary resources are the talents, knowledge and resourcefulness of the people. Instead of considering what can be done “for” the poor, one must consider what can be done “by” the poor. In this way of thinking, the key constraints are social factors: unity, leadership, equity, public attitudes, and self-confidence.

Enabling Environment Service Delivery
Actors: People themselves Functionaries
Resources: Local incomes and material

resources

Talents

Leadership

Resourcefulness

Official budgets

Trained personnel

Managers

Constraints: Equity

Access to resources

Access to information

Leadership

Attitudes

Social harmony

Self confidence

Resource scarcity

Planning

Management

Staff effectiveness

When one confronts the challenges faced by Bangladesh, it is impossible to imagine meeting them with only the resources that can be channeled effectively through service delivery mechanisms. Only by unleashing the creativity, resourcefulness and determination of the entire population can the challenges be met and a sustainable future for Bangladesh assured.

The concept of enabling environment means restoring people to control over their own destiny, by putting them in control of the institutions and decision making processes that affect their own lives.

B. Definition of “Enabling Environment”

We will define “enabling environment” to consist of the attitudes, policies and practices which stimulate people to take action and enable them to succeed.

By that definition, we want to consider an enabling environment for the poor which consists of attitudes, policies and practices which stimulate the poor to take action for their own development, and enable them to have that action produce meaningful improvements in the quality of life.

For example:

  • the attitude concerning the economic value of girl children often determines whether poor girls receive education.
  • the policy of who hires and fires school teachers often shapes the degree to which local people can depend on that teacher to provide quality instruction.
  • the practices by which NGOs form local organizations can shape the degree of initiative and independence local people express in that organization.

C. What are Key Elements Within an Enabling Environment?

In analyzing what people need from their environment in order to succeed in their own actions, we can see at least four major elements:

AWARENESS: People must have a clear understanding of the issue and the possible solutions in order to take effective action.

ACCESS: Whatever training, information or resources people need to succeed in their own action must be physically available in the community, and unencumbered by social barriers that could stop people from having it.

AFFORDABILITY: In taking their own actions, the poor depend primarily on their own resources. Therefore, the poor must be able to afford what they need. To a family living in poverty, issues of price gouging, bribery and exploitation all have the same effect of preventing the family from affording what it needs.

ACCOUNTABILITY: While people themselves are the primary source of action, at some point they must trust and depend on others — teachers, health workers, well diggers and other functionaries. People must have ways to hold these functionaries to account.

D. What does this Inquiry Need to Produce?

The outcome of a strategic inquiry into an enabling environment does not need to produce a comprehensive or rank-ordered analysis. It does not need to produce a master plan or a comprehensive blueprint.

The experience in Bangladesh has proven to the world that people living in the conditions of poverty are so resilient, so creative and so determined that when they are offered ANY opportunity to improve their lives, they seize it.

Therefore, the goal of this exploration is to reveal openings for action that would result in any meaningful improvements in the environment that can provide additional empowerment of all the poor to improve their lives, and contribute to the nation.

As these openings are acted upon, further openings should appear on the pathway to providing an enabling environment.

E. In What Areas of Life is the Enabling Environment Crucial?

For those living in poverty, meeting basic human needs consumes most of one’s time, energy and resources. This inquiry will look into six key areas in the lives of the poor where an enabling environment would make a critical difference:

  • Ensuring the health of one’s family
  • Educating one’s children
  • Earning income
  • Drinking clean water and practicing good sanitation
  • Preserving the natural environment
  • Planning the size of one’s family

F. What Questions should Guide the Inquiry?

This paper will next take a look at the four elements of the enabling environment in each of the key sectors of the lives of the poor. At each point, we will address:

What’s so — what is the current situation — right now in the environment of the poor, given the progress to date and the challenges that the poor face, and

What’s missing which, if provided, would empower the poor to succeed in their own action.

We have found that rigorous clarity in addressing these two questions reveals openings for action.

G. What’s Next?

As we stated, we intend for this forum to be one step in a dynamic process. Following a detailed look in the next section of this paper into what’s so and what’s missing, we will develop a framework to seize the openings for action that get revealed, and to feed back the experience gained into the next inquiry.

Section 3: A detailed look into six key areas of life

A. Ensuring the Health of One’s Family

Bangladesh has pioneered breakthroughs in affordable and appropriate medications and in low-cost child-survival strategies. It has allocated huge sums of money to health care, yet child and maternal mortality and morbidity rates remain high. What is missing which, if provided, would enable the poor to ensure better health for their families?

AWARENESS: Many families currently do not know how to prevent and treat the most frequent and serious maladies that harm their health, such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infection. What is missing is a reliable, authoritative source of health information that reaches every family.

ACCESS: Families need access to affordable and appropriate medications, and to competent health workers. Enormous public investments have been made to train and provide health workers. It is likely that the major constraints to access now lie in a lack of accountability of those health workers to the local people.

AFFORDABILITY: Great strides have been made in making basic drugs affordable and available in the marketplace. One dangerous aspect of the present environment is that the freeing of markets makes it profitable to promote inappropriate drugs, eg: the promotion of expensive and dangerous anti-diarrheals in place of safe, low-cost oral rehydration solution. This trend must be countered both with more awareness and more local accountability.

ACCOUNTABILITY: At present, there are few, if any, existing mechanisms by which the poor can hold health services to account. What’s missing are strategies to strengthen the ability of the poor to gain accountability from local health services, perhaps through local committees, improved training of union councils and motivation of health workers.

B. Educating One’s Children

Education is a top priority in Bangladesh, and another area where breakthroughs have occurred in providing affordable, quality education. What is missing which, if provided, would enable poor families to provide their children with an education that is relevant to improving their lives?

AWARENESS: Given the tremendous promotion of education, families are now convinced that quality education will improve the lives of their children, at least for their boys and increasingly for their girls. Yet for most families, the quality of available education is poor and people are not aware of ways to improve it.

What is missing is the awareness and understanding as to how people can improve the quality of their local schools. If families were made aware of steps that could be taken to improve the quality of local schools, they would be more empowered to demand that they be taken.

ACCESS: Quality primary education is not currently available in most villages. The “technology” of providing quality non-formal primary education exists, as demonstrated by the BRAC schools, and is within the means and talents of every village. What is missing is the system of training and supervision that could enable every village to access this technology and establish such schools.

AFFORDABILITY: Bangladeshis demonstrate their determination to provide their children with education, even to the extent of spending enormous amounts of money on private tutors. While the poor cannot afford private tutors, they can afford the kind of quality nonformal primary education that has recently been developed. What is missing, therefore, is not the technology to make education affordable, but the structural changes that will give people the power and accountability to implement that which is affordable.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Currently, accountability for the quality of education lies with the delivery system providing it. What is missing is any systematic way for local people to directly exercise the responsibility for the quality of local education. This requires a structural shift towards stronger local government that works in partnership with parent committees. To truly be accountable for quality education, local bodies need ways to “grade” the performance of schools, and the authority to fire teachers who do not perform up to standard.

C. Earning Income

What is missing, which if provided, would empower poor families to securely earn incomes sufficient to meet their basic needs and contribute to national growth?

AWARENESS: As mentioned in the introduction, it is not the awareness among the poor that needs to be transformed, but the mindset of the elite. What is missing is a massive education campaign among the elite to transform their thinking about the poor and create the environment for pro-poor economic policies.

In the meantime, much has been done and can be done to directly empower poor families to raise their incomes. Progressive NGOs have pioneered ways to make the poor aware of new pathways to increased income through self-employment.

ACCESS: To raise their income, people need access to credit, productive resources, a marketable skill and a reliable market for their production. The experience of the Grameen Bank and other organizations have shown that even with one factor – credit – people are greatly empowered to better seize even the smallest market opportunities.

At present, credit, training and market support opportunities for the poor are primarily provided by NGOs, which are not accessible to every family. What is missing is either a way to expand the scale of these NGOs dramatically (and Bangladesh already is home to the largest NGOs in the world) or new strategies to make the techniques NGOs have pioneered accessible to any self-help association of the poor.

AFFORDABILITY: The greatest setback to income security for the poor comes because of financial setbacks such as illness, disaster, theft and wedding costs. What is missing are strategies to ensure that all the poor are able to provide their own first line of defense against setbacks through membership in self-help, risk-sharing groups.

As the second line of defense, the nation and the world community have shown resolve in working to prevent and prepare for larger setbacks such as natural disasters. Yet local people are not sufficiently empowered to do their own planning. It is local-level planning and action that can make the biggest difference the fastest when emergency strikes.

ACCOUNTABILITY: The transformation in thinking about the productivity of the poor will produce a new set of accountabilities. In the old paradigm, the poor are seen as a “burden” to the mainstream economy, and NGOs and other agencies are set up as an alternative to “service” the poor within economic environment that is not hospitable to the poor. In the new paradigm, those who make economic policy must be held to account by the self-organized economic activities of the poor. Larger alliances must be encouraged that give poor families a meaningful voice in economic policy decisions. Those committed to this shift in paradigms must find a way to hold themselves to account for causing it.

D. Drinking Clean Water and Practicing Good Sanitation

Water-borne disease continues to be the biggest killer of children. Major expenditures have provided a greater supply of clean water, but proper sanitation is far from being achieved. What is missing which, if provided, would enable poor families to ensure that they live in a hygienic environment?

AWARENESS: Most families know that they need clean drinking water, but many are not currently aware that clean water must be used for all personal uses (hand-washing, dish-washing, cooking). Many families do not understand the need for sanitation; there is a particularly dangerous notion that it is not important for children. What is missing is a far more rigorous and disciplined approach to empowering people with this information.

ACCESS: Significant progress, both in the public and private sector, has been to make tube wells and the equipment for sanitary latrines available. Where people lack access now, it appears to be most often the case that they lack the awareness or organized clout to access what is already there.

AFFORDABILITY: Affordability does not appear to be the major factor in enabling the poor to meet water and sanitation needs. Existing subsidy schemes and lowering costs in the private sector, have made clean drinking water and sanitation affordable.

ACCOUNTABILITY: One way to look at the challenge of village sanitation is to observe that no one is accountable for it. Awareness alone is not sufficient. In communities where sanitation is solved, it is always the case that strong penalties exist for violating sanitation standards. What is missing, beyond awareness, are strategies to create local accountability for sanitation, including the power to apply meaningful penalties.

E. Preserving the Natural Environment

No one has a greater stake in environmental preservation than do the poor. No one’s livelihood is more closely tied to the health and sustainability of the natural environment than is that of poor families. Among nations, Bangladesh is perhaps most aware of its environmental limits. What is missing, which if provided, would enable poor families to restore and preserve their natural environment?

AWARENESS: Just as with income, there must be a transformation in public attitude from seeing the poor as a “danger” to the environment to seeing the poor as the most committed and able to restore and preserve the environment. It has now been proven time and again that it is the practices of the rich that are the most environmentally damaging, while the more traditional lifestyles of the poor often reflect thousands of years of wisdom in the preservation of the environment.

What is missing is the same campaign as with income — a campaign to transform the thinking of those who shape policies, from seeing the poor as a burden to seeing them as the principal actors to ensure a productive, sustainable future for Bangladesh.

In addition, at the family level, there are new technologies and approaches which would empower poor families to make even better use of their resources, such as improved stoves, bio-gas and intensive organic farming techniques. As is the case in other sectors, what is missing are the channels of information that will reach every family.

ACCESS: In recent history, the poor of the world have been pushed increasingly to marginal and fragile areas of the environment, and have lost traditional rights as the protectors and preservers of forests, fields and water resources. Anti-poor attitudes, conventional practices and policies of modern economic development have reduced access to natural resources by the poor. What is missing are a new set of policies and practices that recognize the poor as environmental protectors (rather than the “threat”) and that restore traditional rights and improve access to resources.

AFFORDABILITY: The conventional approach to economic planning does not factor in the projected cost of continued environmental destruction, and certainly does not account for the lost productivity of the poor as the resource base erodes. The falseness of the delusion that we can “afford” environmental destruction is perhaps most revealed in Bangladesh.

What is missing is a “pro-poor, pro-environment” approach to planning that will redirect budget resources in ways which empower, and even employ, the poor to restore and preserve the environment.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Several NGOs in Bangladesh have pioneered approaches to place accountability – and the economic benefits – for environmental preservation back into the hands of the people with the greatest stake in the matter – the poor.

F. Planning the Size of One’s Family

Bangladesh has recently received international acclaim for reducing total fertility rates even among the poorest people. What is missing, which if provided, would enable poor families to limit their family size to that which is consistent with good health and a sustainable future?

AWARENESS: Progress is being made with awareness: an estimated 70 percent of Bangladeshi women would like to avail themselves of family planning, and about 40 percent of them do. What is missing that would fill the gaps?

  • The awareness component of the “gap” between 70 and 40 percent may be primarily due to attitudes of husbands.
  • The awareness component of the “gap” between 70 and 100 percent can perhaps best be addressed through expanding general female education.

Further analysis is needed of what messages, if in the environment, will close the remaining gaps the quickest.

ACCESS: Another component of the gap between the 70 percent demand and 40 percent usage is simple availability. Initiatives are underway to create “depots” of contraceptives at the village and deliver them door-to-door. Strategies to accelerate and universalize these approaches are currently missing.

AFFORDABILITY: Given the current high-degree of subsidy, affordability does not seem to be a current or prospective issue.

ACCOUNTABILITY: The family planning institutions in Bangladesh are large and well-funded. No institution, however, is large enough to “deliver” family planning services to every household. What is missing is that these institutions do not yet hold themselves responsible for creating an enabling environment in every village.

Section four: What’s next

Fomenting a process of inquiry and action

The intention of this forum is to make a difference for the future of Bangladesh. The high quality and broad range of experience of the leaders participating in this strategic forum should permit it to alter the perspective of all of us. It should allow the distinction of enabling environment to be drawn with such clarity and power that new possibilities continue to be revealed within each participant’s own work.

Following the meeting, The Hunger Project will take the insights gained and work in partnership with government and other NGOs to launch initiatives at the district level to provide what’s missing. We certainly hope other organizations will do the same.

The actions taken out of this meeting will not only contribute to creating an enabling environment; they will also reveal the next areas where a breakthrough is required. For example, the actions that can be taken by existing institutions will likely be insufficient to provide the enabling environment that the poor of Bangladesh need and deserve. Most institutions in society were not designed to provide an enabling environment. In fact, they were designed consistent with an earlier paradigm that does NOT see the poor as “able” and their functioning reinforces the old paradigm.

Structural transformation, therefore, will undoubtedly be required. The individuals who are committed to providing an enabling environment will either have to create new institutions, or transform the ones they are in.

Transformation cannot be accomplished by “outsiders” – it can only be accomplished by those who are directly involved in the action. Therefore, the experience gained in the months following this meeting should lead to participatory forums among those who are committed to bringing about the next level of transformation in specific sectors of society. For example:

MEDIA: The media establishment is currently best suited to bring awareness to the elite of society, and certainly the above discussion calls for significant changes in the thinking of the elite. One next step could be a forum to produce coordinated strategies among progressive NGOs and the media to achieve this transformation in thinking.

MEDIA FOR THE POOR: The above discussion highlights the need for expanded information flows to the majority of Bangladeshi citizens. Perhaps there is even a “market” for this information — the poor have shown great willingness to spend money on education and information that is relevant to their lives.

A next step could be a strategic forum to create an entirely new media “for the poor” to provide them with empowering information, and to help transform destructive attitudes towards family planning, dowry, child marriage, sanitation, appropriate technology and violence against women (to name a few).

GOVERNMENT: The “enabling environment” of the future demands far more local (versus top-down) accountability within the administrative services. Bangladeshis are exploring ways to strengthen local government and initiate bottom-up approaches to planning. Perhaps multi-sectoral forums are required to cause these changes.

POLITICS: The eminent economist Prof. Amartya Sen and others have pointed out how democracy serves the cause of human development. At some point, those who are involved with empowering the poor and those involved in the political process could come together to devise strategies to put “empowerment of the poor” onto the political agenda.

BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL ORGANIZATIONS: International and foreign government agencies play an important role in Bangladesh’s service delivery systems. They need to ensure that their activities contribute to an enabling environment.

Individuals in these organizations may wish to sit down with local organizations to ensure that programs strengthen local institutions, rather than simply replace them with new, costly service delivery systems. New ways must be created to shift the resources of international organizations from funding expensive expatriate experts and contractors, and increasingly build capacities run and managed by Bangladeshis.

NGOS: Bangladeshi NGOs have pioneered service delivery and local empowerment mechanisms which are being emulated around the world. At the same time, NGOs must continue to identify and alter practices which work against an enabling environment for the poor to take charge of their own local associations.

PRIVATE SECTOR: Bangladesh is rapidly developing its industrial sector, yet this growth has not been infused with a pro-poor strategy. To do so, industrialists and those who work with the poor may need to create strategy forums among people with the experience and clout to transform the input-side of industries. For example, initiatives can be taken in the garment industry that would greatly expand opportunities for the poor while increasing the value-added component of the Bangladesh economy.

Conclusion

The people and institutions of Bangladesh have shown extraordinary resilience and ingenuity, particularly in recent years. Bangladesh has pioneered important breakthroughs in human development, and is now spearheading the creation of an enabling environment for the poor to succeed in their own development.

As this enabling environment emerges, it will unleash the productivity and potential of tens of millions of people, whose energies will create a new future for Bangladesh.

The Hunger Project, in Bangladesh and around the world, is honored to be the committed partner of the Bangladeshi people in calling forth the breakthroughs that will create a sustainable future for Bangladesh, and for all humanity.

The Hunger Project is not a relief or development organization, but rather a strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger. It is guided by the mandate to identify what is missing in the human component of ending hunger, and to launch initiatives to provide it.

The common element in many consultations with Bangladesh’s development experts, is that what is missing is an enabling environment for the poor to succeed in their own development. Bangladesh has pioneered many of the elements which now go into the concept of “enabling environment”, but what is missing is a clear, rigorous and widely-shared understanding of this concept that can shape the direction and programs of the institutions of society.

Participants

Government

  • Dr. Abdul Moyeen Khan, Minister of Planning
  • Dr. Sheikh Maqsood Ali, Convenor, Taskforce on Poverty Alleviation
  • Mr. S.M. Al-Husainy, Chairman, Swanirvar Bangladesh
  • Mr. Sultan-uz Zaman Khan, Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Dr. Fariduddin, Secretary of Social Welfare

Academics

  • Dr. Shamsher Ali, Vice Chancellor, Bangladesh Open University
  • Prof. Shamsul Haq, National Professor
  • Mrs. Hasna Moudud, environment
  • Dr. S.A.L. Reza, Director General, BIDS

Members of Parliament

  • Mr. Abdur Rab Chaudhury (BNP), will moderate forum
  • Mr. Abul Hasan Chowdhury, Son of the first President (AL)
  • Mr. Fazle Rabbi Chowdhury (JP)
  • Mr. L.K Siddiqui, Vice chairman of party (BNP)

Journalists

  • Mr. Mahfuz Anam, Editor, Daily Star
  • Mr. Gias Kamal Chowdhury, Chief Correspondent, BSS

NGOs

  • Mr. Fazle Abed, Founder and Executive Director, BRAC
  • Dr. Qazi Faruque Ahmed, Executive Director, PROSHIKA
  • Dr. (Mrs.) Fatema Alauddin, Family Research and Development
  • Ms. Angela Gomez, Nijera Shekhi
  • Mr. Nazrul Islam, Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation
  • Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Managing Director, Grameen Bank

Business

  • Mr. Kafiluddin Mahmood, United Leasing
  • Mr. Salman F. Rahman, Beximco Group of Industries
  • Donor/International Agencies
  • Mr. Nick Langton, Representative, Asia Foundation
  • Mr. Manzoor Ul Karim, Unicef
  • Mr. Karl Schwartz, USAID

Members of the Global Board of Directors of The Hunger Project

  • Ms. Joan Holmes, President
  • Mr. Robert Chester, Chairman
  • Dr. Peter G. Bourne, President, Global Water
  • Mr. Ramkrishna Bajaj, Head, Bajaj Group of Industries
  • Dr. Ebrahim Samba, Director, WHO Onchocerciasis Control Program
  • Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation