You can also view our most recent newsletters to learn what the ASAP network has been delivering. Links to the most recent editions are listed below:
Winter 2018: https://mailchi.mp/137b832448ff/asap-winter-533471
You can also view our most recent newsletters to learn what the ASAP network has been delivering. Links to the most recent editions are listed below:
Winter 2018: https://mailchi.mp/137b832448ff/asap-winter-533471
Undergraduate student leaders from the Birmingham UK ASAP chapter gained invaluable insight into the lives of the global poor in taking the poverty-line challenge. They pledged to spend no more than £1 per day on food for five consecutive days. That limit is approximately equivalent to the World Bank’s global poverty line, or the level below which a person is said to be living in extreme poverty. The challenge has been promoted by the Global Poverty Project. The Birmingham ASAP chapter adapted it as a fundraiser for the Deshkal Society, an Indian NGO working on behalf of lower-caste persons.
Here, two ASAP Students members and their staff (faculty) adviser share their experiences of taking the challenge:
In June 2012, for 1 week, I pledged, along with my ASAP colleagues, to live on £1 a day to symbolise the 1.4 billion people that live in severe poverty — people who, through no fault of their own, are suffering from a complete lack of the most basic of human needs. Meanwhile, those lucky enough to be born in a land of plenty continue to live our lives comfortably.
We decided undertake the challenge to raise funds and awareness of extreme poverty which affects so many across the world. Of course a week-long challenge is nothing compared to the experiences of the countless men, women and children who, day in, day out, live through the harsh reality of poverty.
I learnt so much from the challenge (though I did cheat slightly by taking a day off and making it up later due to a family celebration), and also had a lot of support from family and friends, raising around £100 for the Deshkal Society in India.
I began by collecting my £5 for the week and making a trip to the local supermarket. I quickly found that certain products such as cheese were just too expensive to include, as were fruit and fresh vegetables. I began to realise that whilst so called ‘developed nations’ have increasingly become so health conscious, this is a luxury. I couldn’t afford to have a balanced diet – only enough to satisfy my appetite – though I did manage to sneak in a pack of donuts that had been reduced to 20p. I left the supermarket having bought bread, rice, sauce in a jar, eggs, beans, and not forgetting the donuts.
The response from friends was interesting. I went out with some friends half way during the week. Whilst they ate lunch and snacked on chocolate, and urged me somewhat worriedly just to take a bite of what they were eating, I ate my stick of bread, which I found very fulfilling. I saw that my level of appreciation for the simple things in life was so much higher. When you’re hungry, you don’t mind if your bread is a little dry and crumbly. You appreciate what you have. A friend who had completed the challenge before me said something so profound – “Eat for need, not for greed.”
Our society has become enveloped in a culture of eating. We eat as a hobby, not as a necessity – and with the great diversity in colours, tastes and textures that we are lucky enough to experience, we become picky and unappreciative. The challenge above all taught me the importance of gratitude, of humility and of the strength of human will and determination.
We can make ethical choices in life, and whilst we may sometimes have to give up some luxury in order to do this, ultimately that’s the road that people are increasingly inclined to take. Why should a man or woman in the developing world have to go without the basics in order grow mangoes and papayas to satisfy our exotic diets?
We have to challenge the injustices of the system we have helped to create. Buying cheap chocolate for example only fuels the unjust cocoa trade which relies heavily on child labour. Let’s each pledge to join the movement for change.
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.”
— Nelson Mandela
I began the challenge of living off £1 a day powered by the belief that such a task would be hard but possible. I soon realised that, in reality, being surrounded by expensive branded food in the shop I worked at, and becoming sick at the start of the challenge, the task both broke my spirit and was impossible once I became physically weak. It also made me realize that the things I consider normal in my daily life are mostly luxuries that many never get.
I spent my £5 budget for the week on mostly carbohydrates, firstly because they were the only things I could afford in this country (Britain), and secondly because I hoped they would fill my stomach for long enough. Even then I did cheat. I stole food from my house-mates’ fridge when I became hungry, and my craving for caffeine led me make two guilty cups of tea.
Working at my store proved both a luxury and a curse. People would approach me at the till with chocolate boxes that cost my entire food budget for that week! I really began to watch how much everything people bought even in a convenience store was actually a luxury. Chocolate bars, crisps, pieces of fruit, coffee all being bought simply because it was what someone ‘felt’ like having, whilst I served them hungry and wanting that chocolate bar that I couldn’t have.
The only positive side of my work was that I could eat food that would be thrown in the bin. It was considered ‘too old’ to be sold to customers but was still perfectly edible. Thus at the end of every day, I came home with a bag filled with expired treats I could never afford on my £1 per day. This got me thinking of how much I actually waste in my day to day life, and how wasting something is really a luxury that many wouldn’t dream of.
My final thought on this challenge was that for those who have no choice but to live off £1 a day, being sick or weak is simply not an option. Only one day into my challenge, I became ill, however I had the privilege of stopping until I became healthy and strong enough to start again. Many don’t have that choice, just proving that you can’t get sick if you live in poverty as the consequences are often dire.
Luis Cabrera (ASAP Students Birmingham Adviser)
I’ll add just a bit to the compelling accounts offered by Shabaana and Heather. I was very pleased at first to find that by sticking to the ‘Basics’ line at ubiquitous British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, I was able to buy sufficient calories for the week, with vegetarian protein and green veg as well. What I couldn’t buy was variety.
For my £5, I brought home a large bag of rice, several cans of kidney beans and, at 10 pence the can, a number of portions of that favourite British vegetable serving, mushy peas (far better than they sound). I also bought a cheap bag of popcorn for my treat food.
The first thing I realized was that I couldn’t afford anything to season my dishes. Nor did I have any oil for the popcorn. Most importantly, I hadn’t been able to afford any caffeine to support my pot-a-day coffee habit! The latter proved to be the most difficult part of the challenge, as I spent the first day absolutely listless, barely able to move from the couch at home.
So, I started to cheat. I took coffee from the cabinet, at home and at work. Then I took salt for the first batch of rice, beans and mushies. By the third batch, I had snuck some pepper, then paprika, then, shamelessly, a packet of that Puerto Rican spice-mix staple, Sazon Goya. At night, I snuck oil for the popcorn. I managed not to cheat with the free buffet food available at various campus events, but I can’t honestly say I ate on £1 per day. It just proved a bit too challenging to eat the same rather plain meal three times per day without any seasoning. And, shamefully, I only lasted four days of the five-day challenge.
What did I learn, besides affirming my rather low willpower threshold where savory food and caffeine are concerned? It was brought home to me just what a struggle it would be to try to feed oneself on such a small income, never mind trying to feed a family, and trying to keep them in adequate shelter, clothing, medicine, etc. I do recommend the challenge as a way to develop greater empathy and insight. It doesn’t put one directly in the shoes of an extremely poor person, of course, but it gives an invaluable glimpse into the barriers the global poor face in securing even the most basic necessities for themselves and their families.
by Benjamin Hill, Public Relations Manager, University of Birmingham
Interacting with the media (in whatever form) allows your research to reach thousands or even millions of people, through TV, press, blogs and social media. Although there remains residual reluctance amongst some academics to undertake this kind of activity it offers unique opportunities to raise the profile of work to funding bodies, create public awareness of an issue or to communicate research to other specialists through trade and academic press.
The world of the web and social media has opened up new opportunities for academics to discuss their work with a wider range of publics than ever before. This can help to generate wider interest and debate about a particular topic, although with that opportunity comes the potential for greater scrutiny.
In an academic environment where impact is being measured and where academics are keener than ever to demonstrate the importance of their work the question shouldn’t be do I need to do this work? But rather can I afford not to?
The Media and Academia
Academics are of huge interest to the media and the wider commentariat, although it can sometimes be hard to convince academic colleagues of the synergies that exist between the two worlds.
Journalists, even the most experienced correspondents, are not experts in every story they are asked to cover. They need experts from a range of backgrounds to provide information and help tell stories accurately, communicating to a non-specialist audience.
Journalists are also wary of being seen to comment personally on stories, so expert comment helps give readers and listeners an idea of the issues involved without forcing the journalist to take sides. Academics have two things that journalists particularly value: independence and expertise. A correspondent tackling the complex politics of North Africa or the complexities of international aid policy will almost certainly need to seek advice on some of the intricacies of these issues.
Aligned to this, the growth of a 24/7 global media has created its own demand for people who can provide informed and impartial comment: channels like BBC News, Sky News and Five Live, look to academics to provide expert comment on the day’s news agenda on a daily basis.
The independence and robust methodology of academic research is also attractive to the media. Study results from university research form a significant part of the news. A cursory look at the BBC News homepage reveals how many stories emanate from research or reports across an extremely wide range of topics from medicine to politics.
Commenting on current events requires academics to think about how their research can add value to the news agenda. There is a need for academics, particularly in the social sciences, to think about how best to define and create impact with their work and to recognise the power that communicating through the media has in developing discussion and challenging perceived wisdom.
Communicating your research outputs to the media can initially seem daunting: a loss of control, allowing your work to be interpreted by someone else. Nevertheless there are huge benefits in overcoming this reticence as interacting with a media allows your research to reach thousands or even millions of people.
Your press office can offer help and advice if you are contacted directly by a journalist or would like to use facilities. Before contacting the press office it is worth thinking about who you want to see the story. If you are looking to contact internal clients or academic peers a press release may not be the most effective solution. Other options might be social media, email or internal newsletters.
The press office team are always delighted to discuss any publicity ideas and suggest possible media organisations you could target. To attract wider interest a story will need to have certain elements that make it attractive to journalists. Although it is always difficult to predict with certainty which stories will be successful, there are key ideas, which are always important.
Is there any part of the story, which can be used to make attractive and striking moving footage?
Some other considerations:
Is there any aspect of the story, which is likely to excite particular controversy or criticism. If so it may be necessary to prepare answers and ideas in advance.
Before you do any interviews, make sure you know what publication / station / journalist you are being interviewed by, how long the interview is expected to last and, if it’s a broadcast interview, whether it will be live or pre-recorded.
Try to get as good an idea as possible of the kind of issues the journalist wants to discuss. It is often worth speaking to the journalist in advance of a formal interview or alternatively, speak to a member of the press office team, who can ascertain the angle of the interview on your behalf. However, it is not common practice for a journalist to supply a list of questions in advance.
Once the interview has started you can’t start looking for facts and figures.
In the Interview
In the interview, the key point is to answer questions directly and accurately. In broadcast interviews, manner and tone of voice create just as strong an impression as the content of your answers. Try not to refuse to answer questions, but if you have to: explain why.
Most journalists, whether working in print or broadcast, will be looking for short clips or sound bites to use. Depending on audience they are trying to reach this could be as short as 8-10 seconds (commercial radio). Generally it is important to try and be succinct in answering, even when dealing with complex topics. If you are aware that you are being interviewed about a complex story, it may be worth outlining two or three brief key points in advance.
Radio and TV thrive on examples so try and use accessible parallels during the interview, or metaphors that can help bring your story to life. Most importantly, speak naturally. Both TV and radio are intimate mediums. Although you may have an audience of several million people, you can speak to each person individually. Interviews should ideally be natural and conversational.
Commenting on Current News
There is considerable scope for academics to comment on ongoing news stories. The University of Birmingham, for example, regularly contacts the media to highlight academics who are interested in commenting on ongoing news stories. We actively encourage academics to be proactive in becoming involved in media.
In cases where there is an important ongoing story, eg: the credit crunch, Iraq or General Elections: the demand for comment, to move the story on is even greater. This is an excellent chance to raise the profile of a department and to provide a platform to discuss your research interests with a wider audience.
Getting involved in someone else’s story can potentially create controversy, particularly if journalists are looking for a contrary opinion or to stimulate debate. This does not happen often, but if you have doubts about becoming involved with a controversial story, please feel free to discuss it with the press office.
Writing a release
The key to a good press release is to tell the story simply and effectively. This is sometimes broken down into five principles:
Although this simplified list may not apply exactly to releases dealing with complex research outcomes, it does give a sense of what journalists are looking for from a good release.
Most releases will contain:
In this featured essay, ASAP Board Member and Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Wollongong Keith Horton explains the genesis and evolution of ASAP. He also outlines current projects and aims, as well as answering some possible critiques of the effort.
I floated the original ASAP proposal in 2009 and, in partnership with Meena Krishnamurthy, made the first efforts at enlisting other academics. My background is in moral philosophy, and I had become convinced that people and governments in rich countries (the ‘global rich’) are morally required to do much more than they are currently doing to tackle severe poverty in poor countries. The bare fact that given their relative wealth the global rich are in a position to make a major impact on such poverty at relatively little cost to themselves had always seemed to me enough to ground a very strong argument for such action. The fact that the global rich have various forms of connection with the global poor – through international trade and tourism, historically through colonialism and all its evils, and so on – would widely be taken to strengthen that argument further. And the fact that the global rich continue to act in ways that are known to make it harder for the global poor to escape from poverty – by imposing trade rules rigged in their own favour, for example, and by buying resources that warlords have in effect stolen from their own people – strengthens that argument further still. The combined case is overwhelming.
Most philosophers and other normative theorists who research these issues would agree with that conclusion, I believe, though of course they would disagree about the details. That message doesn’t seem to be reaching many people beyond academia, though. Most people in rich countries still seem to regard any action taken to tackle global poverty as a matter of charity – admirable, perhaps, but not morally required. The pressure on governments in rich countries to reform policies that worsen global poverty is weak at best. With one or two notable exceptions, moreover, there seems to be surprisingly little attempt by philosophers to get this message about the moral priority of tackling severe poverty out beyond academia. Most publish exclusively in academic journals, focusing on the smaller issues that divide them rather than the larger issues that unite them.
Perhaps we should not be surprised by this, for it is not generally taken to be part of the role of academics to try to change the world. Academics should focus on purely on truth-seeking; others may then select any ideas of wider interest and disseminate them more broadly. At least in the case of normative work on global poverty, though, this latter role seems to have been largely neglected. And so there are strong reasons for academics to work harder at disseminating their own ideas, given the moral urgency of the issue. After all, if one’s research leads one to the conclusion that the global rich are living in a way that is deeply morally wrong, with consequences that are (without any hyperbole) catastrophic, then surely that ought to be enough to motivate a departure from normal practice.
It was such thoughts that led me to try to find out if other philosophers would be interested in forming a group that would aim at having more impact on global poverty than we were currently having. By working together as a group, I thought, we would be able to have much more impact than if each of us worked independently. We could discuss strategy together and draw on each other’s insights, expertise, and connections when determining how it would be best to concentrate our efforts. We could share tasks between ourselves so that contributing to the enterprise did not become too time-consuming for any individuals. And the very existence of the group might catalyse certain individuals who have felt vaguely that they would like to ‘do something’ about global poverty, but without being able to see what.
With this in mind, I presented a proposal for such a group at a workshop on global poverty in Canberra, Australia in July 2009. The first to show an active interest was Meena, who had already been working on a similar idea. She helped me to develop the proposal and then we sent it out to our networks. We were heartened by the positive response, and particularly by the fact that a number of other philosophers – above all, Thomas Pogge and Paula Casal – showed a willingness to give their time and energy to the project. With these new people came new ideas. The first major innovation was the decision to expand the membership of the group to include academics in disciplines other than philosophy. The advantages to doing so were clear enough, given that many of the issues relevant to global poverty are interdisciplinary, and that using the networks of people from a broader range of disciplines would help to publicise the group’s activities more widely. Accordingly, we rewrote the proposal for the group again, and called ourselves ‘Academics Stand Against Poverty’ (ASAP), a name suggested by Thomas, who now serves as Chair of the ASAP Board.
As if to mock our choice of acronym, progress was initially very slow, but we gradually moved forward. Our list of interested academics expanded steadily, now including people from many different disciplines. Thomas arranged for the Global Justice Center at Yale University to provide organisational support and some funding. In July 2010 we had our first public event, a workshop on the theme ‘How can academics have more impact on global poverty?’ at a conference on Global Ethics in Bristol, England. Andrew Williams chaired the workshop and Sabina Alkire, Paula, and Thomas gave presentations, stimulating an interesting discussion. A little later, we got funding from Yale for our first project, an experiment to test the comparative effectiveness of different kinds of philosophical argumentation in inspiring moral concern and action regarding global poverty. John French and Paula worked on the logo and web banner with comments from the Board. We drafted a mission statement and set of aims, and established ASAP as a not-for-profit organisation in the US, with much help from Joy Gordon of the Global Justice Center.
Most importantly of all, ASAP continued to attract new academics and students, including some – such as Matt Lindauer, Luis Cabrera, and Gilad Tanay – who were to play major roles in the development of the organisation. Gilad, Matt, and Justine Kolata organised the ASAP US launch conference at Yale University in April 2011, and Luis organised the ASAP UK launch conference at Birmingham University in May 2011. Thomas headlined both events, and both were a great success. Attendance was excellent, new ideas were proposed and old ideas improved, and new people emerged prepared to carry these ideas forward.
We are now endeavouring to put some of those ideas into action. One example is World Poverty Forum. It’s designed to bring research and expert dialogue on global poverty to a broad public. A second is the Global Poverty Report, which aims to identify and articulate a broad overlapping consensus among academics on some of the most important normative and factual claims about global poverty. Gilad is playing the main role in pulling this project together. Matt and Meena are leading a third project, Moral Motivation and Poverty Alleviation, which aims to bring together academics working in moral philosophy and the cognitive sciences to discover more effective means of motivating individuals to contribute to measures aimed at tackling global poverty.
Another theme that came forward strongly at Yale and Birmingham concerned certain impediments in the way of academics seeking to have an impact on global poverty, and how an organisation like ASAP might help to overcome them. Many thought it would be helpful, for example, if such an organisation could facilitate better coordination, collaboration, and mutual support both among academics working on global poverty in different fields, and among such academics and NGOs, governments and multilateral organisations. We are now developing the ASAP website in ways that are intended to serve these ends.
In relation to research, the website will help to make it clear who is working on which poverty-relevant topics around the world and thus allow for more efficient collaboration. In relation to projects, the website will contain information on which projects are in need of what kind of help, and how academics and students can make an effective contribution to them. It will also enable people to fill out a form specifying how they are able and willing to contribute and thus join a database which activist academics can use to enlist their help. This should help academics and students who want to contribute their time, resources and skills to the cause of poverty reduction but aren’t quite sure how best to do so. The ASAP website should also allow academics to share their scarce resources (grant-writing expertise, data-bases, guidance on campaigning and public persuasion, and so on) with one another in an efficient way, as well as to make available to the community of global poverty academics shared resources that will improve our collective impact.
These are some of our current ideas and plans. How much of a difference might we make? Though many are enthusiastic about the project, there have always been some who are sceptical that an organisation like ASAP can have a significant impact on global poverty. A variety of reasons have been put forward for such scepticism. It is sometimes said that academics lack the skills necessary to make such an impact, for example. They write in styles that are technical and obscure, and lack the networking and political skills necessary to influence events. Such claims stereotype academics, though. Some academics write in styles that are technical and obscure and others don’t; some have highly developed networking and political skills and some do not, and so on. In so far as we lack the necessary skills, moreover, we can either develop them or collaborate with those who do have them. So there does not appear to be any decisive reason for scepticism from this quarter.
A different reason for scepticism is that academics are said to be too divided to be able to make much of a common cause together. Ours is a profession in which novelty is rewarded: when we publish, we aim to show how we differ and not where we overlap; when we respond it is usually to criticize and not to support. Again, though there is something in this complaint, it does not appear to present any decisive obstacle. We at ASAP believe that there is in fact much more consensus on what can and should be done to alleviate global poverty than might appear on the surface, and we hope to identify and highlight this consensus. We also believe that lots of academics will be willing to support this effort, given the benefits that might follow. Doing so may enable academics to present a unified front on poverty, which should significantly improve our prospects for achieving a real impact on policy.
More broadly, the claim that academics can’t have more impact on global poverty than they are currently having implies that academics are already acting in just the way that has the maximum possible impact. One only has to state this implication, though, to see how implausible it is. There must be steps we can take that would enable us to have more impact, especially if we work together in a coordinated way. And that being so, we should find out what those steps are and put them into practice. I have already indicated some of our ideas, and more can be found on the ASAP website. We are still at a very early stage, though, and welcome new ideas, as well as criticism of our current ideas and suggestions for improvement. So if you have any thoughts, do please let us know.
As for the immediate future, there are upcoming ASAP events in Oslo, Washington DC, New Delhi, and London. We hope there will be such events in other countries too, as well as ASAP branches in many different countries. If you would like to be part of this enterprise, please consider becoming a member of ASAP, and let us know how you would like to contribute.
A Summary Report by Knut-Eric Joslin
The next two years will be a formative period for potential successors to the Millennium Development Goals, and a significant policy dialogue has already begun. Given differences in the degree of elaboration, the diversity of orientations, and the multifaceted nature of the proposals, a key question is how to structure discussion and comparison of possible MDG-successors. The contribution of this report is therefore the identification of a set of questions that articulate key contrasts between the proposals. Specifically, this report suggests that proposals can be compared along eight dimensions:
The report also comments on elements of the policy process. It concludes with a brief summary of leading proposals.
2015 is the target date for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As this date approaches, attention is increasingly directed to the possible successors to this framework. Most commentators view the next few years as a critical opportunity to revise and improve international efforts in poverty relief and development. A prevailing concern is that failure to effectively mobilize resources around a specific proposal or approach will handicap or even stall progress on the amelioration of poverty. For many, the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit demonstrated the challenges of international negotiation in a period of shifting economic influence, financial turmoil, and the uncertain long-term prospects for employment and growth.
This report reviews current thinking on the MDG-successor process and MDG-successor proposals. Its major contribution is a set of key dimensions around which thinking about the successor proposals might be organized. These dimensions are meant to provide an analytic framework by which elements of multi-faceted proposals can be productively compared. Specifically, an initial set of eight elements is suggested:
Part one of this report provides background, describing three types of “inputs” in the MDG successor policy process: i. Sectoral assessments, ii. framework assessments, and iii. theoretical orientations. Part two of the report focuses on the MDG successor policy process. It reviews the normative and positive perspectives on the process and concludes with a summary of recommendations by policy experts about how to make the process successful. Part three addresses the content of possible policy frameworks and how these frameworks might be compared. The report concludes with a brief list of leading proposals.
The post-2015 agenda is well underway and a sense of urgency is building. Key questions that need to be addressed include: How should the process be organized? What are the goals or objectives of the MDG successors? What elements should MDG successor policies include? And what types of policies are realistic? A number of actors have responded to these questions. Their answers are informed by a combination of empirical assessments and theoretical perspectives. Some of assessments and orientations are highlighted below.
Although there is still some time before the final tallying of results, the contours of success and failure with respect to each of the MDG’s sectoral goals are already fairly well defined (See Hulme and Scott 2010; Waage et al. 2010; UN 2011; and Melamed 2012). Most of these evaluations conclude that while there has been progress during the past decade, this progress has been uneven across geographic areas, populations, and indicators. With respect to specific goals, progress on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and HIV/AIDS are on track, while those on maternal and child health and the environment will likely not be achieved. Similarly with respect to regions, East-Asia has made substantial progress—and has accounted for the bulk of progress on MDG1—while Africa has demonstrated less progress (while admitting that these assertions are contingent on the choice of metrics).
Causal Contribution of the MDG Framework: Assessing the causal impact of the MDG framework on achievement of the MDG goals is an extremely challenging methodological proposition. Disentangling the true contribution from aggregated figures has not been a fruitful approach. In an attempt to tease out the role that the MDGs have played, researchers have therefore examined the relationship between the MDGs and (i) attention to specific issues, (2) the allocation of resources to these areas (Manning 2009; Fukuda-Parr 2008). In general, there seems to be agreement that the MDG framework has galvanized attention around particular issues (Manning 2007; Watkins 2008; Van der Hoeven et al. 2011; Sumner and Tiwari 2009). Kenny and Sumner cite an analysis of the Commitment to Development Index as evidence of a positive trend (both including and excluding the contribution to this index from foreign aid). However, with respect to the funding priorities the evidence is mixed. Fukuda-Parr (2008) has examined the policy statements of donors and 22 PRSPs and found that while the MDGs appear to have generated increased emphasis on certain areas such as economic growth, they have not had a meaningful impact of resources directed to other areas such as maternal mortality and child survival
With respect to assessments of the overall MDG framework, there are a range of standard endorsements and criticisms that are, in the words of Darrow (2012), at this point “well rehearsed.”
The strengths of the MDGs framework are generally identified as:
Despite the positive elements of the MDGs, there is a truly extensive range of criticisms:
Another criticism is that because the MDGs focus on a limited set of areas, they may inappropriately direct attention to issues that are less important in a particular context.
The sectoral and overall assessments are constructed in relation to the MDG process itself. There are, however, a number of theories and bodies of knowledge that are influential to the MDG dialogue, but that have scope beyond the MDG process. Three that have direct relevance are (1) technical/scientific theories of environmental sustainability, (2) theoretical/empirical beliefs about economic development (and, especially the poverty elasticity of growth), and (3) theoretical/philosophical perspectives on the nature of well-being. All three have implications for how to address poverty and could or already are the basis for proposals: Both Martens (2010) and van der Hoeven (2011) suggest that “alternative” indices of well-being could form the basis for proposals; Munasinghe (2011) has promoted a set of “Millenium Consumption Goals”; and commentators such as Gore (2007; 2010) have endorsed a “productive capacities” paradigm that is predicated on the theories that link structural change and economic growth.
A prominent strand of criticism of the MDGs relates to the process by which they were developed. Lack of participation of the both the poor and the international financial institutions (IFIs) in the formulation of the MDGs can partially explain weaknesses of this framework. Substantial debate has therefore focused on the process by which MDG successors might be legitimized and strengthened. A number of substantive efforts around consensus-building have also been initiated. The richest of these is described in a workshop report from 2011 (Quick and Burall 2011) and in the Beyond 2015 project. Despite the substantial disagreements about the nature of an ideal policy, there is recognition that the feasibility of various solutions depends critically on dialogue and organization. Many commentators acknowledge the trade-offs between debate and discussion, and the need for mobilization and advocacy around desired policies or strategies. For example, Quick and Burall point out that “a number of the key questions that were identified during the workshop rest on difficult trade-offs between competing purposes. For example, engaging citizens in general in the process may help to reinvigorate the development movement in general, but could jeopardise the purpose of ensuring that the voices of the very poorest are strongly represented (Quick and Burall 2011, 11).
The majority of commentators seem to operate with the assumption that the UN will lead the post-2015 process and that this is the most appropriate leadership body. In those few analyses that explicitly address the role of UN leadership, almost all seem to come down in favor of a UN led process (Beyond 2015; CGAP 2011; Carin and Bates-Eamer 2012):
Civil society actors, think tanks and UN agencies are all agreed that the UN will be the central organisation in the process. They underline that it will be up to the Secretary-General and his office to oversee the process and make the final proposal to member states. This is based on both idealism and realities; addressing both sides, a commentator at the CIGI/Red Cross seminar stated that in terms of legitimacy the exercise must be embedded in the UN and added that the UN’s central role is important because it is impossible to overemphasise the UN’s capacity for jealousy (Nowlan et al. 2011, 8).
The prevailing argument seems to be that the UN is the most representative international body and therefore in the best position. Beyond 2015 puts this forcefully: “the UN is the only legitimate and representative global governance structure and must lead the process.”
Endorsing the leadership of the UN should not, however, preclude the organization of parallel efforts. For example, in a recent workshop focused on how to involve the poor, there seems to have been agreement that while the UN should promote participation and facilitate consultation, there also needs to be a parallel organizing effort outside of the UN process in which the poor can articulate their position in the process (Quick and Burall 2011).
With respect to specific tasks for the UN, Vandemoortele (2012) identifies four: Convening national review, promoting participation, aggregate outcomes, and gatekeeper for new targets. While the first two are self-explanatory, the last two are more particular. With respect to “aggregating outcomes,” Vandenmoortele suggests that is will be important for the UN to manage an independent panel that can assess proposals based on merit. With respect to “gatekeeper for new targets”, Vandemoortele believes that it is crucial for the UN to preserve the MDGs as a limited set of quantifiable targets that are easy to understand; a task of the UN will therefore be to prevent the addition of too many new goals and to preserve their character.
The UNDP-led Post-MDG Agenda: Regardless of the normative merits of a UN led process vis-a-vis other processes and other parallel efforts, the structure of an UNDP-led post-MDG agenda appears to be in place. This will consist of (1) a global conversation, (2) national and regional consultations, and (3) thematic consultations in the areas of inequality, health, education, growth and employment, environmental sustainability, governance, conflict and fragility, population dynamics, and hunger (Pollard and Fischler 2012).
The UN System Task Force is also in the process of producing six background reports due to be released on May 20, 2012. These six reports will cover the following areas:
A high-level panel on “post-MDGs” will also be announced at Rio+20 or shortly thereafter (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 8). This body will include representatives from civil society and a “special coordinator” who is a woman from the “South” (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 8).
A large number of analysts and organizations have demanded a participative process that is open and inclusive, and that is constructed around norms of consultation and consensus-building (Quick and Burall 2011; Van der Hoeven et al. 2011; Vandenmoortele 2012). In particular, ensuring that the poor are active participants is seen by many as an integral to the process.
There was broad consensus that there were multiple purposes for running processes to engage poor people in the formulation of the post-2015 framework. These were to:
In a similar vein, Allison (2007) emphasizes the participation by civil society is a precondition for national rather than simply governmental ownership.
Quick and Burall also suggests the need for an “umbrella mechanism for initiatives engaging the poor in the development of a post-2015 framework” (2011, ). The intent of this project would be facilitate and stimulate participate by the poor, as well as to increase their impact on the project by situating individual voices in part of a larger movement.
While there is widespread support for an inclusive process, there has been less theorizing about how this process will lead to an agreement. Pollard and Fischler (2012) are, for example, optimistic about the chances of having wide participation, but question whether the process will reach a coherent outcome because there will be need for “tough decisions” about what initiatives to support.
With respect to goals, Hulme and Scott (2010) insist that future goals should be set at the national level, ideally as part of a democratic process and not set globally.
Carin and Bates-Eamer outline a set of principles by which sets of indicators should be developed:
In terms of positive rather than normative theorizing around the policy process, a number of analysts have speculated about possible policy scenarios or trajectories (Pollard and Fischler 2012; Nowlan et al 2011; Melamed 2012). Most see the difference between success and failure as predicated on the extent of political will.
Pollard and Fischler (2012) envision three possible scenarios that are distinguished in terms of the (i) breadth of participation and (ii) the degree of focus of the agreement: The first possibility they identify is a “last minute rush” in which many actors enter the process relatively late in the process, exacerbating difficulties in negotiation and thereby sapping momentum from the project. The second is an open and inclusive process that nevertheless is ineffective because no clear leadership is empowered to make tough decisions; the project ends up being a lowest common denominator “all things to all people” initiative. Pollard and Fischler see the third “bell curve” option as ideal policy trajectory: This scenario begins with wide consultation but through extensive dialogue and compromise the set of policies is narrowed and a coherent forceful policy is put in place. Of these three scenarios, Pollard and Fischler see the second is the most likely to occur.
Employing a different analytic framework, Nowlan et al. (2011) suggest that the possible policy outcomes will be primarily influenced by (1) the effectiveness of international cooperation, and (2) the economic outlook. Of these two, Nowlan et al. (2011) seem to view the cooperation dimension as more important. Although they suggest that an “ambitious” agenda will depend on both a high degree of cooperation and a positive economic outlook, they also consider that even “If the economy is not strong but countries are willing to explore new innovations to help support development, then the MDGs may be truly interesting and experimental” (Nowlan et al. 2011, 6).
A final set of five policy scenarios is offered by Melamed: (1) The UN finds its voice, (2) the OECD and IFIs take charge, (3) the emerging economies in pole position, (4) a civil society groundswell, and (5) a failure of the process as a consequence of financial crisis and lack of political leadership — “the dampest squib” (2012, 47). With respect to each of these scenarios, Melamed considers the degree of influence by civil society and low income countries, as well as the overall likelihood of each. In her opinion the two most likely scenarios (2) and (5).
A third type of commentary focuses on how to ensure that the policy process is as effective as possible. Although this process has a multi-year schedule, commentators recognize the urgency of fostering a dialogue on MDG successors as early as possible (Quick and Burall 2011). As Nowlan et al. (2011) point out, negotiation of the initial MDGs was carried out over a much more protracted period and seemed to involve less complex issues and less pronounced trade-offs. Pollard and Fischler emphasize the need to put in place incentives to submit proposals early and to that the process have strong financial.
In terms of the characteristics of successful proposals, Melamed (2012) argues that successful proposals will be characterized by (i) clear goals, (ii) strong monitoring frameworks, and (iii) norm setting. For Nowlan et al. (2011) policy success will depend on policy coherence (especially with respect to incorporating IFIs support) and buy-in among the South and the new “power brokers” (G20, China, South Korea, Indonesia etc) as two major priorities. Pollard and Fischler believe that a focused, forceful outcome depends crucially on a deadline, compromise, and courageous political leadership empowered to make tough decisions.
Finally, there is recognition that the MDG successor process would be strengthened by extensive public support and famous champions:
Develop a broad social movement to facilitate a change in perspective. Participants also discussed the need to take this opportunity to create a shift in the way that development is perceived by both policy makers and the public at large, and that a broader social movement is required to achieve this. This movement should be driven by vision rather than goals and be focused on sparking energy and action (Quick and Burall 2011, ).
Part three of this report attempts to organize thinking about the content of possible MDG successor frameworks. It begins by considering the range of policy possibilities and goes on to present eight analytic dimensions by policy possibilities might be analyzed. Then in the final section leading proposals are identified.
The range of MDG successor proposals ranges from a continuation of the existing MDGs to a radical revision of the nature of global cooperation with respect to development. Modest proposals aim to incorporate lessons learned, but preserve the key elements of the existing MDGs. They argue that a set of simple, clear outcome goals represents the best instrument for advocacy and for coordinating action among diverse actors. At the radical end of the spectrum are those who believe that the logic of the MDG process is fundamentally flawed. These proposals insist on the need for a radically different type of cooperation to address issues of poverty and development.
A number of analysts have attempt to classify these MDG successors proposals (Martens 2010; Giffen and Pratt 2011; Nowlan et al. 2011; Melamed 2012). These classification systems are in essence organized by reference to the existing MDGs and the degree to which proposals resemble or deviate from this framework. The implicit assumption of these commentators appears to be that frameworks that resemble the one in place now will also be the most politically feasible. The MDG framework appears to enjoy an incumbency advantage insofar as the continuation of the existing policy is considered the most politically feasible.
(1) Existing Proposal Typologies
Giffen and Pratt (2011) suggest three different types of proposals. The first possibility is a refinement of the existing framework. They suggest that an “MDG 2.0 framework” could include revision of goals related to women and maternal health, incorporate a focus on fragile states, and introduce the use of “non-mean” indicators as changes.
The second possibility that Giffen and Pratt (2011) consider is a framework developed in a more inclusive process that includes elements of governance and accountability and/or could be organized around cross-cutting issues such as human rights, climate change, and environmental sustainability. A typical example of such a proposal would be that by Waage et al. 2010.
Giffen and Pratt describe the third possibility as a fundamentally new approach or paradigm, one which might “consider poverty more broadly, as a feature of developed, middle income and poor countries, and are focusing on thematically based solutions to problems which may be seen as more systemic to all societies rather than just to the poorest countries” (2010, 7). They suggest that alternative approaches might return to a focus on economic development, could be oriented to ‘poverty issues’ as global problems, with the need for global thinking regarding solutions, rather than seeing poverty as a national issue within individual countries.
Another typology is that proposed by Melamed (2012). Her typology consists of two axes: A content dimension and a framework dimension. These leads to three types of deviation from the existing framework: “(i) Same terrain, new framework, (ii) new terrain, same framework, and (iii) new framework, new terrain” (2012, ).
In certain respects similar to Melamed, Martens (2010) introduces a two part typology, distinguishing between the dimensions of goals and indicators: Retaining the goals but introducing new indicators; retaining goals but introducing new goals; defining new models and goals of well-being and social progress (Martens 2010, ).
A fourth classification system is that proposed by Nowlan et al. which considers a “spectrum of approaches” ranked from more “status quo” to “revolutionary”:
(2) Criticism of Existing Typologies
These typologies systems, although easy to understand, may be criticized because they obscure important differences between proposals. The groupings in Giffen and Pratt (2011) seem, for example, fairly arbitrary. Proposals are multifaceted and one or two dimensions is not sufficient for comparing them. In addition, the degree to which proposals are considered radical seems to vary strongly across various proposers. For instance, while some individuals seem to believe that human rights could be addressed with the addition or modification of goals, others seem to believe that a human rights approach would demand a fundamental revision of the structure of the MDG process.
Instead of a classification system or typology, this report therefore focuses a set of key questions that address basic elements of MDG framework proposals. This strength of this approach is that it facilitates the comparison of multidimensional proposals along a range of dimensions.
(1) What is the scope of the proposal: collective problems or common problems?
A key distinguishing feature among the proposals is the scope the problems that they seek to address. Illustrative of the types of differences is the proposal from CAFOD, which describes the purpose a post-2015 framework in the following fashion:
The purpose of a post-2015 framework is to ensure that the issues of great significance to people living in poverty, and which collective international efforts have the most potential to deliver change, are goals at the centre of international policy which drive actual progress in the real world (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 19).
Crucially, the focus is on emphasis on “shared” rather than “common” problems: “We suggest the focus should be on shared problems (i.e. where the causes and remedies are primarily to be found internationally) rather than common problems (which are found in many countries around the world but where the causes and remedies are primarily found at national level). We suggest that the value-add of an international agreement is greater for shared problems than common ones” (Pollard and Fischler 2012, 4).
(2) What is the “goal structure?”
The goal structure of the proposals may be described in terms of the number of goals, the narrow-ness or broadness of goals, the existence of a hierarchy of supporting targets and indicators, and the time horizon. While some proposals endorse a clear hierarchy of goals and indicators, others propose general “principles.” Similarly, there is a debate about the total number of goals and the desired timeframe.
(3) At what level are the goals articulated?
Whether global targets should be included and, if they are, how they should be translated (“localized”) in particular nations or communities is an outstanding source of controversy. In line with the endorsements and criticisms outlined in part one of this report, there are proposals on both sides of this debate.
(4) Does the proposal focus on issues beyond material deprivation?
The current set of MDGs is focused on issues of extreme deprivation. However, a number of commentators argue that well-being depends in addition on a range of non-material factors and believe therefore that these should be incorporated in the MDG successors. These perspectives are, for example, articulated by human-rights proponents and those who view development in terms of capabilities.
(5) Is the proposal motivated by a particular theory of change or development?
In contrast the agenda in earlier periods — the “development decades” of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s — which focused on economic transformation, industrialization and growth — the MDGs are not linked to a particular theory of change or development. It may therefore not be surprising that there has been a swing back towards development narratives. As Sumner and Tiwari (2009) observe, “over the last few years, there has been some re-emergence of the grand- or meta-narrative in approaches to development” (839). Examples include economists such as Collier, Sachs, and Rodrik, who identify particular constraints associated with poverty (“traps”) that limit the possibility of growth, as well as heterodox economists who emphasize various need for structural changes (Gore 2007). Whether or not the proposals endorse a theory of change or development tends therefore to separate between alternative perspectives.
(6) Is inequality a central issue?
Inequality is consistently recognized as an issue that must to be addressed. How central this is in the proposal varies, however. For some, inequality is a problem only insofar as it relates to absolute deprivation. For others, inequality is itself exclusionary and therefore problematic. In the latter case, there is motivation to directly target inequality itself.
(7) What is the proper role of foreign aid?
Foreign aid has attracted considerable scrutiny during the past few decades. It is therefore not surprising that some critics have advocated for a different orientation to development assistance, for instance in the form of public-private partnerships. Needless to say, on the other end of the spectrum are those that believe that the problem up to this point has been inadequate levels of aid.
(8) What is the proposal’s orientation to global partnership?
The issue of equal sharing obligations among actors, accountability, and global governance are among the most challenging issues for the MDG successor proposals. Indeed, few of the concrete proposals have endorsed particular institutional reforms or described how enforcement mechanisms might be implemented. However, the proposals do differ significantly with respect to their orientation to this question. While some proposals gloss over these issues or dismiss them as not implementable, other proposals explicitly address the need to reconfigure existing international relations.
At the present time, five proposals seem worth identifying because of their relatively clear articulation:
Also adding to this dialogue is a long list of other commentators (see for example Van der Hoeven 2011; Pollard and Fischler 2012; Martens 2010; Vandenmoortele 2012; Poku and Whitman 2011; Darrow 2012; Manning 2010). These are not discussed here because they either are at a low level of elaboration or present variations or intermediate cases between the proposals presented above.
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The following are Professor Thomas Pogge’s closing comments at the “Impact: Global Poverty” meeting to launch ASAP in the UK and Ireland, held at the University of Birmingham on May 23, 2011. Here, Professor Pogge outlines some of the primary aims of ASAP globally, and some of the ways in which academics might leverage their unique expertise in efforts to address global poverty.
Start with the thought that the central purpose of ASAP is to reduce poverty. Upstream from this purpose we must ask: what is poverty, what are we to measure our work against? Here, it is important to communicate with poor people themselves. Poor people may not make a strong distinction between poverty and other vulnerabilities; they may see lack of resources as intimately intertwined with vulnerability to violence, for example, and with indignities suffered from officials. Maybe we should then also see their problem in broader terms. This upstream work of specifying what the fight is about takes on special importance, because in the next two years the new international anti-poverty agenda will be decided upon. What’s going to come after the MDGs? We should work to educate and try to steer that agenda a little bit. We should be heavily present in the coming debates.
Downstream from our central purpose we must ask how the cluster of deprivations we identify can be addressed effectively by academics. How can we best help reduce these deprivations? Here we should remember that there are certain things academics are good at and others they are not so good at; and also that there’s a lot of stuff already out there. So, rather than ask blandly “what is to be done?”, we should ask more specifically: “how can we add ourselves to an already existing poverty infrastructure in order to make this infrastructure most effective?” Perhaps one important contribution we can make is coordination. Anti-poverty efforts as they are now are certainly not well coordinated. As academics, we can collaborate across disciplines and also coordinate beyond the academy, making use of an extensive network of academic institutions that already reaches into pretty much all areas of the world. Through this academic network, we can establish collaborations with civil society in many countries and collaborate with their NGO communities. We might become something like an umbrella organization that would better coordinate the efforts of different types of groups within and across different countries, including here all groups that are seriously focused on poverty reduction, regardless of any specific religion, ideology or political affiliation they may have.
I started pessimistically this morning by saying that we’ve failed to make much of an impact in the last 30 years or so. We have not been able to protect the world’s poor from a massive shift against them in the distribution of global household income. There are various reasons for this. One of them is an excess of “good ideas”. Look at the World Social Forum, where 30,000 people have 30,000 good ideas – which are bound to drown out one another. What we need is more unity: the ability to coordinate on one really good and strategically important idea and then to join forces to push it through. And so perhaps we should think of ASAP as something between a loose network and a tight organization moving in lock-step, something like a platform that mobilizes and coordinates the efforts of academics, unifying us behind a very small number of important reform ideas that we can actually achieve with the help of organizations outside academia. Then we can be, I think, massively effective: we can light fires in many countries, and can become an important voice that keeps governments focused on the poverty problem and prevents a repeat of the scandalous dilution of government promises that we witnessed around the millennium.