Day two and counting.. ERF 20th annual conference

Comparative Experiences of Social Injustice

The ERF 20th Annual conference carried on for the second consecutive day with plenary session presentations on studies of social justice experiences in different countries across the globe. The 2nd plenary session was chaired by Dr. Heba Handoussa (Egyptian Network for Integrated Development “ENID”), along with a distinguished panel of economists; Shanta Devarajan (World Bank Africa), Mahmoud El-Gamal (Rice University) and Carlos Eduardo Vélez (Universidad de los Andes).

Speakers during the 2nd plenary session

ERF 20th Annual Conference 2nd plenary session

World Bank Africa’s chief economist Shantayanan Devarajan addressed the issue of “capture and the failure of free public services” in developing countries. Devarajan argues how the nature of free public services promotes inequality of opportunity, where the elite can “capture” the better end of public goods distribution. The paper focused mainly on case studies from African and Asian countries; namely Mali, Gabon, India and Indonesia respectively.

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Researcher policymaker: A missing bridge?

Knowledge Café

Knowledge Café

It’s quite amazing the amount of time and effort that southern researchers invest to research their ideas and present them to the world, despite the numerous challenges they face throughout this path. And ohh the pride they take in that! The role of communication is to define how big that “world” is.. It could be anything from a desk drawer to an implemented policy.

In most developing countries, unfortunately, the odds are that most research ends up warm and cozy in an office desk drawer. Not to sound satirical, it’s no secret that developing countries are hardly “the place” for hearing out what the people have to say, let alone the researchers who go out of their way to not only add to their own knowledge but to contribute to bringing about change in their societies. With that said, it’s not quite safe to blame it all on bad communication now, is it?

This blog post is supposed to highlight some of the challenges that African researchers face in “doing” research and “communicating” it to inform and advice policy. Wrapping up our latest GDNet-AERC Policy Brief Training Workshop, we picked some of the participants’ brains regarding that particular topic.

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Upper Egypt.. The land beyond the temples

Development is about adaptation and innovation, and with that comes poverty reduction. The problem with the poor communities of developing countries, especially the rural ones, is that they are still stuck in a time capsule, all the while their population is growing and natural resources are diminishing. Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome these problems. Unfortunately though, the snag is in introducing them to new methods; i.e. getting them to adapt to innovative solutions.

NGOs play an evidently important role in the development of poor communities in the developing world. ENID is an example of an effectively successful program that contributes with creating more job opportunities and supporting food production and security in rural Upper Egypt.  ENID’s “Sustainable Agricultural Development” program, led by Dr. Dyaa Abdou, is one that focuses on promoting agricultural development. It works to increase the utilization efficiency of scarce natural resources as well as building the capacity of both the rural youth and women to produce and innovate.

The Sustainable Agricultural Development program supports a number of activities that aim at developing the agricultural environment and build the capacity of both the rural people as well as NGOs and governmental sectors to work together. Dr. Abdou highlights the main activities and how they are expected to benefit and up the welfare of Upper Egypt’s rural community. These include:

Integrated Fish Farms

These farms depend on solar power units to extract underground water. The integrated aspect to them emanates from the various agricultural activities hosted on the farms; including food and feed plantations, livestock, recycling agricultural waste to produce organic compost and finally producing Bio Gas to satisfy local needs for electricity/power (e.g. light, heat, cooking… etc.).

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The policymakers’ take and advice on research communication challenges

Policy Panel

Policy Panel

Any story has two sides. Research communication is no different; there are researchers and there are decision makers.. In developing countries, however, there is more to the challenge than a bridge between researchers and policy makers. Following up on the GDNet-AERC Policy Brief Training Workshop, this blog takes to the policymaking side of the issue; specifically regarding the challenges in assessing research evidence and research uptake. Eric Aligula (Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, KIPPRA) and Leonard Kimani (Director, Economic Sector, National Economic and Social Council) talk about the main gaps and opportunities for research uptake in Kenya.

Leonard Kimani first talks about the challenges of policymakers in assessing and utilizing research in policymaking. Regarding policy briefs, he argues that policymakers appreciate policy briefs as an effective research communication tool. Kimani discusses a number of “Dos & Don’ts” for researchers, to help them maximize the opportunity of their research reaching the right audience. These are:

Dos:

  • Researchers should be very familiar with the research agenda, and make sure that the agenda is relevant to the challenges that are specific to a certain organization; whether the organization is governmental, counter governmental… etc.
  • They must also make sure that the quality of the research that they do is comprehensive, having in depth, and offering alternative practical solutions to the decision maker.
  • Mechanisms of dissemination should be put in place so that the research results could be shared, which could be through conferences, workshops, retreats, web portals or blogs.

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Developmental Challenges in Upper Egypt: A woman’s perspective

“الست لو خدت حظها في التعليم؛ هتعرف ازاي تشارك، ازاي تطور في المجتمع بتاعها، ازاي تشارك في الحياه الثقافية و السياسية في مجتمعها…. تعرف اللي ليها و اللي عليها”

“If women are empowered with proper education; they’d be able to participate, to develop their communities, and to contribute to the cultural and political life… They will know their rights and their duties!”

Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt
Qena Governorate, Upper Egypt

These are the words of Zeinab Maghraby, whom we’ve had the opportunity to interview at ENID’s annual conference. Zeinab is a simple rural woman from Upper Egypt, specifically from a small town called “Gezeeret El Dom” in Qena governorate. We asked Zeinab to tell us, in her opinion, about the developmental challenges they face in Upper Egypt and how ENID’s initiative helps them overcome some of these challenges.

Empowering Women..

Modest as she seems, Zeinab makes some compelling arguments regarding the challenges that face development in Upper Egypt and how the government approaches their problems. She first talks about women and how they face many problems, especially in rural Egypt. Zeinab argues that women need to be empowered in the work environment as well as the political life. The underlying challenge, in her opinion, is illiteracy. She believes that an educated woman is fit for participation, advisory and change; whether in the scope of her small community or even in politics.

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From localized development to up-scaling: What’s the role of key players?

Dr. Anita Nirody, the UNDP’s resident representative in Egypt commences the Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID)’s 1st Annual conference by expressing the UNDP’s pride in the association with the initiative for its vital efforts toward poverty eradication in rural Upper Egypt. The conference theme was “A call for developing Upper Egypt”, where ENID demonstrates its efforts in promoting sustainable development and employment opportunities in Upper Egypt. Dr. Nirody emphasizes the advantage of the initiative, being a truly integrated model for development that addresses the most vulnerable groups.

The initiative, Dr. Nirodi argues, helps the poor people of Upper Egypt find job opportunities and builds their capacities to lead productive livelihoods. Moreover, it links them to value chains and markets. Being a multi-stakeholder initiative, ENID works closely with local communities’ administration as well as various networks of civil society groups. It works in three major spheres; agriculture, SME development and innovative business models.

The conference hosted a number of ministers of the Egyptian government, who expressed their support of the initiative’s goals and agendas, which need be integrated on a national level. Dr. Nirody also expresses her faith in the effectiveness of the initiative’s model and its potential to be replicated in other parts of Egypt. Such an upscale would require a high level of cooperation between different ministerial bodies, with the support of international partners such as DFID and the Sawiris foundation.

Watch interview video with Anita Nirody

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Did Islamic laws hold back development in the Middle East?

Adeel Malik (Oxford University)

Adeel Malik (Oxford University)

Despite the geographic and cultural diversity of Muslim societies, Muslim countries remain significantly lagging behind in the industrialization race. Nearly 500 years ago, Europe surged ahead in industrialization and economic prosperity, while the Middle East witnessed a recurrent decline in economic fortunes. Dr. Adeel Malik, Globe Fellow in the Economics of Muslim Societies at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, presented a study discussing why the Middle East failed to develop in relation to Europe. He investigates the divergence in development outcomes by relating this decline to the provisions of Islamic law and how they led to the underdevelopment of the private sector.

Malik argues that the law per se is only one part of the institutional framework; the enforcement and political structure are also important factors to take into consideration when assessing development. The study shows how Islamic law influenced the politics of the Middle East, exploring the underpinnings of religious authorities dating back to the Ottoman era. Religious provisions were incorporated in the bureaucratic structures and deeply impacted many economic as well as political decisions. For example, laws in the Ottoman period limited capital accumulation thus holding back private sector development.

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The peculiar use of training activities as vehicles for policy research uptake in Serbia

[This blog is part of an ongoing study on communicating complex ideas. The objective of this project is to gain a greater and more nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities for research uptake among think tanks and policy research institutes in developing countries. This post has been written by Goran Buldioski, Director of the Think Tank Fund, and Sonja Stojanovic, Director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Studies. Their first post can be found here: Civilian control of the state security sector (with special focus on military)]

This post highlights the efforts of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) in using capacity building trainings to guide  long-term influence of policy research communication. BCSP designed training courses addressing the democratic control of the armed forces in Serbia. These trainings aimed to share knowledge on the matter and present their in-depth research findings interwoven into the training sessions through a number interactive activities. The course has become a conductor of research findings to promote debate on major issues.

Using training activities as a key vehicle for research uptake is surprisingly not as common as might be expected. To be fair, many think tanks expose their trainees to the analysis they have produced in the past, and use their reports and projects as case studies throughout the training to explain an idea or illustrate a point. Yet, most  of these activities are aimed at capacity building and are not consciously designed and structured as a means for research uptake.

The practice of the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP) of using training courses as a key (central) tool for communication of policy research is therefore worth noting. BCSP has consciously designed a series of training courses addressing the democratic control of the armed forces as the best vehicle to secure the uptake of their research finding by the military elite. The seminars came in different formats: from half a day awareness raising discussions at the military barracks to a year-long accredited MA course in International Security organised in partnership with the Faculty of Political Science. Some seminars were organised only for military officials and civilians employed in the Ministry of Defence, although the majority targeted a more diverse groups composed of young politicians, representatives of civil society, media, and different government agencies.

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What does it take for researchers to be heard: Research competitions

Promoting Southern voices is at the heart of our work at GDNet. It is no secret that southern researchers struggle to communicate their research and have their work influence polices, and that’s exactly where we step in. This is NOT another post emphasizing the challenges facing southern research! It is, however, an example of what we aspire for research in the developing world to reach.

The winners of GDN 12th Annual Conference Awards & Medals competition, two Philippine researchers; Jeremaiah Opiniano and Alvin Ang from the University of Santo Thomas, Philippines, tell us what winning the competition added to their research. Ang and Opiniano use a tool called Remittance Investment Climate Analysis in Rural Hometowns (RICART) to advise the Philippine government on how to best use the billion-dollar remittances in local development.

Why did THEY win? In other words, what’s the X factor in their research?

When asked, Ang and Opiniano believe that their research is not only interesting, but also quite useful for communities. What ‘s more important is that it can be replicated and modified to apply to other communities around the world. In support of their argument, they found that other researchers were interested in their work. Researcher to researcher INTERACTION!

So how does winning help?

Winning the competition has indeed been a great step in communicating their research. Ang says that it opens doors to other funding resources as well as links with other researchers, both locally and internationally. It also gave them a boost of confidence in approaching policy makers. The attitude of policy makers itself is notably different; it shows more understanding and support and facilitates access to communities. Communities showed helpfulness and participation, and also provided them with access to information for research.

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Volatility and growth: How can fiscal policy boost equitable growth in Argentina?

Volatility hurts growth, especially in low-income and emerging countries that are even more vulnerable to external shocks, which implies more risk and lower stability. The role of fiscal policies thus is not only to boost growth, but to cater for sustainable and equitable growth; especially for the poor who are the most vulnerable to market volatility.

“What can fiscal policy do to boost equitable growth in Argentina?”

Jimena Zúñiga, Marcelo Capello, Inés Butler and Néstor Grión from the IERAL of the Mediterranean Foundation attempt to provide an answer to this question in their research “A cycle-adjusted fiscal rule for sustainable and more equitable growth in Argentina”, which Jimena presented at the GDN 14th Annual Conference. In order to do this, they first define the main binding constraints to growth in Argentina, then they investigate which fiscal reform strategy is the most suitable to specifically tackle these constraints. They argue that for a reform strategy to be effective in Argentina, it must be inclusive; involving all levels of governmental sectors, and designed to stabilize key macroeconomic variables.

The proposed model is a cycle-adjusted fiscal rule, which is found to be effective in reducing Argentina’s macroeconomic volatility. In turn, this will result in long-term growth and an increase in welfare of the poor families. In the video below, Jimena Zúñiga explains the main pillars of this research and also briefly highlights the main findings and their potential impact on promoting sustainable and equitable growth in Argentina.

Jimena Zúñiga, IERAL of the Mediterranean Foundation

Read this Paper: A cycle-adjusted fiscal rule for sustainable and more equitable growth in Argentina