Exploring New Approaches For Poverty Reduction

Global Voices bloggers have been commissioned to liveblog the OECD Global Forum on Development in Paris on April 4-5, 2013. Leading up to the meeting, our team is submitting posts about development issues that help serve as weekly online discussion topics on their website (#OECDgfd)

Cloth for sale in at market in Ghana

Cloth for sale in Makola Market in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Caroline Beaumont shared by Transaid on flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The quest is on for solutions to poverty reduction with the approach of the 2015 deadline for the UN Millenium Development Goals (MDG). Many organizations are exploring new avenues for answers hoping it can lead to fresh ideas. Among the goals agreed to by the international community more than a decade ago was to halve the number of people suffering from hunger, and for the world's poorest citizens to gain productive employment. Most of the targets are far from being met in most countries, but progress has been made, for instance in Sub Saharan Africa where the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day, poverty declined from 58% to 51% between 1990 and 2005 [pdf].

Ideas exchange on the internet

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will hold their annual Global Forum on Development in Paris on April 4-5, 2013. This year, the OECD is exploring more inclusive approaches to tackle the poverty issue by inviting to an open pre-forum discussion online with OECD scholars. All the main conversation topics on the agenda are laid out for everyone to see and contribute.

Another interesting approach to online ideas exchange is hosted by Concerned African Scholars, an organization of scholars and students of Africa. Among the many issues explored is the impact of the hundreds of billions of dollars flowing illicitly out of Africa on the slow progress of poverty reduction. The author, Janvier D. Nkurunziza, suggests one key to bringing down poverty would be “the repatriation of the resources which are currently held abroad and not benefiting the continent.”

Had Africa had not lost so much resources in the form of illicit financial transfers, it is likely that poverty would have been less acute. The logic is that keeping these resources in Africa would have produced higher rates of investment, allowing African countries to invest in productivity enhancing sectors such as infrastructure, creating jobs, and raising incomes, resulting in lower levels of poverty.

In a TEDx talk in UlaanBataar, Mongolia on “Social Media and Poverty Reduction” in September 2012, Robert Reid, the Resident Country Director of the Millennium Challenge Corporation in Mongolia, highlighted the necessity of a broad public participation in poverty reduction projects, stressing the importance of private sector involvement for sustainable development. “It's important that the involvment of the private sector be considered at the beginning of discussions on how to reduce poverty,” he says.

This multistakeholder approach is also a key tenet of the open data movement, which is progressively penetrating the development sphere.

The Uganda Open Development Partnership Platform, a civil society organization-led public initiative, is an example of what open data could bring to the debate on poverty reduction:

Open development is where organisations are using information technologies, among other information sharing channels, to provide and share information. Open development enhances transparency and accountability about resources that are available to be invested in development, how those resources are invested and what results they achieve. In the end, all the stakeholders involved in this information sharing chain; the data owners and users benefit from this mutually reinforcing ecosystem

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