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  • Author: Brian Levy, Alan Hirsch, Vinothan Naidoo, Musa Nxele
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Abstract: South Africa's economic and social imbalances can no longer be swept under the rug. The country has three choices: muddle through, endure another surge of ethnopopulism, or pursue inclusive development. South Africa was one of the 1990s iconic cases of democratization. Yet starting in the mid-2000s, the country began to experience a disruptive collision between its strong political institutions and massive economic inequality. The collision intensified across the 2010s, resulting in economic stagnation and increasing threats to institutional integrity. Understanding why this collision occurred and worsened over time is relevant not just for other middle-income countries but also many higher-income democracies wrestling with similar tensions between a declining tolerance for high or rising inequality and institutions that seemed strong in the past but find their legitimacy increasingly being questioned. Ideally, ideas, institutions, and growth all reinforce one another in a virtuous developmental spiral. Ideas offer hope by encouraging cooperation and the pursuit of opportunities for win-win gains. Institutions assure that the bargains underpinning cooperation will be monitored and enforced. Together, ideas and institutions provide credible commitment, which fuels economic growth. However, such a benign scenario does not reckon with the ways in which persistent high inequality, accompanied by unresolved tensions between the distribution of economic and political power, can both put pressure on institutions and quickly change hope into anger. The result can be a cascading set of pressures and an accelerating downward spiral. For the first fifteen years of democracy, South Africa enjoyed the advantages of both effective institutions and a shared willingness of stakeholders believed in the power of cooperation. This enabled the country to move beyond counterproductive conflict and pursue win-win outcomes. Growth began to accelerate, which created new opportunities for expanding the middle class. Increased fiscal space made it possible to broaden access to public services and to social grants, which reduced absolute poverty. There were, however, some stark limitations in what was achieved. Gains for the poorest did little to alter their difficult economic and social realities. Less than a quarter of the total population, including essentially all white South Africans, enjoyed a standard of living that was middle class or better. There was ample reason for the majority of South Africans to feel that, notwithstanding the promises of mutual benefit, the deck remained stacked against them. This increased the vulnerability of South Africa’s political settlement.
  • Topic: Development, Inequality, Institutions
  • Political Geography: South Africa, Africa
  • Author: Lauren Clark
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Journal of Public and International Affairs (JPIA)
  • Institution: School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Abstract: Despite positive trends in electrification and gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) over the last two decades, the region lags behind the rest of the world in both dimensions. Recent economic assessments of the efficiency of pursuing universal electrification in SSA show the costs outweigh the benefits. This paper argues that, in the context of SSA, gains in women’s empowerment may strengthen the case for electricity expansion, but are not captured in standard cost-benefit analyses. The paper reviews existing literature to identify four channels through which positive externalities and equity gains may arise from electrification: (1) alleviating time poverty, (2) expanding labor market opportunities (“economic empowerment”), (3) improving maternal health and women’s safety, and (4) changing social norms. Findings indicate that electrification can alleviate women’s time poverty, create opportunities for women and girls to enter the labor force or focus on school, decrease exposure to harmful indoor air pollutants, improve maternal health, reduce exposure to and acceptance of gender-based violence, and change social norms through access to information. Expanding electricity access using renewable energy sources (“sustainable electrification”) presents additional opportunities to enhance women’s economic power by mainstreaming gender in the industry’s development. Falling costs of renewable technologies may also shift traditional cost-benefit analyses of electrification. Based on these findings, the paper recommends that policies continue to promote universal electricity access by prioritizing sustainable technologies that can support high-power household appliances, and integrating gender into every stage of the electrification process.
  • Topic: Development, Gender Issues, Women, Services, Electricity
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Author: Gilles Carbonnier
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Illicit financial flows significantly erode the tax base of resource-rich developing countries, which do not have the means to invest in public health, education, and sustainable development. In this column, the author presents the latest research findings and policy implications and discusses some of the most promising avenues to effectively curb illicit financial flows, strengthening the nexus between trade and tax governance.
  • Topic: Development, Environment, Human Rights, Financial Crimes, Trade, Development Aid, Sustainability, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Patrice C. McMahon, Lukasz W. Niparko
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Although LGBTQI+ activists in Poland are under attack from the Law and Justice government’s conservative agenda, domestic activists are finding ways to resist and persist.
  • Topic: Development, Human Rights, Political Activism, LGBT+
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Poland
  • Author: Francesca Ghiretti
  • Publication Date: 09-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: The debate on technological development and the unfolding fourth technological revolution tends to neglect the role of the EU, relegating it to follower status. The leadership positions are occupied by the US and China, who compete with one another for technological supremacy. Yet, despite lagging behind in some areas, the EU is better placed than is often assumed and still stands a chance of guaranteeing the delivery of a technological revolution that is not only environmentally but also socially sustainable. This is critical in proposing a model of technological development alternative to that of China, in particular, and especially in such sectors as artificial intelligence, supercomputing and digital skills.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, European Union
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Europe
  • Author: Sarah E. Mendelson
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The Joseph Biden Administration has rather famously committed to convene a Summit for Democracy, likely later in 2021 or early in 2022. The Summit has become, as some diplomats have suggested, “the talk of the town,” not only in Washington but also in multiple other national capitals. A cottage industry has sprung up debating the who, the what and the where. More focus is needed on the why — which, in turn, ought to shape the how. To my mind, albeit one preoccupied for over a quarter of a century with human rights and democracy, the why is rather straightforward. The alternatives — bending to the rise of authoritarians, or leaving unaddressed the weakened liberal international order that the United States originally helped create —are not in our or our allies’ national interest. Many democracies are experiencing intense challenges on multiple levels. Chief among these is the global pandemic, which revealed deep socioeconomic inequities in societies that have long been labeled “developed,” when in fact these democracies have not been delivering to many communities. Freedom House has now recorded 15 straight years of decline globally in democracy. The crises at home have been widely broadcast: the new Congress came under physical attack January 6 after a U.S. President attempted, as part of a protracted effort, to overturn the 2020 election and prohibit the peaceful transfer of power. How then the Summit for Democracy can help repair and revive democracy here and among our allies needs more consideration and detail. Numerous factors roll up to a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink and refresh exactly how we advance democracy at home and abroad. New approaches, themes and methods can help revitalize strategy and policy. Such new approaches need to connect and account for domestic shortcomings and link progress at home to efforts abroad. In doing so, post-pandemic democracy promotion needs to reflect a comprehensive focus on rights that includes socioeconomic issues and sustainable development (e.g., democracies must deliver dignity). The Biden Administration ought to consider labeling the Summit “Democracies Deliver Dignity and Development” or the 4Ds Summit. The Summit can provide the road map for these new approaches while being informed and shaped by extensive consultations at home and abroad. Finally, new methods should include data-driven, human-centered design shaping foreign assistance as well as elevating local voices. Internationally, that would be a significant change to the dominant modalities, largely Congress-driven, supporting specific types of institution building, such as central election commissions. Such work will undoubtedly continue, given support in Congress and among the U.S.-based NGOs that receive the funding (notwithstanding the damaged credibility of our democracy). At a minimum though, demonstrably demand-driven assistance ought to supplement this older business model in order to better deliver to populations, listening and responding to the multitude of needs.
  • Topic: Development, Diplomacy, Authoritarianism, Democracy, NGOs
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Lilian Tauber
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Abstract: By committing to long-term investments in Jordan’s communities through support for social enterprises, the United States can contribute to the country’s stability and economic growth. In Jordan, one of the United States’ most reliable allies in the Middle East, economic volatility is a major threat to stability and has led to recurrent protests since 2011. High youth unemployment rates and a large refugee population contribute to its economic woes and political tensions, all of which are now exacerbated in the Covid-19 pandemic. The United States can support Jordan’s recovery from the pandemic through long-term investment in social entrepreneurship. The country’s entrepreneurship ecosystem is in a developing stage, with most resources focused on short-term funding and training, so a shift in U.S. aid to longer-term support can make a significant difference. Increasing funds and providing multi-year mentorship and operational support to select social enterprises (SEs) will allow them to become powerful forces for positive change and civic engagement in their communities.
  • Topic: Development, Foreign Aid, Economy, Investment
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan, United States of America
  • Author: Alex He
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Abstract: This paper reviews the strategies and plans, policy-making institutions, process and problems in China’s techno-industrial development. Although it has made noticeable progress in some areas in the past two decades, China still lags behind in most core technology and advanced manufacturing fields, such as high-end chips. There have been several real breakthroughs in the semiconductor sector by private companies such as HiSilicon and rapid advancement in frontier technologies — artificial intelligence, fifth-generation wireless communication network technology, big data, blockchain and the Internet of Things — by private companies such as Huawei, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu; however, state-sponsored technological innovation and breakthroughs have been crippled by the existing problems in China’s science and technology research system and a campaign-style catch-up strategy that rewards bureaucrats on short-term goals, as well as by weak links between academic research and industry and a swing between the market-oriented approach for technology acquisitions and indigenous innovation for technology breakthroughs. A case study of China’s semiconductor industry demonstrates both the problems and progress in China’s techno-industrial development, as well as the implications for the country's prospects of evolving into a technological powerhouse.
  • Topic: Development, Science and Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Industry, 5G
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Elizabeth Chen
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: The Jamestown Foundation
  • Abstract: A new study published February 8 by the Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) (MPS, 中华人民共和国公安部, zhonghua renmin gongheguo gongan bu) reported that there were 10.035 million registered births in 2020, down from 11.79 million in 2019. This represents a 15 percent decrease following the coronavirus pandemic (Guancha.cn, February 8). Althou­gh the number of registered births—that is, newborns recorded in the household registration hukou (户口) system—is not the same as China’s official birth rate, the decline has concerned analysts that a long-forewarned demographic crisis may be approaching faster than expected.National birth and population figures for the previous year are usually released in January but have been delayed until April this year as China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) compiles its decennial census. In the meantime, data released by some provinces and cities in January has appeared to confirm the implications of the MPS study. Data released from the capital city of Guangdong province—which saw the highest number of births per province in 2019—showed that birth rates in Guangzhou were down by 17 percent year-on-year and mirrored broader trends across the rest of the province. In Zhejiang, China’s wealthiest province, the cities of Wenzhou and Taizhou reported that new births in 2020 fell by 19 percent and 33 percent respectively compared to 2019 (SCMP, February 2).
  • Topic: Demographics, Development, Aging, Population Growth
  • Political Geography: China, Asia
  • Author: Ryan Lasnick
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
  • Abstract: This report analyses the size, scale and persistence of national development banks and offers ten clear observations and conclusions of the role of NDBs for the achievement of sustainable development globally. The Executive Summary can be found here. This report analyzes NDBs top down and bottom up. Top down, it includes the most recent data on the number of NDBs along with their total assets and annual disbursements. Bottom up, we conduct systematic case studies of various development bank ecosystems, including those of India, Brazil, China, South Africa, Germany and the US, to begin analyzing their role in the national development bank economy.
  • Topic: Development, Sustainability, Banking
  • Political Geography: Global Focus