New York Times
columnist Nick Kristof
is likely a well-known voice to New Security Beat
readers. His ground-level development stories from around the world expose a range of neglected issues that usually struggle for mainstream media coverage: maternal health
, microcredit, human trafficking, family planning
, sanitation, micronutrients, and poverty
, among others.
Kristof brought many of these threads together Half the Sky
, a book he coauthored with his wife Sheryl WuDunn. I asked
about the challenges of addressing these connected problems when I interviewed
the couple and two frontline White Ribbon Alliance
maternal health practitioners this fall at the Wilson Center
Now Kristof is asking readers to suggest topics for him to cover in 2010. My suggestions to him are actually a wish list for the wider development community. In short, how can scholars, policymakers, practitioners, and communities better research and analyze these connected topics and then fashion integrated responses? I posted my comment on Kristof’s blog, On the Ground (and I ask your indulgence for the less than polished writing):
I’d love for you [Kristof] to explore the challenge of integration from both problem and response perspectives. People in poverty lead integrated lives (just like we wealthier folks do), face connected challenges, and need integrated or multiple responses. Single-sector programs may deliver quicker, more obvious, and/or more countable impacts (or parallel advantages for single-discipline research endeavors). Yet time and time again we see such approaches only partially meeting needs or not meeting them sustainably. There is also a persist danger of undercutting others’ efforts and/or creating high opportunity costs.These questions topped my wish list to Kristof last night while procrastinating on other writing. What would be on your wish list for Kristof, the development community, or even just New Security Beat? We at the Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP) would love to hear from NSB readers so we can keep covering the questions that interest you.
So which integrated research, policy analysis, or field-based programs explicitly recognize that trends that appear to be on the periphery are hardly peripheral? At the same time, if programs try to be all things to all people, they can become bloated, unrealistic, and/or unsustainable.
For example, are the Millennium Villages examples of the former or the latter? How about the much smaller programs under the population-health-environment grouping? What went wrong with Campfire programs to cause so many to abandon the approach? Have the loosened restrictions on what constitutes an appropriate PEPFAR intervention addressed this integration problem, or will politics (exclusion of family planning in PEPFAR, for example) mean we cannot capture the full benefits of integration?
And the big Kahuna: how is the rhetoric and analytical argument around the 3Ds (defense, development, and diplomacy) made real and practicable in the field (as in the United States we anticipated early this year the results of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), and Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy (PSD))?
And finally, does our (read donors’) penchant for measuring impact and quantifying results force us to narrow interventions to the point of missing key connections in cause and effect of the problems we are trying to address? Is there a better mix of defining and measuring success that captures the challenges and benefits of integration?