Last week, the Fund for Peace issued its eighth annual Failed States Index (FSI). The index gives 177 countries a score between 1.0 and 10.0 for 12 indicators, ranging from the legitimacy of the state and the security apparatus to demographic pressure and uneven development (high being bad, low being good – see full descriptions of the indicators here). But which of these indicators has the biggest impact? We did a quick analysis of the Failed States Indexes published from 2006 to 2012 to show which of the indicators correlate most with a high score. (We skipped 2005 since the roster of analyzed countries was significantly smaller.)
›A new framework for sexual and reproductive health is needed, argued panelists in a recent event at the Wilson Center, and the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development would have been the place to start. An international consensus around women’s human rights was developed at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, but Carmen Barroso, director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Western Hemisphere Region, said there has been slow implementation, little funding, and furthermore the world has changed significantly since then.
Barroso was joined by Latanya Mapp Frett, vice president of Planned Parenthood Global, as well as two representatives of Planned Parenthood partner organizations, Marco Cerezo of FUNDAECO and Ben Haggai of Carolina for Kibera.
New challenges to the reproduce rights landscape include the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and decreased funding for international programs. But new opportunities include rapid dissemination provided by the internet and globalization and a subsequent mobilization of youth. “Young people are the largest cohort in history,” Barroso said in an interview with ECSP, both in absolute numbers and in percent of the population. “We have a historical opportunity [to incorporate] them in these decision-making processes.” Additionally, gender and health issues are incresaingly seen by many as linked with the environment and development.
Intersection of Health and the Environment
Marco Cerezo’s FUNDAECO (Foundation for Ecodevelopment and Conservation) is an example of Planned Parenthood’s partnership with other organizations. Based, in rural Guatemala, they shifted from primarily focusing on conservation and sustainable development to incorporating women’s health after finding a vicious cycle of poverty, high fertility, and environmental degradation in the places they worked.
Women’s health was so dire it was holding development back, Cerezo said. “Sustainable community development will not be possible without the education, empowerment, and support to rural women,” they write in their mission statement.
FUNDAECO now acts as a model for the intersection between reproductive health and the environment. Cerezo reported that once women are healthy and empowered through clinics established by FUNDAECO, they become more active in all aspects of the community, including ecological preservation.
Building Healthy Communities
Ben Haggai, who works in Nairobi’s biggest slum, Kibera, further reiterated the need for integrated programs. Carolina for Kibera has a number of programs to improve the quality of life for residents, he said, and has a particular focus on youth with sports associations and education programs.
Youth are the best reproductive health educators, Haggai said, as they are able to talk frankly with their peers. The NGO trains peer youth educators to reach out to community members about reproductive health and other issues like substance abuse. Since the young people work as volunteers, Haggai said, they are motivated only by a desire to improve their communities.
A Natural Intersection
Latanya Mapp Frett agreed that sexual and reproductive health aligns quite naturally with issues of sustainability. “We try to work in the countries overseas in Latin America and Africa where we focus particularly on non-traditional health sectors,” she said in an interview with ECSP following the panel. “One of those sectors is the environment.”
While emphasizing that contraceptive use is a cost-effective way to ensure sustainable development, Mapp Frett cautioned against framing sexual and reproductive health only in the context of reducing fertility. While this may have been common in the past, she noted, it’s important to ensure that women have the right to make childbearing choices for themselves.
Mapp Frett also urged policymakers in the United States to look to developing countries for intersections between development, the environment, and reproductive health. She said that Planned Parenthood’s partner organizations, including FUNDAECO and Carolina for Kibera, have found these connections and successfully partnered with already existing networks like churches to more effectively reach the community.
Translating Into Effective Action
Each member of the panel spoke about the challenge of articulating the need for sexual and reproductive health programs to people outside the field. Barroso mentioned research conducted by Brian O’Neill which found that meeting the current unmet need for contraception would slow population growth enough to reduce emissions by 17 percent.
Cerezo emphasized the importance of consensus among the staff of a given organization, saying it is difficult to make a case to agronomists and farmers if a culture clash exists within the institution. Haggai agreed, adding that focusing on reproductive issues is an important measure of prevention which helps protect both the environment and the health of women in a community.
For Mapp Frett, women’s reproductive and sexual health is indivisible from other aspects of development. “As you talk about sustainable development, you talk about ensuring that women are empowered to make sure that our earth is sustainable,” she said.
The panel took place before the UN Conference on Sustainable Development got underway in Rio. Participants had high hopes for a renewed focus on gender and reproductive rights at the conference. Unfortunately, language on reproductive rights was first weakened and then omitted entirely from the final outcome document (see the account written by ECSP’s Sandeep Bathala at Rio for more on the conference).
While pressure from the Vatican and the G-77 kept reproductive health out of the outcome document, it was not entirely forgotten at the conference. A number of side events highlighted the importance of reproductive rights, especially in the context of the environment and development.
Hillary Clinton also re-affirmed U.S. commitment to access to contraception and reproductive health care. “Women must be empowered to make decisions about whether and when to have children,” she said at the conference on Friday. “And the United States will continue to work to ensure that those rights are respected in international agreements.”
Clinton shared the urgency expressed by the panelists at the Wilson Center. “There is just too much at stake, too much still to be done,” she said. “We simply cannot afford to fail.”
Photo Credit: Sean Peoples/Wilson Center.
›The original version of this article appeared in The Economist, and is based on ECSP Report 14, Issue 1.
This is a story from Afghanistan which is not about fighting, bombs, or the Taliban. It even contains a modicum of good news. It is about demography.
Afghanistan has long been seen as a demographic outlier. In 2005-10, according to the United Nations Population Division, its fertility rate was 6.6 – the second-highest in the world after Niger (the fertility rate is the number of children a woman can expect to have during her lifetime). The contrast with the rest of South Asia is extreme: fertility ranged from four (in Pakistan) to below three (in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka). Afghanistan’s sky-high fertility seems consistent with a view of the country as trapped in an exceptional and dysfunctional mode of development, marked by war, religious extremism, tribal honor codes, and the subjugation of women.
But this fertility rate was always a bit of a guess. The last census was taken in 1979, the year of the Soviet invasion. A whole generation has grown up since then, amid pervasive violence and uncertainty. It has been extremely hard to know how fertility has been changing.
Hence the significance of the Afghanistan Mortality Survey. Based on interviews with 48,000 women and girls aged 12 to 49, it is the nearest thing the country has had to a national census for 30 years (there were smaller surveys in 2003 and 2007-08, but their coverage was not national).
Continue reading on The Economist.
Read more about the Afghanistan Mortality Survey here on the blog with Elizabeth Leahy Madsen’s original posts here and here.
Photo Credit: “Celebrating International Women’s Day in Afghanistan,” courtesy of the U.K. Department for International Development.
›June 27, 2012 // By Carolyn Lamere“The Global Food Policy Report is the first publication that represents the major, major food policy developments in the past year and the outlook for 2012,” said Director of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Shenggen Fan in a video to promote the launch of the institute’s most comprehensive policy publication yet. The report is focused on regional developments, new research, debates, and legislation regarding food security both within individual states and at the international level.
A Guidebook for Policy
The 2008 global food crisis launched food security back onto the global agenda. A rapid rise in food prices contributed to instability around the world, and policymakers began to realize that access to food is an important security issue (high food prices have been linked to riots, for example).
“For 2012, food prices will remain very high and volatile, and some of the long-term trends like climate change, population growth, and demographic shifts towards more urbanized and higher income [populations] will continue to put pressure on global food security,” predicted Fan.
But the report notes that much of the fluctuation in global food prices is due to a lack of knowledge, not necessarily scarcity. The authors point to issues of preparedness and regulation as exacerbating factors and suggest that more detailed information, like that provided in the report, can help provide better solutions to policymakers.
Fan said that, by design, the report is “nontechnical, so the nontechnical person such as politicians, policymakers, practitioners, or anybody else who is interested in food security can use it as a comprehensive handbook.”
Making Connections Between Disciplines
The report draws on the expertise of dozens of authors who discuss topics ranging from biofuels to climate change. Rajul Pandya-Lorch, head of IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative, spoke about the utility of collaboration among different disciplines in an interview with IFPRI: “I think for me 2011 was the time when we began to realize that we cannot think of agriculture simply for agriculture; we need to think of agriculture as a way in which we can impact on other development outcomes, especially nutrition and health,” she said.
Kathy Spahn, president and CEO of Helen Keller International, a speaker at the launch event, agreed. “The development community is beginning to realize that achieving food security is about more than just growing more food. It is also about growing more nutritious foods and making sure these foods are available and accessible to the families in need,” she wrote for Helen Keller International.
Fan emphasized that although agriculture has become more prominently featured in discussions of development, it is important to continue to link it to other outcomes. “We must find new ways to exploit the links between agriculture and other sectors, including health, nutrition, water, and energy,” he wrote in the overview of the report.
Past Developments and Future Outlook
Several key developments are highlighted that shaped food security in 2011. Food prices were particularly volatile – rising for the first half of the year then dropping – which caused a renewed global emphasis on food from policymakers.
New players ranging from emerging economies to the private sector “are increasingly reshaping the structure and nature of the global food landscape,” write the authors. The G-20 is “claiming a growing role” to help manage economic issues, and states like China, Brazil, and India are becoming more vocal regarding global food policy. Partnerships between governments and private companies have also become more common.
These and other developments described in the report will have an impact into 2012 and beyond. The report points out that “food emergencies” caused by natural disasters like the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa will likely occur in 2012 as well, but also emphasizes that these cannot overshadow more long-term drivers of food insecurity, like land degradation.
The report describes four “high-priority areas of action” for this year. First, the G-20 should try to reduce price volatility (although some have argued volatility is less a problem than consistently high prices). Second, policymakers should work to improve agricultural production specifically through strategies like soil nutrient management which provide high yields but are more sustainable than high use of fertilizers. States should also ensure that the infrastructure necessary to make these strategies successful is in place. The next target is based on the Rio+20 conference, namely that participants should “integrate economic, social, and environmental sustainability efforts” to improve outcomes like nutrition and health. There were in fact several seminars on cross-discipline partnerships at the conference, and the importance of integration was mentioned in the outcome text that emerged.
Finally, the report calls for further collaboration across disciplines, in emulation of the internal IFPRI effort for the report which included a wide variety of expertise. The authors emphasized that though progress has been made, the challenge of achieving global food security will remain a concern for the near future, and cooperation across communities will be critical.
“The idea and the impact of the report is to make people aware of the problems that we are facing and the concerns…clearly the problem is not resolved and it’s something that we need to take very seriously,” said contributor Maximo Torero in an interview with IFPRI. “There’s a lot of work to be done to try to do this.”
Sources: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CNN, Hellen Keller International, International Food Policy Research Institute, UN Conference on Sustainable Development.
Video Credit: IFPRI.
›June 26, 2012 // By Graham NorwoodNigerian journalist Ameto Akpe, who recently spoke as part of the Wilson Center’s “Nigeria Beyond the Headlines” event, has published a new article on water scarcity in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s “Waiting for Water” series.
Abuja faces acute shortages due to insufficient government planning and a major population boom, she writes:
The FCT [Federal Capital Territory] has seen an unprecedented population growth in the last 10 to 15 years. In 2006, population growth rate was pegged at 9.3 percent, the highest rate in the country and way above what the city’s planners envisaged. Recently, increased migration to the city has been spurred by terrorism attacks in the North, numerous incidences of kidnappings in the South, and the generally high unemployment rate in the country as millions of young graduates pour into the city in search of the very elusive promise of a “government job.”Read the full article on the Pulitzer Center website.
Jibril Ibrahim, the Director of the FCT water board, the agency solely responsible for the production and supply of water in the territory, admits that the authorities did not see this coming. He says this unexpected population growth has overwhelmed existing water infrastructure and ruined the careful plans for water service delivery in the territory.
“This is what has made nonsense of the design we have in the city,” Ibrahim says. “Nobody believed that we were going to have this huge number of people and not even within this space of time.”
Patience Achakpa, executive secretary for the Women’s Environment Programme, believes that the government should have foreseen the potential attraction a city like Abuja presents to the urban migrant and should have put in place more efficient plans.
This lack of foresight means there is no pipe reticulation in many districts, particularly in peripheral areas. Even government housing projects are routinely built without being connected to the grid, simply lacking the crucial distribution network that would bring water to individual homes. Thus each household is forced to sink its own borehole, which in the long run has obvious implications on ground water.
Photo Credit: A water point in Gishiri, Abuja, courtesy of Ameto Akpe/Pulitzer Center.
›Above is a short discussion filmed after a full dialogue TV episode last week; for the full interview, please visit the Wilson Center.
“We have serious issues that we need to address, yet we’re largely unaware of them because water seems so abundant,” said Alexandra Cousteau in an interview at the Wilson Center. “That myth of abundance is finally reaching an age of limits.”
Cousteau spoke with John Milewski of the Wilson Center’s dialogue TV program, after an event on the recent global water security assessment by the U.S. intelligence community. She discussed the work of her organization, Blue Legacy, which seeks to raise awareness of the ‘global water crisis’ – from degrading quality to growing scarcity and the proliferation of water refugees.
Global Water Crisis
“Traditionally our understanding of the global water crisis has been very narrow,” said Cousteau. “We have talked about it mostly in terms of the very real water and sanitation crisis that is happening in the developing world.” Without minimizing the severity of the situation in developing countries or oversimplifying the tangled nature of their problems, she characterized these water and sanitation struggles as fundamentally “solvable.”
Cousteau argued that there are also substantial water problems in the United States. Pollution due to runoff and over-utilization of major riverways are threats that are much different from those in the past.
“In Nixon’s time, when he signed the Clean Water Act, it was because rivers like the Potomac were in such bad shape, and they could see it from their office windows,” she said. “But the threats to our water are different today…before, it was industrial effluent, and what we were putting in the water that we could see. The Hudson River would change color daily based on the paper mills and what color paper they were printing that day.”
Today, chemicals may impact water quality without changing the appearance of water: “You don’t see it, the water can be perfectly transparent.”
Blue Legacy Expeditions
Cousteau has taken two expeditions with Blue Legacy to highlight water issues around the world. The first in 2009 was global; Cousteau and her team traveled from India to Botswana and beyond. Throughout the voyage, she worked to make her travels accessible to the general public and was surprised at her success.
“It was an experiment, but it worked. And when we came back to the United States, we got a lot of feedback, and one of the things people said was, ‘Gosh, that was an incredible adventure, thanks for taking us along for the ride! Clearly, there is a global water crisis, now I understand that. I’m just so relieved it’s not happening in America.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my Lord, I guess we have an expedition to do in America!’”
Her 2010 North America expedition focused on issues ranging from the over-exploited Colorado River to the polluted Mississippi, and sought to make water problems personal “at a time when our demand on water is at a tipping point.”
The Environment and the Economy
Cousteau’s interview was particularly timely in light of global economic troubles which have led some to say the environment should take a backseat. Cousteau said this doesn’t have to be the case. She emphasized the interconnected nature of the environment and the economy, saying that policymakers don’t have to choose to focus on one or the other.
“We feel like we have to make a choice between the economy and the environment, and that’s a false dilemma. A healthier environment is a more prosperous economy. And when we fail to realize that we don’t have to sacrifice one to have the other, then I think we wind up sacrificing a lot of the quality of life and the opportunity that we take for granted.”
Video Credit: Dialogue/Wilson Center and Alexandra Cousteau.
›“The seventh billion [person] was added in 12 years, and that could be the story for the eighth billion – and that gets people who think that growth has stopped,” said Carl Haub, senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. Haub was joined by Hania Zlotnik, former director of the UN Population Division, and Rachel Nugent of the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health on June 5 to speak about the assumptions behind the UN population projections. While each of the panelists noted the utility of projections, they also cautioned against seeing them as inevitable. [Video Below]
Meeting the Projections
As a former top official in the UN’s Population Division, Zlotnik spoke about how much is riding on the projections. “The experts tell me that to feed nine billion people, living better than the standards of living that we have today, one needs to increase agricultural production or all the production of food by about 70 percent and that is a challenge, but it might be feasible. But if the numbers go higher…I think it’s impossible,” she said.
The medium variant projection by the UN that gets the world to that nine billion figure is not a given – it builds in expected action on and improvement of many demographic indicators. Zlotnik pointed to the global unmet need for family planning, for example, which “is especially high in the high fertility countries,” and suggested that the current rate of increase in contraceptive use is insufficient.
She calculated the number of years it would take many of these countries to meet their unmet need at their current rate of uptake and found “the number of years for a lot of these poorer countries that have high fertility would be very long – 40 years, some of them, 80 years, 100 years – because the increased contraceptive prevalence has been so small.” At that rate, population growth in these countries will far surpass the UN medium variant.
The perception that population growth is no longer an issue contributes to the problem, Zlotnik said. People see that only 18 percent of the world population lives in countries with high population growth and assume “there’s no longer a population problem.” But she emphasized the power of exponential growth, arguing that even a small proportion growing at a rapid rate can have a large impact.
Haub pointed out several instances where assumptions in the methodology behind the projections create uncertainty.
For example, there is a lack of data in many low-income countries. “A date, let’s say 2000, 2005 – it’s the past, but it may be a projection. It may be based on a census in 1990,” he said. If it’s wrong, that error may not be corrected until another census, but it will still be relied on for country-level projections.
He also noted that certain assumptions about desired family size sometimes do not bear out on the ground. One of the key methods to slowing population growth is to provide women and couples with the means to choose how many children they wish to bear. But in many fast-growing countries, women wish to have large numbers of children. In Niger, for example, women say their ideal family size is over nine children. Such women are less likely to use contraception, no matter how accessible it is, as they value larger families.
“It has been – I guess conventional is a good word – to assume that birth rates are going to come down the way they did in the rich countries,” Haub noted. But there has been a “stall” for many developing countries, which he suggests is caused by fast initial uptake from urban women followed by much slower uptake by rural women. These dynamics, however, are relatively new and therefore are not always well incorporated into current projections.
The Economic Impact of Population Changes
While Haub and Zlotnik looked at the assumptions made before the projections are made and the importance and means to reach these projections, Nugent focused on the economic implications of lower fertility and the demographic transition.
She suggested that increased control over fertility can positively impact a country’s economy. Women are given the opportunity to “invest their time in acquiring skills and investing time in the labor market and that affects their earnings…[and] their ability to control resources and make decisions within the household” as they spend less time caring for children, she said.
The labor market changes as well, as fewer children are born into a given generation. This can reduce “demand on economic resources [and] demand on environmental resources,” and the increased investment in human capital allowed by smaller family sizes can lead to a healthier population.
Nugent concluded by pointing out key areas of intervention most likely to decrease both fertility and mortality and allow countries to reap the positive economic benefits of fertility decline. She suggested a focus on “complementary investments in education and health,” especially with regard to “poor and marginalized populations,” which can in fact impact the country as a whole. Finally, she recommended focusing on proven “evidence-based programs [and] service-delivery programs.”
Each of the panelists cautioned against relying on population projections without taking action to make them come true.
“Maybe the best thing to do if you’re giving a presentation is to show the UN’s constant fertility variant first and scare people half to death and then say, ‘but if 117,000 things go right, [the medium variant projection] is what will happen,” said Haub, addressing the common tendency to view the UN projections as destiny.
Similarly, Nugent warned against viewing the demographic transition as inevitable. “There’s a certain sense…that [the demographic dividend] is kind of an automatic thing that happens, and that really has to be addressed,” she said, adding that “it’d be quite interesting to show some scenarios of what would need to be done…in order to get some benefits from that dividend.” (See also Elizabeth Leahy Madsen’s recent article on achieving the dividend.)
Zlotnik reiterated that the UN does not in fact know what the future will bring. “It’s not that we know what the world is going to do, but we hope that [the projections] will get the message out – if this doesn’t happen, you’re in trouble.”
›June 22, 2012 // By Sandeep BathalaAs heads of state get ready to sign on to the outcome document here in Rio, all eyes are on next steps – especially for the reproductive health and integrated development communities, which have seen their hopes of mainstreaming their issues with the sustainable development agenda dashed.
The final outcome document can be found here. USA Today reports that opposition from a group of countries in the 11th hour stripped the text of critical reproductive rights language:
An initial draft of this conference’s outcome document stated, “We are committed to ensure the equal access of women and girls to education, basic services, economic opportunities, and health care services, including addressing women’s sexual and reproductive health and their reproductive rights.”Absent entirely is any explicit connection between reproductive rights, population dynamics, and sustainable development.
In the final draft, the stronger wording “We are committed to ensure the equal access” was switched to the weaker “We are committed to promote equal access.” The reference to reproductive rights was deleted altogether, after opposition from the G-77, a negotiating bloc of developing countries at the United Nations, and the Holy See.
But others, as we have heard repeatedly throughout the conference, insist that gender issues and reproductive rights have a strong and vital connection to sustainable development. Yesterday, USAID, the Aspen Institute, and the Center for Environment and Population held a discussion in the U.S. tent on this very issue, titled “Making Population Matter: The Demographic Dividend and Sustainable Development.”
As Vicky Markham of the Center for Environment and Population reports on RH Reality Check, the side-event aimed to demonstrate the effects of population dynamics, both positive and negative:
We have the largest youth demographic ever in the history of the world, and most developing nations have a “youth bulge.” This can be seen as a challenge, or opportunity, particularly if the focus is on providing development programs for child survival, family planning, reproductive health, and education. The importance of women’s empowerment was also central. But it’s not a given; it’s an opportunity only if we pay attention to these issues to increase the benefits of the “demographic dividend.”The demographic dividend, as described by USAID Deputy Administrator and panelist Donald Steinberg in blog post earlier this week, “is an opportunity that arises when a country transitions from high to low rates of fertility and child and infant mortality.” But it’s not just about ensuring access to family planning and reproductive health; youth-focused economic and education policies are also needed: “Maximizing the dividend requires social and economic policies that reinforce inclusion, equity, and opportunity across the entire population,” he writes. USAID is making a point of creating youth-focused policies for this reason, he said in Rio.
Carmen Barroso, regional director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Western Hemisphere Region, pointed out that Latin American countries could not take advantage of the demographic dividend before recent societal changes occurred, including decreased fertility, increased urbanization (which leads to smaller families), and greater schooling and employment of women.
Seventy percent of world population growth is likely to be generated by Africa this century, said Eliya Msiyaphazi Zulu, executive director of the African Institute for Development Policy – and it is the only continent projected to continue to grow in the next century, he said. He called for redefining growth as more than GDP as that measure does not consider environmental degradation and its costs: “We must have other means to measure development.”
As heads of state and negotiators consider their positions at this conference – which many were hoping would make a much stronger statement – they might do well to ponder today’s comments from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
While I am very pleased that this year’s outcome document endorses sexual and reproductive health and universal access to family planning, to reach our goals in sustainable development we also have to ensure women’s reproductive rights. Women must be empowered to make decisions about whether and when to have children. And the United States will continue to work to ensure that those rights are respected in international agreements.Sources: RH Reality Check, UN, U.S. Department of State, USA Today, USAID.
Now none of this is an abstract discussion. There is just too much at stake, too much still to be done. And many of you visited the U.S. Center here in Rio and saw practical solutions related to some of the work I’ve discussed and other goals we hold in common. We believe solutions require action by all of us. Governments, yes; let’s do our part. Let’s do more than our part.
Photo Credit: YouthPolicy.org.
Join the Conversation
- Emerging Priorities for Maternal Health in Nigeria (Abuja and Washington, DC) Friday, December 5, 2014
- Living Through Extremes: Building Livelihood Resilience Across Sectors and Countries Thursday, December 4, 2014
- The Resilience Beat: Reporting on Climate, Population, and Health Wednesday, December 3, 2014