Thursday, March 11, 2004


Recent empirical studies demonstrate that sustained and rapid economic growth has invariably been accompanied by reduction of poverty and, conversely, persistent growth failures have invariably been accompanied by persistent failure to reduce poverty. Raising the rate of growth is thus being increasingly recognised as necessary for poverty reduction.

The empirical evidence also points, however, to an important feature of the relationship between growth and poverty that is often neglected – namely, that there is no invariant relationship between the rate of growth and the rate of poverty reduction. Faster growth is not always accompanied by faster rate of poverty reduction, just as slower growth does not always entail slower rates of poverty reduction. Therefore, what matters for poverty reduction is not just the rate of growth but also what might be called the growth elasticity of poverty i.e. the rate of poverty reduction for any given rate of growth.

Policies for poverty reduction should therefore try to promote both faster rate of growth and a high growth elasticity of poverty. In the course of the recent explosion of growth literature, much has been written on what can be done to accelerate the rate of growth. But very little work has been done to understand what can be done to promote a high responsiveness of poverty to growth. An important objective of the present study is to advance such an understanding by examining the experience of growth and poverty in a number of Asian countries. It will do so by focusing on the idea that employment plays a crucial mediating role between growth and poverty.

The study is based on a synthesis of the findings from two sets of country studies that have recently been concluded – one by UNDP and the other jointly by ILO and SIDA. UNDP’s Asia-Pacific regional programme on the “Macroeconomics of Poverty Reduction” has examined for a number of Asian countries how macroeconomic policies can be rendered more pro-poor. Several of these studies have also examined the role of employment as a crucial mediating factor between growth and poverty. The ILO-SIDA studies have explicitly focussed on the role of employment in reducing poverty. The present synthesis will draw on the following studies – the UNDP studies on Armenia (UNDP 2003a), Bangladesh (Osmani et al. 2003), Indonesia (McKinley et al. 2003), Vietnam (Weeks et al. 2003) and Uzbekistan (UNDP 2003b) and the SIDA-ILO studies on Bangladesh (Rahman and Islam 2003) and Vietnam (Islam 2002).

The paper is structured as follows. Section II elaborates the analytical framework underpinning the study. This framework identifies three elements that determine the speed of poverty reduction – viz. the ‘growth factor’, the ‘elasticity factor’ and the ‘integrability factor’. Section III deals with the growth factor, demonstrating the importance of growth for poverty reduction. Section IV examines the elasticity factor, which is concerned with the responsiveness of poverty to growth. Section V looks into the ‘integrability factor’ i.e., the impediments that prevent the poor from gaining fully from the opportunities opened up by the growth process. Finally, section VI offers some concluding remarks.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002


Pristina, Kosovo: On 16 October 2002, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) convened the first meeting of the Steering Committee of the Illicit Small Arms Control Project. This meeting brought together the Commander of KFOR (the Kosovo NATO-led international force responsible for establishing and maintaining security in Kosovo), a representative from the Prime Minister's Office, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Police & Justice within UNMIK, representatives from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UNMIK Police Commissioner, to begin a dialogue on the control and reduction of illicit weapons in Kosovo.

The illegal possession and unlawful use of small arms is generally recognized as a significant destabilizing factor, particularly in post-conflict societies still grappling with enduring social and community divisions. The Steering Committee was formed to ensure a co-ordinated approach in addressing the problems associated with illicit weapons in Kosovo. The Steering Committee will oversee the establishment of a regulatory framework for the legal possession of hunting and recreational weapons and the development of a strategic Plan of Action to address all aspects of illicit weapon control and reduction.

This process is supported directly by the UNMIK-UNDP Illicit Small Arms Control (ISAC) Project, which will initiate a Kosovo-wide public awareness campaign, seek resources for weapons destruction, build the capacity of civil society and police to address illicit weapons, and bring further resources to bear on voluntary weapons collection initiatives.

Said Robert Piper, UNDP Resident Representative: "UNDP is responding to the undeniable reality that where guns dominate, development suffers. Kosovo must not become a statistic in a long-line-up of failed societies where insecurity arrests development, or worse, turns the clock backwards. Present gains have been hard-won, by the people of Kosovo and its friends from the international community. Today, therefore, is an important day as we launch a broad partnership to prevent Kosovo from joining the ranks of those whose development is arrested by insecurity and violence."

The possession of illicit weapons is a difficult and sensitive issue in Kosovo, but one the United Nations and a growing number of Kosovans recognize is key to sustainable development and prosperity. The formation of the ISAC Steering Committee is another step towards enduring peace without fear of small arms-related violence.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Human rights initiative to help protect displaced people in Liberia

Monday, 12 August 2002: Contrary to expectations that peace would come to Liberia following elections in 1997, the country instead plunged into recurring hostilities and instability, leaving a quarter of the population dependent on humanitarian aid.

Collapse of the country's economic and political infrastructure has added to people's hardships, particularly displaced families living in camps. Armed groups infiltrating the camps have abused and exploited many, and women and children are often the primary targets.

The UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR) has designed an initiative to bolster protection of vulnerable groups. It is based on a strategy developed by the UN Country Team in consultation with the Government, the International Committee of the Red Cross, other international and local NGOs, and local human rights groups.

The UNDP Office in Liberia, in collaboration with these partners and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, is carrying out the US$500,000 project, co-funded by BCPR and the UNDP Bureau for Development Policy.

The project will improve camp management; strengthen systems for reporting, monitoring and following up on rights abuses; and promote awareness of human rights among displaced people and host communities where camps are located.

The initiative will also provide training for government officials and police and security forces to reinforce the government's ability to spread understanding of and respect for the civil rights of all citizens, working within the framework provided by the Liberian Ministerial Task Force on Protection.

"UNDP has a critical role to play in promoting recovery for displaced people, even in the midst of a crisis," said Marie Dimond, programme specialist with BCPR.

"This approach identifies durable solutions to building self-reliance among displaced people and their host communities. It will also help strengthen the capacity of local and national institutions to facilitate safe reintegration of the displaced back into their communities," she said.

The initiative will work with local communities, women's groups and the Government to build a collaborative, community-based approach for protecting human rights. These efforts will facilitate resettlement of displaced people, once conditions have stabilized sufficiently for them to return home.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Yemen clears minefields, saving lives and livelihoods

Monday, 8 July 2002: Relying on explosives detecting dogs and rehabilitating and giving vocational training to survivors, Yemen, with support from UNDP and other partners, is overcoming a deadly legacy of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) left by four civil conflicts between 1962 and 1994.

Efforts, begun in 1999, have cleared mines from almost three million square metres of land, with another six million square metres surveyed and found free of mines and safe for use.

Nevertheless, rural communities continue to suffer from these hidden killers, their toll tallied in lives and limbs lost and access denied to land and other essential resources. UNDP, with the Government, the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and donors, leads the move to strengthen Yemen's capability to deal with the crisis.

Donors have contributed more than US$12 million to the effort. They include Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Prime Minister Abdul Kader Bajamal urged donors to continue support for the programme's humanitarian and development efforts at a meeting in Sana'a, the capital, last month.

Mine action is "based on saving lives and supporting livelihoods," UNDP Resident Representative James W. Rawley pointed out. The programme met its objectives for 2001, the first year, and is on track this year. "This is a real success story," said Mr. Rawley.

As a first step, UNDP with support from NGO's, Canada, the United Nations, and the Government of Yemen conducted a national survey to analyze the impact of landmines on individual communities. It revealed that landmines and UXOs affected 592 communities. They have killed or maimed more than 5,000 Yemenis, with over 200 incidents in the past year, according to recent studies.

The survey led to a five-year plan, for 2001 to 2005, giving priority to clearing areas in 14 communities where landmine accidents occurred most frequently and mines blocked access to water sources, farmland, pastures and wood collection.

The Mine Action Programme has doubled in size over two and half years. It has cleared six high priority communities and 44 minefields in all and destroyed more than 57,000 mines and UXOs. The initiative also empowered communities to deal with landmine threats; provided rehabilitation, training and health care for survivors; trained 50 physical therapists; and expanded the ranks of Yemeni deminers from 100 to 800.

A national training centre, began this year under the programme, training four explosives-sniffing dog teams. UNDP emphasizes recruitment and training of Yemenis to manage and carry out the programme.

The programme destroyed the country's remaining anti-personnel landmine stockpile in April in compliance with the Ottawa Treaty, which Yemen ratified in 1999, the first country in the region to do so.

The Government, with support from UNDP, is formulating the second phase of the programme to clear the remaining priority communities, enhance quality assurance, and build the ability of Yemenis to carry out information management, logistics, planning, management and maintenance activities. The annual budget is approximately US$6.6 million.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Link between poverty and truancy

Children are more likely to skip school if they come from poor families, a study suggests.

Research carried out at Cambridge University found a close link between poverty and truancy among primary school children.

Researcher Ming Zhang says much effort is put into tackling absenteeism among teenagers - but by then it is too late because bad habits have already set in.

The study, carried out at Magdalene College and School of Education, examined statistics on truancy from London boroughs between 1997 and 2000.

It also involved interviews with 90 council education welfare officers and 98 parents on low incomes.

Ming Zhang says the parents who were questioned said they sometimes forgot about their younger children's schooling when they hit money trouble.

"For many people this may be a bizarre excuse for primary school children not to attend school," he said.

"Yet for the families facing financial difficulties, the problem is real."

Mr Zhang, who is the principal education welfare officer in Kingston, believes once children reach secondary schools, other factors, like peer pressure, become more significant in leading children to truant.

'Irresponsible parents'

The study also looked at attitudes to truancy among council officials and parents.

Both agreed that "irresponsible parents" were to blame for truancy and did not link poverty to children missing school.

Nearly half (47%) of council welfare officers canvassed said irresponsible parents were to blame.

Among parents, 44% thought the same.

Among welfare officers questioned for the study, nearly four out of five (78%) said that truancy rates would not be cut by prosecuting parents of truants.

None thought prosecution was the best way to improve attendance.

But parents themselves were slightly more likely to think prosecutions could improve attendance, 10% said this was the best way to improve attendance.

According to the officials questioned, an improvement in parenting skills would do most to curb truancy.

Local councils sometimes go to court to get an order obliging parents to take parenting classes, when other attempts to get children into school fail.

For parents, the most important factors in tackling truancy were professional support for parents and improved parenting skills.

Ming Zhang believes the best way to tackle truancy is to offer low income families welfare support in terms of benefits, job opportunities and access to leisure.

"We need to tackle the problem early," he says.

"Once the problems of truancy become entrenched, other problems come along and they can be harder to deal with."