This week’s hot links include financing water, inequality, growth and global strategy.

23 Mar

This week marked World Water Day 2016. The theme in 2016 — water and jobs — is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies. Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York and chair of the Global Partnership on Sanitation and Water for All, writing for The Guardian, discusses the need for public-private partnerships to pay for our water and waste disposal. More than 800 children die each day from diarrhoea. About 663 million people still use water contaminated by human waste and other pollutants. ‘And roughly 2.4 billion people still lack access to a basic toilet. Open defecation presents a major, avoidable public health hazard.’ Rudd describes sanitation inequality stating that ‘many people are uncomfortable even talking about these issues. We need to overcome this.’ Women and girls living in communities that lack basic facilities live in fear of sexual assault, because they need to go outside to go to the toilet. He continues that ‘often tasked with finding water for their families, they act almost as beasts of burden, carrying water vast distances. Collectively, women and girls spend roughly 125m hours a day fetching water.’ He believes that ‘there also a critical role for domestic private finance and international private investment’ however he acknowledges that ‘creating such financial partnerships can be difficult.’ He believes that ‘water and sanitation services must therefore be paid for, with tariffs adjusted according to the ability of local communities and individuals to pay.’ He summarises stating ‘The social, economic and business case for a quantum change in investment patterns in water, sanitation and hygiene is clear. The World Health Organisation calculates that every $1 invested in water and sanitation has a return of at least $4in lower health costs, more productivity and fewer premature deaths.’

Dario Kenner, Independent Researcher, writing for Oxfam Policy and Practice blog, explores the joint approach of tackling inequality and sustainable consumption together. He suggests ‘if governments are serious about meeting their commitments to tackle climate change they must ensure their policies in other areas such as inequality are compatible with the objective of reducing total national emissions.’ Quoting Oxfam’s report Extreme Carbon Inequality, Kenner calculates that ‘the richest 10% of people in all countries have larger average carbon footprints compared to people on lower incomes.’ Globally ‘the average footprint of someone in the richest 1% could be 175 times that of someone in the poorest 10%.’ He analyses the correlation between extreme inequality and individual carbon footprints further believing that ‘given current levels of extreme carbon inequality in many countries targeting the richest people who have the largest per capita carbon footprints should remain a top priority.’ As a response to this, Kenner recommends several measures to redistribute wealth that could be designed to also reduce environmental impact including setting low sales taxes on green goods and increasing minimum wage (ideally to a living wage.) He believes that ‘increasing public pressure will force governments to reduce inequality. When they do act they should do so in a way that also encourages people across society to consume sustainably.’

First Deputy Managing Director at IMF, David Lipton recently spoke at the National Association for Business Economics in Washington, D.C. He discussed Policy Imperatives for Boosting Global Growth and Prosperity of which the transcript is now available on the IMF website. He begins by contextualising the current economic climate. ‘The IMF’s latest reading of the global economy shows once again a weakening baseline. Moreover, risks have increased further, with volatile financial markets and low commodity prices creating fresh concerns about the health of the global economy.’ Lipton implores for action to be taken now, he states that a ‘three-pronged approach is needed through monetary and fiscal policies, as well as structural reforms to strengthen the baseline and guard against the risks.’ Additionally ‘collective global action should play a supporting role in helping leverage individual country action and seeking to make the international monetary system more stable and hence supportive of growth.’ He explores the following subjects; the global economic outlook, policy priorities and the need for a global approach to action. He reinforces that ‘a three-pronged approach of monetary, fiscal, and structural policies is needed.’ He concludes that the ‘global economic recovery continues, but we are clearly at a delicate juncture, where risk of economic derailment has grown.’ He cites the recent G20 meetings in Shanghai, China there was broad recognition of these risks and priorities. ‘Countries recognized the challenges facing the world economy, acknowledged that the recovery remains too weak and uneven, and recognized the downside risks.’ He believes that those meetings ‘provided some reassurance that countries stand ready to act if necessary.’ Concluding by quoting Winston Churchill, “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” ‘This is one of those moments where action—concerted action— is needed.’

Writing for The Brooking Institution, Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Global Economy and Development, analyses 2015’s three historic global agreements in relation to changing views of how to change the world. ‘Each represents a vision of how to change the world.’ He states that ‘the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development agreed to move from “billions to trillions” of cross-border flows to developing countries. The agreement on universal sustainable development goals (SDGs) sets out priorities (albeit a long list) for what needs to change. The Paris Agreement on climate change endorses a shift to low-carbon (and ultimately zero carbon) economic growth trajectories.’ Kharas believes that there is a common thread to these agreements. ‘They each reflect a new theory of how to change the world that is not made explicit but has evolved as a matter of practice.’ Kharas suggests the theory has changed ‘governments might lead, but they must mobilize others to join in and provide a framing to ensure that the collective effort is moving in the right direction. Governments should provide a suitable policy framework, as well as targeted public investments and public goods, including investments in science, but these should catalyze change, not always deliver change.’ He describes how the theory for changing the world has evolved and can be stripped back to three elements; ‘use market forces to drive business towards scalable investments that simultaneously generate sustainable solutions to development challenges; create more data from more sources with more disaggregation, and make these more easily transparent and accessible, to drive towards evidence-based reforms and accountability; encourage innovations (technical, organizational, and business-model) to drive the world away from business-as-usual.’ Kharas closes ‘markets, data, and innovation can change the world.’

Writing for the Council on Foreign Relations, Natasha Stott Despoja, Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, discusses Advancing Legal Gender Equality Under the SDGs. Stott Despoja focuses her analysis on the Indo-Pacific region: a part of the world where there are enormous challenges to women’s participation in leadership, decision-making, and economic life, and where violence against women is pervasive. She begins, ‘In more than 90 percent of countries worldwide, women’s opportunities are limited explicitly by the unequal treatment of women that is enshrined in legislation.’ ‘These structural barriers both reinforce, and are underpinned by, attitudinal and cultural barriers. The effects of legislative discrimination are significant and far-reaching.’ Stott Despoja states that the case for legislative reform is ‘compelling.’ She accepts that there has been ‘significant progress for women and girls around the world’ and that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been a move in the right direction however the SDGs also still show ‘how much remains to be done.’ Believing that this is ‘not a question of what is right and fair’ but that empowering women through legislation ‘makes good economic sense.’ She states that ‘women are now regarded as the most powerful engine of economic growth and drivers of national and global prosperity.’ A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that ‘advancing women’s equality would add between $12 and 28 trillion dollars to annual global growth by the year 2025.’ Stott Despoja praises the launch of #LevelTheLaw which will support existing campaigns to end gender discrimination in legislation. She ‘proudly’ endorses #LevelTheLaw as a campaign of practical and tangible responses to longstanding discrimination.

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