Does peacebuilding bring peace?

How much do you think it would cost to achieve the Millennium Development Goals? Among other things, that would mean cutting extreme poverty by half in 2015 compared with 1990, achieving universal primary education, and cutting the under-5 mortality rate by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three-quarters.

In 2002, the World Bank came up with a figure of an extra $40-$60 billion a year in foreign aid. Let’s assume that prices have doubled since then, and it would now cost $120 billion.

That’s a gigantic sum of money, but it’s peanuts compared to a figure in the 2011 Yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI): military expenditure in 2010 increased by 1.3% in real terms to reach $1630 billion. The top three arms dealers each had sales of around $33 billion.

SIPRI gives some encouraging figures, noting that two peace operations closed in 2010, making it the second consecutive year in which the total number of operations fell.

However, that still leaves 52 multilateral peace operations and the total number of personnel deployed increased by 20% between 2009 and 2010, to reach 262 842, mainly due to the increase in NATO troops in Afghanistan from 84,146 in 2009 to 131,730 in 2010.

That too is expensive. A report by the US Congressional Research Service states that between 2009 and 2010, average Department of Defense spending for Afghanistan alone grew from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month (Afghanistan’s GDP in 2010 was $15.6 billion at the official exchange rate).

Is all this multilateral peacekeeping money well spent? SIRPI seems to have some doubts, arguing that operations are “increasingly contested by host countries and challenged in their efficacy by a combination of overstretch and weak political support”.

Next week, the second global meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding being held in Monrovia, Liberia will discuss these issues and take a hard look at the role of governments, aid donors and civil society in building sustainable peace and developing capable and accountable states.

We’ll be covering the meeting for Insights blog, and hoping to get answers to three questions:

Have the populations of fragile states and countries affected by conflict benefited from the money, effort and time devoted to peacebuilding and statebuilding these past years?

Are they any nearer to achieving the Millennium Development Goals?

What lessons can these states and the international community as a whole learn from recent experiences, both positive and negative?

Useful links

OECD work on conflict and fragility

OECD: From economic NATO to epistemic influence

Today’s post is from Professor Aynsley Kellow of the University of Tasmania School of Government, who with his colleague Professor Peter Carroll of the Business Faculty, has just published The OECD: A Study in Organisational Adaptation in which they present a critical examination of the trajectory of the OECD, from its origins in the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) to the present day.

Peter and I both had the experience of looking for a definitive book on the OECD to tell us about its structure and operations. We found no such work.

Shorter treatments told us little. A chapter on environmental policy in the European Union and the OECD devoted about twenty pages to the EU and around four to the OECD.

The OECD was a neglected topic. It is no longer quite as neglected, with a book by Richard Woodward published recently. Our book coincides with the OECD’s 50th Anniversary, though that was not our intention: we would have gladly finished it sooner!

Our book represents the fruits of more than five years of research. It reflects many days in the Archives of the OECD in Paris and the archives at the European University Institute in Florence, which holds the earliest documents, and in national archives in Canberra, London and Washington.

We traced not only the development of the OECD, but the development of information technology at the OECD: from grainy microfilms to electronic forms of documentation. We were as pleased when we reached the electronic system OLIS as the Members and the Secretariat must have been.

But we also supplemented the documentary ‘fossil record’ of the OECD with interviews, of around half the Ambassadors and many members of the Secretariat. We also conducted interviews with present Secretary-General Angel Gurría, past Secretary-General Donald Johnston, and numerous past senior officers with long experience with the OECD, such as Kumihara Shigehara, David Henderson and Ron Gass.

We have tried to explore all aspects of the OECD, and the theme that emerges is one of adaptation — of an organisation has been remarkably successful at adopting to new demands and challenges and continuing to provide value. The OECD — and its work programs — today would be barely recognisable to those present at its birth in 1961. It has spread beyond its origins as a kind of ‘economic NATO’ to encompass Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific among its membership and it now actively engages with India, China, and the other so-called ‘BRICS’ countries. And its work programs have changed as some have dropped off the table to be replaced by environment, information technology, e-commerce, and so on.

While it has encountered some bumps along the road, the OECD has continued to adapt and to demonstrate its continuing value to its member. It is not universally understood or appreciated. It is often dismissed as a ‘mere think tank’, often by international lawyers, concerned that it neither delivers programs nor produces and supports a significant number of international treaties.

It does, of course, produce Council Acts — both Recommendations and Decisions, but there are few sanctions and no real enforcement mechanisms beyond peer review.

This legalistic approach misunderstands the OECD and its influence. We found the OECD to be widely influential, but often in non-obvious ways. Its influence is largely ‘epistemic’. Its influence arises from the quality of its work — often better than that produced in legally-binding arenas, where states are less willing to engage in free-ranging debate because they tread more carefully. For example, the Trade Committee of the OECD remains important for the WTO, which is larger and more heterogeneous in membership (less ‘like-minded’) and highly legalistic.

Thus OECD products are less likely to take the ‘lowest common denominator’ character one finds in many multilateral arenas. Even recalcitrant Members can come on board later, so the ‘convoy’ does not have to limit its speed to that of the slowest boat.

And because the products are developed in committees and other subsidiary bodies where those from national offices are involved, there is often better ‘buy-in’ at the national level, because the very work methods help create whole-of-government coordination and both commitment and international networks of national experts.

These mechanisms by which the OECD adds value are subtle and require some appreciation. While the OECD is not without its limitations (which we discuss in the book), our work suggests that — as it turns 50 — the OECD merits at least two resounding cheers.

If it didn’t exist, an overly legalistic observer might not feel compelled to create it  — but that would miss the point, and the world would be a poorer place.

OECD at 50

Bugs, drugs and death

Various E. Coli looking harmless

Would you eat animal excrement if the flavour was right? Mayu Yamamoto of the International Medical Center of Japan thinks you might, and won the 2007 Ig Nobel for chemistry for developing a way to extract vanilla fragrance from cow dung.

The Japanese team were looking for ways to tackle a major environmental problem in the country. Livestock produce 50 million tons of excrement each year, and almost all farms are located close to residential areas in Japan, increasing the dangers of pollution – bacteria like E. coli are one of the most widely used indicators of faecal contamination of water.

The case in Germany is only the latest in a long list of deadly outbreaks. However, although it is a particularly nasty variant, there are no signs that E. o104 (the present strain of E. coli) is the mutant superbug epidemiologists have nightmares about.

It is though a warning about drug resistance.

Microbes resistant to penicillin appeared within a few years of the drug’s introduction, and since then medical science has been fighting an increasingly serious battle against microbial resistance to cheap and effective first-choice, or “first-line” drugs.

Bacterial infections which contribute most to human disease are also the most resistant: diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory tract infections, meningitis, sexually transmitted infections, and hospital-acquired infections.

Resistance is becoming more serious due to a number of trends.

Urbanisation facilitates the spread of typhoid, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, and pneumonia.

Pollution, environmental degradation, and changing weather patterns affect incidence and distribution, especially those spread by insects and other vectors.

A growing proportion of elderly people need hospital care and thus are at risk of exposure to highly resistant pathogens found in hospitals.

AIDS has enlarged the population of  patients at risk from many previously rare infections.

The resurgence of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis plus greater global mobility increases the speed and facility with which diseases and resistant micro-organisms can spread.

Irrational use of antibiotics is also promoting resistance. This is due to their being prescribed when not needed or in self-medication, or because patients do not complete courses for financial or other reasons.

Antibiotics use in agriculture is another factor. In North America and Europe, half of all antimicrobial production by weight is used in farm animals and poultry, notably as regular supplements for prophylaxis or growth promotion, exposing even healthy animals to antimicrobials.

As ever, the impacts are worse in poorer countries. In South Asia, one newborn baby dies every two minutes due to treatment failure caused by antibiotic resistance. Treating multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in South Africa costs around $4300, compared with $35 if first-choice or “first-line” drugs are effective.

It’s a problem in rich countries too. As Harvey Rubin recalls in his paper on pandemics for the OECD Future Global Shocks Project, the direct costs to the US healthcare system from antibiotic resistant infections runs into the tens of billions of dollars. He quotes a study by the Infectious Diseases Society of America which found that more than 70% of the 90,000 deaths from bacterial infections were attributable to antibiotic resistant strains, and that “For many patients, there simply are no drugs that work…”.

Moreover, the pipeline of new treatments is practically empty, with only two new classes of antibiotics brought to the market in the past 30 years.  Rubin argues that major pharmaceutical companies have stopped developing new agents because antibiotics are not as profitable as drugs that treat chronic (long-term) conditions and lifestyle issues.

Useful links

OECD Efficacy Workshop On Antimicrobial Biocides

OECD work on health

For effective development, listen, learn and measure more than GDP

Click to go to the conference website

Our final post from the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) is from Jon Lomoy, Director of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate

Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, famously remarked recently that being a statistician would be the sexiest profession of the 21st century. After hearing discussions at this week’s Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics, I think he may be on to something. The conference has confirmed my view that good data is an essential ingredient for development. I’m not just talking about how data has illuminated many of the excellent conference papers and debates. I’m also talking about how data helps governments design and measure better policies for better lives.

So how should governments measure whether lives are indeed getting better? In a 2009 report commissioned by the French Presidency, Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi showed that the data used to measure success have a major influence on what societies strive to achieve – if we measure only GDP, we will strive only for growth.

But after focusing on growth for a long time, we now know that we need to look at a much more nuanced picture of societal progress – it takes more than income to make lives better. What about better health? What about a cleaner environment? These issues are important to people, and we need to start measuring them better and more prominently.  In this context, I am looking forward to seeing the outcomes of the OECD’s new Better Life Initiative, which allows individuals to build a personal index using their own better life indicators.

The question of what constitutes effective development and how it should be measured is also sure to figure prominently at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea (29 November – 1 December 2011). While all countries might agree that reduced infant mortality and higher literacy rates constitute “development”, I am sure that many other priorities will differ from country to country. Discussing these priorities and deciding how to measure them will be crucial, and will rely on solid data. 

Organisations such as the OECD and the World Bank, with their vast experience in producing and using good data, can certainly support such discussions. However, what we have learnt at this week’s ABCDE is that we also need to become much better at listening to our partner countries’ needs and learning how they see development. Now you may or may not view that idea as sexy, but I hope you agree that it is extremely important.

Useful links:

World Bank’s open data

Aid flows

OECD International Development Statistics online

Paris21 Statistics for development

Working Your Way Out of Fragility and Violence: How Jobs Matter

Click to go to the conference website

Our next post from the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) is from Erwin van Veen of the OECD International Network on Conflict and Fragility

Spain’s youth is protesting in the plazas. They want jobs. Youth unemployment stands at 40% and general unemployment around 20%. It looks like a gloomy future. Now cross the Mediterranean to, for instance, Ivory Coast or Guinea.

These states do not just have much higher unemployment rates, but they are also fragile, have high corruption rates, see little investment and have booming populations and high levels of insecurity. As for unemployment, the real trouble arises here.

Globally there are about 30-40 conflict-affected and fragile states – all feature little formal employment, high poverty and, importantly, booming populations. As Samir Makdisi, of the American University of Beirut, remarked: “In these countries, even good economic policies, governance and institutions may not be adequate to absorb the additional labor that results from population growth.”

Today, the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) discussed the challenge of why job creation matters in situations of fragility and how it can be done. 

It matters for two reasons.

First, jobs are likely to create stability because they make violence less attractive and increase interdependencies. Yet, there is not enough evidence to establish a clear-cut relation between the availability of jobs and the likelihood of violence, according to Chris Cramer of the University of London.

Second, employment gives people a sense of self-worth and the means to start shaping their future. Both are critical to reducing conflict and fragility. The challenge is to generate jobs fast enough in these complex and volatile settings.

Evidence and experts suggest that focus need to be on increasing agriculture productivity and public works schemes as starting points.

On the latter, Africa in particular has huge areas of virtually untapped land and a high percentage of its population already works in agriculture. Yet the sector faces underinvestment, outdated production methods and production losses because of inadequate infrastructure, storage and connections to markets.

On the former, public work schemes that improve economic and social infrastructures are good ways to rebuild communities and foster national connectivity. This lays the foundations for longer-term economic growth.

There are two challenges.

The first is that both strategies are complex. Key elements for sustainable job creation include good regulatory and fiscal frameworks, social dialogue, incentives for investment, economic infrastructure and appropriate skills training, supported by decent labour market analysis.

The second is that the international community is doing too little. It needs to scale up efforts on the basis of a common framework. For instance, the Agency for the Execution of Works in the Public Interest (Agetip) in Senegal has been instrumental in combating unemployment, says Magatte Wade, one of its founds.

International support must be grounded in the lessons that can be learned from such examples. Yet, job creation projects have often adopted a short-term outlook with limited linkages to long-term employment and income generation. It may not resolve conflict and fragility, but it certainly is a vital component of strategies to reduce it.

Useful links

OECD work on peacebuilding, statebuilding and security