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Month: March 2018

March 16, 2018 (links edition #48)

A package of early humanitarian response and safety nets is about 30% more efficient than typical humanitarian aid in Africa (h/t Chris Porter). A super interesting USAID study by Cabot Venton updates and deepens a previous 2012 paper. The study uses Household Economy Analysis based on price, rainfall and production data between 2001 and 2016, and models avoided income and livestock losses for 15 million people living in 54 livelihood zones in the Horn. Findings? Relative to typical humanitarian assistance, an early humanitarian response would save an estimated US$2.5 billion in humanitarian aid costs over a 15-year period. Safety nets save US$3.5 billion over the cost of a late response, or an average of US$231 million per year. A combined, resilience-building scenario (early humanitarian response + safety nets) could save US$4.3 billion, or an average of US$287 million per year. In other words, every US$1 spent on safety nets or resilience programming results in net benefits (savings) of between US$2.3 and US$3.3, respectively. Check out also the infographic and case studies on Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

From resilience simulations to resilience evaluations. Following poor harvests in the 2015/16, about 6.7 million people were at risk of food insecurity cropping season in Malawi. The ensuing 265-million Food Insecurity Response Programme (FIRP) was designed to address such risk. A new 150-page report by Babu et al evaluate the quality of FIRP national assessments, targeting accuracy, program design and implementation. The evaluation found was the response was largely successful in preventing disaster and saving lives and livelihoods. However, it also highlights the high dependency of country on development partners for financing, technical and institutional capacities. Bonus: Elliott examines the prospects for US food aid reforms (more cash and less monetization); extra bonus: a recent blog by Reid on mobile technology innovations in humanitarian assistance (h/t Amr Moubarak).

Let’s move to another type of crisis with three new resources on displacement (h/t Xavier Devictor). With 2018 marking the 7th year of the Syrian conflict, the Forced Migration Review journal has a special issue containing 27 articles on ‘Syrians in displacement’; in a an IZA paper, Torosyan et al show that in Georgia, IDPs are 3.9 to 11.2 percentage points less likely to be in the labor force than local residents; finally, Zhou and Shaver find no evidence that refugees spread conflict where they settle.

From forced to economic mobility, with urban-rural migration from migrants’ perspectives. Ingelaere et al have a fascinating WD article on secondary towns in Africa (a working paper version was shared in previous editions). Based on insights from in-depth life history accounts of 75 purposively selected rural–urban migrants from rural Kagera, Tanzania, they show that secondary towns occupy a unique middle ground between semi-subsistence agriculture and the capitalistic city. They allow a broader base of the poor population to become physically, economically and socially mobile, and hence have great potential as vehicles for inclusive growth and poverty reduction in urbanizing developing countries.

From Africa to Europe: Ridao Cano and Bodewig have an amazing report – ‘Growing United’ – on the EU’s convergence trajectory. They provide an in-depth examination of the skills divide, bottlenecks for firms and innovation, and elements social contracts that could be upgraded. On safety nets, they propose a combination of an expanded set of innovative public works, including for services, while relaxing some constraints on minimum guarantee schemes.

Speaking of public works, Hahn discusses (in a US House committee testimony) research on and implications of potential expansions of work requirements in Medicaid, SNAP and other programs. Her main point is that “work requirements create cumbersome administrative processes that affect both the people who are eligible for assistance and the government agencies providing it”.

From public works to public finance. ODI’s Miller has an interesting monthly round-up on public finance and development readings. The March edition highlights global platforms for collaboration on taxes, the case for and against earmarking taxes, taking stock on PDIAs, and more.

From public finance to public services. A blog by Carlitz unpacks factors affecting the likelihood people will mobilize for improved public services. These include how frequently people experience (problems with) a given service, their ability to pay for private alternatives, and their expectations about the likelihood of improvements in response to their actions.

Since I mentioned demand for services, here is a thoughtful presentation by Nancy Birdsall on the ‘strugglers’ — those not poor enough, not yet middle class, but with high aspirations. This constitute the majority of people in a range of middle income countries. In a similar vein, Martorano discusses how perceptions of inequality influenced political participation in Western Balkans over the last years.

Some brief reflections from two ex-UN heavyweights. In a Nature article, Kofi Annan makes a vigorous call for data and how it can help end malnutrition in Africa; and Sepúlveda Carmona, former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, blogs about CCTs and gender, questioning the effectiveness of the former on the latter (h/t Becky Carter).

Final fireworks: an ACF paper showing how seasonal cash transfers helped mitigating malnutrition in Burkina Faso; Azeem et al have a JDS article showing the (positive) effects of cash transfers in Pakistan’s Punjab; and David McKenzie unbundles how can machine learning and AI can be used in impact evaluations.