From the Editor's Desk (June-July 2012)

Tony Addison

I started writing this ‘From the Editor’s Desk’ in Accra, to the sound of an African drum band, preparing for a ceremony to mark the launch of the joint University of Ghana-UNU-WIDER Research and Post-Graduate Teaching Programme. The launch took place in the University of Ghana’s magnificent Great Hall. We were in Accra for the 28th session of the UNU-WIDER Board, held for the second time in Africa. Professor Ernest Aryeetey, UNU-WIDER Board Chairman and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, hosted us in Accra.

Our Accra visit included a presentation at the University of Ghana on UNU-WIDER’s climate change work, with a seminar to mark the launch of a new research collaboration between UNU-WIDER and the Institute for Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER). Under the overall framework of the new collaborative agreement with the University of Ghana, ISSER and UNU-WIDER will be working on climate change impacts and adaption options for Ghana. The research programme is linked to similar efforts in Vietnam and southern Africa under UNU-WIDER’s development under climate change project. In addition, ISSER and UNU-WIDER will be working on growth and poverty reduction trends in Ghana.

Accra also provided an opportunity for further presentations by Danielle Resnick on our governance and fragility theme from our ReCom - Research and Communication on Foreign Aid project. This Angle includes the videos from the presentations in Accra and the policy brief on foreign aid and democracy in Africa.

Fragile states are of course a big concern for the MDGs, since these countries have the least capacity to meet the targets. In any case, much of the MDG process has been driven by 'traditional' aid donors, but their ODA is now a declining share of total capital flows to the developing world. What does this mean for the global development agenda after 2015? This month’s GuestAngle is a piece by Rolph van der Hoeven and Peter van Bergeijk on the ‘Millennium Development Goals in Turbulent Times: Emerging Challenges for Post-2015 MDGs’. Their intervention into the MDGs debate provides much food for thought.

As we see the political upheavals continue in much of the MENA region, we have another timely piece on youth unemployment in the region from our research fellow Imed Drine. He presents policies that would help cut the growing numbers of unemployed and envigorate the private sector in the region.

Rio+20 came and went with a wimper. In this Angle James Thurlow and Danielle Resnick summarize the main findings from their recent work on Green Growth and its link to sustainable development. The issue of climate change has been one of the three pillars of UNU-WIDER’s research programme since 2009, in what we call the ‘triple crisis’ (the other two crises being finance and food). Good to see that the IMF’s Christine Lagarde spoke out about the triple crisis this month.

June was rather busy with launches and presentations of new UNU-WIDER publications. Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis and Ravi Kanbur launched ‘Urbanization and Development in Asia: Multidimensional Perspectives’ (Oxford University Press India) at the 13th annual conference of the Global Development Network in Budapest. This comes out of a UNU-WIDER project on Development in an Urban World directed by Jo Beall, Basudeb Guha-Khasnobis, and Ravi Kanbur. Ravi also made a presentation on the project at the Central European University in Budapest. Our urban theme continues with research on the governance and fragility theme of ReCom, and earlier in June we held a seminar on ‘Urban Governance and Service Delivery in Africa’, jointly hosted with the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The presentations are available online also.

June saw the launch of the UNU-WIDER Palgrave Macmillan title ‘Economies in Transition: The Long View’, edited by Gérald Roland. The book launch, and a panel discussion, took place at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London. This is an especially timely volume, not only as we reflect on the successes (but also difficulties) of the transition in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (a big focus for UNU-WIDER in the 1990s) but also what it might tell us about policies and politics involved in managing the recent democratic transitions in northern Africa.

I participated in the last of the launches, which took place at the World Bank. This was for a UNU-WIDER special issue of the Journal of Economic Inequality on the theme of ‘Measuring Poverty over Time’. The special issue is edited by Luc Christiaensen of the Bank’s development economics research group, previously at UNU-WIDER, and Tony Shorrocks, the former UNU-WIDER director. Luc presented the main findings, with John Hoddinott of IPRI acting as discussant. This was followed by a panel discussion led by Branko Milanovic, Jaime Saavedra, and Peter Lanjouw, all from the Bank. The special issue raises some fascinating conceptual and measurement issues, of real importance to tracking and understanding poverty over time.

For your summer reading pleasure, we have more UNU-WIDER working papers, covering topics as diverse as successful development models in the MENA region, aid and infrastructure, pro-poor service delivery, savings and the poor, poverty and aid, and urban service delivery and opposition politics. This month’s Angle provides another set of one-page summaries (ResearchAngle) of our working papers produced under ReCom. These are prepared by James Stewart.

Work on ReCom (Research and Communication on Foreign Aid) can now be found on the newly launched and redesigned ReCom web site. This has papers, summaries, and videos of ReCom events. We will be posting more material on all five ReCom themes as the research and communication activities continue. Do send us your feedback.

As we finalized Angle we heard the sad news of the death of Professor Elinor Ostrom, the 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economics. She co-edited with Basudeb Guha-Khasnbobis and Ravi Kanbur the UNU-WIDER volume Linking the Formal and Informal Economy: Concepts and Policies, published by Oxford University Press in 2006.

During the long Finnish winter, everyone looks forward to July, the holiday month in Finland, when people head for their summer cottages to enjoy the long summer days. We celebrated midsummer on June 22nd. During mid June we have nearly 19 hours of sunlight in Helsinki (and 24 hours in Lapland), but after the 22nd the days then start to slowly shorten. So Angle will be taking a break in July, to return in August. We wish all our readers, especially those in the north who need a healthy dose of sunshine, a good summer break. 

Tony Addison is Chief Economist-Deputy Director, and Editor of WIDERAngle newsletter.

WIDERAngle newsletter
June-July 2012
ISSN 1238-9544