Getting ready for Copenhagen

After two ReCom Results Meetings in Stockholm we are returning to Copenhagen. The next event ‘Challenges in Fragility and Governance’ is coming up, and we hope to see you in Copenhagen on 23 October, getting involved in debating the implications of research evidence on the impact of aid.

As discussed in a ReCom position paper, governance and fragility is not a minor issue—1.5 billion people live in fragile states where weak governance is just one feature—and it is not an easy task to serve those people worst off. These are countries (47 according to OECD, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa) where donors need to think hard about their strategies.

Aid donors have been engaged in economic governance and public management reform, but less so in key areas in which major work remains to be done: tax reform, regulatory reform, and civil service reform. For instance, the role of taxation should be taken into account in overall policies of state building since governments that rely on tax income also tend to perform better in other areas of public administration.

In the ReCom project more than 80 studies of governance and fragility have been published, some stand-alone papers, others resulting from seven different project collaborations between researchers in our global network.

The forthcoming Copenhagen event is arranged by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), with a very experienced moderator, Verner Kristiansen. The morning session will be  in English, and after lunch participants will switch to the Danish language. You can find the programme for the day, as well as our position paper mentioned above, at the ReCom page. Please register at the DIIS webpage.

For those who cannot make it to Copenhagen a webcast option is provided and the link to that will be available on the DIIS webpage shortly prior to the meeting.

The previous meeting on 4 June 2013 on climate change was filmed by Swedish television and broadcast in a series about foreign aid; it can now be accessed here.

We are also producing animated films for each and every theme of ReCom as well as one for the overall theme. They can be used in many ways—for instance in attracting the interest of students in looking at the impact of foreign aid, or even embedded within your own websites.

The 68th session of the UN General Assembly was recently convened in New York and the debate focused on issues of fragility—such as the war in Syria, and weapons of mass destruction—and a lot more. One of the other topics debated was gender inequality in general, and violence against women in particular. Women’s empowerment is also crucial for post-conflict recovery and peace building, something discussed in New Yorkand analysed in this WIDER Working Paper on transitional justice by Sirkku Hellsten.

Gender equality is good for security and stability, it is good for governance, it is good for the economy—in short, gender equality translates into prosperity and more stable societies. This is seen as a fact also among development experts. It is also reflected in pure numbers: aid in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment has risen from US$6.5 billion in 2002 to US$25.5 billion in 2011. Despite this, there is only modest evidence to support the argument that donors in general are allocating aid influenced by gender considerations, as shown in this paper by Axel Dreher, Kai Gehring, and Stephan Klasen.

This brings us to 16 December (new date) when UNU-WIDER will arrange a final ReCom results meeting—‘Aid for Gender Equality’—again in Copenhagen, this time at Danida. The event is going to be very interesting also for people who do not normally deal with gender issues. 

We know that good intentions are just not enough and studies of development practice provide some disturbing evidence of how gender is neglected. For instance, The World Bank began to pay attention to gender already in the 1970s and now it is an official priority. Still, as this WIDER Working Paper by Claire Lauterbach and Elaine Zuckerman shows, the Bank routinely ignore women’s vulnerabilities and needs when investing in key social and economic sectors. The objective of economic efficiency still overshadows the stated commitment to gender equality.

The authors discuss the implications of this and find that it risks undermining the gains that have been made in recent years towards women’s empowerment in Bank investments.

Lucy Scott comes to the same conclusions in her study on female empowerment: using an economic entry point is insufficient for ensuring strategic gender needs.

Looking forward to good discussions in Copenhagen in October and December!


Carl-Gustav Lindén is Senior Communications Specialist, UNU-WIDER