Social Justice in Global Development

Special Event at the UN Commission for Social Development on 3 February 2012:

Financing of Social Development

Presentation by Eva Hanfstaengl, Social Justice in Global Development

The global financial architecture has proven inadequate to meet the needs of the majority of the world’s population. It is producing more inequality than prosperity, more insecurity than progress. There is no shortage of proposals for potential effective measures and policies. Instead, we see a shortage of political will. With austerity programs comes a widespread global attack on public sector workers who provide those social services. Whereas the numbers of employees in the social sector are shrinking in some places, the workload of the remaining social workers is growing. Instead of state support, we see an effort to weaken public-sector unions. Working people, particularly, women are being forced to pay the bill for a system that has increasingly concentrated wealth and economic control in the hands of a few and that continues to deepen the vulnerability and impoverishment of the majority. 

The swift and massive response of governments of the richest countries to bail out banks and other private financial institutions with several trillion US dollars stands in stark contrast to their failure to respond decisively to the financial crises that has afflicted many countries, including in the so-called developed world. The idea that "we" cannot afford nurses in hospitals nor teachers in schools nor fire fighters is not the right policy. Our thinking needs to change and policies have to be adopted that protect and enhance essential social expenditures.

Therefore, it is high time to

  • substantial reform of the governance of the Bretton Woods Institutions,
  • to establishing global cross-border cooperation on supervision and regulation,
  • to establish a “Financing for Development Committee” to monitor the implementation of the commitments made in the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration,
  • to adopt a rights-based approach to eradicating poverty and ensure the dignity of the individual, and
  • to create a Global Sustainable Development Council for policy-making and dialogue on social, economic and environmental issues with balanced regional representation within the United Nations.

A combination of financing efforts and structural reforms is needed to promote social development. Poverty can be eradicated. All actions require a framework of good governance domestically and a reformed international governance structure which is re-distributive and pro-poor.

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Poverty Reduction through Social Protection: A Potential Form of Debt for Development Exchange

By John Langmore and Anthony Clunies Ross (2011)

The global financial crisis is expected to add 64 million more people in poverty than would have been so in the absence of the crisis. Progress in reducing poverty below US$2 is expected to be slower: about 2 billion people are expected to be living on US$2 or less in 2015. These figures mean that despite significant economic growth in many countries huge numbers of people will remain oppressed by deprivation for the foreseeable future. Even if the Millennium Development Goals target was achieved that would still leave nearly a billion people living in severe poverty. Stronger, equitable economic and social development is essential and so too are additional means of poverty reduction.One mechanism is the possibility of establishing or strengthening social protection as a means of directly reducing income poverty. The right to social protection has been widely recognised for decades and advocated as a cost-effective method of strengthening economic security. 

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is currently advocating that the international community should not just repair the problems identified by the crisis in global financial, monetary and economic systems, but should be advocating and supporting the development of a social protection floor to protect people during the crisis, and thereafter. A social protection floor could consist of two main elements that help to realize respective human rights: essential services: ensuring the availability, continuity, and access to public services (such as water and sanitation, health, education, and family-focused social work support); and social transfers: a basic set of essential social transfers, in cash and in kind, paid to the poor and vulnerable to enhance food security and nutrition and provide a minimum income security.

A basic social protection package is demonstrably affordable on condition that the package is implemented through the joint efforts of the low-income countries themselves and of the international donor community. Steps towards such programs are already underway in additional countries such as Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Nepal and other countries are expected to start soon.

Debt for social protection’ exchange could play a role in inaugurating or capitalising a new scheme. By increasing financial resources for a government at one point a ‘debt for social protection’ exchange could contribute to overcoming initial financial constraints. Another possible means of playing a role would be for debt swaps to be phased over a period of years. 

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 In Ross P. Buckley (Ed.), 2011, Debt-for-Development Exchanges: History and New Applications, New York, OUP, pp 209 - 222.


UN DESA Working Paper: Impact of the Economic Crises on Civil Society Organizations    

A study by Eva Hanfstaengl 2010

The food, environmental and economic crises have challenged civil society organizations (CSOs) and the communities they serve. A broad-based survey, initiated by the United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development and guided by a Civil Society Steering Committee, was undertaken in 2009 that measured the impact of the crises on the operating capacity of CSOs around the world and their expectations as they look ahead. This study examines the current situation of CSOs as indicated by responses from 640 civil society organizations worldwide. It also asks what strategies they are undertaking to cope with a drop of revenues and how to strengthen social-service delivery capacities of CSOs during crisis periods.

JEL Classification: D710, Z00, F35

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Achieving the MDGs is threatened by costs of climate change - A solution lies in innovative finance

by David Hillman and Eva Hanfstaengl

After the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other important dialogues by both Governments and NGOs it has become apparent that costs of Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation will run into tens of billions of dollars each year. At present these costs threaten to swallow development budgets. Unprecedented choices now need to be made between, for example, protecting forests or building schools. Both are necessary - we must protect the environment and we have to develop the skills of future generations. Additional sources of finance derived from Innovative Instruments are a relatively recent phenomenon. They have been on the sidelines boosting ODA in certain strategic areas such as Immunisation and HIV/AIDS treatments. They now need to move to centre-stage. Years of research into various initiatives has set the scene for the introduction of powerful untapped income streams worth billions of dollars. With the new budgetary pressure of Climate Change, Innovative Finance Instruments need to be introduced. Additional budgetary demands require additional resources. Without them, how can the Millennium Development Goals possibly be met? 

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