Pat’s picks

Leads and links to the latest articles and debates in development

Pat Duggan is a long term indigo foundation supporter (in fact her membership card is #1!) and an experienced and highly regarded development practitioner. Over the last 30 years Pat has worked for the UN, DFAT, Care Australia and most recently was responsible for managing Australian Government’s development cooperation to ASEAN, delivered through its Secretariat in Indonesia.

‘Pat’s Picks’ is her selection of recommended short reads on development. So if you don’t have time to research, but want to be kept informed about global developments in development – Pats Picks is for you! 


This edition is short and not so sweet. It includes two thought-provoking stories about the resilience and positive force of refugees.  And more about the East Africa drought crisis – about which I still haven’t found an answer to my question – how did we end up in this situation again?  The Oxfam paper linked below provides some answers – and points to a worrying future. Finally, a website I recently found: I recommend it for background news about Africa, told by those who live it, or know it better than most. 

1: Human-centred solutions to the refugee education crisis (Reliefweb and Development Policy Centre Canberra)

Faced with the prospect of children missing years of education at a critical stage of their development, groups of refugees living in West Java have independently initiated a number of education centres, which now serve up to two hundred children. Refugees contribute their skills and expertise to fill different roles as administrators, managers and teachers to run the centres.  This article by Thomas Brown highlights, too, how agencies can support communities who find their own solutions to their situation in limbo.

2: Legal invisibility was the best thing to happen to me (African Arguments)

The author of this article became an undocumented migrant in the US when she was 6 years old, when her family fled the conflict in Liberia.   This is a reflection of her life.  Two fantastic quotes jumped out:

  • migrants have become the scapegoats of politicians as a cover up for their failures in responding to the needs of the documented”
  • “even the prefixes we use to describe those without legal status point to their presumed “abnormality”: extra-legal, irregular, illegal, unauthorised.”

3: Sri-Lanka’s Conflict Affecting Women – Still Dealing with the Legacy of War (International Crisis Group)

It’s another example of what we know already: after the war is over, the people who have carried the community through its horrors – mainly women – are forgotten about. Eight years after the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka’s north, promises by the Government have not been kept – communities have been left to deal with the devastating economic and psycho-social impact on their communities with not much help from Government. Some agencies are helping, but the struggle is still political.

This article from the International Crisis Group is worth a read.

4: Droughts in East Africa becoming more frequent, more devastating (Africa

Africa has become an epicentre of an array of dynamics, from global climate change to conflict, all of which combine to create catastrophes affecting millions of people. We have been here before and we will be here again. The question is whether, and how quickly, we will learn from our past mistakes in identifying the roots of the crises, tackling the underlying problems, while preparing for the worst. See this article by Stephen Wainaina for more.

5: A climate in crisis – How climate change is making drought and humanitarian disaster worse in East Africa (Oxfam)

Contrasting the above article, if you really want to be more informed, this in-depth paper by Oxfam, draws on the history of drought in East Africa, looking through a climate change lens.  It shows us why weather will become more extreme, and what strategies communities at risk have adopted successfully or otherwise.

It was written in April, so the figures included about numbers of people at risk will only have increased.  If you want more uptodate information on the different countries’ situations –

6:  Somaliland drought “a kind of nightmare” – and a security threat, Minister

Somaliland is an island of relative peace and stability in an extremely troubled region. It has been so for many decades now, mainly a result of its different colonial past, relative economic advantages and more manageable ethnic balance than other parts the wider Somalia region.

This story by Laurie Goering tells of an unfolding tragedy facing its people, and government. Drought is always devastating and cyclical in this region, but this time its just overwhelming countries and their communities.

And here’s a final one for debate over dinner …

7:  Fewer but still with us – The world has made great progress in eradicating extreme poverty (But the going will be much harder from now on) – The Economist

This statistical analysis by The Economist only confirms what we know:  having any poverty at all is a policy choice.  Great strides have been made globally in recent decades, but pockets of poverty remain, in Africa and South Asia.  The depth of poverty in those “pockets”, and its national scale, means “the  war on want is about to settle into period of long and grinding battles in the trenches”.

Thats all very well, but its a policy choice. Lets focus on India as perhaps the most stark example of this. This macro-level analysis leaves aside the key driver of poverty in India (I reckon) – the caste system. It doesn’t matter how much more is spent on social sector safety nets in India, the statistics won’t change much while the caste system drives policy.

My challenge to the Economist would be to do this analysis again, factoring in inequality indicators, and let’s see what is happening. It could also include countries like Australia….where pockets of poverty are deepening and expanding in recent years, I’d say that is owing to policy failure.

APRIL 2017

The focus this issue is the latest political developments in Myanmar and Pakistan, an ongoing spotlight on climate change developments and a video showing the collective power of women in Colombia!

  1. The long and winding road in Myanmar – a reality check

Are we hostage to our own expectations? Anyone who’s thought substantively about Myanmar before 2012 won’t be surprised that democracy is now struggling, and the lives of arguably the most oppressed minority in the world, the Rohingya, remain a travesty, with no sign of significant improvement in their rights.  This is not about blaming Aung San Suu Kyi, but about recognising the clues in Myanmar’s history which help explain her ethical quagmire.

The Economist writes here that “Aung San Suu Kyi is letter her own revolution down”.

Turning to the situation facing Rohingya people, on 24 March, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) took a key step toward preventing future abuses and bringing justice for victims in Burma by adopting a strong resolution condemning violations and making significant recommendations.

I imagine that the Myanmar Government is doing all it can to stop this fact finding mission to Rakhine proceeding. We know about the 100,000 who have fled Myanmar, but around 100,000 remain in “closed camps”, or prison communities, in Rakine state. It will be worth watching to see if the momentum established by the decision continues in months to come.

Human Rights Watch has more on the UNHRC’s decision here.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s Report on her recent mission to Myanmar (which led to the UNHRC’s decision above) points to wider abuses, often overshadowed by the Rohingya situation.

Of extreme concern to the Special Rapporteur is the escalation in conflict in Kachin and Shan States. Reportedly over 10,000 people have fled to China as a result of conflict in recent months. As well, the UN has been denied authority to deliver to over 40,000 Internally Displaced Persons in Kachin and Shan.

You can read the Special Rapporteur’s report in full here.

And from a site worth keeping an eye on ‘Pressreader’, here is a useful backgrounder to the situation on the ground in Eastern Bangladesh where 200,000 Rohingya refugees remain.

  1. Climate Change

With President Trump taking the reigns, concerns have been raised about what this means for global negotiations and momentum on climate change.

An interesting article by Alister Doyle at Reuters speculates that threatened US pullout might help, not hobble the Paris Agreement. A previous edition of Pat’s Picks reported on the optimism and some pessimism of the just-signed, and landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change. This is an interesting take on what good might come of the US pulling out of the agreement (as Trump has warned).  I guess its mightn’t be so bad …

Get a coffee or drink, sit quietly, and get informed with these climate change stories from the Thoman Reuters Foundation on the impact of climate change on small island states.  Amongst them – a plea to Paris Accord signatories by the President of the Marshall Islands (which apparently covers 90% of its energy needs with renewable energy sources – read on).  Also – PNG woman leading the charge for relocating her community before its too late.

And in related news turning to Indonesia. For the first time, the Peatlands Restoration Agency – set up by President Joko Widodo in 2016 to fight the fires – has struck a deal with indigenous groups in a bid to tap their traditional knowledge in managing lands and fires.

It won’t fix the problem, but is move in the right direction. Read more here.

  1. Non-terror stories from Pakistan

OK, its complicated, and baby steps, and all too little too late, but I have come across some good reading news from Pakistan which covers something beside the war on terror and conflict. Something which focuses on long term visions. These articles highlight how global processes can create momentum for national process to achieve positive social change.

  • Electoral reform plans aim to boost women’s participation in politics (Thomson Reuters) article here.
  • Pakistani province launches app for women to report harassment. Positive result of advocacy and the meteoric spread of connectivity!  I see lots of risks, and little practical change for women with this app (like, the police have to respond!) but I’m happy to be proven wrong. A report on progress in a few months will be interesting reading. Full article here.
  • Pakistan passes climate change act, experts remain sceptical. The Third Pole articlehere.
  • Finally, a well researched piece on Pakistan’s long term challenges, NOT being the war on terror. Pakistan’s biggest threat isn’t Terrorism, its Climate Change. This Foreign Policy writesthat “It is imperative that Pakistan makes climate change a priority. Failure to do so would jeopardize the country’s national security. Where water and food shortage catalyzes civil unrest and conflicts, it will also hinder the government’s ability to properly manage its resources”
  1. Neglected stories that need reading!

To see the power of community leadership, have a watch of this compelling short video set in Colombia ‘City of Women’ (Thomson Reuters).

The League of Displaced Women – many of them single mothers and war widows – built their own new neighbourhood of 102 houses on the once barren bushland in Turbaco, a municipality near Cartagena. It became known as the City of Women.



The focus this issue is refugees, with some useful blogs on the Refugee Summit, held in September in New York and which went nowhere.

1. September summits on refugees: Background, commentary and resources

I recommend to you the first blog – from UNSW’s Kaldor Law Centre – an excellent one stop shop for those wanting to brief themselves on refugee policy, scope and law.   In fact, it’s all you need!

2. Amnesty:  UN Refugee Summit Talks End in Abject Failure

Unsurprisingly, countries preparing words for the 19 September global summit on refugees could not agree a global compact to shape a global approach and standards to the new reality on refugee flows.  Shame on them.

Read Amnesty’s comments here.

The Summit was thus forgettable.  The Refugee Council of Australia’s report below shows just how forgettable it was:

United Nations summit on refugees and migrants

3. Human Rights Watch and Human Rights Law Centre

“As failed states proliferate, as non-state actors become more abusive, and as climate change drives ever-more migration, the need to protect a broader set of vulnerable migrants forced to leave their homes will be more compelling than ever” – …..but the Summit was a missed opportunity to realign the global response to reflect this reality.

Link here.

The Australian Government’s intervention at the leaders’ Summit the day after was both dishonest and self serving.  Here is the Human Rights Law Centre’s response to the intervention.  The ABC has reported on it extensively as well.

On refugee children, and the importance of educating them, I tripped over this gem – from the Lebanon d. representative of Human Rights Watch: “Educate refugee children or lose them forever

And this, handy outline, updating you on the history, scope and nature of refugee flows into Malaysia

Some country-level analysis which might be worth a look….

4. Aleppo is screwed. Thanks everyone (IRIN)

Penned by senior IRIN journalist Ben Parker in late July, and prescient given recent weeks of horror in Aleppo.  What should aid agencies – the UN, international NGOs –  do in a place like Syria?  A question highlighting the moral dilemmas…

…’As the donors make demands, the NGOs and media bash the UN, the auditors bash the NGOs, and the kaleidoscope of aid agency alliances shifts, the international system is starting to look a little like the Syrian conflict’.

Read in full here.

5. Aid and Afghanistan’s future (Dev Policy blog)

Countries will meet with the Government of Afghanistan in Brussels in October.  Essentially another pledging conference, it’s a chance to consider how the international discourse on aid to Afghanistan has evolved since 2001.  indigo foundation’s effort is local and community-based, and we are not engaged in this national level discussion but it’s good to know the broader policy picture.  The focus here is the Government’s experience of aid. Some interesting recurring problems appear here – capacity, effectiveness, and leakage…

Read this DevPolicy commentary for more.

6. Israel Declares War on Gaza’s NGOs (Foreign Policy)

You will have heard about the harassment, arrest and jailing without charge of World Vision’s Director in Gaza.  It seems the aid community in Gaza is seeing a wider pattern emerging…”An ongoing crackdown on international organizations is paving the way for the next armed conflict with Hamas”.

Read more here

MAY 2016

1.  Climate Change:  The Paris Agreement

Comment on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is mixed, but largely positive.  This might be a function of very low expectations going into the Paris meeting after Copenhagen four years ago.  As Timmons Roberts at Brookings says “The spectre of another train wreck of that magnitude hung over the Paris negotiations from the start to the very end”.  People are both optimistic and skeptical about the Agreement’s content – and the world’s capacity to change its behaviour sufficiently anyway, particularly our reliance on fossil fuels. The first blog from Brookings reflects the optimism.  The second, from the DevPolicy blog at ANU (by an ex-senior aid official who worked on climate change) analyses how the Agreement demands greater accountability….Finally, several articles giving us a reality check….the first from India, then from several who remain deeply concerned that Paris did not go nearly far enough.

a.  In Paris, the United Nations delivered. Now it’s up to the rest of us to transform society away from fossil fuels

…Alot remains unfinished:  How adequate and predictable climate finance will be delivered to help developing countries cope with climate impacts and make the transition to clean energy is not clearly addressed. Critically, the Paris Accord is still a voluntary system, with neither binding mechanisms or clear ways to enforce compliance. While laying out the ambitious goal of keeping warming under 2 degrees Celsius, the agreement will still leave the planet vulnerable to major impacts.

…but:  in Paris, the UN has finally delivered. Now it’s up to the nations, companies, civil society and all our institutions—from universities, churches, hospitals, service agencies and local governments—to immediately and aggressively move this effort forward.

Read more

b.  A fragile symmetry: climate finance in the Paris Agreement 

Read more 

The Paris Agreement has two elements: mitigation commitments and financing commitments.  At the very least, it provides a great deal of purchase to those looking to exact greater accountability.  Desirable processes have been set in motion, but ….inertia and bickering might well break the “symmetry” of the Agreement. An omission is that it contains no figures for financing mitigation efforts in developing countries. The existing mobilisation goal of US$100 billion per annum by 2020 (set in Copenhagen) will be considered a floor until 2025, and a higher collective goal will be adopted before 2025 – by a Conference of [all] Parties – (not just the developed countries “donors club”…)

What does the final COP 21 outcome mean for Australia’s development assistance for climate change? It means our “modest” level of support under the UNFCC will be much more under the international spotlight.  “It is hard to believe that Australia will not sooner or later respond to pressure to do more overall…”.

c.  Paris climate deal won’t affect India coal plans

Read more

India still plans to double coal output by 2020 and rely on the resource for decades afterwards, a senior official has revealed, just days after….

India, the world’s third-largest carbon emitter, is dependant on coal for about two-thirds of its energy needs and has pledged to mine more of the fuel to power its resource-hungry economy while also promising to increase clean energy generation.

d.  Paris climate deal throws ‘frayed lifeline’ to the poor

Those concerned with social justice are skeptical:  “This deal offers a frayed lifeline to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people,” said Helen Szoke, chief executive of aid agency Oxfam Australia.

Read more

While representatives of small island states who pushed hard for 1.5% (global warming goal) claimed this deal was “the best we can hope for”, Oxfam was more direct:  Only a “vague promise” of future funding was agreed and “the deal does not force countries to cut emissions fast enough to forestall a climate change catastrophe”.

e.  Climate migrants could dwarf other refugee flows – experts

The figures suggest that the Agreement does not reflect a central reality which may overwhelm us all: Last year, 11 million people fled conflict or violence in Syria, Afghanistan and other troubled regions of the world. As well, the average number of people displaced globally by natural disasters, including floods, storms and droughts, has averaged 22.5 million a year since 2008 and is growing.

Read more

f.  Why have we waited so long to address climate change?

An interesting historical analysis from a former senior Vanuatu official involved in international negotiations since the early 1990’s.  He points to the importance of a more concerted engagement to involve all –  civil society, business, and others – in shaping global answers to climate change.

Read more 

2.  Refugees and Migration

What’s been happening in Europe might give Australian political leaders some pause for thought….

a.  Migration crisis: ‘Who can refuse these human beings? Who?’ asks UN official

 “The wave was 10cm high two years ago,” he said. “Now it’s about 40cm high. But for your children, it will be 30 metres high. Why? Because 2 billion people in the world earn less than $1.25 a day. The difference between now and 20 years ago is that everybody looks at everybody now – it’s the globalisation of the economy and the globalisation of communications: internet, TV, radio. It’s very new.”

Read more 

b.  This could be the largest refugee resettlement intake in Australia’s postwar history – here’s what it means

Do you know how the 12000 Syrian refugees fit with Australia’s overall annual refugee intake, past and present?  Useful summary from the Guardian.

c.  Migration can help to forge a more prosperous world, says World Bank

The World Bank’s  2015  Global Monitoring Report, points to the implications for migration, poverty and development of the far-reaching population shift of today.  The large-scale migration of people from poor countries to richer ones will “reshape economic development for decades”   Overall trends are stark: while more than 90% of global poverty is concentrated in lower-income countries where populations are young and fast-growing, more than 75% of global growth occurs in higher-income countries where women have fewer children, where there are fewer people of working age and where the proportion of elderly people is on the increase.

Read more 

3. Ethiopia’s 2015 – 16 drought

The unfolding drought in Ethiopia. This year I want to explore more how are we at this point again in Ethiopia…?

a. No reason for famine (IFPRI)

From one of my favourite African food security think tanks, IFPRI….. The 2015-16 drought and production shortfall need not have caused a famine. By heeding the lessons of past famines, Government can ensure sufficient cereals and transfers in cash and in kind to provide households with their needs. Other food security issues will still need to be resolved, including ensuring adequate nutrition for all individuals.

Read more.

b. More child marriage in drought-hit Ethiopia with risk of ‘full-blown disaster’

As well, child marriage is on the rise in Ethiopia due to the worst drought in decades, the government and agencies said on Friday, as Oxfam warned of a ‘full-blown disaster’ unless more than $1 billion in food aid is found for 10 million people. Agencies predict the El Niño weather phenomenon will cause record levels of malnutrition in Africa’s second most populous nation, famed for war- and drought-induced famine in 1984. More than one in ten of Ethiopia’s 92 million people, most of whom depend on rain-fed agriculture, are short of food

c. The Cause of Ethiopia’s Recurrent Famine Is Not Drought, It Is Authoritarianism

Written by a post-grad student in Washington for the Huffington Post. Why is it still the case that so many – millions of – Ethiopians lead a marginal life…?

Read more

d. Famine and Government Neglect in Ethiopia

Punchy…I haven’t seen this site before but might be one to watch…..

Read more

e. Ethiopian girl wins $150,000 for rape, abduction and marriage at 13

A strike for women’s justice. One in two girls in Ethiopia are brides by the age of 18, according to government data. Abusive practices include marriage by abduction — as in Woineshet’s case — and forced unions between cousins.

Read more

4. And just a couple more

a.  Five humanitarian crises largely overlooked in 2015

…and the losers are:  Central America’s Hidden Displacement,  South Sudan’s refugee crisis, Central African Republic, Yemen, Global Impact of El Nino, Republic of Congo..these five received less media attention and funding than all the others…this article demonstrates tragically, yet again, that need is not enough to trigger response from those with the capacity to do so….

b.  Scant aid for low-caste villagers hit by Chennai floods in south India

And while we are speaking of the powerless, Dalit communities miss out, yet again in India….

Read more

c.  Three reasons why supporting peace is more important than ever

A very useful and pithy reminder from an expert…

TIP for those wanting more:  The Thomas Reuters Foundation site is a mine of information on Climate Change, Migration, Human Rights and Humanitarian issues.


Global Development

  • UN Targets Trillions of Dollars to Implement Sustainable Development Agenda

After more than two years of intense negotiations, the U.N.’s 193 member states have unanimously agreed on a new Sustainable Development Agenda (SDA) with 17 goals — including the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger — to be reached by 2030.

The new agenda could cost as much as 3.5 trillion to 5.0 trillion dollars per year. Ambitious, given the world current raises hundreds of billions, not trillions for its development agenda each year!   A major difference with this new Agenda is its universality. All countries are required to finance the new global development agenda – and all must work towards the achievement of the goals nationally. Financing will be through various international – privately financed – funds AND from the ‘domestic’ resources of developing countries. No new international funding is being committed.

The July Addis Ababa Financing Conference’s failure to agree a strategy for improving taxation systems is all the more disappointing when you consider the main approach of the newly announced Sustainable Development Goals the ‘2030 Agenda’.   In keeping with the Addis Ababa conference outcomes, the new SDGs will be marked by universality: ‘all countries are to take action toward sustainable development, including the rich and powerful. Developing countries will be required to raise finance for implementing key aspects of the new Agenda nationally, and so tax policy will be critical to help develop domestic resources in a way which does not exacerbate poverty. This distinguishes the new agenda from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000-2015, which were based on an explicitly donor-recipient model of aid from the rich countries to the poor.’ Click here.

  • U.N. Post-2015 Development Agenda Adopted Amidst Closed-Door Deals

This, from the Third World Network, outlines concerns about what transpired at the mammoth recent New York meeting to finalise the draft, and who really ‘won’. (The draft will be rubber stamped by the UN SDG Summit later in September)……

‘The new global development agenda has powerful potential to make an ambitious and universal dent of urgently needed progress in our economies, societies and environments. At the same time, process is also important.’

  • Rich countries provide a poor outcome at Addis Financing for Development Conference: Oxfam

Our last issue flagged the three important global development summits this year: Financing for Development (July); Sustainable Development Goals (September) and Climate Change (December). This blog gives Oxfam’s views on the first – the Financing For Development Conference held in Addis Ababa in July….

Unresolved rigged tax rules and privatized development are the major drawbacks of the UN Financing for Development Conference outcome, says Oxfam. The key disappointment for developing countries was the failure of the Conference to agree a new regulatory mechanism to build fairer tax systems – ‘vital in the fight against poverty and inequality’.

Various initiatives were agreed ‘and are welcome’, but they can never be a substitute for ‘fundamental changes to the international financial system that are needed.’

The specific outcomes of the Conference are listed at the end of this link:

SPOTLIGHT – Agenda 2030: Sustainable Development Goals – what are they anyway? A nice and brief orientation for you about the goals and, thus, the new global agenda on development…. click here.

  • New UN development goals will drive nations ‘nuts’-Indian economist

Ah yes, the devil is in the detail – this reports a scathing blast from a senior Indian economist ….He points to the obvious impracticality of Governments trying to implement (and measure the success of implementing) the Goals at country level. Click here.

Humanitarian aid

  • Aid reform: Turkeys won’t vote for Christmas

A nice summary of the debate by IRIN, the news agency of the UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA.

UN Consultations with humanitarian stakeholders in the lead up to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (May 2016) have thrown up two key priorities for changing substantially how the world does humanitarian action: localising response, and (if we are serious about this), finding new models for financing humanitarian response. Basically, a successful Summit should mean a significant move away from the traditional global top down, donor-driven humanitarian response towards on which better prioritises local priorities.

A key challenge for the sector, with its complex and competing interests, is its sheer size: international NGOs (INGOs) are now larger, more numerous and more corporate than ever before.   Oxfam’s recently-released research on the subject is entitled ‘Turning the Humanitarian System on its Head’. Worth a read.

In parallel, researchers at the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG), part of London’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI), have embarked on a two-year project entitled ‘Constructive deconstruction: rethinking the global humanitarian architecture.’

As one ODI senior researcher put it: ‘We can’t just give more money to local organisations to keep on doing things we’ve been doing all this time and expect it to work.’ Click here.

Climate Change

SPOTLIGHT: Migration and Climate Change – this link takes you to a range of useful and short articles gathers by Thomas Reuters Foundation on the issue.

SPOTLIGHT:   Women and Climate Change – fascinating, and sometimes inspiring, stories from the field – Africa and Asia – of great efforts at adaptation, by women. Click here.

  • Obama Takes Lead on Climate Change Ahead of U.N. Talks in Paris

It’s an important announcement: As set down in the final rule from Aug. 3 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CPP requires power plant owners to reduce their CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Between 2005 and 2013, carbon dioxide emissions have fallen by 15 percent, meaning the U.S. is about halfway to the target. The CPP could prove to be the green legacy of Obama’s presidency. Sara Chieffo, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), told IPS: ‘This historic plan puts in place the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants – the nation’s single largest source of the pollution fuelling climate change. Click here.

Refugees and Europe

Crushing repression of Eritrea’s citizens is driving them into migrant boats

This article was published just after over 900 refugees, mainly from Africa and Syria, died when a boat carrying them to Italy sank off Lampadusa earlier this year. It tells the not often told shocking story of Eritreans, who make up a large proportion of those arriving in Europe now, escaping their repressive and brutal government. Click here.