Saturday, December 8, 2007

Beyond the Headless Heart: Accepting Complexity

I'm reading The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier. I wanted to share the following bit for two reasons.  First, I'm excited that more smart people are on board with the whole complex, systemic issue thing.  Its all well and good for me to parrot that; in fact its really important since I hope that through discussion and understanding we can put pressure on politicians to get to working on these issues the right way.  But like we need to understand that it's complicated, we also need to know what to do about it.  And that's really where professors from Oxford and the like can do their part.

The passage (and book) also contradicts one of Dr. Reckmeyer's big points.  He asserts that by assisting the developing core, like China and India first, we'll all be in a better position to assist everyone else.  Collier points out (slightly earlier in the book) that the global market is becoming too hostile for that to be a good idea.  So, we have some spark for a discussion.  

So here goes:

Beyond the Headless Heart: Accepting Complexity

The problem of the bottom billion is serious, but fixable. it is much less daunting than the dramatic problems that were overcome in the twentieth century; disease, fascism, and communism. But like most serious problems, it is complicated. Change is going to have to come from within the societies of the bottom billion, but our own policies could make these efforts more likely to succeed, and so more likely to be undertaken.

We will need a range of policy instruments to encourage the countries of the bottom billion to take steps toward change. To date we have used these instruments badly, so there is a considerable scope for improvement. The main challenge is not that these policy tools span various government agencies, which are not always inclined to cooperate. Traditionally, the development as been assigned to aid agencies, which are low in almost every government's pecking order. The U.S. Department of Defense is not going to take advice from that country's Agency for International Development. The British Department of Trade and Industry is not going to listen to the Department for International Development. To make a development policy coherent will require what is termed a "whole-of-government" approach. To get this degree of coordination requires heads of government to focus on the problem. And because success depends on more than just what the United States or any other nation does on its own, it will require joint action across major governments.

The only forum where heads of the major governments routinely meet is the G8. Addressing the problem of the bottom billion is an ideal topic for the G8, but it means using the full range of available policies and so going beyond the Gleneagles agenda of 2005, which was a pledge to double aid programs. Africa is already back on the G8 meeting in Germany. "Africa+" should rightly stay on the G8 agenda until the bottom billion are decisively freed from the development traps. This book sends out an agenda for the G8 that would be effective (pp. 12-13).


Greg said...

Keep fighting the good fight Liz Fleshman!

Liz said...

Thanks for the comment and the support Greg!

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