Saturday, December 24, 2011

Three major development challenges for the upcoming decade

By Charles Kenny, Zunia

In this series, Zunia asks experts from various fields to identify three major development challenges facing us in the upcoming decade and steps we can take to address them. We talked to Charles Kenny, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development. His current work covers topics including the demand side of development, the role of technology in quality of life improvements, and governance and anticorruption in aid.

Consolidating our gains against disease. The last ten years have seen truly spectacular progress in rolling out vaccines and other treatments to reduce deaths from killers like measles and malaria. Over the next ten years, we should continue the progress –to extinction in the case of polio and to medical irrelevance in the case of diseases like malaria and measles. Hopefully we can add AIDS to the list of diseases on retreat, too.

Progress is going to take a combination of approaches –developing more vaccines like the recent breakthrough with a vaccine against pneumococcal disease suitable for poorer countries. Rolling out vaccines and other treatments. And, perhaps in particular, working on the demand side. We need to roll out more approaches from conditional cash transfers to marketing campaigns to ensure parents get their kids vaccinated, sleeping under bednets, washing their hands and so on.

At the same time, we’re going to need to ramp up our work on the new big killers –non communicable diseases like cancer and obesity. Not least, we’ve got to reverse the global growth of smoking.

Opening borders. For fifty years, we’ve seen the slow dismantling of global barriers to the movement of goods, money and ideas. Even the recent economic crisis hasn’t led to much in the way of backsliding on open trading commitments. That’s great news. Trade in particular has been central to the global improvement of quality of life over the past half century. But there’s been one important exception to increased mobility –the permanent movement of people. It is now way easier for a Mexican cow to cross the border into the US than a Mexican human. That’s a moral travesty and huge economic opportunity wasted.

Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development suggests that “A degree of increased labor movement from poor to rich countries of just 5%… would bring more economic gains than the total elimination of every tariff, quota, and barrier to capital movement in the world.” That’s a benefit that would flow to migrants, the countries they move to, and the countries they move from. It is, as Michael puts it, a trillion dollar bill lying on the sidewalk, and it is time the world moved to pick it up.

Sustainable development. This is an issue of climate change, but it spreads far beyond that –soil, water, energy, the list of resources that we’ve got to use with greater care is a long one. This is far from an insurmountable challenge. Progress in areas like solar power suggest we can have improved qualities of life for the very poorest even while reducing humanity’s environmental footprint. The important emphasis here is that the focus should be on development that is sustainable –people living on a dollar a day shouldn’t have to pay the price for a problem created by people earning a hundred times that. But getting rich countries to do their fair share is going to be a real challenge.


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