2009: Volume 40
Two previously independent debates in international circles are now coming closer together: development (poverty reduction, economic progress, etc) and human rights (violations of rights and refugee protection). Totally separate during the 1950s-1980s, moving in parallel in different issue networks and communities with different publications, conferences, organisations or departments, they are increasingly found together for both substantive and tactical reasons.
The same can be said for the themes that stimulated the research programme whose results are being presented in this IDS Bulletin: decentralisation, local government, participation and governance on the one hand, and poverty and inequality on the other. It has been assumed that as societies get better at being broader and open so services improve and things will get better for those in poverty. However, the two themes have followed their own routes and it is only now, with concerns about accountability and transparency, that the two have bumped into each other.
The current study is a continuation of previous work by LogoLink, that advances understanding of the changing roles of social actors and their strategies in promoting local democratic environments that contribute to reducing poverty and exclusion. It draws on specially commissioned studies that look at two central dimensions: key actors, processes/strategies and the relationship between them. At a global level, the rationale for this research draws on discussions with donors and international actors about the impacts of participation on poverty reduction and social inclusion and where there is a general consensus that top-down development policymaking and implementation has fallen short of addressing the needs of the poor.
'Economic powerhouse and nutritional weakling' – how does India move away from this Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde existence? This is the focus of the authors in this IDS Bulletin, nearly all of whom are Indian or India-based. The Bulletin first reviews child nutrition in India: what is going up and what is going down, and for whom and where? As we will see while the direction of change is far from clear, movement is sluggish.
We then ask why economic growth is not doing more to reduce undernutrition. We know that income and nutrition are not always tightly wedded, but are at least related. In India, they seem to be ships passing in the night. Why is this? The articles conclude that it is a rather toxic mix of incentives than prioritise the delivery of social inputs over outputs and practices that exclude large groups of individuals, including women and girls, from access to quality services.
There are many studies of violence within specific fields of the social sciences, but the next stage in our evolving understanding of violence may lie with interdisciplinary approaches. By traversing traditional academic categories, violence as a variable may become more visible in its multiple modes. It is through our ability to see the linkages between interpersonal, cultural, collective, political, state, interstate and structural violences that we can gain a better understanding of its persistence in human interactions.
Researchers for this Bulletin set out not only to understand contemporary dynamics of violence, but also to work with people trapped in violent places, spaces and histories who were willing to talk about and act upon their situation. Researching violence in an interactive way with those living in the thick of it posed many ethical, safety, epistemological and methodological challenges. These are documented in the Bulletin alongside findings on the dimensions and impact of violence in different contexts.
Wide gaps have opened between a vision of a prosperous and secure post-Cold War world and the realities of violent conflict and chronic poverty experienced by much of the world’s population. These gaps reflect failures of understanding, conflicts of interest, resource constraints, and poor implementation.
Security, like development, is seen as something the North delivers through its policy interventions and aid programmes, rather than as the product of changes in the developing South, reflecting the priorities and interests of those most at risk.
This IDS Bulletin aims to redress this imbalance. Re-thinking security demands innovative yet rigorous empirical analysis of the sources of insecurity in a world divided by profound inequality and ongoing conflict. It should identify spaces existing for change to empower and protect those most at risk. In a first step towards such an analysis, contributors re-think security from the point of view of the most vulnerable, excluded and insecure. Security (and peace) is a global as well as a national public good, with large externalities and diffuse benefits.
This IDS Bulletin provides inspiring examples of how active citizens, civil society groups, media and social movements have mobilised to challenge accepted definitions of security and to work for the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed. But the issue remains of how such efforts can be aggregated to construct an embryonic global public able to ensure security is truly treated as a public good, rather than managed as if it were an asset of powerful states and global capital.