2009: Volume 40
This IDS Bulletin reflects, as the first in the 40th anniversary volume, on some of the core areas of research and policy advocacy that are central to IDS’ work: inequalities, poverty, power, social protection, transformational education, HIV/AIDS, gender and climate change. It is also forward-looking, discussing emerging work on the future of our children. The issue explores the question of intergenerational transmissions and whether and how states, societies, development actors and parents are building the conditions under which children can imagine and realise better futures.
The concept of IGTs could convey path dependence, but they are not necessarily negative or uni-directional; and children can be vibrant agents of social change. Articles discuss how patterns of poverty, inequalities, violence and other such problems for development are transmitted across generations, as well as the conditions under which children exercise ‘agency’. There is no assumption that agency is inherent and automatic; the authors agree that agency is also cultivated. Neither is there an assumption that agency is innately productive; rather, the articles illustrate its complexity in differing contexts.
They show how the power relations that emerge within certain environments influence children’s perceptions. Policymakers must do more to recognise the relational and subjective dimensions to vulnerabilities, poverty and inequalities in multiple dimensions; transformative approaches can provide a more comprehensive policy framework. This requires self-reflection on the part of development actors and the genuine inclusion of children, who should not be regarded as mere objects of policy but as persons capable of making purposive, productive choices and translating these into actions.
2008: Volume 39
Even the most devoted believers in the neoliberal paradigm will have had their convictions shaken recently, as the world’s markets have played havoc with their faith. For those who have long questioned the purported benefits of neoliberal economic policies and highlighted their injurious consequences, it comes as little surprise that this 'grab-bag of ideas' is in freefall.
The focus of this IDS Bulletin is particularly apposite at a time when much-cherished axioms are being re-inspected and where new possibilities and directions are so badly needed. Contributors add to a growing, vibrant debate about Gender and Development. This issue arises from a conference held at IDS in July 2007 in collaboration with Birkbeck College, under the Pathways of Women's Empowerment Research Programme Consortium, where participants reflected on the relationship between feminisms and neoliberalism, in the context of international development.
What emerges from many of these articles is a sense of unease with the extent to which G&D discourses have lent themselves to appropriation – and with what stories they tell about women and their assumed relationships with men and with each other. Revisioning feminist engagement calls for reflexivity, repositioning and canny appraisal of what it takes to make change happen. Challenging and transforming existing power relations involves empowerment and resistance, which may run directly counter to the neoliberal model. To reclaim agency and empowerment we need to reaffirm their liberating dimensions, reasserting their association with forms of collective action that involve possibilities of social transformation. The debates thrown up by this diverse and stimulating collection suggest that this process has already begun.
Across the hardest-hit countries of sub-Saharan Africa the HIV/AIDS epidemic is causing immense distress and impoverishment to children. In this region alone, some 12 million are estimated to have lost one or both parents to the disease, but this headline figure misrepresents and understates the magnitude of the problem.
The challenge for policy is not to reach 12 million individual children needing assistance, but to design policies and interventions that address the diverse needs of a range of poor and vulnerable children in societies affected by AIDS - a far more ambitious task.
The articles in this IDS Bulletin discuss the complexity of HIV epidemics and their impacts on children, as well as the importance of factoring in the role of such children in the dynamics of the epidemic itself.
Themes covered are: poverty is the backdrop but not the driver of the epidemic; inequities by age, gender, geographical origin and economic status mark vulnerabilities and create circumstances where transmission can flare; it is important to define 'family' within local contexts to avoid misunderstandings; the majority of children of concern are aged 11 and older (not the younger children who tend to excite western compassion); the fundamental rationale for responding is that children have rights; migrants tend to fall between the cracks; and diversity of circumstances must be acknowledged.
The combination of policy case studies and comparative quantitative political science analysis draws important conclusions about how to make policy work, from inception to implementation.
Climate change gets attention across the world. IPCC findings call for radical limits to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations responsible for human-induced climate change. Achieving an international agreement, particularly under the UNFCCC, on emissions targets, burden sharing, trading mechanisms and technological and financial assistance remains a high priority concern for the 'mitigation' of climate change.
Simultaneously, there is a growing acknowledgement of the need to enable human and natural systems to adjust to actual or expected climate stimuli or their effects, a process known as 'adaptation'. Adaptation is now a central strand of climate policy, thanks to the increasing engagement of the development community, particularly through emphasising the differentiated nature of impacts across the world and within societies. Adaptation is framed as an equity and rights issue. The central message of this IDS Bulletin is that adaptation will be ineffective and inequitable if it fails to learn from and build upon an understanding of the multi-dimensional and differentiated nature of poverty and vulnerability.
Abortion has become an ever more controversial issue, provoking strong reactions both 'for' and 'against'. Language used in disputes over whether or not women should have access to safe and legal abortion indicates just how polarised debates have become: pro-choice versus pro-life; pro-abortion versus anti-choice.
As the anti-abortion agenda has become coupled with other conservative agendas, such as pro-abstinence, pro-chastity and anti-contraception, an increasingly assertive movement has evolved. The extension of these conservative forces to parts of the world where thousands of women die every year because they were unable to access safe abortion and protect themselves from HIV infection, has turned this polarised dispute into an urgent development issue.
Articles in this IDS Bulletin are unequivocal on the issues at stake: access to safe abortion is a matter of human rights, democracy and public health, and the denial of such access is a major cause of death and impairment, with significant costs to development. All contributors share a commitment to a woman's right to have access to safe, affordable services for the termination of pregnancy for the widest range of reasons.
They bring perspectives from a range of contexts: countries where abortion is not guaranteed, or only under restrictive conditions, and countries where it is guaranteed but there are strong movements of counterattack. Profound inequities of access globally and nationally are highlighted, and the importance of movements to address this. Contributors focus on policy reform and lessons learned from struggles to obtain or retain access to safe abortion services. They reflect on strategies contributing to successful outcomes or more constructive dialogue in countries where abortion is being debated.