Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Country Ownership and Accountability: New Wine…New Bottles?

Post by Tessie San Martin - Plan International USA, CEO

As a member of the MFAN Executive Committee and the Co-Chair on their Working Group on Country Ownership, Tessie shares her thoughts on their new policy paper, The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond.

We have heard it all before. The donor-recipient paradigm of foreign aid is outdated. Foreign assistance breeds corruption (reports like this one are all too common). It is no longer the primary source of development finance - so why even bother discussing aid effectiveness? What to do? Retreating from the world is not an option for the United States. U.S. foreign assistance remains an indispensable tool - and a strong expression - of our country’s economic and national security imperatives. And we do know more than we think about how to deliver more effective foreign aid.

On April 16th, MFAN (Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network) is renewing and reinvigorating its call for reforming foreign aid with a new policy paper, The Way Forward: A Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond.

The paper focuses on what are two essential and mutually reinforcing pillars of aid reform: transparency/accountability and country ownership. Why? Not (just) because the US government endorsed the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (in which country ownership is one of five key principles) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI - in which donor countries commit to a single standard for sharing aid information to encourage ownership and coordination). Nor is it (just) because adhering to these pillars is the right thing to do. The fact is there is mounting evidence that aid, designed and delivered around these pillars, is more likely to have higher impact and deliver sustainable benefits well beyond the original time frame of the donor-funded project.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Governments cannot ignore young people’s right to education

Post by: Nigel Chapman, CEO of Plan International

Sumaya, India: ‘It is such an excellent tool to further our advocacy and strengthen the movement of young people pushing for education!

This is a reaction from one talented youth advocate to our new youth advocacy toolkit, launching on April 10th. At Plan, we are committed to working both with and for young people and children around the world. This means children and young people are central to our program design, development and implementation.

This commitment goes across all of our work, including our advocacy and campaigning. And with current rates showing that the poorest girls in sub-Saharan Africa will only achieve access to universal primary education in 2086, there is a lot of campaigning to be done.

Last year our support of “youth led” advocacy was visible through our support of the Youth Takeover of the UN on Malala Day and the many in-country activities we also ran on the same day around the world. One of these was supporting a group of young people in the development and presentation of a youth manifesto on girls’ education in Pakistan, calling for more and better investment in this area.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The U.S. Global Development Lab: Leveraging Energy, Passion and Ideas

Post by Tessie San Martin - Plan International USA, CEO

I don't have all the statistics to back this up, but it seems to me that young Americans’ interest in becoming engaged with some aspect of international development has never been higher. A record number of US universities today have some form of global development studies program.

This is great news. All this energy and passion helps keep development thinking and practice vital and dynamic. And in many ways, there has never been a better time to be in the development field. There are many new (and very different) entrants, causing great disruptions in the development field (see, for example a recent paper by FSG analyzing the shifting landscape, Ahead of the Curve). While this can be concerning if you are a traditional player in the field, it also opens up huge opportunities.

As a result, we are seeing a lot of transformation with INGOs moving beyond "old" service delivery models and investing in local capacity building and ownership. Corporates have moved well beyond philanthropy and into value chain partnerships. Universities are pushing boundaries of applied research and stretching our views on everything: from how we measure and evaluate success to how we think about appropriate technology. And the list goes on.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Haiti: Better Architects of their Own Recovery

Post by Tessie San Martin - Plan International USA, CEO

In January of 2010, Haiti experienced a 7.0 magnitude earthquake near its capital, Port-au-Prince. The figures surrounding this disaster are well documented: 3,500,000 people were affected, 220,000 people are estimated to have died, and more than 300,000 were injured. An estimated 188,383 houses were badly damaged and another 105,000 destroyed, leaving more than 1.5 million people homeless.

Poor sanitary conditions post-disaster contributed to a serious cholera outbreak some months later. Education and health services were badly disrupted; some 80% of the schools in Port-au-Prince and 60% of schools in the South and West Departments were destroyed or damaged.

Plan Volunteers construct a child-friendly space
in Croix des Bouquets immediately following the earthquake.
The country received a ton of media coverage the first several weeks. Aided by the media attention, more than $1.4 billion was raised for Haiti from US donors alone. Thousands of international organizations flocked to Haiti to help. Everyone wanted to lend a hand. But as is often the case, media and the world attention moved on to other disasters.

Haiti is moving on as well, endeavoring to transition from crisis mode. I was in Haiti last week and, though much remains to be done, it is important to recognize that much progress has been made. Almost 90% of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been relocated, often with new housing. Though localized peaks of cholera continue, especially during rainy season, Haiti reports less than 1% cholera fatalities. The majority of businesses are back to the situation prior to 2010, and new enterprises have been established since then. As the Government of Haiti says: Haiti is open for business.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

An Aversion to Reversion

Post by: Darren Saywell, Director of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Plan International USA

Last week I had the opportunity to be part of the panel for a live web chat organized by the Guardian newspaper’s Global Health Innovation Hub. The subject was sustainable sanitation. This event was one of a host of activities that gear up at this time of year as we look forward to World Water Day on March 22nd. For a water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program person in Plan, this is a busy time.

The surprise for me during the web chat was not the degree of consensus around common challenges in the WASH sector. Familiar issues like policy deadlocks; lack of effective advocacy; institutional coordination; technology; and perverse outcomes arising from financial subsidy were all discussed. The surprise was the relatively underwhelming response to the question posed to the panel about sustainability.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bright Futures in Ethiopia

Post by Tessie San Martin - Plan International USA CEO

A country's future are its children. Ethiopia, with more than 40% of its population under the age of 15, is a very young country, among the youngest in the world. As noted in an earlier blog, Ethiopia faces many challenges. But, for all the challenges, a trip to Miazia 23 school in one of Addis Ababa's subcities, tells you Ethiopia's future is very bright indeed.

At the school science fair, a student discusses
the regions of Ethiopia using a typographic map.
Miazia 23 is a public school, lacking many of the basics a U.S. school would think essential. But what the school lacks in physical resources it makes up for with imagination and sheer resourcefulness.

The school's directors are determined to enhance girls' attendance and completion, and point to a variety of mechanisms that have significantly done both, including the Girls Advisory Councils. The GACs, started with Plan's support, are made up of specially trained teachers. They deal with issues such as school violence and even subtle cultural and social traditions and pressures that can conspire to hold girls back from attending and completing school.

The school's energetic director and deputy director point out that today over 50% of the highest ranked students are girls – and girls' participation in activities like student government is today at 50%. Increased girls' attendance helps not just the girls themselves but creates a better learning environment for all students.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Celebrating the Achievements of Global Women in Management

Below is a story by Cathy Alex, president of the Advancing PNG: Women Leaders Network, which originally appeared on ExxonMobil's Perspectives. The story has been re-posted here with their permission.

For nearly a decade, ExxonMobil’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Initiative has helped women around the globe fulfill their economic potential and drive economic and social change. Tomorrow is International Women’s Day so I have asked Cathy Alex – president of the Global Women in Management Women Leaders Network in Papua New Guinea as well as a graduate of one of the programs ExxonMobil supports – to offer reflections on her experiences. ~Ken

Tomorrow, people around the world will celebrate women’s achievements. In my home country of Papua New Guinea (PNG), there has never been a more important time to highlight the progress that is being made and the important link between investing in women and strengthening community and economic development.

In 2012, I participated in the Global Women in Management program, which is administered by Plan International USA with support from the ExxonMobil Foundation.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tackling Wicked Problems in Ethiopia: Getting Girls to School

This is part two in a two part series outlining two “wicked problems”: open defecation and enabling girls to attend and stay in school. This series was written by Tessie San Martin during her recent trip to Ethiopia. Part one can be found here.

Post by Tessie San Martin - Plan International USA CEO

Getting girls to attend and stay in school is another “wicked problem” being tackled by Plan in Ethiopia. As I outlined in part one of this series, wicked problems are hard to define and are unstable. And with unstable problems come unstable solutions. But that doesn’t mean Plan isn’t hard at work tackling these problems and seeing some positive results.

In my recent visit I had an opportunity to see the work being carried out in very poor and marginalized communities that dot the periphery of Addis Ababa. Girls in the Hribet Chibo school in one of Addis's sub cities were much less likely to attend school, and even when they do attend, they are more likely to drop out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tackling Wicked Problems in Ethiopia: Open Defecation

This is part one in a two-part series outlining two “wicked problems”: open defecation and enabling girls to attend and stay in school. This series was written by Tessie San Martin during her recent trip to Ethiopia. Part two will be released on March 5, 2014.

Post by Tessie San Martin - Plan International USA CEO

Ethiopia is a country on the move. Everything you see from the time you land at the gleaming international terminal and drive into Addis Ababa tells you that things are changing. New buildings are popping up everywhere. A new railway is being built. Road construction is ubiquitous. The country's GDP growth rate (10.7% in 2012) has been among the highest in the world. If Ethiopia continues this impressive growth performance, it could reach middle income status by 2025.

But human capital development has not kept pace with the massive expansion in physical capital being undertaken today. Only 54% of the population has access to improved drinking water supply, in spite of considerable water resources in the country. Only 21% have basic sanitation services.

Ethiopia is ranked 126th out of 127 countries in the Education for All (EFA) development index (measuring things like access to primary school, literacy rates, gender parity, and education quality). Over 70% of Ethiopian women (and 58% of men) aged 15 and over are illiterate, among the lowest literacy rates in the world.

Unless basic human needs are addressed, returns on the massive physical infrastructure investments taking place today will fail to materialize. This human development is a daunting task. Building a road or a railroad is a complex problem, but the solution is identifiable and, though technically difficult, it can be worked out. Getting a community to stop open defecation, or enabling girls to attend and stay in school, is another matter.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Where's Mavie?

Post by Angela Singh, Press Officer, Plan International

On her recent trip to the Philippines, Press Officer Angela Singh heard of Mavie, a young girl who was introduced to Plan through her participation in the child-friendly spaces created after Typhoon Haiyan. With a keen interest on learning how adolescent girls with disabilities fared though the storm and its aftermath, Angela set out to find Mavie.

It’s been raining for days in Hernani, Eastern Samar, Philippines, yet the community is out in full force today. They’re excited about Plan International’s Cash for Work program, which will provide tools and a wage to community members who want to help clear the streets of debris created by Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm to ever make landfall.

With so many people milling about, I am hoping it will make my task somewhat easier. I’m here to talk to Mavie, a 16-year-old girl from Hernani. I’ve been told she lives here, somewhere; I just have to find her.

Hernani is trying to get back on its feet after Typhoon Haiyan tore it apart, yet it’s still a struggle. A stone’s throw from the beach sits the shell of the high school. All that remains are four posts and a crumbling concrete floor. Classes started on January 6, but when it rains, school’s cancelled. Again. With today’s incessant rain taunting us, it seems that’s one less place to look for Mavie.