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close this bookOvercoming Global Hunger (WB)
close this folderSession three - targeted interventions: what works best to reduce hunger
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View the documentTargeted interventions: what works best to reduce hunger
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View the documentDiscussant remarks
View the documentWorkshop spokesperson remarks
View the documentWorkshop spokesperson remarks
View the documentFloor discussion

Workshop spokesperson remarks

Christopher Dunford

An intervention can be targeted on those who need it most and also on what works best. On the one hand, we can focus on those most in need, not just the poor, but the poorest of the poor, especially women, those most vulnerable to hunger On the other hand, we can focus on those actions that are the most cost effective We have to ration scarce resources to make sure that we use them effectively for those who need them most.

The imagery of targeted intervention conjures up an image of armed police breaking down the door to round up "the usual suspects " This kind of aggressive terminology may reflect one of the basic problems of the international development community, our attitude and the way we work with the poor A better image might be a joint venture between development institutions and those most vulnerable to hunger: the poor, especially poor women and their children.

Some assumptions underlay the workshop's results. One is that poverty is a fundamental cause of hunger A second assumption is that the World Bank and other development institutions want to reduce poverty. Echoing Mr. Al-Sultan's point, let's not just talk about reducing poverty; let's talk about eliminating poverty He used the term hunger, but let's go even further. And third, perhaps most debatable, is that poverty reduction depends ultimately on long-term, broadly based economic growth that can be sustained by the Earth (a major qualifier). Given that this last assumption is true, there are still other actions by, with, and for the poor that we need to take now to create by the year 2000 a future that we can live with.

The dominant vision that emerged from yesterday's workshop is participation It has become a major theme throughout this conference for good reasons I am talking about participation by those most vulnerable to hunger (I want to emphasize that over and over again) in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs that respond to these people's special needs for empowerment of the poor, especially women This can be done through education; increased income and savings, improved nutrition and health, including family planning; and for those with access to land and natural resources, agricultural and natural resources research and extension that supports the food security of the poor, not just a focus on commodities, but on the farming systems of the poor.

Beyond the ideological and ethical reasons for encourage participation by the poor, there is a practical reason. Programs for the poor work only with the willing involvement of the poor This willingness comes only when they know that their voices are heard, that their concerns are given consideration at least equal to the concerns of the investors in or donors to programs, and that they are trusted to make decisions that control resources. Trust and control of resources are the biggest problems with participation.

Saying that we know how to foster participation is fashionable; that all that is needed is the will to do it. However, it is not that simple, especially given that we are concerned with hunger. We need participation by the poorest of the poor, who are often marginalized even from the associations in their own communities How do you invoke their participation?

I was really very pleased yesterday, at the close of our workshop, by the comments of the World Bank spokesperson: that the Bank is committed to learning and trying promising techniques for promoting participation by the poor However, the spokesperson did not mention the fact that during the last two decades the research and development for finding successful techniques has been done mainly by the NGOs. Why do major development institutions not take this experience more seriously? Speaking personally now, I think the reason relates to scale. NGOs have been very effective at encouraging the participation of the poor, even the very poor, in pilot programs that reach a few hundreds or thousands of people, but it is rare to see major-scale involvement of the poor by NGOs This is why there is so much excitement about the few large scale examples of micro credit programs, in particular, which are found especially in Asia The Grameen Bank is only the best known.

One of the things bedeviling the Bank and other major institutions is that they often simply consult people outside the institution and call it participation You know: we talked to an NGO here, or we talked to an institution there, and that is participation That is not We have to be careful to maintain the discipline of sticking to the pursuit of real participation We can't be content even to just consult NGOs that are close to the poor We have to kind ways to allow the poorest people to control at least an important part of the program or project resources.

The most general reason to pay heed to the NGOs is that they have a wealth of experience in giving the poor a voice in decisionmaking and in controlling resources. We still have much to learn. We still have a lot of experimentation to do But the NGOs are for the most part where the research and development is occurring, not in the "'puzzle palaces" of New York, Washington, Rome, Geneva, and so on.

Specifically, in support of participation, the workshop recommends three actions for the Bank and other institutions. The first is to create an enabling environment, including the legal, administrative, and policy frameworks, that is aimed at reducing hunger. The second is to delegate control of resources to the targeted groups.

The third is to provide training and technical assistance to community-based organizations

Regarding family income, the workshop participants felt strongly that the World Bank and other major institutions could do a lot to channel more resources to micro credit schemes, particularly through NGOs, which have shown an unusual capacity to manage micro credit schemes for the benefit of the very poor There should also be a concerted effort to link the poor into the mainstream financial systems at some point in the future It should not always be the case that a fund is set aside for credit for the poor. Eventually, the poor themselves can and should have direct access to the mainstream financial systems.

The workshop recognized that income is not enough A family can have adequate food, and some family members can still be malnourished.

Many health and behavior-related problems can cause malnutrition, and therefore need attention We urge the continued search for delivery systems that work best Delivery of what? Primary health care, of course, is very important; also maternal and child health care, including reproductive health and family planning, cost effective nutrition education, not just attached to health programs, but to other programs that deliver financial and education services; micronutrient supplementation schemes; and, where needed and as needed, mother and child supplemental feeding, not as temporary programs, but as programs that are always there to help those who get in trouble nutritionally.

Our final point is that even if food production is sufficient now (there has been a lot of talk about how the world has plenty of food), we have to look to the future, locally and internationally The future is threatened by environmental degradation, degradation of the very resource base that produces food and other commodities So agricultural and natural resources research and extension needs to be strengthened and focused on the commodities, crops, and farming systems (livelihood systems) of the poor.

In summary, the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U. S. Agency for Intentional Development, and other major institutions can help reduce poverty, but only to the extent that they can truly believe that the poor are their clients. The Bank, other development institutions, and governments are really supposed to be the fiduciary intermediaries between the investors and donors on the one hand, and the poor on the other. Investors and donors are there usually with the support of grassroots taxpayers of whatever countries are providing the donations or the investments These ordinary people want to see the poor helped, and it is the job of the Bank and the borrowing governments to see that that is what happens, that the poor are helped, especially to help themselves. This objective requires development institutions to act much the way commercial businesses do. Getting close to their clients or customers is the key to success. The institutions I am talking about need to be closer to their clients— the poor—not just the investors and donors the NGOs, who have made a serious commitment to getting dose, know what a fundamental transformation it requires in the way you do business We welcome the Bank's commitment and that of other institutions to fighting hunger, but we know that commitment is only credible if the Bank accepts that the participation of the poor is going to involve fundamental changes in the way it designs, implements, and evaluates programs and projects Meaningful change in this respect involves organizational pain, and therefore real leadership.

The sovereignty of nations is often given as a major reason why the Bank and other lending institutions cannot really make things happen at the national level. Well, as I've seen it, one of the most remarkable developments in the last decade or two is that only invading armies could have had more impact than the expert missions of the Bank and the International Monetary Fund. If you can get national governments to swallow the need for structural adjustment, you can get them to accept the need for the poor truly to participate in their own development. A committed Bank has an obligation to educate investors and the borrowing governments, and to take a good dose of its own medicine: internal structural adjustment Physician, heal thyself.