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Posts By Charles Cadwell


Bio: A lawyer with 30 years' work experience in economic reform, deregulation, research oversight, and non-profit leadership in the US and in developing countries, Cadwell joined the Urban Institute (UI) in May 2007. His work targets governance reform, aid effectiveness, and integrating research and policy reform. From 1990-2006 Mr. Cadwell was Director of the IRIS Center in the Department of Economics at the University of Maryland, College Park. IRIS conducted research on economic development and reform in developing countries and worked with reform leaders in more than 70 countries to understand and improve governance and economic policies. Mr. Cadwell worked with IRIS founder, Professor Mancur Olson, to launch and build the IRIS center. Following Olson's death in 1998, the University made Mr. Cadwell Principal Investigator at the IRIS Center. Throughout his career Mr. Cadwell has assembled teams of economists, lawyers, and others to advance the understanding of how institutions of property rights and contract enforcement contribute to economic growth, and the nature of the incentives of various forms of government to produce these and other market-augmenting public goods. He has overseen teams working in dozens of countries to develop the research capability of local institutions, analyze policy options, and advance specific reforms. Mr. Cadwell's work has included assistance in the development of civil codes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and regulatory simplification, decentralization, and local government reform in places such as Egypt, Indonesia, Nepal, Romania, and Russia. In Bangladesh he worked on reforms in both the district courts and the Supreme Court that increased accountability and transparency of judicial actions. For the European Commission he developed benchmarks of commercial legal reform in six Arab states with which the EU has trade agreements. At IRIS he launched the IRIS Index research program on institutions and growth. Cadwell is a graduate of Yale College (1973) and the National Law Center at The George Washington University (1977). He has worked in the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the Office of Advocacy at the US Small Business Administration and in private law practice.
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The continued decline of North Korea demonstrates why Inclusive Politics must be part of the next round of Millennium Development Goals

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: May 20th, 2013

 

 

nKorea_NASA

There’s been a lot of talk about North Korea in the news cycle of late, but little of it relates to the most prominent humanitarian crises occurring within its borders.

In 2000, all 193 U.N. member states, including North Korea, agreed to meet eight human development goals by 2015, including:

  • Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
  • Achieving universal primary education,
  • Promoting gender equality and empowering women,
  • Improving maternal health,
  • Reducing child mortality rates,
  • Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases,
  • Ensuring environmental sustainability,
  • Developing a global partnership for development.

Since these “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs) were adopted, some 600 million people worldwide have escaped abject poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.25 a day.

But as the contrast of North Korea and its neighbor China show us, this progress has been lopsided.

Most of the global reduction in extreme poverty comes from the dramatic growth in China, India, and a few other countries.

On the other hand, in North Korea, with the loss of markets in the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the communist world, per capita income fell by 50 percent, life expectancy has declined by at least five years, and child and maternal mortality has increased. On top of that, one-third of North Korea’s population faces food shortage.

Proving the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, the famous nighttime satellite image of the Korean peninsula tells the same story.

So while North Korea’s missiles may be a threat to the millions living in South Korea, its own government policies threaten the lives of its 12 million citizens who live in extreme poverty, and the one-third of its children who are stunted by malnourishment.

And, of course, these measures do not account for the burden North Korea’s human rights record imposes on its people. The surest sign of this political and social oppression is perhaps the flagging rates of productivity and innovation.

So as the 2015 date for achieving the MDGs approaches, and as the international community begins considering new goals for improving the human condition, North Korea’s case highlights a broader gap in the current MDG roadmap and a topic that needs to be part of the framework going forward.

While North Korea’s declining living conditions can be visibly and unarguably connected to its politics, there are plenty of other countries where government policies—more so than geography, climate, colonial history, or natural resources—are the main impediment to meeting the MDGs or any new set of targets.

North Korea provides a clear illustration of a vital component missing from the original MDGs: inclusive political institutions are essential to sustained growth.

It is therefore somewhat refreshing that concepts generating buzz in the discussions of post-2015 development goals are an “inclusive future” and “inclusive growth.”

Precise definitions for these concepts are a work in progress, but they generally hone in on the development community’s concerns about growing inequality and the lack of shared benefits resulting from post-2000 development.

It is hard to be against “inclusive growth,” especially in an era of increasing income and wealth inequality. But it is hard to agree on how this can be achieved. In meetings organized by the United Nations and other international institutions, people with various interests and perspectives on how poverty should be eliminated are weighing in.

In their 2012 book “Why Nations Fail,” academics Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson theorize that inclusive economic policies are only sustained in places with inclusive politics.

“Inclusive politics,” as general a concept as it is, is at least more specific than “inclusive growth,” and targets political processes and structures that sustain a polarizing status quo in many places.

This is an advance on the simple-minded ideas that led to past fads in goal-setting, such as “participatory development,” in which excluded groups were invited into discussions of development projects and programs.

These efforts were not wrong, but they never confronted the growth-killing political climates of the countries in question.

Now, as we go about setting new post 2015 targets, we have the opportunity to integrate politics into the thinking and activities of the development/anti-poverty community.

Activists and policymakers serious about making headway would do well to revisit Mancur Olson’s Power and Prosperity, which anticipated the vital nature of politics when it comes to progress.

Olson explained that market-augmenting institutions provided by a capable, but democratically constrained state are the necessary other invisible hand.

I doubt the North Koreans would have agreed to the UN’s 2000 MDG commitment if it had listed “inclusive politics” amongst the goals. But if we’re serious about “inclusive growth,” we should include these goals in the 2015 batch and be clear what we mean, even at the risk of having fewer members of the General Assembly sign up.

Nighttime view of the Korean Peninsula from NASA

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Serbia-Kosovo Agree to Normalize Relations, Now to “Normalize” Society

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: April 22nd, 2013

 

 

shutterstock_17035723

The prime ministers of Kosovo and of Serbia initialed an agreement Friday to normalize relations between their two countries. This accomplishment—at the last hour and under the careful and forceful leadership of the EU’s Catherine Ashton—does not, by itself, reconcile the long-standing enmity between neighbors in Kosovo, a territory now recognized by 90 countries as a nation. The devil is in the implementation details yet to be worked out.

Hashim Thaci of Kosovo and Ivica Dacic of Serbia have each made a calculation that balances domestic political pressures from radical elements against the need to secure the economic and political benefits of more open trade with the EU and others, greater investor confidence, and wider opportunities for citizens. The frozen conflict left behind by the Athisaari Plan of 2006 has thawed a little as a special level of autonomy from Pristina has been agreed for the Serb-majority area of Kosovo, but most pointedly for the area north of the Ibar River. Until now, this territory has been outside the effective control of the Kosovo government, and only loosely policed by NATO-KFOR troops.

Reports of the agreement are that the laws of Kosovo will apply in the North. There is successful precedent for this. Six other Serb-majority municipalities in Kosovo already have been working under the laws of Kosovo since 2008 and have formed effective and democratic local governments. They cooperate with their neighboring Albanian-majority municipalities in areas such as water distribution and solid waste management. They deliver most services to their citizens. Unlike the isolated communities in the North, they have been “getting on with getting on.”

The fifteen points of agreement reached on Friday just scratch the surface of needed implementation details, but two aspects are especially important: elections to be held ion 2013 in the communities north of the Ibar River, and the integration of police in northern Kosovo into the Kosovo Police Service.

The existing Serb-majority municipalities in southern Kosovo have already made these transitions. Serbs there voted and elected local governments in 2009, under Kosovo laws. The governing coalition in the current Kosovo government includes an ethnic Serb party. Also, Kosovo police operate in these communities, providing security that is increasingly professional. The same can be true in northern Kosovo, given both time and patience.

The Challenges to “Normalizing” Society

For all that the weekend’s news is worth celebrating, the road ahead will be challenging. Plenty of people have benefited from the lawlessness and conflict in northern Kosovo. Criminals who are smuggling fuel (or weapons) have found northern Kosovo’s lightly governed regions a safe place to do business. These criminals represent interests unlikely to welcome a return to order.

Separately, some officials have been drawing two salaries: one from the government of Kosovo and one from the government in Belgrade, both governments staking claims to the region. Though these officials represent a more orderly aspect of life in the North, they are not likely to think well of “normalization,” with its attendant pay cuts.

To date, key public services such as health care, water, and education have been provided in northern Kosovo (however poorly) by parallel structures elected outside Kosovo laws and oversight and funded by Belgrade. This structure evolved under the umbrella of the aging UN Resolution from which Kosovo emerged from war. This mishmash of authorities has fostered isolation and exclusion from the progress made in the Serb-majority areas of the rest of Kosovo.

Indeed, isolation, exclusion, and a weak governing structure have made room for criminal behavior. Serb firms based in the North routinely use violence to intimidate competitors and these “business practices” are often reported (incorrectly) as incidents of Albanian-Serb tension. Smugglers bring goods across the poorly controlled border with Serbia, avoiding customs duties and costing taxpayers in both nations hundreds of thousands of Euros each year.

The agreement represents an important step forward in relations in the Balkans, but it will not overnight solve critical issues of governance and rule of law. It is not simply that Serbs in the North have to learn to trust new institutions governed by Kosovo laws. They must also be protected from continued predatory or rent-seeking institutions that have filled the governing and commercial gaps left open by the status quo.

This agreement opens the path for Serbia—and eventually Kosovo—to begin discussions about joining the European Union. This process ought to be accompanied by close attention to, and measurement of, their cooperation in restoring law and order in the North, creating space for modern state institutions to supplant solely ethnic or criminal social bonds.

The Urban Institute has been working with local governments in Kosovo since 2009 and with the recently established Mitrovica North Administrative Office since 2012, under contract with USAID. However, the views here do not reflect the views of the Urban Institute or of USAID.

Parliament image from Shutterstock

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International Women's Day: Flowers or Powers?

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: March 12th, 2013

DEMI women's caucus

A women's caucus in Kosovo, organizing data and government action around women's needs and issues. Photo by Urban Institute staff.

Last week’s celebration of International Women’s Day produced the usual should-be-embarrassing photos of a Russian leader surrounded by uncomfortable looking women holding bundles of flowers. In the Washington Post’s coverage, it is hard to tell who looks more uncomfortable: Vladimir Putin or the textile workers arranged around him. The headline explains: “Russian women get flowers, not power.”

While it is easy to pick on Russia for the incongruity of such a celebration in the face of male dominance of government and business (there is apparently only one woman in a Cabinet position), the headline could be rewritten to name many other countries. The new country of Kosovo, where the Urban Institute is working with 25 local governments, comes to mind.

Supported by an array of bilateral and multilateral assistance since the end of the war in 1999, Kosovo has a full set of laws and policies to promote greater roles for women in society. A quota for female participation in national and local assemblies is set at 30 percent. Indeed in 2011 Kosovo elected a woman, Atifete Jahjaga, to be president. But for most women in Kosovo, reality lags far, far behind.

Unemployment for women is over 60 percent; labor force participation is a third that of men. Women own only 6.5 percent of businesses, and those businesses are half the size of businesses owned by their male counterparts. Illiteracy among women is three times higher than among men.

But in municipalities across Kosovo change is in the air. Women elected to municipal assemblies are organizing and asserting a greater role, altering the direction of local policy and services (see photo above).

Taking advantage of the 30 percent quota, which extends to local assemblies too, women have formed 15 caucuses—informal groups that cut across party lines—in both Serb- and Albanian-majority communities. A regional grouping has formed as well, combining women from both ethnic groups.  In several local assemblies, women hold more seats than the 30 percent quota; for example, women hold 45 percent of seats in the municipality of Ranilug.

Why is this important? The caucuses are pressing local governments to mainstream gender issues, not leaving them to be “celebrated” one day a year. This is done by separating data by gender, enabling local governments to track services important to women. For the first time, local policymakers are tuning in to the gender impact of arrangements related to education, health, domestic violence, property ownership, and employment. Even when these issues are not wholly within the span of local control, the existence of data is fueling more effective advocacy.

In some municipalities, the push has forced local assemblies to open up key committees on policy and budget to participation by women members.  As the regional caucuses extend their efforts, comparative data on the role of women in different municipalities will be readily available.

If, as some expect, new elections are called as early as September, women in Kosovo will be able to vote with specifics on the performance of their local officials in view. This political empowerment is an outcome of work by many, many women—and men—in Kosovo whose efforts can, if continued, assure that future International Women’s Day celebrations are more deserving of flowers.

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What Will "Our Turn to Eat" Mean the Day After the Kenyan Elections?

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: March 4th, 2013

All eyes are on Kenya today as some 14 million citizens are expected to vote for an array of candidates for president and other offices. The world hopes to avoid a repeat of the post-election violence in late 2007 and early 2008 that killed some 1,500 people and created as many as 600,000 refugees, a trauma that lingers even five years later. Indeed, one candidate and his running mate are under indictment at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for their role in the 2008 violence. Nonetheless, at a rally last weekend, six presidential candidates held hands and committed to accept the results of the vote. While there are reports of scattered pre-election violence, most observers do not expect a repeat of the last cycle’s mayhem.

In this circumstance, it’s easy to lose sight of the dramatic changes in Kenya’s political and governmental structure that take place tomorrow. These elections launch an entirely new constitutional arrangement for Kenya:

  • Forty-seven new subnational political units—called counties—come into existence March 5. They assume responsibility for a wide range of government functions, from health care to roads and water to agriculture. Over 280 existing districts have been organized into these new state entities.
  • Forty-seven new, directly elected governors for these counties will take office March 5.
  • Forty-seven new County Assemblies are being elected, to serve as checks and balances on the county Governors.
  • Also elected for the first time are members of a new Senate, elected from the counties to represent them in the national legislature.

These dramatic changes stem from constitutional reforms agreed by the parties after the 2007 election violence, but also in response to long-standing concerns about the legitimacy and effectiveness of the top-down national government. The slogan that accompanied the changes was “Our turn to eat.”

Ready or Not…

Hopes are high for the newly restructured government. Candidates for the governorships are promising dramatic improvements in health care, economic circumstances, and more.

But will the hundreds of newly elected officials perform any better than their predecessors? Will decentralization and constitutional reform produce better outcomes for the average Kenyan citizen?

The answer is a big unknown. There are a host of technical issues inherent in setting up new government entities, including the smooth transfer of responsibility and authority, and the equitable assignment of resources. A November 2012 World Bank survey of the situation analyzes masterfully the challenges facing Kenya’s new regional leaders, describing the fiscal and administrative tasks required to implement the constitutional changes. Its title, “Devolution without Disruption,” may have been a road map when the report was issued; but on election day, given the slow pace of actual preparation for the transfer of functions and funding streams, its title may be more a prayer than a road map.

Kenya’s Transitional Authority is charged with seeing this transformation through over the next two years, but its preparations have lacked much detail. Hundreds of questions remain. In many counties there is no physical place for the new governors to sit tomorrow. It’s not clear whether a governor can hire new staff. What happens to old staff who sat in provincial and district offices? What budget does the new governor operate with? What budget must be planned before the next fiscal year starts in July? By whom? Will decentralization improve services? Or will the disruption inherent in the administrative changes lead to a decline in health services, water reliability, road safety, and more? Given the incomplete preparation for the transformation, it is hard to see how services can be maintained at even their current levels.

But there are even greater political unknowns. Will the new County Governors become mini-presidents acting with impunity in their counties, disinclined to reduce the corruption that pervades all levels of government? Or will the new County Assemblies truly be able to act as a check on business-as-usual in the administration of the public’s business in Kenya?

One possible explanation that political skeptics offer for the low level of preparation is that a failure of decentralization will give national stakeholders an excuse to reclaim the powers they are losing, undoing the 2010 reforms. Regardless, Kenyans and those who care about Kenya’s success have a huge stake in the effective implementation of the devolution that starts at midnight. This involves two challenges: establishing the capability and effectiveness of the new government entities—assuring that they can function and perform their new responsibilities; and establishing constraints that will keep new leaders focused on their own performance and assure citizens that the new order is serving all.

Moving Forward?

The seeming paradox that the new government entities need to be supported in developing their capacity to govern, and at the same time need to be constrained to not abuse that capacity, is the essential challenge in the new era. There are experts aplenty to help with the capacity-building agenda, both in Kenya and outside. However, the success of the transformation requires more. The legitimacy of the new government units and the devolution effort require immediate work on democratic constraints as well. Here are some steps that Kenyan experts and outsiders, such as the donor community, can support right away, even as they assist the new administrative units in their basic functionality:

  • Support the new county assemblies with basic operating rules, processes, and templates for budget preparation and approval, and oversight functions.
  • Support an inter-county information exchange so the new county assemblies can learn from each other—about budgeting, about oversight, about performance metrics. This exchange needs to be current and publicly accessible, so all Kenyans can consider the evolving forms of democratic accountability.
  • Support an independent research institute or university center to track county performance and prepare reports and analyses for the public. The 1968 establishment of the Urban Institute in the United States is an example of a similar effort at a time of crisis here.
  • Support passage of a national Freedom of Information law so the principle of transparent functioning of government is established and implemented.

Kenyans voting today participate in an important experiment in devolved, more accountable government. If violence is restrained and the results are honored by the candidates and their parties, then the much harder job begins. Standing up new government bodies is essential, but so too is assuring their public legitimacy—so that all Kenyans, not just the new county executives, have “our turn to eat.”

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United in Distrust of Government

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: October 28th, 2011

Americans suffer “deep distrust” of government according to last week’s New York Times/CBS News poll results.  Fully 89 percent don’t trust government to do the right thing, and 74% think the country is on the wrong track. Three quarters of us don’t think Congress will do anything about our high unemployment rate either.  For the small minority of yea-sayers, numbers as overwhelming as these have to prompt self-doubt.  And the malaise is not confined to the Federal government — local bodies from town councils to library boards are under suspicion too.

But what can be done to redress this distrust?  Perhaps there are lessons to be had from places where there are many more reasons to distrust government than we have here.  Take Pakistan.  In 2008, we surveyed 4000 Pakistanis on their satisfaction with government services.  Half reported having to pay bribes to get health care. Half didn’t send their children to public school because the schools weren’t good enough (and only 10% send their kids to private school instead).  Only a fifth of urban Pakistanis had covered sewers in their neighborhood and only 2 percent of rural residents did.  Americans might react by saying “Now there’s something to complain about!”   And as low as satisfaction was with local government, it was greater than satisfaction with higher levels of government.

Local Pakistani governments, accountable mainly to distant provincial officials, collect local fees and taxes only intermittently and have few mechanisms for building trust of citizens.  Looking at under- performing schools in the Northwest Frontier Province (now called “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province”), we found more than 200 performance measures  routinely supplied to Provincial officials but seldom used to manage schools. We identified 219 under-performing schools and worked with local school officials to engage parents on school performance. Parent groups each picked four of the official benchmarks to monitor locally. Just one year later, only 29 of the original 219 schools were still sub-par.  No extra funds were spent, no teachers were fired, and nobody leaned heavily on foreign expertise in school administration.  Instead, a simple local exchange of expectations about future outcomes, reinforced with monitoring, changed outcomes and began to inculcate trust. Interestingly, many parent groups chose to monitor school measures that affected girls’ attendance-- reliable electricity and toilets, a wall around the schoolyard.  The reward for attending to these non-pedagogic inputs was that fewer students failed to advance.

While ours was not a rigorous experiment, it suggests that if citizens home in on what government can actually do with the resources it has, they can spur trust-reinforcing outcomes – even in a difficult environment where citizens lack much formal voice in their communities.

If happiness is not confined to rich countries (Happy peasants and miserable millionaires?), then it seems also that unhappiness is not confined to poor ones. Our Pakistan anecdote certainly validates the development aid community’s current thinking that a greater voice in their own affairs makes citizens value government services more and — through greater accountability — raises service levels (albeit in ways we don’t exactly understand yet). Couldn’t the same be true here?

Soon, the US National League of Cities (NLC) might be able to tell us.  The NLC is showcasing local leaders who are successfully addressing the “growing disconnect between citizens and government. “ Using lessons from around the US, but also from Brazil and elsewhere (including Pakistan, we’d like to recommend!)  the NLC is offering its members tools for giving citizens more voice in how  government funds are spent — ways to move beyond heated rhetoric to action.

These modest initiatives by some municipal leaders won’t end the broader political discontent that seems to baffle our national leaders, but they do show that there’s more than hand-wringing that can be done – in Peshawar or in Paducah.

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Intolerance and Local Government?

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: September 27th, 2011

New conflict between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo last week was restrained by international troops. The new government of the largely Albanian (Muslim) country was trying to put its own customs agents at border crossings with Serbia, located in the  northern Kosovo region still populated mainly by Serbs (non-Muslim) and never under the new regime’s control.

Border Crossing at Jarinje, Kosovo | Photo by FoNet

I was there, and what impressed me was not the convoy of NATO troops or the helicopters, or even the intense international press coverage of events in the tiny Serb town of North Mitrovica (pop. 20,000). No, what surprised me was the way that so many Albanians and Serbs took the brouhaha in stride,  treating the controversy as an inconvenient reminder of old conflict but mainly the affair of a small cadre of extremists motivated either by nationalist politics within neighboring Serbia or by the criminal opportunities  in lawless northern Kosovo.

A day later, visiting another Serb-majority municipality in southern Kosovo that isn’t a border town, I found a Serb mayor too busy to respond to phone calls from Belgrade to rise in solidarity with Serb brothers barricading the roads in northern Kosovo. Instead, this Serb mayor was worrying about how to collect garbage fees and how to get his municipal assembly to cooperate in budgeting. Indeed, my visit’s purpose was to celebrate the installation of interpretation equipment in the municipal assembly room so that Serbs and Albanians could work together more effectively. Nearby, another Serb mayor is working with the largest local employer, an Albanian spa owner, to create local jobs and improve local infrastructure to attract more tourists.

None of this diminishes the danger in the not-so-frozen conflict in Kosovo. Weapons and hotheads abound, and conflict here would ripple into other Balkan corners and further slow Serbia’s accession to the European Union, heightening tensions in Bosnia, Macedonia and southern Serbia.  But the normalcy and practicality of so much of what local Kosovo leaders—whether Albanian or Serb—are doing bears watching and emulating.   Getting on with governing, solving problems rather than using them to wage some larger culture war seems to be the predominant goal.  Kosovars so appreciate US help in creating space for this end to their civil war that they have renamed a main avenue in Pristina after President Clinton.

In the United States, unfortunately, intense local opposition to the construction of mosques at Ground Zero in Manhattan or Murfreesboro Tennessee may be seen as signs of increasing religious intolerance here. Given the press coverage of these events you could understandably worry that here in the US we are headed in some opposite direction from Kosovo, blind to the very visible costs of religiously intolerant government.  I took heart reading a recent Pew Research Center report showing that local US communities, like those in Kosovo, are largely more tolerant than some national political opportunists would prefer.  Pew assembled details of 37 mosque- construction controversies in the US over the past three years.  More than 60% have been resolved, allowing the mosque to be built.  Twenty percent were not built – and the fate of others remains undecided. Meanwhile, we have 700 more mosques in the US today than a decade ago, presumably built without controversy. So, despite the heated national rhetoric on these issues, Americans are overwhelmingly tolerant of an increasingly visible faith.

Tip O’Neil’s bromide that “all politics are local” seems under assault as political opportunists in Kosovo and the US try to impose their national agendas on local communities, stoking fears and passions on issues far from the everyday needs of citizens and the values of most communities.  Let’s not deny real tensions, but, as my trip to Kosovo confirmed for me, let’s also go beneath the surface of apparent tension and look at what people are actually doing – in Kosovo or in the US. Some suggestions:

-          In communities experiencing racial, ethnic, or religious diversity for the first time, civic leaders should invest real time (and money) in activities that encourage interaction, communication, and understanding.  “Community building” activities appropriate to the circumstance - block parties, cultural festivals, and inter-denominational religious ceremonies in some cases – or simply community clean up or small public works projects in others - can help people practice tolerance rather than fearing it.

-          Since ethnic conflict and intolerance can so divide a community and deter needed job-supporting investment, the authors of business climate indices or quality of life indices ought to consider measures of ethnic and religious comity.

-          The processes by which ethnic antagonists reconcile and cooperate are not well understood or integrated into development thinking. Integrating insights from psychology, anthropology and political science we can surely have better advice for villages in post-genocide Rwanda or those in rapidly changing peri-urban spaces of the world’s fastest growing cities.

-          When there are examples of evidently successful tolerance of change, we need to understand how those individuals in that context came to achieve cooperation when history is so full of examples of failure.

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Urbanization's Infrastructure Demands at Home and Abroad

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: June 21st, 2011

Jakarta: Eleven time zones' distance gives a different perspective on America’s infrastructure needs. Doubtless, aging American urban areas and demographic changes greatly challenge policymakers looking down the road: In the current political environment can support be mustered to invest in roads, water and sanitation, solid waste, environment and public facilities? Do sharp differences among America’s regions in rates of growth and urbanization undermine necessary consensus on urban fiscal and social policy? The list of questions is longer, but viewed from Jakarta this week, the challenges in the US seem manageable.

Jakarta, with a population of 9.5 million (27 million in the greater metropolitan area) has grown 3.6% per year for the past decade, about double the overall Indonesian population growth rate.  By 2025, Jakarta will join the list of megacities, with the center city population reaching 10.8 million, according to a 2010 UN report. This next spurt will make Jakarta larger than Moscow and put it on a par with Paris.  The proliferation of gleaming office towers that stretch in all directions from downtown is but one measure of dramatic growth.

As you might expect, any prospects for continued growth will require dramatic new investment in infrastructure. Gleaming new toll-ways are already clogged, electricity supply, though much more reliable than in the countryside, is reportedly inconsistent.  Corruption in public procurement dominates local and national headlines, keeping the national Anti-Corruption Commission more than busy. Financing infrastructure in the years ahead will require both public and private investment, though investors are understandably wary of a policy environment still dominated by money politics, opaque regulatory processes, and slowing reform momentum.

Jakarta is not at outlier. While rich countries’  urban population  will grow by some 90 million by 2025, urban population in the least developed parts of the world will increase ten times as much – by more than a billion people – so there will be more than 3 times as many urbanites in poor countries as in rich. While Jakarta and other megacities visibly exemplify this change, fully half of the urban population increase will be in cities smaller than 500,000 – already weakly supported with such urban amenities as roads, water, etc.

The fiscal and policy requirements, if infrastructure is to keep pace with this growth, put the political and economic development of poor countries in sharp relief.  As paralyzed as America’s national and state politics may seem, here in Indonesia it is even more difficult to  reach political consensus on crucial policies, and then even harder to  implement them.  High-profile corruption convictions have not yet altered the norm in governance. Decentralization has not uniformly increased accountability. Although Indonesia has made great democratic progress since 1998, elections in 2014 will center on the personality of candidates from largely indistinguishable parties, on sensational corruption cases,  and —like in the US – on jobs.

For me this signals the need for an additional sort of needed infrastructure investment in Indonesia: that supporting better policy analysis, data collection and research on both infrastructure needs and political and decision-making processes that currently constrain more informed national debate on issues vital to continued growth of this wonderful archipelago so rich and diverse in human and other resources.

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Post-Departum Depression
The Hard Work Begins in Egypt: Go Local

Author: Charles Cadwell

| Posted: March 21st, 2011

Free and fair elections in Egypt, when they are held, will help legitimate a new regime. But elections alone won’t reform huge ossified ministries that pervade every corner of Egyptian life. While old Ministers are gone, the generals now in charge aren’t necessarily prepared to start reforming bureaucratic life.  The regime of state-owned and state-connected companies that make up Egypt’s formal private sector operate in league with top-down ministries beholden not to citizens but to the status quo.  Such bankrupt public administration helped spark the revolution and acts as a drag on any new democracy. And there is no court-supervised restructuring process for this sort of bankruptcy.

Egypt_protests

Yet, needed pluralism can be jump-started if Egypt empowers local governance entrepreneurs. Such fundamental issues as elections, civilian-military relationships, and food prices will rightly preoccupy new national leaders.  But changes at the top don’t transform the way the bureaucracy responds to citizens’ everyday needs.  Will streets be safer and cleaner? Will building permits be issued more quickly? Roads contracts issued more transparently?  Courts become more efficient or market inspectors less predatory? Experience elsewhere doesn’t point to examples of such rapid change of deeply ingrained government culture. So we can expect, amid only slow improvements, post-Mubarek disappointment for many hoping for an immediate democracy dividend.

Egypt needs an army of policy and administrative entrepreneurs, but under Mubarek, innovators weren’t rewarded. Indeed, some were jailed! To give social entrepreneurs the political space they need, the country would do well to devolve some responsibility and resources to provincial or local governments ASAP and to introduce some highly visible performance measures.  A quickly launched demonstration program need be neither complicated nor lengthy.  Egypt, and well-wishing partners outside, could target some concrete accomplishments—such as trash pickup or school repair, road maintenance or street lighting—that would open the doors for many potential leaders.  Quick wins on this front can buy time for longer term achievements—important since job creation will take time and suspicion of military over-bearing will ebb only slowly, election by election.

Perhaps sensing rumblings of change, the Mubarek regime had plans to move toward devolved governance. But too late for that! As my colleague Jamie Boex suggests, giving local district-level councils immediate access to unconditional grants makes sense while gradually ceding local leaders power over the central ministries’ branch offices.  True, these elected councils are currently stacked with members of the former ruling party (NDP), but most likely their loyalty was as brittle as the now-fallen regime’s—especially with the prospect of local elections looming.   As for any fear that devolution might lead regions to break away, national identity is strong across Egypt’s map.

Handing local leaders real resources and responsibility would almost immediately make local branches of the bureaucracy more accountable to local customers. It would give emerging public entrepreneurs tools and visibility.  International donors could provide resources and expertise alongside local think tanks that can work with local citizens on independent performance measurement.  A good starting point would build on the idea motivating local performance “observatories” like those another colleague, Ritu Nayyar-Stone, worked on in Egypt last year to measure local service delivery.

Putting local officials and their citizens in the driver’s seat quickly can empower new democrats throughout Egypt.  Sure, a few local governments may stumble, but that’s the cost of the political experiments known as democracy. Many others, maybe most others, will flourish.

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