Thursday, 26 September 2013


The Millennium Challenge Corporation is successfully completing compacts with Lesotho, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, and Tanzania this month. The five compacts represent the largest set of countries to close in a single fiscal year at MCC, as well as MCC’s largest investments in health, infrastructure, water, and sanitation projects.
“This is a landmark in MCC’s history,” MCC CEO Daniel W. Yohannes said. “I am proud to celebrate the enormous efforts and dedicated professionalism of five MCC partner countries, whose combined efforts reveal our largest set of outcomes to date and highlight our shared commitment to deliver sustainable results that are making a measurable difference in the lives of the poor.”
The five compacts were designed to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth through targeted investments that will impact more than 12 million people over the next 20 years. Through the agency’s investments in these five countries, MCC is promoting growth across a wide range of sectors:
  • Health: MCC invested $160 million to help Basotho and Mongolian families raise healthier, more productive families. In Mongolia, MCC supported an innovative, holistic approach to reduce the incidence of non-communicable diseases and injuries. In Lesotho, MCC funded the construction or rehabilitation of the majority of the country’s health centers and the equipment and helped build the human capital needed to transform the country’s health care system.
  • Water and sanitation: In Mozambique, Lesotho and Tanzania, MCC’s investments are expanding access to water, improving distribution networks and transforming treatment methods. MCC projects improved water access for more than 600 communities in Mozambique, improved water and sanitation services for more than 250 communities in Lesotho, and increased the volume and quality of water available in two of Tanzania’s largest cities.
  • Food security: MCC invested more than $1.1 billion toward promoting food security, transforming the small-scale fisheries sector and fruit tree industry in Morocco, controlling the spread of Coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease in Mozambique and leasing pastureland to groups of herders areas and providing key infrastructure and training to improve livestock in Mongolia.
  • Education: MCC is promoting a more skilled, productive workforce that meets the demands of the private sector through $80 million of investments in literacy training in Morocco and technical and vocational education training in Mongolia.
  • Land and property rights: In Lesotho, Mongolia and Mozambique, MCC is helping citizens secure clear, defined property rights, empowering them to invest in a more productive future. In Lesotho and Mozambique, more than 122,000 households have received formalized land rights. In Mongolia, community members are benefiting from a more reliable, efficient property registry system.
  • Transportation: In Tanzania, Mozambique and Mongolia, MCC projects rehabilitated and constructed 900 kilometers of roads—the distance between Washington, D.C., and Portland, Maine—to link millions of people with improved access to markets and services like schools and hospitals, as well as reduce travel times and save fuel costs.
  • Energy: MCC invested in power systems to increase access to reliable and sustainable electricity through infrastructure, policy and regulatory reforms and institutional capacity building. In Tanzania, MCC projects constructed more than 2,000 kilometers of transmission and distribution lines and installed a 24-kilometer submarine cable between mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. In Mongolia, MCC provided subsidies for families to purchase more than 100,000 solid-fuel stoves and other energy-efficient products.
MCC also supported policy and institutional reforms that help maximize the impact and sustainability of the five compacts. In Lesotho, MCC supported the passage of landmark legislation that empowered Basotho women by removing the minority status of married women and granting spouses equal rights. In Morocco, MCC supported a new law that made wholesale fish markets more open and competitive. Tanzania passed a new law that opened the energy sector to increased private sector participation, helping to ensure the sector is more efficient and sustainable.
In December 2012, Morocco and Tanzania were selected as eligible to develop subsequent compacts with MCC. 

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


For decades, buying property in Nigeria has been a risky investment. Land records, when they existed, were paper documents manually filed in a faraway building whose employees might or might not have had the training to keep the archives straight.
Homeowners in Lagos, Nigeria take to painting "this house is not for sale" signs
on their walls to ward off fake real estate agents that try to sell homes to multiple
buyers without prior knowledge of homeowners.

Stories abounded of fake real estate agents selling homes to multiple buyers while the homeowner was on vacation — so much so that desperate owners began spray painting warnings on their property walls that read, “this house not for sale.”

Nigeria’s economy is booming, driven by oil and natural resources, but the absence of clear land laws have been undermining development, blocking access to finance, and leaving state governments without the revenues that should come from property tax.

“It’s been dysfunctional for many years,” said Nigel Edmead, a land administration specialist who serves as Thomson Reuters’s director of training and documentation. “There have been transfers of land without recording, so no one knows who the real owner is. Someone may have registered a sale in 1970 but it’s been sold 15 times since then without record of the sales. The paper-based registry has lost connection with the reality on the ground.”

In 2009, the Nigerian state of Cross River sought to clean up its land registry mess, passing land reforms that created the Cross River Geographical Information Agency, an independent entity charged with setting up digital land records and making them accessible to the public. Initial results appear good: In the first two months of 2013, the amount the government collected in land rents and fees equaled the amount it had collected in the four previous years — a sign that people trusted the new system enough to register their land. 

Nigerian officials are optimistic.

“Ultimately, the entire state — every inch and every parcel of land — will be documented and registered,” Bassey Oqua, the Cross River commissioner for special projects, predicted in an interview with Thomson Reuters.

Transparent land deals are critical to development in countries that are struggling to move out of poverty, international development experts say. Without clear and verifiable land transactions — and public access to information about sales — investment is stymied and deals are vulnerable to corruption. Those who own or use the land are often at risk of losing it to shady buyers or to large companies that are after the land’s natural resources.

Nigeria is a particularly bad case. The country ranked 180th out of 183 in a World Bank 2012 report titled, “Doing Business in a More Transparent Way,” which compared the ease of registering property in different countries, among other indicators. Others at the bottom of the list included the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Timor-Leste. According to the report, sub-Saharan African had the weakest legal institutions overseeing property rights and more complex and expensive regulatory processes for registering land.

Ensuring transparency gets all the more complicated in countries where land is communal and recognition of who owns what is mainly oral. The lack of formal land rights makes these places especially vulnerable to large-scale land acquisitions, often derided as “land grabs,” which have been on the rise in Africa and other parts of the world as investors seek cheap land for food, forestry products and resources such as ore.

In these cases, it’s critical to include local populations who lay customary claim to the land or to the resources on it, such as wood, international development experts say.

“If the details of a project aren’t disclosed, then people who have those kind of rights are going to find it exceedingly difficult to assert them,” said Darryl Vhugen, director of special initiatives at Landesa, a group that is working to expand land rights to the rural poor. “Once the tractors come and the fences are put up, it’s pretty much too late.”

The International Land Coalition, a global alliance of organizations that promote secure access to land for the poor, has developed a “land matrix” that shows how prevalent large-scale land acquisitions have been across the globe. It compiled data on 830 concluded land deals, 181 that it says investors intend to pursue, and 71 that have failed.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mike Taylor, program manager of global policy and Africa at the International Land Coalition.

So far, the matrix has logged land acquisitions for projects in tourism, infrastructure and agriculture only — not forestry or extractives, Taylor said, because the latter two often do not involve the displacement of indigenous populations. The land coalition works with partners to track acquisitions for inclusion in the matrix and welcomes input from locals in target countries, he said.

According to the matrix, the United States, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are the largest transnational investors, but the top 10 also include Saudi Arabia and China, whose investments include large-scale agriculture production for their own populations, international development experts said. The production of palm oil is another big driver of large acquisitions. Seven of top 10 target countries are located in Africa; the other three are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Argentina.

A large number of these acquisitions are domestic, driven by local elites, Taylor and other experts said. But tracking land deals at that level has proven difficult due to their relative small size and the fact that they often happen under the radar.

“What we hear is that the pressure locals feel from land grabbing is often higher from the accumulation of small deals by locals than large ones from outsiders,” Taylor said.

Get involved in mapping communal lands

One of the newest efforts to help indigenous populations retain control over their land involves the creation of a global map designating community claims, Taylor said. The project was adopted during a two-day land tenure conference in Interlaken that ended Sept. 20.

At the event, representatives from development agencies, private investors, companies and governments described efforts to map the globe’s communal lands as a concrete step toward helping indigenous communities secure customary rights in the face of large land deals.

A few countries — notably Indonesia — have already begun to draw communal boundaries. It’s a promising step toward ensuring transparency in land deals, experts agree. But the initiative is still very new.

“We don’t have a lot of data in yet,” Taylor said. “We’ll see over the coming years, this data starting to emerge.”  

Creating a global repository of communal land claims is just one measure. There are many other steps that international development organizations can do to increase transparency in land deals, experts said.

Assist governments in adopting policies that require land deals to be made public, in writing, and in local languages

Part of the problem with transparency lies in the prevalence of oral land deals, or contracts that are too short to set forth clearly the rights and responsibilities of the investor — or worse, are written in a language that indigenous populations don’t understand.

“What is the capacity of the community, if they are negotiating directly with an investor, to effectively negotiate on their own behalf?” asked Carole Excell, a senior associate with the Access Initiative at the World Resources Institute. “You have to have the knowledge to comprehend the information given to you and to negotiate effectively.”

Efforts are underway to help governments and elsewhere to create freedom of information acts, especially in Africa, where only 10 of 53 countries currently have some type of FOIA on the books.

“Freedom of information laws are really new in Africa,” Excell said.

Even in places that have such laws, information has often not been available, she said.

“We’ve been looking at whether people were getting responses or being ignored,” Excell noted. “We found that most of the agencies did not comply with the requirements to give out information.”

Work directly with governments to implement the voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure

In 2012, the U.N. Committee on World Food Security adopted voluntary guidelines for land tenure that have since been encouraged by the G-20, the U.N. General Assembly, and other international bodies.

The guidelines help make land deals more transparent by urging governments to conduct impact assessments of proposed investments in land to determine their impact on local people and land rights, experts said.

Many governments, however, lack the resources and ability to carry out such assessments.

“It’s easy to say, but not that easy to do,” Vhugen, of Landesa, said. “Most governments don’t have the capacity to do it, so helping them build this capacity is important.”

Work with private sector investors to ensure that individual and communal land tenure is recognized

Many international companies seeking to invest in the developing world try to make sure that local residents are not displaced. Sometimes they are motivated by the knowledge that their customer base is paying attention to whether cocoa or coffee, for instance, has been cultivated sustainably using fair trade practices.

At other times, they are being compelled by governmental partners. European aid leaders, for instance, have been putting pressure on their U.S. counterparts to ensure that companies participating in the New Alliance for Food Security & Nutrition are not resorting to “land grabs” that negatively affects the environment and local communities, especially women. The Food Alliance is meant to connect smallholder farmers in Africa and elsewhere to domestic and international supply chains.

Oftentimes, transparency helps companies manage risk — an issue that can affect their bottom line.

“Companies need to know if the government is trying to lease them land claimed by three communities,” said Peter Veit of WRI. “They need to know that this is a high-risk piece of land.”

Vhugen speaks periodically to private sector investors about the need to recognize customary land tenure rights, and most are not interested in displacing people, he said.

“Those people are going to try to find a way to make you fail,” Vhugen said. “So it’s about risk management considerations. Investors are quite responsive to this. So there is a lot the international development community can do.”

Help governments enforce transparency in land deals involving domestic investors

In many countries, the local elite are buying up much of the land in chunks too small to track effectively, land experts say. They generally aren’t susceptible to the kinds of risk management assessments and reputational pressures that many international corporations respond to.

In this case, development experts recommend working with the local governments to ensure that small-scale land deals also comply with laws promoting transparent land acquisitions and open registration procedures.

“Realistically, that’s probably the only way we can do it,” Vhugen said. “Nestle can find a way to ensure that a domestic sugar company complies with certain requirements. But it only works if that company relies on Nestle as a customer. Otherwise, you need the government to create a level playing field.”

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


Andrew Witty, the CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, and Justin Forsyth,
executive director of Save the Children UK, visit with women in
Wajir, Kenya.

United Nations negotiations don’t have a great reputation. Too often they’re perceived as little more than a forum for special advisers to ruthlessly horse-trade their government’s pet policies.

But while the process of UN negotiations can be challenging, we cannot underestimate the power of hard-won consensus.

Last week, for example, the UN published its annual statistics on child mortality around the world, revealing that the number of children dying every year has almost halved – down from 12 million in 1990 to 6.6 million in 2012. This historic progress can be partly attributed to the energy and focus generated by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These goals, signed into being in 2000, provided a road map for how all countries could collaborate on the future of development. That agreement, however, expires in 2015. 

As global leaders congregate in New York this week to take stock of this progress in the MDGs and to try to shape the ambition for the next 15 years, they should recognise the unprecedented opportunity that they face: Ending preventable child deaths, a goal that is now within our grasp.

But this will only be achieved by bold and decisive action from the international development community and national governments to move beyond business as usual in the global fight against poverty. This includes addressing one of the gaps in the MDGs: harnessing the power of the private sector.

Business can be a key driver of development – stimulating inclusive growth and creating decent jobs; enhancing access to essential services; developing innovations to address human and sustainable development challenges; as well as paying appropriate taxes. Improved infrastructure, a more skilled workforce and a more prosperous society also benefit business in the long-term, creating a virtuous circle.

With the private sector at the table this time round, there is the appetite to explore potentially transformative new business models, with businesses  aligning their corporate objectives with the development of products, services and value chain practices that contribute to poverty reduction and human well-being.

While the broad concept of businesses addressing social problems is not new, the setting of explicit social impact targets tied to core business is. If properly interrogated, this could be game-changing.

Creating unusual partnerships is the key to unlocking these new business models. The strategic partnership between Save the Children and GlaxoSmithKline pushes both organisations outside of our comfort zones and prompts innovative behaviours in a bid to help to save one million children’s lives.

For instance, with Save the Children sitting on GSK’s new pediatric research and development board, we expect to see the reformulation of the antiseptic chlorhexidine in a GSK mouthwash so it can be used to clean the umbilical cord stump of newborns to prevent serious infection, a major cause of newborn death in poor countries. 

Perhaps even more challenging to our existing organisational cultures and practices, there is a determination to use our combined voices to improve health care access for the poorest, through joint advocacy on the expansion of essential care.

That an NGO and a pharmaceutical company can agree to support universal health coverage within the agreement that succeeds the MDGs – the Post 2015 framework – might seem strange to some people.

But without directly addressing the potentially contentious issues, the full promise of these partnerships will not be reached. Through dialogue we are now clear that our actions should promote investment in public health services as these are cost-effective and more likely to serve the poor. 

Governments and donors may be keen to invest resources in the private sector; but this should only be contemplated where good evidence shows that it will benefit the poorest, either directly or by freeing up public resources.

We agree that the for-profit private sector has an important role in health service delivery. The development and production of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and equipment, especially when tailored to the needs of developing countries, is something for which the world relies on the private sector.

Increasingly there is interest and enthusiasm for using private sector innovations to help improve health service delivery. We recognise that a great deal of healthcare is currently provided by the private sector, whether it is the high-quality services which are usually only available to the better-off or the unofficial services that are used by the poor when public services are inadequate or non-existent.

It is a massive challenge to ensure that this capacity is of sufficient quality, well-regulated by governments and integrated into state health systems so that they can be available, equitably, to those that need healthcare most. Private sector efforts should complement, not compete with, public efforts.

Through these tough conversations about the practical role of different partners in the delivery of the post-2015 framework, we can achieve more than we could by acting alone or in silos.

Talk of public-private partnerships within the framework is not a proxy for unfettered access to new markets for untried or untested new products. The contrasting skills, expertise and purposes of partners are critical in getting the right checks and balance in place.

So when Save the Children and GSK aim to harness the latter’s R&D to produce a new low-cost nutrition product, we do so with a focus on the intended beneficiaries. We must constantly check who will profit, how the materials will be sourced, what the impact will be on the local market, and where the regulatory mechanisms or enforcement capacities that protect consumers against exploitation should sit.

While we don’t claim to have all the answers, we are trying move beyond simple commitments to a debate that tries to identify then incentivise the behaviors and practices - corporate, NGO, and governmental - which will have the greatest impact over the next 15 years.

While high level principles are crucial, this practical, rubber hits the road discussion has the potential for making one element of the complex UN negotiations tangible.