English

It’s the economy, stupid

Terry Gibson, GNDR Operations Director Terry Gibson, GNDR Operations Director
Whilst the negotiations over finance for DRR are deadlocked, Terry Gibson discovers from conversations with people at the frontline and Washington funders that an alternative might be direct finance to the frontline . . .

[by Terry Gibson | 3rd WCDRR Sendai | 17 March 2015 | Day 4]

A personal view

A comedic but also rather sad moment as someone at this conference spotted the minister from their delegation and asked how the negotiations were going. The response was 'what negotiations – isn't it all agreed?'. True but sad. The deadlock at the negotiations is driven by fear. The nations ask 'If we sign that clause how much are we up for?' Bill Clinton isn't stupid (?) and when he coined the phrase in the title he was saying that bluntly it's all about money. But how much money? Who pays? As of 1pm on Wednesday, by which the closing ceremony should have finished, the negotiations are still stalled. Time for reflection on alternatives; and someone from UNISDR who deals with civil society challenged me – 'you civil society types are good at the advocacy but what about the solutions?'

So after the string of critical blogs here's one offer of a solution. It is provoked by a long conversation with our colleague Buh Gaston who conducts GNDR Action at the Frontline programmes in Limbe, Cameroon, and by several other GNDR members who have agreed with him in saying 'can't money be provided to support the community action plans which emerge from the participative learning process at the heart of Action at the Frontline?'. It is also provoked by the words of a now Washington based, but with long field experience, donor in our Resilience meeting yesterday, who said how impressed he was from his time in Nepal and Tibet, Autonomous Region of China with the resilience of communities there. In remote and harsh environments they demonstrate tremendous ability to keep their lives going. He finished his point by saying 'they live the lives I couldn't live'. He continued to ask how his agency could resource these people, and the billions like them round the world without blowing their budget several times over. One answer, given in the side event was through small scale local finance . . . Buh's point exactly. The reference in the side event was to the well known Bangladesh micro finance initiatives.

Now having done a bit of reading and researching, one of the most striking papers I ever read, written by a guy called Joe Hanlon, is under the title 'why not just give the money to the poor?'*. He found from desk research of a couple of large scale examples of exactly that in practice it worked really well. Googling it just now I discover that more recently he's written a book with Barrientos and Hulme under the same title.

With those thoughts ringing in my head my answer to the UNISDR person who challenged me was that maybe we could strengthen resilience by providing the small scale resources –the seed funding– for communities to mobilise their action plans. I've resisted this idea because our own members say that the shackles of top down short term project funding –their lifeblood– are onerous. The projects often divert them from their own and the communities' vision for progress, and the short term reporting requirements make them often unsustainable. In reality development needs to be slow, steady, locally owned and sustainable.

So what might be needed is a Global Resllience Micro-Bank. Owned by the people who use it rather than a Washington based behemoth. Providing resources linked to the visions and action plans of local partnerships. Supporting and stimulating local action. A shared and collaborative finance programme rather than a top down initiative. Actually when I said this (or at least the outline) to the UNISDR person he paused, went quiet . . . And then said 'that might be worth a conversation'.

By the time you read this, whatever will be will be as far at the HFA negotiations are concerned and probably the provision for finance for DRR in the framework will have been reduced or removed. Nevertheless there's one answer for UNISDR and others. What about it? If you have any thoughts, suggestions, corrections, disruptions, disagreements on my proposal for a Global Resilience Micro Bank email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Here are those links. The idea in this book is different to the micro bank idea but the underlying principle of direct finance rather than money being managed through a system is similar.

  • Presentation on 'Just give the money to the poor'
  • Book: Joseph Hanlon, Armando Barrientos, David Hulme. 2010. Just Give Money to the Poor : The Development Revolution from the Global South. Boulder, CO, USA: Kumarian Press.

 

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