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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, January 28, 2006

After the tsunami: Lessons from reconstruction

Sunday Times: 22/01/2006"

Indonesia and Sri Lanka faced the monumental task of rebuilding once their immediate needs were met. Their experience could help other countries respond to disasters, say Paul McMahon, Thomas Nyheim and Adam Schwarz from the consulting firm, McKinsey.

Rescue and relief were the immediate priorities in the weeks that followed the tsunami, but the governments of both countries soon had to face the Herculean task of reconstruction. The challenges were immense. How could Indonesia and Sri Lanka quickly yet effectively meet the needs of communities destroyed by the tsunami? How were they to coordinate the hundreds of local and international aid organizations that had come forward to help? And how could they ensure the efficient, transparent, and corruption-free disbursement of the generously donated funds?

Each of the two governments had reason to doubt its ability to use the new funds and assistance effectively. Neither country had a governance mechanism to coordinate the diverse range of agencies, donors, ministries, communities, and other constituents or the organizational structure and staff to oversee the endeavour. To address these difficulties, each nation independently formed a new agency to plan, coordinate, and administer the rebuilding effort. Indonesia created the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias (BRR), Sri Lanka the Task Force to Rebuild the Nation (TAFREN).

McKinsey provided pro bono assistance to both. Although it's too early to judge definitively, the initial efforts of BRR and TAFREN may offer useful lessons to other governments that must manage reconstruction programs and coordinate a multitude of donor agencies and organizations.

The scale of destruction caused by the 2004 tsunami was vast: in addition to 167,000 deaths across both countries, the economic effects were devastating. At least 360,000 jobs were lost in Indonesia and 275,000 in Sri Lanka, and the physical infrastructure along the affected coastlines was destroyed. The international community, however, rose to the occasion: just over $7 billion has been committed to Indonesia and about $2.6 billion to Sri Lanka. In addition, private companies and donor agencies have not only provided technical experts and senior managers to carry out projects alongside local community leaders but also generously donated equipment and much-needed materials.

Coordinating these different entities posed its own problems. In Indonesia, 124 international NGOs, 430 local NGOs, 30 national or multilateral donors, and more than a dozen UN agencies are involved. In Sri Lanka, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation accounted for more than three-quarters of all aid before the disaster—a share that has dropped to about one-quarter amid the influx of new donations. In addition, many government departments at the district, provincial, and central level play an active part in both countries. Nine government agencies and ministries in Sri Lanka are involved in issues related to job creation and vocational training for the victims.

Deep-rooted political unrest at the centres of the hardest-hit areas further complicated the relief and reconstruction efforts. Indonesia's 30-year insurgency by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has claimed almost 15,000 lives. Sri Lanka is a divided country, with the LTTE (or Tamil Tigers) controlling the northeast region and a shaky cease-fire in place. Furthermore, reconstruction needs were spread across wide areas, and the tsunami largely destroyed the existing rudimentary communications infrastructure. Just knowing who was doing what, and where, was difficult.

Finally, a long-term reconstruction differs significantly from the provision of immediate post-disaster rescue and relief. While speed remains important, proper planning becomes even more crucial. Putting up temporary housing is relatively fast and easy, but rebuilding a viable and vibrant community is not. Critics complained loudly, especially in the early months, that little infrastructure was being rebuilt and that beyond the removal of the debris there was scant evidence of progress on the ground. Behind the scenes, however, plans to coordinate a sustainable reconstruction program were well under way.

At the core of these plans was the creation of BRR in Indonesia and TAFREN in Sri Lanka. Their respective governments charged them with addressing the needs and priorities of local communities and with helping hundreds of local and foreign organizations to minimize any gaps in reconstruction and to avoid overlapping efforts. Further, the agencies were seen as the front-line defense against the corruption and cronyism that many feared would siphon away aid money and hinder reconstruction efforts.

Initial findings
The tsunami's first anniversary allows us to examine the progress of these agencies and to draw some interim conclusions about the successes and pitfalls so far. These insights reflect not only the achievements but also the disappointments. No one would claim that reconstruction in either country has been entirely smooth or that BRR and TAFREN have been entirely successful. Post-disaster reconstruction is a long-term exercise, and the conclusions described here, arranged in three broad categories, present findings that will evolve as the programs progress.

Role and mission
The immediate challenge for the reconstruction agencies was to define their own roles amid the clamour of numerous stakeholders, all trying to influence the recovery effort. At first, established government agencies and ministries in each country, unsure of their own roles in the recovery effort, resisted the directives of BRR and TAFREN. Clearly, when creating new agencies, top political leaders must follow through with a public show of support and grant them sufficient authority to prevent other stakeholders from undermining them. In general, the ground rules, including the roles of established government agencies, must be very clear.

Rather than directly implementing the myriad public and private operations needed for reconstruction, BRR and TAFREN were to act as "servant leaders." Their respective governments charged them with coordinating and facilitating the activities of all government departments, NGOs, and other donors. The agencies also see to it that the needs and wishes of local communities guide the reconstruction programs; in Indonesia, for instance, BRR makes sure that a project has community support before approving it. Furthermore, both agencies monitor the progress of reconstruction and ascertain that information about projects is publicly available. Since the agencies are to exist only as long as they are needed, their respective governments also instructed them to retain minimal facilities and staff, to use existing resources wherever possible, and (after three to five years) to transfer their functions to local government agencies.

Governments can help by setting their sights high. The top priority in the immediate response to a disaster must always be to ameliorate suffering and rebuild communities, but large-scale calamities also provide opportunities to improve the societies and economies of the affected regions. To "build back better" should be an essential mission of reconstruction agencies—as it is for both BRR and TAFREN—and of the officials now pondering the reconstruction of New Orleans and of Kashmir's damaged communities.

BRR's experience shows how tragedy can be turned into opportunity. A core element of the agency's mission is to apply modern and transparent management principles to the reconstruction process, since transparency is critical for the effective coordination of the broader effort. If successful—and the signs are encouraging—these principles would not only benefit the areas directly affected by the disaster but also provide a model of public-sector reform for the rest of Indonesia.. To give another example, the Jakarta authorities and the secessionist Free Aceh Movement responded to the tsunami first with a cease-fire and then by negotiating a comprehensive peace agreement that appears more likely to hold than earlier attempts. And in Sri Lanka, TAFREN persuaded international donors to finance a general upgrade of the road network by arguing that the project would stimulate commerce and bring jobs.

Finally, the agency's mission should transcend political changes. Indeed, the recent presidential election in Sri Lanka cast some uncertainty on the future of TAFREN; observers expect its core structure and mission to remain intact, however. To survive as long as necessary, an agency should avoid being linked too strongly to individual politicians or political interests, apply a transparent and merit-based hiring system, and embrace the servant-leader role in working with other government agencies.

Design the organization
Major infrastructure projects such as ports or provincial roads are best planned and executed at the national level, but most reconstruction activities involve rebuilding villages and towns and so are by nature local. The organizational structure of a reconstruction agency must therefore reflect the distributed nature of the activities it coordinates. Too much top-down, centralized authority is likely to impede reconstruction.

In practice, the right approach involves creating local structures and deputizing local officials to make decisions and help coordinate the different agencies responsible for implementing the reconstruction effort. Any problems should be tackled locally before they are pushed up to the next level. TAFREN now has 11 district representatives working with local administrators to convene sector working groups, set targets, monitor results, and remove bottlenecks. In Indonesia, BRR set up 10 regional offices across Aceh to handle similar tasks.

Diversity of staff—that is, a healthy mix of public- and private-sector personnel—is also essential. Public-sector officials can provide insights into the workings of government and important experience in dealing with other departments but must be motivated and adaptable. People who have worked in the private sector can offer a powerful injection of project-management and performance-oriented skills, although they may not be familiar with the idiosyncrasies of a country's bureaucracy. In Sri Lanka, TAFREN defined target profiles for most of its staff and then hired some 15 people from both the public and private sectors by advertising the jobs and setting pay scales high enough to attract applicants from either of them. In Indonesia, BRR hired 24 (mostly foreign) technical advisers from donors, NGOs, and the private sector.

Since reconstruction agencies coordinate the efforts of others, they risk becoming just another layer of bureaucracy. An effective operational approach balances thoughtful planning with speedy decision making and can help such agencies avoid this pitfal. They should focus on six main activities suggested by the experience of BRR and TAFREN.

Planning and policy making
One core role of the agency is helping to create an integrated reconstruction blueprint as a guide for donors and to coordinate the program's implementation by other organizations. This document should outline the requirements of the reconstruction across sectors and districts as well as its overall objectives and guidelines. A good blueprint can eliminate complexity and save time in the long run.

At the outset the agency, in conjunction with relevant government departments should help to develop spatial plans—for example, specifying the location of roads, ports, power plants, and other major new elements of infrastructure. The blueprint should also provide minimum technical and process standards that donors and NGOs must follow. Technical standards could include such things as the minimum size of classrooms and hospital wards or quality guidelines for construction materials.

Process standards are important as well. In Indonesia, agencies that worked with local villages first had to use an established mapping process to reach agreements on land boundaries and titles and then developed a basic plan for the location of homes, roads, and public buildings. Although these efforts can be frustrating and time consuming, they are essential in gaining community support for the long-term reconstruction program and also help to prevent complications later. Similarly, the agency should work with donors to define policies for distributing cash grants, set eligibility criteria, and establish disbursement methods.

Reviewing, generating, and approving projects -- given the diversity of donor agencies and their innumerable projects, the reconstruction agency must review and approve proposals with an eye to eliminating redundancies and filling gaps. When turning down duplicate projects, a reconstruction agency can encourage donors to address particular needs or to help cash-poor agencies find resources for their projects.

Even though many individual donors will resist efforts to coordinate the donor community, the reconstruction agency must insist on their cooperation if it is to fulfill its core role. The scores of fiercely independent donor organizations cannot be relied on to coordinate themselves while they grapple with conflicting agendas, unclear authority, and inadequate information. While some donors and NGOs in Aceh and Sri Lanka grumbled, most came to value strong leadership based on deep knowledge of the situation and of the needs of the affected communities. Reconstruction agencies shouldn't hesitate to tell an international organization where its resources are most needed. They should also respond quickly if commitments aren't met or reconstruction policies are disregarded. Everyone benefits if low performers are identified and then improved or replaced.

Building local capacity -- local governments in Aceh and Sri Lanka were ill equipped to take on the massive challenges of a multibillion-dollar reconstruction effort involving a wide range of national and international actors. The reconstruction agencies provided skilled advisers, training, technology, funds, and planning tools to help local authorities improve their ability to coordinate and to make decisions. Similarly, vocational-training programs to improve skills in the private sector were crucial in rehabilitating the economic base of affected communities.

A reconstruction agency must identify and remove project-delaying bottlenecks—in many cases, simply by cutting through red tape. In the early stages of Aceh's recovery, for example, many tons of reconstruction supplies got stuck in customs in Indonesia's port of Medan. Senior BRR leaders and central-government politicians visited it to release the supplies. A reconstruction agency should develop a simple process for cataloguing bottlenecks, allocating responsibility, taking action to solve issues, and tracking results.

After a disaster, information is the most valuable and often the most elusive asset. An agency must build an IT system to help gather information accurately and quickly from donors and affected communities; TAFREN, for example, has adapted a standard, publicly accessible Web-based system for collecting, tracking, and analyzing data and for planning. To get stakeholders to report their activities and needs, the agency must offer both positive incentives (demonstrating the value of a reliable, integrated database to catalog reconstruction needs and donor activities, for example) and negative ones (such as linking approval for projects to reporting requirements). By matching information from donors on how projects are progressing with feedback from a community on its remaining needs, reconstruction agencies can better align supply and demand and allocate resources more efficiently while monitoring the reconstruction effort's overall progress.
Such systems do exist and can be leveraged throughout the world.

Information flows
Finally, the agency must liberally share the information it has gathered about the reconstruction effort with stakeholders of every variety—the better to increase efficiency and confidence. These stakeholders include implementing agencies, which must be informed of standards and policies; international donors, whose continued commitment depends on how efficiently their contributions are used; people in local communities, to whom a mass-communication campaign can convey rights and responsibilities as well as progress updates; and the public at large, whose fears of corruption or mismanagement in reconstruction programs will be assuaged by the transparency of the agency's overall operations.

Beyond the agency
The experiences of BRR and TAFREN suggest the features a reconstruction agency needs to coordinate a rebuilding effort effectively. Yet even if the agency does everything right, certain external conditions must be in place if it is to complete its missio. Many different stakeholders should be partners in the reconstruction effort, which will only be successful if all participants play their proper roles. The central government must give authority and support to the reconstruction agency and help it overcome bureaucratic obstacles.

The authors of this article -- Paul McMahon (Aceh) is a consultant in McKinsey's New York office, Thomas Nyheim (Sri Lanka) is a consultant in the Oslo office, and Adam Schwarz (Aceh) is a consultant in the Singapore office.

National and multilateral organizations must be open to its guidance and accelerate their decision-making procedures. NGOs should participate fully in the government's coordination and information processes and adhere to the highest standards. And the private sector must explore ways to turn its skills and resources into real contributions on the ground.

Indonesia and Sri Lanka have responded admirably to the enormous challenges posed by one of the greatest natural disasters of modern times. The coordinating mechanisms put in place through the respective national reconstruction agencies of the two countries are already providing useful lessons for future post-disaster responses in developing and developed countries alike.

The authors of this article -- Paul McMahon (Aceh) is a consultant in McKinsey's New York office, Thomas Nyheim (Sri Lanka) is a consultant in the Oslo office, and Adam Schwarz (Aceh) is a consultant in the Singapore office.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

The tsunami legacy: One year on... where is the relief?


WORKING PEOPLE around the world gave generously in order to support the victims of the 2004 tsunami - well before their respective governments began to release their statements of sympathy.

Senan, CWI, London
Oxfam, for example, raised more than £160 million of which more than 90% of the donations came from ordinary people. Within one week, 35,000 people logged into the website of CAFOD (Catholic Agencies for Overseas Development) to donate money. More than £300 million was raised in the UK alone.

Overall, $2.95 billion of relief was promised to Sri Lankan tsunami victims. But still tsunami victims are on the streets begging. Where has this money gone? Why have only just under 1,000 houses been built in Sri Lanka out of more than 50,000 houses damaged by the wave? What happened to more than 2,000 containers out of 5,000 that arrived at Sri Lankan ports? This riddle is not a difficult one to solve.

Soon after the tsunami there were about 500 NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) that landed in Sri Lanka. With their share of tsunami money, each organisation claimed to be doing relief work. It is enough to look at some NGOs' operations to get an overall picture of what was happening to the tsunami money and why the victims are still suffering.

They began work by buying brand new vehicles, mainly imported from India. Not only did they have to pay large sums for these brand new vehicles but also they had to pay import tax on them. For example Oxfam paid more than one million rupees in import tax to the Sri Lankan government.

The administration costs of these NGOs sometimes exceed what is spent on their aid work. For example, the cost of sending a bottle of water to Sri Lanka exceeds the cost of a bottle of water itself.

The CCF (Christian Charity Fund) on the other hand has been giving loans to certain chosen small businessmen and established middle class people. In order to secure the repayment of the loan with interest they chose their 'customers' from 'reliable' individuals and organisations, and they were not always tsunami victims.

Citigroup, also operating in the country, has actively increased its customer base among small businesses and wealthy individuals. Their programmes of 'microfinance' and 'microcredit' are expanding at high speed.

Many tsunami victims who have lost all their belongings will not qualify for these loans which bear a market interest rate. Citigroup published reports listing the number of farmers and fisherman who can qualify for the loans, of which the majority are not tsunami victims but locals with existing business interests.

The United Nations lists Citigroup along with the World Bank and Deutsche Bank as an organisation that provides relief. However, it also points out that: "Microcredit programmes are not always the answer. If individuals lack the means to repay loans, they can be left in a situation that is worse than before. For those lacking income or the means to repay a loan, other types of assistance, such as grants, employment, training programmes and shelter may be more suitable."

The United Nations (UN) has recently accepted George Bush's appointment of former US presidents, Bill Clinton and Bush senior, as Tsunami envoys. Immediately after the appointment, Clinton started to employ his former colleagues. To the horror of UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Clinton has started to create his own power base in the United Nations.

Ditched promises
In total, out of the allocation of $2.95 billion, funds from NGOs stand at about $853 million. So what happened to the rest of the pledge?

In the UK, the Disaster Emergencies Committee (DEC) - an umbrella group representing major charities - has raised about £300 million. Prime minister, Tony Blair, promised the British public that his government would match the generosity of the public. On a BBC radio programme at the time, Blair boasted: "My estimate is that we will need to spend from government funds several hundred million pounds. So we will far and away more than match the generosity of the British people."

On 12 December 2005 The Times reported that the prime minister had ditched his promise. There was a new government announcement that the payment was only £250 million. On breaking down the figures, The Times report also revealed that only £75 million of that actually went on humanitarian relief efforts.

It is the same story with other so-called donor countries, provoking Oxfam to publish a 'name and shame' table of countries that are failing to meet their pledges. But not delivering their pledges is not stopping these countries controlling and deciding where and when this tsunami money is going. For example, the US withheld its funds from Sri Lanka straight after a court in the country ruled against the government's P-TOMS (Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure) agreement with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam).

They also try to manipulate the fund-receiving countries to implement neo-liberal capitalist policies and carry out privatisation. Millions of workers donated this money unconditionally to better the victims' lives. Their generosity has been misused and their interests misrepresented by their respective governments.

Part of the funds raised for tsunami victims in Sri Lanka have reached the country but never got any further than the pockets of the politicians and their cronies. The Sri Lankan executive director of 'Transparency International', J.C Weliamuna, announced publicly that: "Tsunami funds have been used for party political purposes and new houses given to people with political affiliations who were not affected by the Tsunami."

The ruling United People's Front Alliance (UPFA) government and its some time ally, the Sinhala chauvinist JVP (People's Liberation Front) have been releasing relief only in those areas where they have political support.

The JVP wants to exclude the minority Tamils from tsunami relief. The new president Mahinda Rajapaksa made a pact with the JVP that they will not deliver tsunami relief to those victims who live in the areas controlled by the LTTE.

The distribution of aid is the secret of their victory in the recent presidential election. In Matara, in particular, in contrast to the very close final result nationally, the UPFA candidate, supported by the JVP, got nearly 62% of the votes and the opposition United National Party got less than 37%.

In the election, the USP (United Socialist Party, CWI Sri Lanka) came third in almost all the areas but Matara was an exception. The USP came fourth there! In that district widespread corruption is reported in the recent Sri Lankan Auditor General's report. It is the same story in Kalmunai and Tangalai in the Ampara district on the east coast.

In Negombo, on the West coast, there were 600 victims of the tsunami yet nearly 7.6 million rupees were distributed to 15,843 families! The Auditor General's report lists widespread mismanagement of tsunami funds by the government and NGO authorities. It also points out that locally raised money is in a fixed-rate deposit account of a handful of organisations just accruing interest.

This is what is happening to the tsunami money. While tsunami money is being played with in the hands of a few, the real victims are left with the horror and devastation of the tsunami. More than 100,000 people affected by the tsunami may have been able to drive the memories of the big wave out of their brains, but they are still being tormented by the tsunami of their corrupt government's neglect of their needs and the hypocrisy and economic exploitation of imperialism.

Organised international working class struggle is the only way to fight such oppression on a mass scale.

Translation of article written in Tamil for the CWI website http://www.socialistworld.net/

Campaign Sri Lanka
'Campaign Sri Lanka' raised thousands of pounds internationally from CWI sections, trade unions and individual supporters.

Some of this money was used to directly assist the tsunami victims, e.g. providing school books, bags, shoes, kitchen utensils, medical supplies and bicycles.

But the main role was to help to re-establish trade unions and to assist the tsunami victims in their protests and struggles to get justice from the government. Many see the corruption and hypocrisy of capitalism and imperialism.

A number of issues of a special tsunami paper - Tsunami People's Voice - have been printed in both Sinhala and Tamil languages. Many people have told CWI members in Sri Lanka (United Socialist Party) that the CWI is the only organisation campaigning for them.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sri Lanka sets goals for achieving excellence in education

Daily Mirror: 18/01/2006"

“Developing excellent education institutions that will enable Sri Lanka to achieve high levels of human development and national income, and distribute the benefits of economic progress more equitably to rural, estate and poor urban areas“, is the objective of a new and innovative Education Sector Development Grant. This USD 60 million project is the largest grant ever given by the World Bank to Sri Lanka, and will help the Government to implement a five year Education Sector Development Program, from 2006-2010, to improve all schools in the country.

Sri Lanka has attained the first generation education objective of providing widespread access to primary education (grades 1-5), with net primary school completion of over 95 percent among both boys and girls. The Government of Sri Lanka is seeking to meet the second and third generation challenges of extending the compulsory education period to basic education (grades 1-9), and developing high quality schools in all areas of the country. To achieve this aim, the Government has prepared a comprehensive Education Sector Development Framework and Program for the period 2006-2010, covering both basic education (grades 1-9) and secondary education (grades 10-13). This program was developed through a widespread process of public consultation led by the National Education Commission, followed by all schools in the country preparing five year development plans according to guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education. The central Ministry of Education and the Provincial Ministries of Education prepared policy reforms and development strategies to complement the school plans. The combination of national and provincial education development policies and school development plans provide a promising foundation to construct a high quality education system in the future.

One major challenge that the country has to overcome is the moderate level of learning achievement. Only 37 percent of primary school students achieve mastery of their mother tongue, Sinhalese or Tamil. This is a serious constraint to further learning, as all subsequent study will draw on the child’s mother tongue capability. Mathematical knowledge is also moderate, with only 38% of students achieving the prescribed level of mastery. English language skills, which are critically important for the country’s future economic prospects, are low, with just 10 percent of students achieving mastery. There are also high regional disparities in learning outcomes between urban and rural areas. In the first language, 51 percent of urban children achieve mastery in contrast to just 34 percent in rural areas. Similarly, in mathematics, 52 percent of urban students attain mastery, while in rural areas only 35 percent of students achieve mastery. The contrast between urban and rural areas is especially sharp in English language skills, where 23 percent urban students achieve mastery, but a mere 7 percent of rural children achieve mastery. The Government framework to address the key policy challenges of the education system is organized according to four themes:

Theme 1. Increasing equitable access to basic and secondary education. Under this theme the network of good quality schools will expand to rural and estate regions to increase equity of access to the full school curriculum, especially science, English and technology subjects. In addition, special education programs for children with special learning needs, such as visual impairment, hearing impairment, behavioral problems, multiple disabilities, learning disabilities and epilepsy, will be strengthened. And non-formal education programs will be developed to provide non school-going adolescents opportunities to acquire skills relevant for the labor market.

Theme 2. Improving the Quality of Education. Under this theme, there are three key components. (i) Curriculum re-structuring and upgrading to introduce a curriculum approach that better reflects modern international trends, effectively disseminate curriculum goals to stakeholders and orient the education system more strongly to the world of work. (ii) Teacher development to enhance teacher motivation, skills and performance. A key feature of teacher development will be a system of regular and continuing on-site school based support to teachers. (iii) Modernizing examinations and testing to develop the examination system that reflects modern concepts and ideas in assessment and testing. In particular, the ESDFP will use the examination system as the lever to promote the acquisition of higher-order transferable skills among school children.

Theme 3. Enhancing the Economic Efficiency and Equity of Resource Allocation. Under this theme, too, there are three strategic initiatives. (i) Establishing a medium-term budget framework for education to facilitate multi-year planning, implementation and monitoring at the national and provincial levels of the education system. (ii) Preparing an overarching education sector development plan, for the period 2006-2010, to provide a comprehensive framework to expand and improve the education system in the country. (iii) Establishing a public expenditure and quality education tracking system (PEQETS) to promote equity and transparency in resource distribution by tracing the flow of expenditures to, and through, the various levels of the central and provincial education system, down to schools.

Theme 4. Strengthening Education Governance and Service Delivery. Under this theme, too, there are three key, innovative initiatives. (i) Establishing a balanced control model of school based management, the Program for School Improvement to empower principals and teachers and enable schools to forge links with local communities to give stakeholders, greater voice in the affairs of the school. (ii) Organizational analysis and capacity building to identify capacity gaps and design a capacity building program. (iii) Implement a human resource development strategy to provide high quality skills for the education system.

The World Bank Education Sector Development Grant will support the entire program of the Government. An innovative funding mechanism will be used for World Bank assistance. There will be no project implementation unit. Instead, funds will be provided directly through the budgets of the national and provincial Ministries of Education. The volume of funds flowing to the country and to individual provinces will be linked to performance, with greater funds allocated to better performers.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Post-Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction - World Bank Report

The world bank report, Post-Tsunami Recovery and Reconstruction, aims at providing an objective joint assesment of post-Tsunami reconstruction interventions and the way forward. A team comprising 20 government institutions, 20 bilateral and multinational organizations and 18 national and international organizations have jointly contributed to the report. During October 2005, more than 100 representatives from each of these organizations met and prepaired detailed summaries on four sectors and seven thematic areas.
Download the full report

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Independent evaluation of the DEC tsunami crisis response

ReliefWeb - Document Preview - South Asia: Source: Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) , Date: 31 Dec 2005

This report focuses on issues for the DEC. It is based on visits by the evaluation team to Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Somalia and desk studies of the response in Maldives, Myanmar and Thailand. Evaluators were supported by local consultants and by community surveys conducted for the evaluation by the Disaster Mitigation Institute based in India. Following usual DEC practice, the primary measure of assessment is the Red Cross Code. This is a precise set of standards, signed up to by all DEC members; by using the standards, personal judgment by the evaluators can be kept to a minimum. The process of the evaluation has been limited to an extent by the end date set by the DEC but is considered satisfactory at least in relation to the four countries visited.
Full report (pdf* format - 135 KB)

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Beg No More!

Daily News: 16/01/2006" Global Miscellany by M.V. Muhsin

"When I suggested that we will have a credit scheme for beggars, people thought I was crazy." That was Grameen Bank's Muhammad Yunus talking when I met him in Bonn, in 2004. He was being honoured at an international forum for his visionary leadership.

At that time there were some 10,000 beggars registered in Bangladesh with the Grameen Programme. Yunus predicted that registration will double at the year end. He was wrong! Today there are over 50,000 registered with "The Struggling (Beggar) Members Programme"!!

His critics scoffed at him with equal, if not more, vehemence when he proposed two decades ago that a formal bank be formed, owned by poor borrowers, mostly by women. 'A Bank for the Poor!? Credit for poor women?!! It was a revolting idea at that time. What was more revolting was that the Bank will not require any guarantees nor pledging of assets nor legal instruments.

Today there are over four million members, 95 per cent women. The system, as with that for Beggars, works on peer pressure where it is in the interest of other participating members, who operate in small groups, to ensure that each of them, and all together, behave in a responsible manner. The participants know that default on the part of one impacts all others.

My interest today is in "The Struggling (Beggar) Members Programme" as it can serve as a role model to help an often helpless segment of our societies. Their domain is the streets, car parks, bus stands, markets, places of worship and the like. Their staple is the emotional reaction of people or the desire of their quarry to get rid of them by dropping a coin or two.

Their dilemma is that they have to live by the day if not by the hour. They have no permanent or even temporary shelter. They are haunted by decease and squalor. They have condemned themselves to a style of life of no return. Admittedly, many of them have created this situation for themselves by not being enterprising even in a modest way. That is the norm. Professor Yunus did not accept this "norm".

He believes that creating opportunities for a better life is a sacred duty. He believes that begging is chosen in Bangladesh by many of the poor as a result of death of the earning member in the family, unemployment or disability, laziness and the lack of a "system" that will give them a chance to get their act together. Yunus rightly argues that most of the poverty alleviation programmes do not reach this segment of society who lives on the very margins of life.

As he did with larger programmes of Grammeen Bank, he believes that access to credit..... micro-credit... can pave the way. But he argues against the concept that micro-credit is a good intervention for the poor in the higher layers of the poor but that it's of no use to the bottom poor.

Credit to him is a "human right". So he got to work on the "Struggling (Beggar) Members Programme". The programme offers loans exclusively to beggars, particularly to those he calls "Generational Beggars".

They are invited to carry a collection of popular consumer items, financed by Grameen Bank, when they go out to beg from rural households. They are allowed to do both begging and selling at their convenience. If their selling activity picks up, Yunus hopes, they may quit begging and focus on selling. A typical Grameen loan was about Rs. 1,000 in Sri Lankan currency.

Beggars who do not have limbs, cannot go house to house do the begging at a fixed spot with a beggar's bowl in front.

They are helped, through the Grameen credit system, to keep soft drinks, biscuits, flowers etc next to them and offer their patrons an option..... to throw in a coin or buy something, or do both.

And what are the results? Yunus' face brightened and in his own words: "I am happy to report that beggars are responding to the programme enthusiastically. We see positive results".

And what other innovations are in store? Grameen has a highly successful programme titled Grameen Village Phone. Here, there are close to 75,000 "telephone ladies" as they are called, providing telephone services in some 80 per cent of villages of Bangladesh.

The mobile phones are hired out to them and they in turn visit rural areas and offer telephone calls at a fee. The loan repayment rate..... as with other Grameen Loans to the poor.... is an astonishing 99 per cent. Yunus' vision is that the "Struggling (Beggars) Member Programme" will venture into mobile phones as well.

The significant aspect of all this is that the traditional mode of poverty alleviation needs imaginative thinking. And more importantly "vision" and "courage" that Professor Yunus has so ably demonstrated to the global community.

(The writer is a former Senior Vice President of the World Bank)

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Information Society: The Next Steps - Special Report - Development Gateway

Special Report - Development Gateway: The Information Society has produced a tantalizing array of new information and communication technologies (ICT) that today have transformed the approach to global development. Access to these technologies is spreading rapidly. In 2005, the number of Internet users in developing countries will cross the 500 million mark, surpassing industrial nations for the first time. By some estimates, more than 75 percent of the world’s population now lives within range of a mobile network. Yet the long-heralded promise of ICT remains out of reach for most of the developing world. For the information poor, economic and social gaps are in fact widening both within and between countries. Following on the rapid expansion of the Information Society, the United Nations called for a World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) organized under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union. The two-phase summit, begun in Geneva in 2003, and concluded in November 2005 with WSIS Phase II in Tunisia. The goal of this meeting was to assess progress and prompt further global action to capture the promise of ICT for all. This Special Report "Information Society: The Next Steps" looks at how the ICT landscape is changing in the developing world and what lies ahead. Experts from governments, donors, NGOs and the private sector speak out about effective policies, promising applications and innovative business models.

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