Nobel Symposium at the Institute for International Economic Studies, 50th Anniversary 5 september 2012
Gunilla Carlsson, Biståndsminister
Nobel Symposium at the Institute for International Economic Studies, 50th Anniversary
How can policy and aid help in reducing world poverty?
Distinguished guests, students, friends!
It is a great honour for me to be with you here today. I want to start off by congratulating the IIES to its 50th anniversary and thank you for organising this event.
The world is changing, and so is the landscape in which policy and aid operate. The global economy has evolved dramatically over the past 10 years. Developing and emerging economies are driving economic growth. New sources of development finance are mushrooming. New actors and instruments are finally entering the development scene.
Never in our history has wealth expanded so quickly. The economic development of China and other parts of Asia has led to a massive drop in poverty rates.
We are witnessing freedom revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. In Burma, democracy aspires. Digitalisation is spreading across the globe at a rapid rate, providing new and exciting opportunities to engage and create change.
However, our future and the way ahead are still full of challenges. We are all worried, sad and upset about what is happening in Syrian. The space for freedom activists is shrinking in many parts of the world. Women's and girls' rights are still lagging behind. In many cases far, far behind.
Today, one billion people are living in slums as a result of rapid urbanisation. By 2050, the number of people on this planet is projected to be almost 9 billion. Access to food, energy, water and sanitation is threatened by climate change. Humanitarian crises keep on emerging.
The biggest challenge ahead of us will be to improve the lives of the poor living in fragile, low-income states, mainly in Africa.
As the minister in charge, I constantly ask myself how to ensure that the more than USD 4.5 billion that Swedish taxpayers provide each year for development cooperation is creating lasting impacts for the poor.
Aid is being questioned more and more, and it has been questioned by several of you here today. I question it too, every day. If I didn't, I wouldn't be doing my job. That is why I welcome this debate. Because in order to keep up a generous and even increasing aid budget, aid must show itself to be relevant. It needs to relate to global trends and new technologies. It needs to align itself with other flows around the globe in way it does not do at the moment.
In my view development assistance must do three things: i) accelerate sustainable economic growth in partner countries; ii) improve the living conditions of the poor, especially in countries that lack the capacity or will to do so; and iii) resolve the issue of common goods (such as climate change, trade, good governance, financial stability, peace and security).
We need to look at aid and development with new eyes. We need a dynamic approach that focuses on the individual; where entrepreneurs and human rights activists are active drivers of change; where women and girls are in control of their lives; where innovators offer new solutions to old problems.
Development will not happen without institutions. But it's time to look beyond the state as the principal provider of basic services.
Complex problems require complex solutions. Aid alone will not do the trick. In order to combat poverty and increase the rights and freedoms of people, we need to use all the policy tools available to us. I am proud to say that Sweden was one of the first countries to develop a Policy for Global Development. Aid needs to go hand-in-hand with policies for trade liberalisation, peace and security and climate change.
How societies develop is a complex issue and a vast number of factors influence the outcome. Local contexts differ from one place to another. There is no one, single blueprint that can be applied to all societies and all countries at all times. However, there are certain factors that we know to be universally crucial for long term development to take place. Stable institutions, the rule of law, free markets and gender equality, to name a few.
This is why research and the important work that you all carry out are so important. We need to identify these universal success factors and learn from past successes and mistakes, as well as from newly gained insights. Such lessons come from evaluations of our practices, but also more fundamentally from research - in economics and in other disciplines.
Too often there are gaps between theories and practice, between researchers and policy-makers. We tend to work within separate organisations, timeframes and dynamics. Bridging the gap between research and policy is a tremendously important task. We need to learn and act upon evidence of what works and what does not.
Simply put: What gets measured gets done. And so we had better get the measurement right. The MDGs have been a powerful tool for focusing the world's attention on development results. However, they have limitations. They focus on a number of social and economic rights but leave out other areas that are crucial for development. Good governance, democracy, transparency and accountability and revenue collection are examples of areas in which I would like to see much more progress. I will relentlessly champion these areas in my work on the UN High Level Panel on post-2015 Development Agenda.
Beyond 2015, we need a set of development goals that encompass all three dimensions of sustainable development. A rights-based approach should be stressed. Goals should be relevant, concrete, measurable and time-bound, which has been a major success factor for the MDGs. I am very much looking forward to working on the post-MDG Panel, and I welcome reasoned arguments and thoughts to enable us to rethink and improve results for the benefit of the world's poorest people, and for our capacity to more carefully manage this globe together.
In order to tackle global poverty we need to put results, transparency and accountability at the core of the development agenda. Taxpayers at home and poor people around the world have the right to know what they are entitled to and what is being achieved. If aid and development assistance is not reaching the poor and oppressed, I want you to tell me. In fact, I want you to shout it out, so that the poor people that we are trying to help will know that we have listened to them, and so that I and my political colleagues around the world can make the changes that have to be done in order to truly make a difference.
Pressekreterare hos Gunilla Carlsson
cell 070-283 95 97
e-post till Evin Khaffaf