• Agriculture, Youth Employment and ‘Decent Work’

    14 March 2021
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    CIDT’s Professor Philip Dearden engaged a large audience on the theme of Agriculture, Youth Employment and ‘Decent Work’ in this webinar with Central Agricultural University, Imphal, India.

    Phil chose a rather personal medium to explore this topic as he explains in this short blog:

    “I was delighted to receive the invitation from CIDT’s alumni Professor E. V Divakara Sastry who is now working at Central Agricultural University at Imphal in the North East of India.  I have very fond memories of Professor Sastry from when he attended a three-month course in CIDT in the late 1980s.

    I also have very fond memories of working in India much earlier in my career, for example a most challenging evaluation study in 1989 of the Indian Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. This strenuous three-month assignment took me across the whole of India, from Kerala to Kashmir and across to Kohima and included a visit with my colleague, Geoff Wilkinson, to the KVKs at Imphal and Nagaland.

    CIDT has ‘earthy roots’ beginning its life as the AETU – Agricultural Education and Training Unit. However a personal as well as professional connection to the topic, led me to an examination of my paternal grandfather’s pictures of life on the land in the UK from 1920 – 1960.  Taking a social history approach to some of Harold Dearden’s paintings, I looked at some of the positive aspects of agricultural mechanisation replacing the hard physical work and drudgery of land based labour.  For me these visual images bring to life the past – and present! – challenges of why young people often do not choose to work on the land, within the context of the ongoing and persistent challenges of rural employment, both in the UK and elsewhere.

    A collection of Harold Dearden’s ‘Life on the Land’ pictures

    Spring Cabbage Pickers – Harold Dearden

    Turnip Harvest – Harold Dearden – Courtesy of Swindon Art Gallery

    Hurdle Maker by Harold Dearden

    Hurdle Maker – Harold Dearden

    Working the Fields by Harold Dearden

    Working the Fields – Harold Dearden

    Having provided a wide range of technical support to the International Labour Organisation, I know from my engagement of ILO stakeholders in many countries that the concept of “Decent Work” is paramount and highly significant in relation to agricultural development, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. “  See for example ILO work in Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro , Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Moldova.

    “Decent work ‘involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organise and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men'” (ILO, 2016)

    Phil briefly examined the important and emergent need for ‘green growth’ and the wide ranging ‘attributes’ that young agricultural graduates will require in the future.

    Graduate attributes table

    In conclusion, Phil emphasised the need for continuous agricultural curriculum change and the need to provide agricultural graduates with a wide range of knowledge, skills and attitudes including those, which would enable them to be entrepreneurs and/or start their own enterprises.

    Download the lecture slides and notes.

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  • The UN Global Compact – What is it and why it is important

    12 March 2021
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    Joining the UN Global Compact represents an important, public step to shape a sustainable future through principled business. In order to work internationally, institutions need to commit to international standards and the UN Global Compact provides a universal language and framework for corporate responsibility, which is expected by development partners like the United Nations (UN) and the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

    I’m pleased to report that in recent weeks the University has signed up to two important global initiatives. In last week’s short blog I reported on why we have signed up to the Race to Zero initiative. Race to Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

    Here I want to talk about the United Nations Global Compact. By signing this important compact, we have committed ourselves to responsible business practices in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment, and corruption.

    The UN Global Compact, aims to mobilise a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders to create the world we want.

    To make this happen, the UN Global Compact supports organisations and companies to:

    1. Do business responsibly by aligning their strategies and operations with Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption; and
    2. Take strategic actions to advance broader societal goals, such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with an emphasis on collaboration and innovation.

    The Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact are derived from: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organization’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. In summary these principles are:

    Human Rights

    • Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
    • Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.

    Labour Standards

    • Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
    • Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
    • Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
    • Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.


    • Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
    • Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
    • Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.


    • Principle 10: Businesses should work against all forms of corruption, including extortion and bribery.

    These ten principles are intrinsic to the sustainability of business, people and the planet. They offer organisations and companies of all sizes a blueprint for contributing towards achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. Indeed it can also be argued that the United Nations Global Compact is uniquely positioned to support organisations and companies as they align their practices for a sustainable and inclusive future, while building back stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    With the broad-based support of all 193 participant countries of the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Global Compact remains the single, global normative authority and reference point for action and leadership within a growing global corporate sustainability movement.

    The pandemic and ongoing climate crisis has compromised much of the progress the world had attained since the adoption of the Global Goals in 2015. The new Global Compact strategy aims to regain that lost ground and advance much, much further by persuading the global business community, and its leaders, to scale up their contributions to the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

    Looking ahead, the University will need to institutionally report to the UN Global Compact with any progress we have made concerning the 10 Principles. The UN very much view this reporting as a continual development process or, in business terms, a process of Kaizen – i.e. an ongoing process of continuous improvement.

    Our institutional commitment to the UN Global Compact allows us to:

    This also means that others across the University will be free to bid for FCDO and UN work with the confidence that we are institutionally aligned and committed to the important UN Global Compact.

    Our important university work on the associated UN Sustainable Development Goals has been reported on in a previous blog, see here.

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  • CIDT policy briefings explore how social protection must adapt in the face of COVID-19

    10 March 2021
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    The UN World Food Programme (WFP), with the support of CIDT through the Social Protection Learning Facility, has published three policy briefs that focus on social protection and COVID-19 in situations of displacement, climate-related disasters and rural/urban contexts.

    CIDT lead the Social Protection Learning Facility, which is an initiative led by the WFP Regional Bureau for East Africa. The Facility works to provide research, analysis and technical assistance to WFP Country Offices, as they seek to use social protection systems as a mechanism to respond to COVID-19 in their respective countries.

    The three briefings highlight the compounding impacts of COVID-19 in places that already face substantial challenges to reduce poverty, vulnerability and instability.

    Social Protection and COVID-19 in Urban and Rural Settings

    This policy brief looks at the impacts that COVID-19 has on lives and livelihoods in either rural or urban contexts. Whilst it is understood that COVID-19 may have a more urban geographic outlook, the pandemic has implications for the vulnerability of those in both rural and urban settings and the brief explores how social protection might respond to livelihoods in these two different contexts.

    Social Protection and COVID-19 Amidst Climate Shocks

    Social protection can be used to build resilience of households experience climate-related shocks and stresses. This policy brief looks at some of the potential impacts and implications of the coronavirus pandemic on climate resilience work in East Africa drawing lessons from WFP’s programming in a number of countries.

    Social Protection and COVID-19 in Situations of Displacement

    In fragile and unstable contexts, existing vulnerabilities are compounded by the effects of the pandemic, exacerbating the existing challenges of saving lives and protecting livelihoods. This policy brief explores the implications of the pandemic for social protection in fragile contexts and how approaches may need to adapt for improved delivery of services.

    Initially set up in May 2020, the Facility continues to work in partnership with the WFP Regional Bureau and East Africa Country Offices and the delivery team remains focused on:

    • Providing technical support: providing advice to Country Offices based on their collective experience and knowledge of social protection and country contexts; and
    • Documenting learning: Compiling and disseminating lessons, findings and experiences for future policy and programme design decision-making.


    1. Social Protection and COVID-19 in Urban and Rural Settings
    2. Social Protection and COVID-19 Amidst Climate Shocks
    3. Social Protection and COVID-19 in Situations of Displacement
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  • Talking about power and privilege in the workplace on International Women’s Day

    8 March 2021
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    Image: Women in Leadership Course for The African Union in Rwanda

    ‘The true tale of the lion hunt will never be told as long as the hunter tells the story…’ (African Proverb)

    During the last few years we have witnessed a rapid growth of gender movements like #metoo, #timesup, #generationequality, but Black, Asian and ethnic minority voices remain at the periphery of these campaigns. CIDT’s Rufsana Begum argues that we cannot truly celebrate ‘International Women’s Day’ until women are equal with each other.

    Speaking on intersectional approaches to women in leadership at the University International Women’s Day Careers Conference Rufsana shares some highlights from the session:

    “Workplaces consist of invisible power dynamics and privileges that sustain social inequalities.”

    Our inability or reluctance to dialogue openly and honestly with BAME women leads to marginalising their experiences. If there is to be real change it is imperative that we go beyond the ‘politeness protocol’, have ‘uncomfortable conversations’ in the workplaces and create inclusive spaces where BAME women can share their lived realities.

    In the words of Morgan Jenkins (2018)

    “We cannot come together if we do not recognize our differences first. These differences are best articulated when women of colour occupy the centre of the discourse while white women remain silent, actively listen, and do not try to reinforce supremacy by inserting themselves in the middle of the discussion.”

    In this process, we understand the role power plays in our working relationships, how our privileges maintain status quo and challenge micro-aggressive behaviours that prevent BAME women from speaking out.

    This is a call to action: interrogate power and analyse privilege in support of genuine equality

    Understanding Privilege

    Privilege comes in many forms, including race, gender, sexuality, ability, language, wealth, physical fitness, safety, and educational attainment and even height.  However, the people who have those things are usually unaware of their power and influence.

    According to American sociologist, Prof Michael Kimmel, “Privilege is invisible to those who have it.”

    “I am the generic person. I am a middle class white man. I have no race, no class, no gender. I am universally generalizable,” says Kimmel.

    Privilege is systematic in favouring, validating and including certain social identities over the other.

    Having privilege does not mean that an individual is immune to life’s hardships, but it does mean having an unearned benefit or advantage one receives in society by nature of their identity.

    It’s important to understand – just because we have don’t have certain kinds of privileges, it doesn’t mean that we don’t benefit from other kinds of privileges. I’ll use myself as an example: I am a woman, Bangladeshi-British but I also have the privilege of living in the UK, I am heterosexual, holding a graduate degree, having financial resources, and access to healthcare.

    Understanding Power

    Power is the ability to influence and make decisions that affect others.

    Derald Wing Sue (2016); argues that “true POWER resides in the ability to define reality; where the members of the majority group are able to impose their world view on the rest of the members of marginalised groups which discounts their experiential reality where race/ethnicity are a constant factor.”  Members of majority group possess the tools – education, media, social groups, peers, institutions – that define and reaffirm their worldview.

    The worldview of BAME women and men is different from white people; acknowledging this is the FIRST step. Race, ethnicity and colour make up our social identity and how we experience and see the social world; therefore race issues are inter-connected with issues around gender equality.

    Understanding intersectionality

    The biggest obstacle is that we keep trying to silo the issues and that we’re not seeing them as interconnected the way they need to be seen.” (Teresa Younger, 2020)

    Once we understand that power gives us the ability to define reality, we are required to take an intersectional perspective in approaches to gender equality, where race/ethnicity are not a secondary issue.

    When Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality, she was describing the way in which multiple oppressions are experienced. This notion extends to dis(ability), sexual orientation, social class, religious discourse and so on. Where there are gaps in our understanding of underrepresented group experiences at work, an intersectional approach is the vehicle that allows for the experiences of underrepresented groups to be heard and understood.

    The only way to understand and interconnect these aspects of identity is to listen to BAME women’s unique experiences and validating them.

    So what next?

    Go beyond the diversity data and explore nuances around BAME women’s unique experiences. You can encourage uncomfortable conversations when you:

    1. Acknowledge your privilege. We ALL have it.
    2. Become aware
    3. Educate yourself
    4. Reach out to diverse group members and hear their experiences
    5. Question existing power dynamics. E.g. in meetings who is consistently speaking? Whose voices are marginalised? Why?
    6. LISTEN – resist the urge to deny, invalidate, avoid the discussion – its human nature to avoid and defend. To TRULY create an inclusive culture, we need to make space for hear,  validate and explore these issues of racism and discrimination that BAME women and men face every day.
    7. Lean into the uncomfortable. The only way to address the challenges associated with racism, sexism, other forms of inequalities and micro-aggression in the workplace is to be open to experiencing discomfort in an honest and forthright

    Finally ask yourself: are you a Silencer or Amplifier?

    Use your privileged voice to raise others up; you will not lose privilege in this process!

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  • We have signed up to Race to Zero – here’s why

    3 March 2021
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    Race to Zero is a global campaign to rally leadership and support from universities, businesses, cities, regions, investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.

    We are delighted to report that inspired by the climate work by its Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT), the University of Wolverhampton has signed up to the UNFCCC Race to Zero.

    In signing up to Race to Zero we join these ‘real economy’ activists and 120 countries in the largest ever alliance committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest.

    The global campaign is mobilising a coalition of leading net zero initiatives, representing 454 cities, 23 regions, 1,397 businesses, 74 of the biggest investors, and 570 universities. This alliance covers nearly 25% global CO2 emissions and over 50% of global GDP.

    Led by High – Level Climate Action Champions Nigel Topping and Gonzalo Muñoz, Race to Zero mobilises activists outside of national governments to join the Climate Ambition Alliance, which was launched at the the Secretary General of the UN’s Climate Action Summit 2019 by the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera. All members of the alliance are committed to the same goal: achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

    The specific campaign objective is to build momentum around the shift to a decarbonised economy ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), where governments must strengthen their contributions to the Paris Agreement. This will send governments a resounding signal that business, cities, regions and investors are united in meeting the Paris goals and creating a more inclusive and resilient economy.

    Based on the CIDT’s 30 years of environmental and development work across the Congo Basin in Africa, West Africa and South East Asia CIDT-UoW is applying to attend the forthcoming COP 26 in Glasgow, now being held between 1-12 November 2021.

    Sometimes known as the Climate Summit, the COP26 will bring global parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    The UK is committed to working with all countries and joining forces with civil society, companies and people on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action ahead of COP26.

    We hope for the opportunity at COP26 to showcase some of the impact case studies of CIDT’s recent Citizen Voices for Change (CV4C): Congo Basin Forest Monitoring Project, draw global attention to the work of climate defenders in the region, and highlight civil society visions for the future of forests and climate in the Congo Basin. The CV4C project has been working in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Republic of Congo since 2017. The €6.25m project has been funded by the the European Union, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the UK and the World Resources Institute.

    Working in partnership with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the CIDT has led this four-year project which aimed to strengthen the contribution of CSOs, non-state actors (NSA), Indigenous Peoples (IP) and community organisations to improving forest governance, sustainable forest management and the contribution of forests to development in five Congo Basin countries.

    The project objective was to build capacity of strong effective NSAs to monitor forest governance and land use change, inform relevant national/global processes, and contribute to effective responses from law enforcement and policymaking agencies.

    University of Wolverhampton Vice-Chancellor, Professor Geoff Layer recently opened a series of five CV4C webinars focused on reflection and lesson learning from the CV4C Project.

    Details of the impact case studies from the CV4C Project can be found here.


    Blog post by Prof Philip Dearden

    Image: Screen capture from FLEGTWatch, a radar-based satellite tool to monitor illegal logging and forest cover change, supported by CIDT through the CV4C project in partnership with Visioterra and Tropenbos.

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  • Research seminar shares lessons from five year study of school dropout

    9 February 2021
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    In conjunction with the Education Observatory, CIDT’s Mary Surridge delivered a presentation around the recently completed longitudinal study of school survival in Zimbabwe, funded by UNICEF.

    The study, which followed a cohort of 3,800 learners from across the country, focused on the critically important transition point from primary to secondary school and beyond in order to assess the key factors that led to learners remaining and succeeding in school or dropping out. It also continued to track those who did drop out, to analyse the pathways taken and the impact on their lives.

    The findings of the study highlight where and at what stage in the education cycle to prioritise spending in order to leverage the best results, particularly in terms of ensuring access to quality education for the most marginalised girls and boys. It has generated discussion about the role of government and communities in the education of the nation’s children.

    Mary’s presentation to University colleagues revealed several stories of the challenges children must overcome to continue with their education, such as that of a Zimbabwean girl called Pari:

    After her father passed away when Pari was in Grade 5, she started fending for the family. She said she does all sorts of jobs working in people’s fields, fetching water and even gold mining. She said they go to a river where they do the gold mining activities. She explained that she and her brother would use hoes to dig in the river and  wheelbarrows to carry their load of stones. They sell their stones to buyers. At the most they get $3 which she shares equally with her brother so they can buy sandals and a book and a pen from the $1.50.

    She then returns to school. After a few days when another book is needed she goes back to mining. She explained how the work is so hectic and she does not even have time for reading. She says that she misses a lot of school days because she has to fend for the family.

    The mixed methods study used both quantitative and qualitative tools including three major surveys undertaken with over 8000 children, questionnaires with almost 1500 teachers and questionnaires with parents and caregivers. Forty case studies gave an insight into the varying circumstances of different children. Tracking and field visits at the midline stage discovered that the learners from 270 primary schools had scattered to 628 secondary schools.

    Some of the key findings showed that of the 3724 learners:

    • 67% are still in school
    • 43 learners are repeating a grade
    • 11% are known to have dropped out

    Findings indicate that the following three key factors have the greatest impact on a learner’s ability to remain in school:

    • Being able to afford school fees and materials
    • Parental commitment and belief in education
    • Learners commitment, confidence and self esteem

    Additionally, the study showed more challenges for learners from rural areas. The difference between boys and girls chances of remaining in school was only slight with boys having the greater chance. The initiatives from certain schools, in particular for helping with school fees, were crucial in some circumstances. Whilst it is not legal, many children reported being ‘chased from school’ at times when they were behind on fees.

    Regarding children that dropped out of school, many were followed up with telephone interviews, revealing that the major cause was household poverty and the inability to meet the costs of education. Where families live in areas where there is a high need for labour, parents are less motivated to fund schooling. For girls, lack of support, early marriage and pregnancy also featured as causes. Other risks included the dropout of siblings or friends.

    Almost all dropouts wanted to return to school but face the barriers of cost, age and learning abilities

    Mary also spoke about the impact of COVID-19. With more families unable to pay fees and school difficulties in enforcing social distancing, as well as interruptions to support and problematic online learning provision there has been a big impact on educational outcomes.

    Key recommendations

    Government should:

    • Maintain an effective national tracking system
    • Increase financial equity in the system
    • Address the direct and indirect costs of education for orphans and vulnerable children
    • Encourage schools to engage more with communities and parents/caregivers
    • Ensure schools have the capacity to adhere to the law

    Schools should:

    • Identify and support children that are likely to be affected in the transition to secondary schools
    • Provide training for staff so that they are better equipped to support children
    • Facilitate better transition planning with individualised transition plans for learners.
    • Establish an early detection and support system for children at risk of dropping out
    • Innovate and increase access to vocational training and development of trades skills

    In his introduction, Prof Philip Dearden gave a background to CIDT’s education work and experience of large scale evaluation studies, particularly around girls’ education and touched on the impact that the report is already having on education policy in Zimbabwe:

    “As we will hear, the study uncovered a wide range of interesting statistics and many personal stories of determination and courage often against all odds. The results have provided the Government of Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education with evidence to support its planning, policy shaping and expenditure on education.”

    Mary Surridge, the team leader for this work, joined the University in 1989 in what was then the Centre for Curriculum and Staff Development in the School of Education. Mary then joined CIDT and has been with us for 30 years.  During this time, she has worked in over 30 different countries, mostly in education, gender and social inclusion.

    Mary’s resolve kept the study on track through the COVID-19 pandemic. Working closely with project partners Muthengo Development Solutions and Development Data, she was able to keep significant policy makers in Zimbabwe interested and engaged, ensuring that the key messages were delivered and received in time to impact upon policy decisions.

    Thank you to the Educational Observatory for hosting this seminar and to Amy Welham for all her organisational work in getting this event to happen.

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  • CIDT supports DSA on the need to support a global distribution of the Covax vaccine

    26 January 2021
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    CIDT is among a group of academic and research members of the Development Studies Association (DSA) that is urging the government to do more for low-income countries regarding the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations.

    The DSA have called for three steps:

    • Finance vaccine distribution in low-income countries and support distribution to the most critical groups
    • Promote the expansion of vaccine production capabilities in the global South
    • Distribute a significant proportion of the UK supply of vaccines to low-income countries

    The full DSA statement can be seen below and is available on the DSA website.

    CIDT has been supporting partners in the Congo Basin to provide COVID-19 outreach and support for vulnerable and indigenous communities, and sharing experience through webinars on COVID-19 and the forest sector. A recent report from this work gives recommendations for Governments, which echo the recommendations from the DSA:

    • As vaccines are developed and approved, vaccine nationalism is likely to emerge. Promote support to Congo Basin governments to access and distribute vaccines to their communities, including specific emphasis on vulnerable forest dependent communities.
    • In the face of global GDP declines, maintain or increase international development aid commitments to ensure that health, environmental and other global climate objectives are kept on track.


    The British government’s contradictory approach to the global distribution of coronavirus vaccines risks undermining the impressive contribution that UK science has made to tackling the pandemic. Whilst the UK is currently the most generous funder of Covax and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will be made available at-cost in the global South, we have joined other wealthy countries in hoarding large amounts of available vaccines. This directly limits supply to more vulnerable people in low-income countries and is both morally wrong and strategically short-sighted. The pandemic must be tackled everywhere for UK citizens to be truly safe and becoming ‘Global Britain’ requires us to ensure that the fruits of our scientific prowess serve for the benefit of all. This is a case in which ethical demands coincide with our national interest.

    We urge the UK government to take the following three steps: first, to generously finance vaccine distribution in low-income countries and support distribution to the most critical groups in ways that strengthens health systems for the long term; second, to promote the expansion of production capabilities in the global South, so that more firms can produce vaccines for this and for future pandemics; and, third, to distribute a significant proportion of our current supply of vaccines to low-income countries.

    While the UK has been impacted hard by the pandemic, we remain a world leader in global health and global development research. This excellence now needs to be aligned to a vision and form of political leadership that prioritises a more cooperative approach to tackling the challenge of global vaccine supply and delivery.

    On behalf of the Development Studies Association and the following centres of development studies:

    Prof Sam Hickey, DSA President, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester
    Prof Melissa Leach, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex
    Prof Diego Sánchez-Ancochea, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford
    Prof Uma Kambhampati, DSA Secretary, Department of Economics, University of Reading
    Prof Kathryn Hochstetler, Department of International Development, London School of Economics
    Prof Michael Walls, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London
    Prof Zoe Marriage, Department of Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
    Dr Elisa Van Waeyenberge & Dr Hannah Bargawi, Economics Department, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
    Dr Jonathan Fisher, International Development Department, University of Birmingham
    Prof PB Anand, Peace Studies and International Development, University of Bradford
    Prof Jean Grugel, Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre, University of York
    Prof Philip N. Dearden, Centre for International Development and Training, University of Wolverhampton
    Prof Laura Camfield, School of International Development, University of East Anglia
    Prof Alfredo Saad-Filho, Department of International Development, King’s College London
    Dr Grace Carswell, Head of International Development, University of Sussex
    Dr Shailaja Fennel, Centre for Development Studies, University of Cambridge
    Prof Frances Stewart, Emeritus University of Oxford and ex-President of the DSA

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  • The Future of Independent Forest Monitoring

    7 December 2020
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    This article first published on Chatham House Forest Governance and Legality.


    Richard Nyirenda and Aurelian Mbzibain outline the current state of play of Independent Foresting Monitoring in Africa and set out recommendations for how it can continue to play a strong role in reforming the sector.

    Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) has been part of global efforts to stop illegal logging, reduce deforestation and improve forest governance since the 1990s.

    There is a long history of IFM in Central and West Africa, but, while there have been significant improvements in forest governance, deforestation and forest degradation have nevertheless continued at an alarming rate.

    Yet, IFM in the Congo basin has progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years with a growing number of national and regional civil society organizations (CSOs) developing their expertise and strengthening their organizational capacities.

    IFM in the Congo basin has progressed in leaps and bounds, with a growing number of national and regional CSOs developing their expertise.

    With mainly funding from the European Union (EU), UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization-European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FAO-EU FLEGT) Programme, these organizations have put in place financial management systems, gender policies, strategic plans and resource mobilization plans while also working to improve their technical knowledge and capabilities on forest monitoring and reporting.

    In Cameroon, for example, a strengthened IFM network has prompted increased government enforcement in the forest sector. Coordinated by the non-governmental organization, Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER), the Standardized External Independent Monitoring System network (SNOIE) has been implementing an ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System (QMS) since 2015. This provides for continuous internal and external independent audits, ensuring the traceability of all monitoring activities, as well as providing opportunities for continuous improvement and learning.

    In the Republic of Congo, the mandated independent monitoring organization – Cercle d’Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts (CAGDF) – has so far been carrying the torch for IFM in the country although a few other organizations are involved in non-mandated activities too.

    But, because of its formal agreement with the government, its remit is limited: it has mainly focused on forestry operations and it is not able to follow up on the enforcement of cases. This has meant it has had limited impact on the forest sector as a whole.

    However, a new ‘SNOIE Congo’ system, involving a network of Congolese NGOs, based on the Cameroonian experience, has recently been established. These complementary initiatives will increase the capacity for IFM thereby enabling it to play a greater role in strengthening the country’s timber legality assurance system and monitoring progress with implementation of the country’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

    In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF) has been working as the mandated IFM since 2013 and has established a nationwide independent monitoring network called the Réseau National des Observateurs Indépendants sur la Gouvernance Forestière en RDC (RENOI-RDC). In addition, OGF has also been piloting independent monitoring for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) initiatives.

    In Gabon, Brainforest has been undertaking independent monitoring investigations since 2017. This work has included the provision of legal assistance to communities to enable them to claim their rightful benefits from large-scale forest exploitation.

    Brainforest also coordinates a new coalition of eight community-based organizations and a community alert network of over 40 indigenous people and local community (IPLC) representatives throughout the country. The government has also made clear its commitment to inclusive land use planning, forest monitoring and forest governance, for example, through a 2017 Letter of Intent with the Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) which provides a strong basis for further strengthening this work.

    It is important to consider the key themes and trends relating to the future of IFM and how it could better help to reduce deforestation and degradation.

    In the Central African Republic (CAR), the Centre pour l’Information Environnementale et le Développement Durable (CIEDD) began investigating forest sector legality in 2016 and found that there was very little law enforcement taking place. In response to this situation, CIEDD has undertaken forest monitoring in the country and has been implementing a number of tools to support the administration in fulfilling its oversight role, for example, establishing a Register of Infractions, a forest control manual and a forest and environmental crime working group.

    In light of these developments, it is important to consider the key themes and trends relating to the future of IFM and how it could better help to reduce deforestation and degradation.

    National level strategy

    One of the key lessons to emerge from the work in the region is the value of a national level strategy for IFM. In many of the countries, IFM is currently undertaken by a plethora of organizations using a range of different approaches and methodologies often with overlapping roles, conflicts of interest and without effective modalities for coordination. This reduces the credibility of IFM in the eyes of key stakeholders such as the government, private sector and enforcement officials in timber importing countries.

    In the Republic of Congo, for example, a strategic framework is being developed by CIDT and the CSO platform to bring all the independent monitoring organizations and stakeholders together. This is critical in ensuring that IFM is relevant and aligns with national forest and land use processes which in turn serves to build its credibility among stakeholders. A national strategy for IFM also helps to create a clear vision for CSOs to work towards and can reinforce ownership at the national level.

    A national strategy for IFM helps to create a clear vision for CSOs to work towards and can reinforce ownership at the national level.

    From observation to investigation

    However, IFM needs to expand from its traditional focus on observing infringements and infractions related to timber harvesting to more investigative and data-based analysis.

    Illegal deforestation and degradation is being driven by a range of economic activities and these encompass many new forms of forest crime. Current IFM methodologies must therefore evolve in order to address these.

    New investigative approaches and capabilities are also needed that will allow independent monitoring to investigate complex value chains and to follow the finance that is fuelling forest crime. This shift should include strengthening linkages with national and international anti-corruption structures, the judiciary and other government agencies, such as all Ministries of Finance.

    Within FLEGT and REDD+, a focus on the legality grid and safeguards would further strengthen the relevance of IFM and align it more strongly with national processes.

    Independent monitoring organizations must also embrace the use of new tools and equipment. Already some tools to monitor changes in forest cover have been deployed by these organizations. For example, FLEGT Watch, which uses radar satellite data by independent monitoring organizations in the region to monitor illegal logging and deforestation.

    Similarly, Forest Link enables communities to engage in real-time monitoring of economic activities in their forests and has been deployed in five countries in the region.

    Independent monitoring organizations also need to incorporate the use of innovative technology such as drones in their efforts to collect real-time data and credible evidence particularly where access to areas of interest is restricted.

    Beyond forests to other sectors

    There is an urgent need to extend IFM beyond forestry and to harness its investigative and analytical potential in the monitoring of decisions and actions in other sectors including mining and agricultural commodities.

    In Cameroon, for example, FODER is focussing on the mining sector while, in Gabon, Brainforest has undertaken monitoring missions targeting the large-scale agricultural sector.

    Elsewhere there is increasing demand particularly from consumer country stakeholders for IFM to be extended to the monitoring of commodity supply chains and zero-deforestation commitments.

    IFM could also enlarge its focus to encompass CITES listed species, for example, helping to ensure that CITES permits and quotas are respected. Lessons from monitoring the illegal wildlife trade (IWT) from the Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE) network, such as collaborative law enforcement actions with the judiciary, also warrant further exploration.

    There is an urgent need to extend IFM beyond forestry and to harness its investigative and analytical potential in the monitoring of decisions and actions in other sectors.

    Congo basin countries have included forest-related targets in their NDCs and IFM will be important in monitoring the implementation of these targets.

    Experience of undertaking independent monitoring in the forest sector points to the critical role it plays in supporting indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) to claim their rights which constitutes important transferable learning particularly given the growing demand on land from agriculture and other sectors.

    Finally, Congo basin countries have included a range of forest-related targets in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and IFM will also be important in monitoring the implementation of these targets.

    Legislative reforms

    Legal recognition of IFM is needed in many countries so that it is more widely accepted – both by government and industry stakeholders. In the Republic of Congo, IFM is provided for in the 2020 forest code while the CAR and Liberia VPAs both provide for IFM.

    However, in many other countries civil society-led independent monitoring still lacks legal recognition and acceptance. Legal recognition is of critical importance to help ensure access to public information and documentation and to provide protection for whistle-blowers which are both essential to the implementation of IFM. The establishment of a legally-binding commitment from governments to respond to IFM reports, therefore, is needed.

    Improving quality

    The development and certification of SNOIE in Cameroon has improved the quality of IFM and quality management systems should be developed and implemented in other countries in order to improve its implementation and credibility across the region.

    These systems do not necessarily need to be certified but, as a minimum standard, each independent monitoring organization should put in place a robust internal system that involves a third-party assessment mechanism. This will help to ensure that independent monitoring organizations are clear about what their objectives are i.e. why they are involved in IFM, what the change is that they want to see and what their expectations are with regard to their stakeholders.

    National and regional coordination

    Strong links between IFM and advocacy nationally and internationally is critical in the face of inertia and a lack of response from officials to ensure that the evidence generated is used by decision-makers for law enforcement.

    Regional IFM platforms such as the Plateforme Africaine de l’Observation Indépendante (PAOI) – a pan-African independent monitoring platform which brings together IFM organizations – are well-placed to support both national advocacy networks and regional and international advocacy movements through strengthening voice, capacity-building and participation.

    Furthermore, by linking with international activist organizations and media platforms, there is the potential to reach consumers of African-produced forest and agricultural commodities in other parts of the world to raise awareness of the role of their consumption behaviours in driving illegal deforestation and degradation.

    Strong links between IFM and advocacy nationally and internationally is critical in the face of inertia.

    Sustainable funding

    Sustainable funding for IFM remains a major challenge. So far, support has been sporadic and project-based thereby hindering efforts to build and embed the capability that is needed to ensure the sustainability of IFM activities in Africa.

    Drawing on lessons learnt in Indonesia, future funding of IFM could be considered under a Congo basin independent monitoring fund to support monitoring activities and capacity-building.

    IFM, and the generation of reliable forestry information, is a public good that requires long term funding.

    The PAOI network, given its regional coverage and expertise, is well-placed to manage such a fund and to provide training. IFM, and the generation of reliable forestry information, is a public good that requires long term funding and, a fund of this kind, would further strengthen both the independence and the reach of IFM.

    Ultimately, IFM plays a crucial role in fighting corruption, increasing transparency and detecting forest crimes and illegal land use. However, as an approach, IFM must continue to innovate in order to remain focused on the key drivers of deforestation and degradation. This will require those CSOs undertaking IFM to build new capacities and capabilities while sustained and sustainable funding will also be essential to enable CSOs to continue to fulfil their watchdog role more effectively in a rapidly evolving context.

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  • Why UK international development assistance should not be cut

    25 November 2020
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    Claire Short receives honorary deree

    Photo: Clare Short with Philip Dearden and Vice-Chancellor Geoff Layer


    There are no grounds for breaking legal commitments or for turning our backs on countries and people at a time of great need.

    News that the UK government is set to renege on its commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid could not come at a worse time for the world’s poorest countries and people and for international cooperation more broadly.

    A few years ago, we in CIDT had the honour of presenting Clare Short for an honorary degree at the University of Wolverhampton. View the news feature about this  and the Encomium.

    It was Clare Short, when she was Minister of International Development, who set out a route map for the UK Government to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) target on international development assistance.  This target was achieved in 2013 and is enshrined in law.

    Until recently the moral, social and economic imperative for international Development Assistance that Clare Short outlined has been successfully maintained.

    Now however the threat of change is very real with a proposal to reduce the 0.7% to 0.5% released last week. In the light of this proposal CIDT is amongst the 19 bodies that have signed the Development Studies Association statement urging the Government to maintain its commitment:

    The UK government’s decision to reduce our UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income represents a betrayal of our longstanding commitment to the world’s poorest people. The timing is abysmal. The pandemic is reversing decades of progress in reducing global poverty and this cut means that the poorest people will now be denied over £4 billion of what has been amongst the world’s best-targeted package of aid spending. Now is the time – amidst the threats of pandemic and climate change – to signal a renewed commitment to the international cooperation required to deal with these fundamentally global problems. Throwing the UK’s full weight behind efforts to reduce poverty, share vaccines widely and address climate change is not just the right thing to do but is clearly also in the national self-interest. Instead, this cut diminishes the prospects of meeting the SDGs and diminishes our legitimacy to play a leading role in these processes, including with regards to its G7 leadership and convening of COP26 next year. We understand the domestic fiscal challenges but the reason International Development Act sets this commitment in law is precisely to insulate our aid commitment from domestic policy priorities. While there are different debates about the political economies of aid, this is not the time to use such arguments to waver from our commitment to make a difference to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in low income countries.

    We are also deeply concerned by the announcement of such far-reaching decisions before the conclusion of UK Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign Policy and Development, which will now report next year. This suggests that decisions are being taken on the grounds of ideology without reference to evidence.

    The Development Studies Association urges the government to reconsider this punitive cut to UK aid. It calls on MPs from all parties to oppose the legislation required for these cuts to be enacted. Successive governments – Labour, Conservative-Liberal Democrat and Conservative– have invested heavily in building the UK’s reputation as a global leader in international development, with real benefits for poverty reduction. This government should not throw away these hard-won gains without a full and open discussion of the alternative pathways that remain available to the UK to play a leading role in making the world a more just, safe and sustainable place.


    Prof Sam Hickey DSA president, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester 
    Prof Uma Kambhampati DSA secretary, Department of Economics, University of Reading
    Prof Melissa Leach Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex 
    Prof Kathryn Hochstetler Department of International Development, London School of Economics 
    Prof Khalid Nadvi Global Development Institute, University of Manchester 
    Prof Zoë Marriage Department of Development Studies, Soas University of London
    Dr Elisa Van Waeyenberge and Dr Hannah Bargawi Department of Economics, Soas University of London 
    Prof Diego Sánchez-Ancochea
     Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford
    Dr Jonathan Fisher International Development Department, University of Birmingham
    Prof Laura Camfield School of International Development, University of East Anglia
    Prof Michael Walls The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London
    Prof Alfredo Saad-Filho and Prof Susan Fairley Murray Department of International Development, King’s College London
    Prof Philip N Dearden Centre for International Development and Training, University of Wolverhampton 
    Prof James Copestake Centre for Development Studies, University of Bath 
    Prof Prathivadi Anand Peace studies and international development, University of Bradford 
    Prof Dan Brockington and Prof Dorothea Kleine Sheffield Institute for International Development, University of Sheffield
    Prof Jean Grugel Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre, University of York
    Prof Alastair Ager Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
    Dr Namrata Bhattacharya-Mis International development studies, University of Chester
    Dr Mei Trueba Global health department, Brighton and Sussex Medical School 
    Dr Grace Carswell Head of international development, University of Sussex

    See this article on the Guardian website.

    View Development Studies Association page.

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  • Habiba Mohamed publishes article on Egyptian Parliament and the Covid-19 pandemic

    19 October 2020
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    Image credit: Timep.org

    This recent blog piece published by Habiba M. Mohamed, a Research Assistant at CIDT, on the Global Partners Governance’s blog (October 2020). The blog piece, entitled “Egyptian Parliament and the Covid-19 pandemic: an active parliament regardless of the crisis”, tackles the impact of the global pandemic on the Egyptian public authorities, especially the Egyptian parliament.


    Despite the global pandemic, the Egyptian parliament remained quite active during this period of widespread anxiety. The media often reported some MPs blaming citizens for the rapidly spreading virus by neglecting the government’s directives in following the basic rules of hygiene, ignoring social distancing and not wearing masks in public places; forgetting that the larger categories of the populations lack the proper spaces or resources to abide by these rules. It is notable that 11 MPs and their staff members have been affected by the virus. This blog piece briefly discusses the main actions and legislations passed by the parliament during the first wave of the novel Coronavirus (between March and September 2020).


    Image credit: timep.org

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