Despite positive trends in electrification and gender equality in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) over the last two decades, the region lags behind the rest of the world in both dimensions. Recent economic assessments of the efficiency of pursuing universal electrification in SSA show the costs outweigh the benefits. This paper argues that, in the context of SSA, gains in women’s empowerment may strengthen the case for electricity expansion, but are not captured in standard cost-benefit analyses. The paper reviews existing literature to identify four channels through which positive externalities and equity gains may arise from electrification: (1) alleviating time poverty, (2) expanding labor market opportunities (“economic empowerment”), (3) improving maternal health and women’s safety, and (4) changing social norms. Findings indicate that electrification can alleviate women’s time poverty, create opportunities for women and girls to enter the labor force or focus on school, decrease exposure to harmful indoor air pollutants, improve maternal health, reduce exposure to and acceptance of gender-based violence, and change social norms through access to information. Expanding electricity access using renewable energy sources (“sustainable electrification”) presents additional opportunities to enhance women’s economic power by mainstreaming gender in the industry’s development. Falling costs of renewable technologies may also shift traditional cost-benefit analyses of electrification. Based on these findings, the paper recommends that policies continue to promote universal electricity access by prioritizing sustainable technologies that can support high-power household appliances, and integrating gender into every stage of the electrification process.
Powering Households and Empowering Women: The Gendered Effects of Electrification in sub-Saharan Africa
May 5, 2021
Lessons from Ukraine: Shifting International Surrogacy Policy to Protect Women and Children
May 1, 2020
Ukrainian surrogacy companies now hold over a quarter of the global surrogacy market since a series of human rights violations caused India, Thailand, and Nepal to close their borders. Similar violations are occurring in Ukraine, including the abandonment and trafficking of children and the abuse of surrogates. The Ukrainian government is not taking action, despite concerns expressed by both lawmakers and surrogates that the industry engages in unethical practices. This paper proposes that the Hague Conference’s Experts’ Group on the Parentage/Surrogacy Project spearhead international ratification of a holistic series of policies focused on protecting women and children from exploitation.
The Accuracy Of Proxy Means Tests For Immigrant Populations: A Case Study In Colombia
May 1, 2020
This paper examines the accuracy of proxy means tests (PMTs) for identifying low-income households among migrant and refugee populations. Specifically, it develops a PMT model based on Colombia’s SISBEN system, and evaluates its ability to identify poverty among recent and established Venezuelan migrants and refugees. It finds that these groups have significantly higher rates of exclusion errors relative to native Colombians, which could prevent them from accessing valuable social services. These findings are robust to a number of specifications, and the issue is not resolved by simply including immigration status within the model. Additionally, occupational downgrading is identified as the most likely mechanism for this effect, as Venezuelan migrants and refugees in Colombia generally have lower returns to education when compared with native Colombians. These results should inspire caution when choosing to use PMTs for targeting, and it is recommended that all policymakers evaluate the accuracy of their PMTs for vulnerable subpopulations prior to implementation.
The Politics of Pineapple: Examining the Inequitable Impacts of Southern Costa Rica's Pineapple Industry
May 1, 2020
The Global North’s growing demand for fresh pineapple has created a system that is disproportionately profitable for companies and consumers in those countries to the detriment of people living and working in the Global South. Since the mid-1980s the Pineapple Development Corporation (PINDECO), a subsidiary of U.S.-based Del Monte, has established a monopoly over fresh pineapple exports in southern Costa Rica. We conducted pilot research in the municipalities of Buenos Aires and San Isidro del General in 2019, where the majority of PINDECO’s production takes place. PINDECO and the Costa Rican state claim pineapple production is beneficial to national development through its contribution to Costa Rican gross domestic product and employment opportunities, but our research and recent data reveal that in pineapple producing areas in the southwest, poverty levels remain high with worsening water and food security despite PINDECO’s large profit margins. There are numerous human and environmental health concerns linked to pineapple monocropping. Intensive pesticide use often utilizes chemicals that are banned or restricted in the countries they are imported from. PINDECO has been able to evade responsibility for environmental damages and social welfare obligations to employees while maintaining a largely positive public image through a lax regulatory environment and extensive subcontracting structure. This article connects regional socioeconomic issues to the intricate power dynamics and collusion between industry and state. The findings suggest that Costa Rica is not as environmentally conscious and sustainable as its public image portrays, with pockets of profit-driven industries taking precedence over community well-being and environmental sustainability.
Artificial Intelligence in International Development: Avoiding Ethical Pitfalls
May 20, 2019
Artificial intelligence (AI) will soon be at the center of the international development field. Amidst this transformation, there is insufficient consideration from the international development sector and the growing AI and ethics field of the unique ethical issues AI initiatives face in the development context. This paper argues that the multiple stakeholder layers in international development projects, as well as the role of third-party AI vendors, results in particular ethical concerns related to fairness and inclusion, transparency, explainability and accountability, data limitations, and privacy and security. It concludes with a series of principles that build on the information communication technology for development (ICT4D) community’s Principles for Digital Development to guide international development funders and implementers in the responsible, ethical implementation of AI initiatives.
What Should Washington Do When the Belt and Road Comes to Russia?
May 20, 2019
Increasing military and economic cooperation between Russia and China has led some to believe that America's two primary adversaries are joining together in an anti-U.S. alliance. However, this emerging relationship amounts to little more than a convenient alignment rather than a steadfast alliance. This analysis delves into emerging Sino-Russian competition and cooperation in Central Asia and the Arctic to illustrate diverging strategic interests and also provides recommendations for U.S. policymakers to capitalize on divides between America's competitors.