Protester at a rally against pharmaceutical company Novartis New Delhi 2007

From Poverty to Power: Background papers

These background papers were written as a contribution to the development of From Poverty to Power. They were published in order to share widely the results of commissioned research and program experience. The views they express are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Oxfam International or its affiliate organizations.

Background papers for the Second Edition

A Dangerous Delay: The cost of late responses to early warnings in the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa
Oxfam International, 2012

Download PDF

A Safe and Just Space for Humanity: Can we live within the doughnut?
Oxfam International, 2012

Download PDF

Crisis in a new world order: Challenging the humanitarian project
Oxfam International, 2012

Download PDF

Living on a Spike: How is the 2011 food price crisis affecting poor people?
Oxfam International, 2011 

Download PDF

Growing a Better Future
Oxfam International, 2011 

Download PDF

Protection of Civilians in 2010: Facts, Figures and the UN Security Council’s Response 
Oxfam International, 2011

Download PDF

Whose aid is it anyway? Politicising aid in conflict and crises
Oxfam International, 2011

Download PDF

The Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on the Budgets of Low-Income Countries
K. Kyrili and M. Martin, Oxfam and Development Finance International, 2010

Download PDF

The Global Economic Crisis and Developing Countries
Green, D., R. King, M. Miller-Dawkins, Oxfam, 2010

Download PDF

Gender Perspectives on the Global Economic Crisis
R. King and C. Sweetman, Oxfam International, 2010

Download PDF

Paying the Price for the Economic Crisis
B. Emmett, Oxfam International, 2009

Download PDF

What Happened to the Seasons?
S. Jennings and J. Magrath, Oxfam GB, 2009

Download PDF

What Happened at the G20? Initial Analysis of the London Summit
Oxfam International, 2009

Download PDF

For a Safer Tomorrow: Protecting Civilians in a Multipolar World
Oxfam International, 2008

Download PDF

Rethinking Disasters: Why Death and Destruction Are Not Nature’s Fault but Our Failure
Oxfam International

Download PDF

Think Big, Go Small: Adapting business models to incorporate smallholders into supply chains
Oxfam International, 2010

Download PDF

Background papers for the First Edition

Annex: How change happens

Private Sector Microfinance

Gambling Everything for More: The Earth that development built

Feminist Economics

How Title Deeds Make Sex Safer: Women’s property rights in an era of HIV

The Logic of Migration

Notes on Poverty and Inequality

Equality, inequality, and equity: where do these fit in the poverty agenda?

Insecurity in an Unequal World

Financial Markets

The Private Sector and Poverty Reduction

How and Why has Multiparty Democracy Spread Over the Past 100 years, and What Difference Has it Made to the Lives of the Poor?

Notes on Inequality and Poverty in Brazil: Current Situation and Challenges 

International Finance: Aid and Middle-Income Countries

Health Risks

Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Technology, and Economic Growth

Global governance

The Paradox of Pastoral Vulnerability

Other resources

Speaking Out: How the voices of poor people are shaping the future

Urban Poverty and Development in the 21st Century

Private Sector Microfinance

Alan Doran, Private Sector Advocacy Team, Oxfam GB

Pro-poor microfinance institutions have their origins in NGO-managed not-for-profit programmes. As the microfinance ‘industry’ has grown and matured, the private sector has become increasingly active in marketing financial products and services to poor people in developing countries, demonstrating that the sector can be commercially sustainable. The author reviews these trends, and concludes that the expansion of private sector microfinance should broadly be welcomed by anti-poverty campaigners. 

Download PDF

Back to top

Gambling everything for more: the Earth that development built

Antonio Hill, Senior Policy Adviser for Climate Change, Oxfam GB

The environment forms the basis of all global social and economic systems, and the substrate for all development activities. This paper reviews the current state of the global environment. Whilst debates about the limits to growth continue, several inter-related indicators suggest that limits do exist, and are being dangerously exceeded. While all of earth’s inhabitants depend on the environment for survival, poor people often depend very directly on the natural resource base for their livelihoods. Areas of particular concern from a development perspective include climate change, water resource management, and agriculture. Marginalized groups - such as indigenous peoples and women - are often the first to experience the impacts of environmental degradation, yet lack the political influence to redress them. Failure to meet the environmental Millennium Development Goals looks inevitable, in turn putting the achievement and sustainability of the other MDGs in jeopardy.

Download PDF

Back to top

Feminist Economics

Caroline Sweetman, Editor of Gender & Development journal, Oxfam GB

Feminist economists argue for the primary importance of unpaid work in sustaining the activities of the paid economy. This paper argues that orthodox economics fails to capture the costs and values attached to unpaid productive and reproductive work, much of which is undertaken by women. 

Download PDF

Back to top

How title deeds make sex safer: women’s property rights in an era of HIV

Caroline Sweetman, Editor of Gender & Development journal, Oxfam GB

One impact of HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa has been an increase in the number of poor, female-headed households. With particular reference to Kenya, this paper argues that under customary law, women’s rights to own and inherit property are often limited and secondary to those of men. As a result, women who become widows are disproportionately likely to lose their homes, land, and other assets, placing themselves and their children at risk of destitution and exploitation. Modern systems of individual property rights offer women better legal protection, although such systems can discriminate against the poor, and often lack social legitimacy. Collective action to demand women’s property rights has been slow to develop in Africa, despite the support of international legal frameworks such as CEDAW. Paradoxically, the author suggests that the threat that HIV and AIDS poses to national development may spur activists and governments to make greater efforts to ensure women’s property rights.

Download PDF

Back to top

The logic of migration

Catherine Barber, formerly Economic Policy Adviser to Oxfam GB

This paper discusses migration for economic, social and political reasons as a livelihood strategy and as part of a wider development strategy, and challenges some criticisms on the part of both sending and receiving countries, before proposing an agenda for change.

Download PDF

Back to top

Notes on Poverty and Inequality

Catherine Barber, formerly Economic Policy Adviser to Oxfam GB

This paper looks at a broad UN definition of poverty beyond the simply economic, bringing together the ‘capabilties’ approach and the ‘rights-based’ approach. It goes on to discuss the importance of inequality and poverty from a pragmatic and a moral point view, stressing the role of inequality in perpetuating poverty.

Download PDF

Back to top

Equality, inequality, and equity: where do these fit in the poverty agenda? 

Duncan Green, Head of Research, Oxfam GB

There is growing recognition amongst development policy makers that extreme inequality is bad for healthy economic growth and social stability, as well as being inter-generational in its effects. This paper reviews the state of global inequalities, and analyzes the forces that drive them. Shifts towards manufacturing and service-based economies are biased in favor of educated labour, and away from the poorest countries and workers. Simultaneously, global agricultural trade liberalization is undermining small-scale farmers in the poorest countries. These processes exacerbate inequalities both between and within countries. The author argues that methods to combat inequality skirt around the underlying politics that give rise to such injustices, and tend to focus on technocratic approaches and minor adjustments rather than more radical political solutions. At national level these would include land redistribution, access to basic services, tax reform, and reforms to political participation. At international level, action to reduce inequality must include pro-poor trade reform.    

Download PDF

Back to top

Insecurity in an Unequal World 

Ed Cairns, a Senior Policy Advisor at Oxfam GB

Protracted conflicts continue to trap millions of civilians in a vicious circle of violence, displacement, loss of livelihoods, and poverty. Often, the key protagonists - who benefit economically from continued conflict - have little incentive for truce. This paper describes how current global conditions are undermining peace and security. 

Download PDF

Back to top

Financial Markets

Jenny Kimmis, freelance researcher, writer, and editor specialising in international development and economics

Private capital flows have the potential to bring important investment benefits to developing countries. In reality, however, capital flows are concentrated towards a few countries, and are highly volatile. The first part of this paper discusses the latest developments in international capital flows and financial market regulation. The second section considers the impacts of capital instability and lack of regulation on poverty reduction. It argues that poor people are disproportionately affected by financial crises, while a lack of global governance of taxation and banking deprives governments and citizens of essential resources for development. The final section analyzes the drivers and incentives underpinning financial market behavior, which tend to undermine investment in developing countries. Throughout, the author makes proposals for policy change in support of enhanced volume, quality, and stability in private capital flows to developing countries. These include improved global regulation of capital flows and taxation, changes to the incentive structures governing capital investment, and swifter, more effective response to financial crises.     

Download PDF

Back to top

The Private Sector and Poverty Reduction

Kate Raworth, a Senior Researcher at Oxfam GB; Sumi Dhanarajan, a Senior Policy Adviser on the Private Sector at Oxfam GB; Liam Wren-Lewis, a PhD student at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford

Many commentators claim a key role for the private sector in reducing poverty. This can be achieved through direct benefits, such as the adoption of ethical business practices and the provision of employment, goods, and services to the poor; and through indirect positive impacts on macro-economic policy and business development. This paper argues that the likelihood of business impacts being pro-poor depends also on wider policy and structural conditions. These include the importance of poor people in a company’s business model, and the length of local investment and commitment that this demands. Case studies of three companies demonstrate the importance of legislation and civil society as catalysts for pro-poor change in business. Leadership from within the company and a strong business case are also essential. However, multiple entrenched problems with modern capitalist systems work against positive change within international business. Overcoming or mitigating these will be necessary if the pro-poor potential of the private sector is to be realized.

Download PDF

Back to top

How and why has multiparty democracy spread over the past 100 years, and what difference has it made to the lives of the poor?

Lisa Horner, head of research and policy at Global Partners and Associates, a democracy, human rights and governance consultancy in London. 

Since the 1990s, democratization has become a central goal and tool of many development agencies. As well as having intrinsic capacities relating to civil and political rights, democracy is argued to promote economic growth and pro-poor development. This paper reviews the growth of democratization in developing countries, and discusses the agencies, institutions, and structural factors driving this phenomenon. It considers the evidence for pro-poor impacts of democratization. Democracy tends to promote individual civil and political rights more than other political systems. However, where formal democratic institutions are created without support for political voice and freedoms, pro-poor impacts are limited. There is little evidence supporting claims that democratization promotes economic development. Indeed, tensions can arise between democratization and economic development in some contexts. Rather than adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to democratization, the paper concludes that it is important for states to develop tailored solutions to collectively defined problems of political and economic development.

Download PDF

Back to top

Notes on Inequality and Poverty in Brazil: Current Situation and Challenges

Nathalie Beghin is the Advocacy Adviser, Oxfam International Office, Brasília, Brazil.

Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The paper analyses the causes of this inequality in terms of Brazil’s development process, which has traditionally ‘managed poverty’ without making efforts to promote change in the socio-economic order: what the author terms ‘conservative modernization’. Accordingly, universal education and social security were not prioritised, and urban segregation, rural exclusion, and regressive taxation were reinforced. Since 2001, levels of inequality and extreme poverty in Brazil have fallen, the result of various socioeconomic factors. The paper particularly notes the positive impact of policies supporting wealth redistribution, such as increases in the minimum wage, expansion in social security coverage, and support for small-scale agriculture. Yet, a stubborn concentration of income, wealth, and assets amongst a minority remains. The author concludes that further progress will require radical urban, land, and fiscal reforms, along with greater political efforts to combat gender and racial discrimination.

Available in English and Portuguese

Download PDFs

Back to top

International Finance: Aid and Middle-Income Countries

Nina Fenton is a research student at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford.

Middle-income countries (MICs) continue to receive significant flows of international aid, despite widespread donor commitment to prioritising aid to low-income countries (LICs). This paper considers the case for continued aid to MICs. Despite their income status, many MICs are characterised by widespread poverty and profound inequalities, and may be politically or technically constrained in their ability to address these. Moreover, MICs are vulnerable to economic and political shocks, which have a knock-on effect on poorer neighbouring countries. Where aid can be targeted to address these problems, it may be beneficial. However, ensuring the effectiveness and attractiveness of aid to MICs requires that donors develop tailored strategies. MICs increasingly refuse to be passive aid recipients, and demand an active role in defining appropriate aid instruments and terms. Moreover, aid from MICs to other developing countries is growing. Although this often reflects strategic interests, it also creates platforms for South-South development co-operation and learning.

Download PDF

Back to top

Health Risks

Nina Henderson-Andrade is an independent research consultant for health and HIV and AIDS policy.

Adopting a human security perspective, this paper argues that health is essential for development, and that health risks are increasingly globalised. The author divides global health risks into three major categories. ‘Traditional’ poverty-related diseases, such as malnutrition and diarrhoea, still cause widespread illness and death in developing countries. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to these diseases, many of which can be easily prevented or treated. Non-communicable diseases cause sixty per cent of deaths globally, and are a growing threat in many developing countries. Emergent highly-infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, and avian flu form the third category. Based on case studies, the author develops a framework for change. She argues that political commitment and leadership are key to securing health. Functioning health systems are needed to translate commitment into action, while civil society participation supports government accountability. Improved commitments and better governance at global level are essential for national-level improvements.

Download PDF

Back to top

Carbon Dioxide Emissions, Technology, and Economic Growth

Richard King is Policy Research Assistant at Oxfam GB.

This paper addresses the debate about whether a combination of innovation and technology transfer will be sufficient to allow us to adapt to climate change and reduce emissions to a sustainable level, without any reduction in overall economic growth levels.

Download PDF

Back to top

Global governance

Sarah Mulley wrote this piece while a Research Associate at the Global Economic Governance Programme at the University of Oxford. She is now Coordinator of the UK Aid Network.

‘Global governance’ refers to ‘government-like’ activities in the international system. It is performed by a panoply of constantly-changing institutions, including international law, international and regional organizations, and NGOs. Political theory disagrees on the extent to which global governance systems can support co-operation or prioritise the interests of the weak over the powerful. Reviewing the performance of various global governance institutions from a pro-poor perspective, the author considers that, although certain institutions have made pro-poor achievements, the current system of global governance delivers its functions inconsistently, and serves the interests of wealthy states more often than those of the poor. The paper concludes by envisaging several alternative scenarios for the future of global governance. Whilst the sovereign state system continues to make many collective action problems appear intractable, certain trends, such as the establishment of the ICC, and the increasing influence of some developing countries in global institutions, give cause for cautious optimism.

Download PDF

The Paradox of Pastoral Vulnerability

This paper was written by Richard Grahn.

Arid and semi-arid (ASAL) areas constitute some of the harshest and remotest places on earth. In these dryland environments rainfall can be anywhere from 25mm to 600mm, often varying as much in time and place as in quantity. It is therefore striking that within such environments mobile livestock herders – pastoralists – survive at all. In fact, pastoral production systems are thought to support 100–200 million mobile pastoralists globally.

Given this aridity it is hardly surprising that pastoralists are subject to higher levels of risk than those living in areas where farming is a viable option. Rain is scarce, infrastructure is almost entirely unknown (or almost entirely dilapidated), and guns are often in plentiful supply due to poor security. Nevertheless, there is a considerable body of evidence that pastoral livelihoods are well-designed risk-management and adaptation strategies. Several studies have even found that pastoralism can compare favourably to commercial ranching approaches to livestock keeping.

Download PDF

Other resources

Speaking Out: How the voices of poor people are shaping the future

Many poor people around the world are denied the opportunity to have their say. Politics generally works well for those in power, but those in poverty are often excluded from forums that directly affect their welfare and so are unable to hold decision-makers to account. Speaking Out describes different ways to strengthen the participation of people in poverty so that they become active citizens and shape policy decisions.

The book includes different approaches, lessons learned, and useful case examples on issues ranging from local community budget monitoring to popular mobilization and media work. The chapters show that addressing a lack of ability to speak out against injustice, as well as the more tangible issues, can make a big difference to people's ability to achieve greater well-being and get out of poverty, and so work towards a point where poor and marginalized women and men are more able to access their rights. The case studies in this book are also available as individual papers.

Download PDF

Urban Poverty and Development in the 21st Century

In ten years’ time, more people will be living in cities than ever before in human history. If we want to live in a sustainable and inclusive world, we must commit to promoting the development of sustainable and inclusive cities.

Of the three billion urban residents of the world today, one billion live in slums, vulnerable to disease, violence and social, political and economic exclusion. Although there are good examples of responses to urban poverty, cities continue to grow, and to grow poorer. The authors of this paper examine the trends in urbanisation and urban poverty and call for improved research and a more coherent programmatic approach to addressing urban poverty and vulnerability. They suggest that urban public space needs to be regenerated in order to encourage local participation in development, and to reduce the ecological impact of urban lifestyles. Urban development strategies need to be incorporated into the global development agenda on issues such as trade, environment, and migration.

The paper argues that civil society, national governments, the private sector and the international development community should harness the positive features of urbanisation (such as the potential for progressive changes in social, political, and economic relations) to create a more inclusive and sustainable global society.

Download PDF

From Poverty to Power is available to buy now from Practical Action Publishing as a book and eBook.

Buy From Poverty to Power

Back to top

Permalink: http://oxf.am/Jzq