'Reforms cannot proceed without more accountable and inclusive public institutions and good governance. The voice of people must be heard and heeded.'
Shaukat Aziz, Prime Minister of Pakistan, Asia 2015
Comment from the 2006 ODI Annual Report - Growth and poverty reduction in Asia - where next?by John Farrington
Over the last two decades, Asia has grown faster than any other region, and growth has driven poverty rates down faster than elsewhere. But over half the world’s poor still live in Asia.
Whether growth can be sustained, and made more poverty-focused, is far from certain: growth prospects are challenged by rising energy prices, the spectre of financial instability, and environmental pollution — Asia has nine of the ten most polluted cities in the world. Asia is hugely diverse — culturally and politically as well as in terms of economic opportunity. Vast areas, some of them carrying dense populations, are weakly linked to mainstream markets and have few resource endowments.
Much is still to be done to promote access to the benefits of growth by ethnic, social and religious minorities. All this means that fast-growing countries and provinces co-exist those growing more slowly.
What are the implications of this kaleidoscope for development assistance, specifically for a bilateral agency such as DFID? This was the central question at the conference Asia 2015: Promoting Growth, Ending Poverty, held in London on 6-7 March 2006. The event was opened by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and co-sponsored by DFID, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. A joint ODI/Institute of Development Studies team, led by John Farrington, provided thematic support for the conference.
Discussions at the conference, led by ministerial-level delegations, concluded that slower-growing countries and areas would continue to need conventional development assistance, but streamlined through better harmonisation procedures, and geared as much to the testing of new approaches to development as to financial provisions. For the faster-growing areas, the main discussions were around shared concerns over energy, the environment, security, disaster management, global financial stability, migration and trade.
Within donor countries work on these issues is typically led by departments other than those dealing with aid, such as trade, industry and defence departments. The challenge for development assistance departments will be to identify how to work best with these, making financial transfers to and via them where necessary, and, ultimately, influencing their agenda towards poverty reduction.