Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

Missing Pieces: Education and Health in Pakistan, Poverty in Haiti, and More

by Isobel Coleman Friday, August 31, 2012
A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters). A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews two scholarly works, as well as news on Haiti and a range of development innovations. Enjoy the reading and the holiday weekend.
  • Education and Health in Pakistan: While better educated parents are known to raise healthier children, the role of each parent and the exact reasons for the correlation remain unclear. A study in World Development seeks to clarify the issue. Using a survey of almost 1,200 households in two provinces of Pakistan, the authors find that a mother’s level of schooling significantly affects children’s height and weight. However, only a father’s education impacts immunization. The authors speculate that fathers may guide certain health behaviors, “particularly if they require travel to a health clinic,” while mothers govern “day-to-day decisions” that affect “longer-term measures of health such as height and weight.” But it is not parents’ “education per se” that drives better child health. Instead, the authors find that immunization responds to fathers’ health knowledge (rather than overall schooling). Mothers’ impact on height and weight, meanwhile, seems driven by their health knowledge and “empowerment within the home.” Based on these findings, the authors write that “policies aimed at achieving better health awareness and knowledge” might give Pakistan the biggest development boost. Read more »

Taliban Atrocities and Afghanistan’s Future

by Isobel Coleman Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Afghan police and locals gather at the site of a bomb blast in Kandahar province on August 28, 2012 (Ahmad Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters). Afghan police and locals gather at the site of a bomb blast in Kandahar province on August 28, 2012 (Ahmad Nadeem/Courtesy Reuters).

This has been a particularly grisly week in Afghanistan. On Sunday night, Taliban insurgents in the conservative southern province of Helmand beheaded seventeen people—fifteen men and two women—who were attending a party that involved music and mixed-gender dancing. The killings were so gruesome that the central Taliban leadership is denying its involvement in the atrocity, claiming local leaders in the area knew nothing about the attack. Read more »

Egypt, Investment, and the IMF

by Isobel Coleman Monday, August 27, 2012
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde looks at one of the pyramids at the end of her visit to Egypt on August 22, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde looks at one of the pyramids at the end of her visit to Egypt on August 22, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, in recent weeks has not only moved to consolidate political control by forcing out the country’s military leaders and increasing the power of the presidential office; he is also beginning to come to grips with Egypt’s troubled economy.  Last week, Egypt sought a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) —a significant increase over the $3.2 billion that it was originally pursuing. The loan has been an off-and-on possibility for Egypt for over a year; political uncertainty and domestic opposition have hindered negotiations in the past. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Meles Zenawi’s Death, Development Debates, and More

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, August 23, 2012
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi meets with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during an official visit to Khartoum, August 21, 2011 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters). Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi meets with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during an official visit to Khartoum, August 21, 2011 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers events in Africa and Asia, as well as the debate over development’s drivers, in today’s edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

by Isobel Coleman Tuesday, August 21, 2012
A man carries aid provided by the Red Crescent Society in Sana'a, Yemen on July 2, 2012 (Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters). A man carries aid provided by the Red Crescent Society in Sana'a, Yemen on July 2, 2012 (Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters).

A well-planned attack by al-Qaeda-affiliated militants on the intelligence services headquarters in the southern port city of Aden this past weekend underscores the country’s beleaguered security situation. Yet as alarming as the terrorist threat is, Yemen’s increasingly precarious humanitarian crisis is also cause for concern. Rising food prices in particular are pushing more families to the brink of desperation. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Housing in Haiti, Democracy and Inequality, and More

by Isobel Coleman Friday, August 17, 2012
People sit outside a house that was destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, January 3, 2012 (Swoan Parker/Courtesy Reuters). People sit outside a house that was destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, January 3, 2012 (Swoan Parker/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights topics ranging from Haiti to Zimbabwe, with inequality and agricultural development in between. I hope you enjoy the selection.
  • Housing in Haiti: More than two-and-a-half years have passed since Haiti’s January 12, 2010, earthquake. But according to a New York Times piece, “the most obvious, pressing need—safe, stable housing for all displaced people—remains unmet.” As the article explains, “while more than 200,000 houses were damaged or destroyed,” international efforts have produced only “an estimated 15,000 repairs and 5,700 new, permanent homes so far.” Some 390,000 Haitians languish in “abysmal” camps. Tens of thousands more have been ejected from camps and “remain homeless.” Others, ostensibly luckier, have received temporary homes built by humanitarian groups. But these are often too small and isolated from jobs and services. Finally, still other Haitians have rebuilt with their own hands. Though their comforts are modest, they seem happiest of all. As one says, “When I die, I will have something to pass on to my daughter.” Read more »

Food Insecurity in Malawi

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, August 16, 2012
A Malawian woman tends dry fields in Thyolo district, some 70 km (44 miles) from the commercial capital Blantyre on October 6, 2005 (Courtesy Reuters). A Malawian woman tends dry fields in Thyolo district, some 70 km (44 miles) from the commercial capital Blantyre on October 6, 2005 (Courtesy Reuters).

This summer has been a difficult season for global agriculture. Despite some much-needed rain in the American Midwest, drought continues to affect wide areas of the United States. This week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared that the U.S. government would buy $170 million of animal products, such as pork and lamb, from farmers who are strained by high prices for animal feed. Read more »

Women, Free Speech, and the Tunisian Constitution

by Isobel Coleman Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Women carry banners and shout slogans during a demonstration in Tunis on August 13, 2012 (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters). Women carry banners and shout slogans during a demonstration in Tunis on August 13, 2012 (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters).

The path to democracy hardly begins and ends with elections. There is necessarily a lot of heavy lifting along the way to ensure that a full set of human rights are protected. In the reconstituted Arab states of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, balancing conservative religious beliefs and social mores with minority rights, women’s rights, and freedom of speech is already proving to be a hard challenge indeed. Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Blackout, Kagame’s Fortunes, and More

by Isobel Coleman Friday, August 10, 2012
Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall during a power-cut in Kolkata, India, July 31, 2012 (Rupak de Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters). Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall during a power-cut in Kolkata, India, July 31, 2012 (Rupak de Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers stories from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Enjoy the post and the weekend.
  • India’s Blackout: India’s late-July blackout, which cut power to more than 600 million, has prompted a flood of analysis. A Businessweek piece notes that “blackouts are everyday occurrences,” partly because India lacks enough coal for its new power plants. A CNN post cites artificially low electricity rates, maintained by politicians in search of votes, as a root cause of the crisis. A Washington Post article says that even when an electricity connection exists, “the poor can’t afford to enjoy it.” Power flows are spotty, bureaucracy thick, and bribe demands legion. On ForeignAffairs.com, two authors argue that a history of state—not national—control over electricity grids has much to do with the crisis. Finally, the Economist concludes that “India’s great blackout is a consequence of rotten governance. Voters need to understand that, and deliver the country’s political class a different kind of electric shock.” Read more »

Saudi Women at the Olympics

by Isobel Coleman Thursday, August 9, 2012
Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar runs in her women's 800 meter round 1 heat at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters/Lucy Nicholson). Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar runs in her women's 800-meter round 1 heat at the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 8, 2012 (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters).

Just before the Olympics started, I wrote about how for the first time ever, each participating country was sending at least one female competitor to the Games. The participation of two Saudi Arabian women was particularly groundbreaking: until the eleventh hour, it looked as if the Saudi government would not allow them to compete. Now, as the end of the Games approaches, these women have won symbolic victories, though not without struggle and controversy. Read more »