The World in 2014: selected predictions relevant for the well-being of children and UNICEF
Continuing the tradition from 2013 and 2012 – this guest post is a fabulous overview of 2014 forecasts and predictions from the world of development and aid from former colleagues in UNICEF, who have kindly agreed to allow me to share it with all of you. Thanks to Eva Kaplan, Katell Le Goulven, Nima Hassan Kanyare, Yulia Oleinik and Maggie Ronoh who pulled together and synthesized this great reading list!
Welcome to 2014! As UNICEF enters the first year of its new strategic plan, gears up for celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and embarks on the final push towards the MDGs, we step back and take a broad look at predictions for the year ahead.
First, to check in on how we did last year. The 2013 predictions were largely born out. The sluggish growth predicted for 2013 was indeed just that, with the global economy growing at just 3% compared to the projected 3.6%. Some conflicts also caught the global community by surprise—the military coup in Egypt, the eruption of violence in CAR, and South Sudan’s move towards conflict. We also had the expected unexpected, with extreme weather events like Typhoon Haiyan continuing to catch us off guard.
And what’s in store for 2014?
The global economy is on the up and up. . .
We’re not back to where we were before the economic crisis, but as the Economist predicts, the global economy should grow at 4%, up from 3% last year.
- This growth will be “powered by America.” Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics predicts that the US will “experience its fastest growth in a decade.”
- According to the OECD, the pace of global growth will be moderated by slowed growth in emerging markets. China will undergo economic reforms in 2014, with most growth projections hovering around 7.5%. This is down almost 3% points from 2010, but some economists embrace the lower number, arguing that it could mean necessary reforms are taking hold. Brazil’s economy will only grow at 3%, while India could achieve 6% growth, despite political uncertainty.
- “European policy makers are buoyant,” says the Council on Foreign Relations’ Robert Kahn. The Euro zone has stepped away from the brink of fiscal disaster and is growing. Japan is poised to near 2% growth.
- The UN World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) predicts that African economies will remain strong, growing an average of 4.7%. LDCs as a whole will grow by an impressive 5.7%, according to WESP. Fragile states also have a strong showing—in the Economist, five of the top 12 growing economies are fragile states.
. . . but no good news for inequality or global unemployment
- The World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab predicts a continuing exacerbation of inequality due to “labour’s declining share of national income.” The World Economic Forum’s Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014 also, once again, places widening inequality high on the list of global trends, and cites an increasing mistrust of economic policy, including both economic policy makers and economic institutions, like banks.
- The World Bank’s World Economic Prospects echoes this, underlining that “policy stasis” in the face of growth could be a particular challenge for developing countries.
- The World Economic Forum points to the emergence of “a ‘lost’ generation of young people coming of age in the 2010s who lack both jobs and, in some cases, adequate skills for work, fuelling pent-up frustration.” Robert Khan reminds us that youth unemployment averages 24% in the Eurozone and has exceeded 35% in several countries.
- OECD’s Director of Labour, Employment, and Social Affairs Stefano Scarpetta warns that without embracing policies or innovations to redress the imbalance, these trends could manifest in social unrest. The Economist’s index of social unrest ranks 19 countries as “very high risk,” including both low- and middle-income countries such as Bangladesh, Bolivia, Greece and Nigeria. An additional 46 countries are labelled “high risk.”
Changing leadership . . .
Calling 2014 “a huge year for democracy,” the Economist notes that 40 elections will take place this year, representing 42% of the world’s population. With India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, the European Union, and several Latin American countries all holding major elections, there is the possibility of political shifts in Asia, Latin America, and Europe. A great graphic of all 2014 elections is here.
De-escalating, continuing and growing conflicts. . .
This year will mark 100 years since the outbreak of World War I. This could be a time for reflection on how conflict—and our ability to manage conflict—has evolved. Sadly, on the whole, predictions on 2014’s conflicts do not look good.
On the upside, there continues to be cause for a careful optimism in Myanmar and Colombia; a major diplomatic effort is underway around Iran’s nuclear programs; and Pakistan experienced its first ever democratic handover of power. However, overall, predictions are pessimistic. Foreign Policy’s 2014 list of conflicts to watch, by Louise Arbour, compares as follows to the 2013 list: “Five entries are new: Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Honduras, Libya, and North Caucasus. Five remain: Central Asia, Iraq, the Sahel, Sudan, and Syria/Lebanon.”
Changing technology hotspots. . .
In 2014, as Facebook celebrates its 10 year anniversary and mobile phone subscriptions outnumber people, old paradigms in technology development will shift:
- The Economist’s Leo Mirani notes the best ideas for new technology will likely emerge from unlikely places as “the ‘developing world’ turns into the ‘developer world.’” The Brookings Institute’s Homi Kharas predicts that developing markets will continue to expand “leapfrog” technologies such as mobile banking, with drones poised to be the next game-changer in development, from delivering humanitarian aid or vaccines to monitoring poaching of endangered animals.
- Hans-Holger Albrecht, president and chief executive of Millicom International Cellular, predicts that major telecoms will focus on emerging markets—manufacturing smart phones that are ever cheaper, developing digital services and apps that are ever more locally appropriate, and generating ever more data.
Be sure also to check out the innovations forecast from UNICEF’s very own innovators, Erica Kochi and Chris Fabian.
Shifting sources of development finance. . .
Expect development financing to be at the centre of lively debate during the post-2015 discussions.
- Predictions on ODA can only be described as confused. In the EU and Australia, foreign aid budgets continue to be marked by a decided uncertainty, while in the US ODA for 2014 is projected to decrease by 8% over last year. While much of this is accounted for by the decreasing budget for Afghanistan, contributions to international agencies are down 9%, with increases in budgets to organizations which focus on multi-stakeholder arrangements such as GAVI and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
- Development Impact Bonds formally took the stage in 2013. It might not be a fully baked sector quite yet, but Center for Global Development (CGD) is betting that early investments from trusts, foundations, and development finance institutions will help grow the field.
- Domestic resource mobilization to fill development financing shortfalls will be a key topic in post-2015 debates. The World Bank notes, “Sub-Saharan African countries collected nearly US$10 in own-source revenue for every dollar of foreign assistance received.” However, on both the income and expenditure side, there remains much work to be done to strengthen government efficacy.
Action and inaction: A big year for international development
Challenges that have been the centre of development debates for the past decade will remain simmering while some new initiatives will rise in prominence.
- As we enter the final stretch of the world’s first-ever global development targets, the Millennium Development Goals, discussions on the post-2015 goals will hit a high note. The new goals, to be agreed upon in September 2015, will likely expand targets in the MDGs and enhance the focus on sustainability. More tricky than the what will be the how. Engaging middle-income countries will be the critical, says Alex Evans, Senior Fellow at NYU’s Centre on International Co-operation. “Governments agreed at [last] year’s UN General Assembly that the post-2015 goals should be universal, targeting not only the 1 billion people living in absolute poverty, but all 7 billion of the world’s inhabitants. The reality, though, is that the new development agenda will be anything but that unless middle-income countries engage with it seriously – and at present, it’s unclear what, if anything, they really want or feel they stand to gain.”
- Climate change action remains on the path of “too little, too late.” Even as the post-2015 agenda emphasizes sustainable development goals, most predictions are pessimistic about real action on climate change. As Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change notes, “There’s action nationally, internationally, and on the ground, but it is absolutely not enough.” The global population is projected to grow by 82 million in 2014. This could exacerbate the “superlative” trend of recent years, with extreme weather events on the rise even as population pressures erode our ability to manage them.
- Electricity will be at the fore, with the UN kicking off “the decade of sustainable energy for all.” The US government recently announced the Power Africa Initiative which would place clean energy as a major USAID priority. The focus on these will be clean electricity provision, achieved through smart multi-sectoral partnerships.
- Toilets will also have their day, and here we may also expect to see a leapfrogging technology. In 2013, the Gates Foundation announced the winners of its waterless toilet challenge and in 2014 will begin to roll out these “next generation toilets” in India. Africa is also poised for a toilet revolution, with initiatives like Sanergy’s toilet franchise reinventing the entire sanitation value chain.
At the front lines: critical actors in development
Much has been made of the changing relationship to the private sector. However, the space for development actors (and action) is even broader in practice:
- Cities are on the forefront of development progress. As populations continue to shift to cities, achieving development outcomes will increasingly put cities in the spotlight on everything from food security to climate change. As the Atlantic Council’s Jeff Lightfoot states, “Cities have clout, both in the countries of which they are apart, but also independently and as a network of global cities.”
- They may not get headlines, but the role of last-mile service workers was highlighted in a handful of studies in 2013, including a UNICEF report. As the Institute for Development Studies’ Lawrence Haddad notes, “Policy is what policy does, goes the saying, and policy only does if frontline workers can implement it and have the incentive to do so.” For 2014, he predicts that “frontline workers will increasingly be front and center”.
Final thoughts: keeping children at the centre
The Center for Global Development doesn’t publish predictions, but rather wishes. This year, CGD President Nancy Birdsall crowdsourced hers, inviting readers to contribute. From the suggestions, she compiled her list, ending with this gem:
“My final wish is simple: Count every child because every child counts, starting with a drive for increased birth registration and improved service delivery for children in low-income developing countries. According to UNICEF estimates, some 230 million children under 5, about one-third of the total, are not registered and therefore do not officially exist. New approaches, including SMS, linking registration to the ID of mothers and strengthening this through the use of biometric data, can accelerate registration even in poor countries and roll out basic services far more efficiently. This should be complemented by a global effort to provide retroactive registration to the approximately 750 million unregistered people under 16.”
What are your predictions for 2014? We certainly look forward to staying in touch and collaborating with you in the coming year!
Eva Kaplan, Katell Le Goulven, Nima Hassan Kanyare, Yulia Oleinik, Maggie Ronoh
Multilateral System Analysis Unit, UNICEF
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are those of the authors and editors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNICEF, nor of any particular Division or Office. References to a non-UNICEF site does not imply endorsement by UNICEF of the accuracy of the information contained therein or of the views expressed.