The global development briefing: A week in review

By Michael Igoe 13 November 2015

A poster of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won a landslide victory over the Union Solidarity and Development Party. Photo by: TZA / CC BY-NC

Been out of the office? Here’s what you might have missed:

Good news from Myanmar ...

… where an estimated 80 percent of citizens cast their votes in a national election that saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy win a landslide victory over the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party.

Myanmar's development progress at stake as historic polls conclude

As Myanmar wraps up its first democratic elections in two and a half decades, experts weigh in on what development issues the new government should prioritize to sustain progress — and retain the country's status as Southeast Asia's “donor darling.”

Just as significant as the opposition’s success was the ruling party’s acceptance of its defeat in an election viewed by many as a litmus test for Myanmar’s transition to democracy. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief of the armed forces, pledged to “do what is best in cooperation with the new government.”

Plenty of challenges remain. The NLD will now have to turn from opposition politics to governing a divided nation with weak institutions and a long history of cronyism. One of the first steps will be appointing a new president, and while Suu Kyi is currently ineligible due to a constitutional technicality many believe was introduced specifically to bar her from office, some observers suspect that could be open for negotiation in the waning days of the current government’s leadership.

A World Bank Group shakeup ...

… sent memos flying back and forth between staff and leadership this week. President Jim Yong Kim announced that International Finance Corp. Chief Executive Jin Yong Cai and World Bank Chief Financial Officer Bertrand Badré will both be leaving their respective institutions in the next few months. Badré found himself the subject of the staff association ire when details of his $94,000 salary bonus surfaced at the same time employees worried over a “strategic staffing exercise” that sought to cut World Bank expenditures, in part by trimming jobs.

Vice President for Human Resources Sean McGrath announced Wednesday that Philippe Le Houérou, a former World Bank manager who left to become a vice president at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, would succeed Cai at the IFC. Some see the move as a return to European influence at the institution and a shift away from Chinese high-level representation. The departures have also raised questions about confidence in Kim’s ongoing reform efforts.

A 1.8 billion euro trust fund for Syrian refugees …

… is nowhere near enough to stem the crisis, critics have warned. In fact, most of the response measures proposed by the European Union institutions, the 28 EU member states and authorities in the United States have been so far deemed inadequate.

What to expect from the Valletta summit on migration

European and African leaders will gather for a summit in Valletta, Malta, next week to address a surge of migration from Africa through dangerous Mediterranean waters. What will be on the agenda?

European Commission representatives at the Valletta Summit on Migration in Malta this week put up the 1.8 billion euro ($1.93 billion) figure, along with a call to action for the EU bloc’s member states to match that figure, but few have done so yet.

Humanitarian organizations hope the G-20 summit of global leaders in Antalya, Turkey, will provide another opportunity in the coming days for countries to step up to the plate with plans and funding that can address both the immediate needs of refugees and the turmoil that is driving them from their homes.

So far, additional money for refugees and resettlement has been hard to come by. Nordic countries, often regarded for their “exceptionalism” as foreign aid donors, have begun to propose shifting their foreign assistance funds away from overseas spending towards domestic refugees fleeing Syria. Many worry this could signal the start of a trend, which would ultimately result in non-crisis aid programs picking up the tab for Europe’s refugee management and resettlement needs.

The ‘hardest job’ at the United Nations goes to …

… Italian diplomat Filippo Grandi, who was this week appointed as U.N. high commissioner for refugees. Grandi will inherit a global refugee crisis that has more people displaced from their homes and communities than during World War II, previously the worst refugee crisis on record.

The appointment signals an end to months of speculation about who would take on the role. Previously, Devex reported that current U.N. Environmental Program chief Achim Steiner was in the mix.

Grandi is no stranger to international refugee issues. He directed the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA from 2010 to 2014, served as deputy envoy to the U.N. aid mission in Afghanistan, and has worked for UNHCR, including in Syria.

And in other U.N. jobs news, staff aren’t happy …

… with proposed compensation changes. The U.N. staff union made a formal presentation in New York earlier this week, voicing their opposition to the plan. A review meant to modernize the compensation system has “bowed to political pressure from certain member states bent on cutting costs,” U.N. Staff Union President Barbara Tavora-Jainchill told Devex.

The proposed changes include cuts to benefits for single parents, cutbacks on spouse allowances, efforts to make top-level positions more competitive, and revisions to the relocation allowance system.

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About the author

Igoe michael 1
Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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