NIBR at the 3rd Nordic Conference for Rural Research 8 – 10 September 2014

By Aadne Aasland, senior researcher, NIBR International Department

NIBR was well represented at the third biannual Nordic Conference for Rural Research. This year Trondheim was the venue of this cross-disciplinary event, dealing with social challenges and policy issues that are currently confronting Nordic rural areas.

The Munkholmen islet in the Trondheimsfjord. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

One of the topics that were high up on the agenda at this year’s conference was immigration to Nordic rural districts. In a key-note speech Susanna Stenbacka from the University of Uppsala used data from the NIBR-coordinated project “The Multiethnic Rural Community – Inclusion or Exclusion of Immigrants?” to discuss how resilience can be sustained in rural areas through international migration. She accounted for both individual strategies among refugees that she had interviewed in Swedish rural areas, and also community strategies for making use of the resources that refugees bring into the community.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

NIBR researchers Susanne Søholt and Aadne Aasland chaired a working group at the conference with eight prepared papers on the impact of international migration on rural welfare and local development. The papers in the working group reflected the large number of angles that this phenomenon is studied from. It included papers with basis in a variety of disciplines (sociology, political science, geography, anthropology, business studies) and with very different methodological approaches. The papers brought in perspectives ranging from the immigrants’ bodies, via the households to the local communities, national policies and impact of global phenomena.

Four papers by NIBR researchers were presented in this working group. Guri Mette Vestbylooked at variations in place knowledge and place attachment among different types of newcomers in Norwegian rural districts. She stressed that if the municipality wants newcomers to settle, such differences need to be taken into account.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

Aadne Aasland and Susanne Søholt gave a paper on immigrant segregation and neighbourhood hierarchies in three rural municipalities of Norway using register data and GIS analysis to reveal settlement patterns at local level. Immigrant segregation is rather low, and immigrants appear no less likely than native Norwegians to settle in neighbourhoods reflecting their own socio-economic status.

Kristian Tronstad used register data and statistical analysis to illuminate settlement patterns among Norway’s new immigrants. He found quite different patterns in Norway compared to what has previously been found in Sweden with more emphasis on employment opportunities and less on quality of life and marriage migration.

Photo: Odd Roger Langørgen, Centre for Rural Research, Trondheim

Ottar Brox gave a presentation arguing that immigration to rural areas, which is commonly referred to as a “rural rescue” preventing depopulation in the districts, in reality implies a number of negative effects on the wage structure and work environment with increasing class divisions as a result.

The working group was well attended with more than 30 participants from all Nordic countries. The majority of the papers dealt with immigration to rural Norway. This might be a result of the topic being larger and higher up on the policy agenda in Norway than in the other Nordic countries.

The social programme consisted in a sightseeing and dinner at the island of Munkholmen. In two years the 4th Nordic Conference for Rural Research will be organised in Akureyri, Iceland.

Side effects – the blind spot of aid evaluations

By Jørn Holm-Hansen and Henrik Wiig, senior researchers, NIBR International Department

What is the effect of development aid? This question is frequently asked, and not seldom combined with an insinuation that the answer is ‘none’. The sector of development aid internationally has responded by setting up an elaborate apparatus to make sure their activities are evaluated. Scholars, researchers and consultants worldwide are being engaged to document and provide impartial assessments of aid effects and impacts. Despite this, very little knowledge has been produced to answer the question. The reason is that the evaluations generally do not address the issue of unintended effects.

In a recently published study (Norad Evaluation Report 2/2014) we show how the issue of unintended affects is being dealt with in state-of-the-art evaluations. The fact that the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation – Norad – itself commissioned the report is reassuring. We went through all the 78 evaluation reports issued by Norad from the 38 evaluations that were carried out for them since 2010. The conclusion is clear: Evaluations mainly check whether the aid activities have the intended effects or not. The obvious possibility that aid activities have unintended effects is hardly taken into consideration, at least not in some depth. This is astounding because addressing unintended effects is one of the requirements clearly formulated by OECD/DAC for evaluating development assistance.
Development aid is given without regard to side effects. Medicines are not.
Credit: Bobbie A. Curtis / Wikimedia Commons

Moreover, development aid is an activity that is likely to produce such effects by the fact that it is taking place in vulnerable and complex settings. In fact, some possible side effects are so probable that most evaluation should discuss them. Nonetheless, it seems as if the slightly desperate pursuit of demonstrable goal achievement has placed possible side effects in the evaluators’ blind spot.

An electronic search using key words like ‘unintended’, ‘unexpected’, unforeseen’, unanticipated’ and the like showed that these word were mentioned in no more than 46 percent of the reports. In addition, if the take closer look at not only how often, but in what ways, unintended effects are being addressed, the picture is even more gloomy. When side effects are mentioned it is most often being done in passing and superficially.

Development aid evaluations are being conducted according to detailed Terms-of-References. In all, 40 percent of Norad’s ToRs require a discussion of possible side effects. Some – i.e. one of four evaluations – mention side effects in one way or another even if the ToR does not ask for it.

Easily predicted side effect: Material goods meant to stimulate certain behaviour – e.g. efficient farming – being seen by target groups as an end in itself.
Credit: Julien Harneis / Wikimedia Commons

One of the questions that should be asked in a large number of evaluations is the following: What is the side effect of development aid taking over the “nice issues”, like education, gender equality and environmental protection? Does it lead to a partial “abdication” on the part of the authorities on these issues? And does aid have the unintended side effect that those societal groups that should have been fighting for the good objectives so to speak are withdraw from “real life” to be engaged by the aid sector in a “parallel aid development reality”? This goes for potentially civil servants and leaders of real civil society organisations. Many of those now making a good living as local aid facilitators might otherwise have set up much-needed real-life businesses.

Another easily predicted side-effect of aid is target groups focusing on the material stimuli they receive to pursue specific goals (e.g. more efficient farming). Instead of seeing these stimuli as means to achieve a goal, they tend to see the acquisition of the stimuli as the goal, which may be fully rational in a setting where long-term planning is close to impossible. Development aid not taking these basic facts into consideration is inefficient.

Back to the initial question: How does development aid work? The answer is clear: We do not know. The reason why is that so far we have been content with trying to identify a small piece of the total picture. In order to get a fuller picture of aid effects and impact we will have to venture beyond checking out the intended effects and include the unintended effects as well.

The report can be downloaded from

The Struggle For Socio-Economic Rights: Lessons From South Africa

By John Harrington, Professor of Global Health Law at Cardiff University and Peris Jones, senior researcher at NIBR.

The Constitution of 2010 is the fruit of struggles
for democratic transformation from the early 1990s onwards. It marks a clear break with the authoritarian and often undemocratic regimes which dominated Kenya in the colonial and post-colonial periods.

It guarantees the civil and political rights of individuals and establishes a system of checks and balances to secure accountable government.

However, as the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission found in 2002, the popular desire for change went further. Citizens repeatedly told Commissioners that the state must act to alleviate poverty and to secure the basic needs of all.

Raila Odinga, Prime Minister in Kenya from 2008 to 2013. Photo: Fredrick Onyango / Wikimedia Commons

Article 43 of the new 2010 constitution responds to this call by guaranteeing rights to health, adequate housing, sanitation, freedom from hunger, clean water, education and social security.

As the Chief Justice has said, Article 43 is a charter for structural change in Kenya – no such rights were contained in the independence constitution of 1963. The success of the new order and its legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary Kenyans will depend to a significant extent on whether this promise of transformation can be realized.

To understand the factors likely to determine the success of this project, it is useful to look at those countries already with more experience in the implementation of socio-economic rights such as South Africa. Indeed, the drafters of Article 43 were particularly influenced by the corresponding provisions of South Africa’s 1996 constitution, Sections 26 and 27.

A recent workshop at the British Institute in Eastern Africa in Nairobi brought together senior members of the Kenyan judiciary, legal professionals, civil society activists and academics to provide a timely review of what has been achieved in South Africa and to reflect on the lessons which Kenya can learn from that experience.

The Nairobi offices of the British Institute in Eastern Africa. Photo:

The event saw the launch of an edited collection entitled, ‘Socio-Economic Rights in South Africa: Symbols or Substance‘ which asks to what extent the rights contained in Sections 26 and 27 have been realised and how has this outcome been influenced by the actions of social movements, academics and the judiciary.

As the book illustrates, socio-economic rights are not merely the focus of scholarly debate. They are also used strategically in real struggles over the allocation of power and resources in society. Their legal content is shaped by conflicts, in court and outside, over tangible goods and services.

Several high profile gains have been made through socio-economic rights litigation in South Africa. For example, in the ‘Nevirapine’ case taken by the Treatment Action Campaign, the Constitutional Court ordered the government to remove barriers to anti-retroviral therapies and to create a national treatment plan for people living with Aids.

The terms on which tenants can be evicted for non-payment of rent or in pursuit of slum clearance programmes have also been rebalanced in a series of cases. Local authorities are now required to give adequate notice and to provide alternative accommodation for evictees. The latter obligation arises whether the land in question was publicly or privately owned.
The Kibera slum in Nairobi. Colin Crowley / Wikimedia Commons.

Landowners are also required to ‘meaningfully engage’ with residents, discussing the options for resolving eviction disputes with them in good faith.

The South African courts apply a test of ‘reasonableness’ in deciding whether the actions, decisions or policies of the state are in violation of sections 26 and 27.

The authorities must take account of the needs of the most vulnerable citizens, plan effectively on the basis of sound evidence, facilitate public participation, allocate sufficient resources, take account of long term as well as short term needs and so on.

The ‘reasonableness’ test is sometimes criticized as a ‘weak standard of review’ since it does not entitle individual citizens to a specific quantity of health care or quality of housing, for example. However it does focus the courts’ attention on the process and quality of public decision-making.

This has been of critical importance given that South Africa has been a de facto one-party state since the end of apartheid. In the absence of effective parliamentary opposition, socio-economic rights have opened up questions of resource allocation to democratic debate and given a voice to the most marginalized and vulnerable in society.

What factors allowed these gains to be made? As the book shows, the end of apartheid created a unique opportunity for social, as well as political transformation.

Not least, there was the ideological inheritance of the liberation struggle which aimed at overcoming historic injustice and achieving equality for the black majority.

Admittedly the ANC had been divided over whether enforceable constitutional rights were the best means of achieving this. But, given the background of many judges and senior lawyers in the anti-apartheid movement, it is not surprising that there was a firm commitment to transformation through the constitution once it had been passed. As activists moved into government, there was also a cadre of officials sympathetic to the realisation of socio-economic rights, at least in the early years of the new dispensation.

The organisational strength and clear political focus of civil society was another legacy from the years of struggle. Many activists had worked at grassroots within the ANC and shared its transformative agenda. They had the legitimacy and the tactical ability to challenge the government when it adopted neo-liberal economic policies likely to promote inequality in the late 1990s.

Campaigns have also been strengthened by the creation of alliances between grassroots movements, trade unions, and professional groups, such as doctors, who provided crucial expert evidence for the work of the Treatment Action Campaign. Of critical importance has been the ability to see litigation, not as an end in itself, but also as a means to secure actual implementation of the rights.
Treatment Action Campaign activists. Photo: Joe Wright / Wikimedia Commons

Since 2010 the Kenyan High Court has drawn heavily on the reasoning of the South African courts in interpreting Article 43. The ‘Nevirapine’ case was cited in a ruling that anti-counterfeit legislation was unconstitutional in so far as it threatened to block access to affordable generic medicines. The requirements of adequate notice, ‘meaningful engagement’ and alternative accommodation have been introduced into Kenyan housing law from the South African ‘eviction’ cases.

As the workshop learned, by adopting the reasonableness test of state action in relation to socio-economic rights, the Kenyan courts, like their South African counterparts, are able to focus more on inadequate systems and policies than on individual entitlements.

Notwithstanding this evidence of a commitment to transformation, there are still important obstacles to the realization of socio-economic rights in Kenya.

Litigants are understandably more concerned with obtaining compensation for themselves than with the more difficult task of structural change. State bodies show a worrying tendency to ignore adverse court orders. The policies and legislation needed to give practical detail to fundamental rights are often either poorly drafted or not drafted at all.

By contrast with South Africa no common political philosophy unites Kenyan activists, senior judges, administrators and politicians.

The link between anti-colonial struggle, trade unionism and political radicalism was broken during the Emergency of the 1950s. Given the ideology of self-help promoted by the founders of independent Kenya, socio-economic rights are at risk of being seen as a safety net for the very poor, rather than a means of building nationwide social solidarity.

The workshop considered the strategies which might be used to overcome these problems. While high quality scholarship on socio-economic rights is emerging from Kenyan universities, the link between research and legal activism could be strengthened.

Civil society organisations dependent on donor funding are under pressure to show tangible outputs in the form of successful litigation or changed policies.

Important though these are, they allow little time for detailed empirical research on whether the case law and legislative reform based on Article 43 are having an impact beyond the courtroom and the debating chamber. Drawing on a range of disciplines, such as urban planning, administration studies and public health, such research would also provide sound evidence for further policy initiatives or litigation.

Kenya Vision 2030: The government’s development blueprint.

It was also agreed that the legal profession needed to do more to meet the challenge of Article 43. The Judicial Training Institute has done important work on socio-economic rights, though many judges remain doubtful of their importance. In any case under the adversarial system judges depend on the arguments presented by the parties. Where the government side fails to construct a detailed argument, as often happens in Article 43 cases, the resulting opinion is inevitably weaker.

This situation may improve as a growing number of Kenyans return from South Africa and elsewhere with post-graduate qualifications in human rights.

But participants urged Kenyan law schools themselves to develop masters’ level programmes on litigation and socio-economic rights. The tendency of some Nairobi law firms to mix commercial work with public interest litigation was also to be encouraged.

This article was first published in The Star 17 May 2014.

Will there be a World Cup in Brazil?

By Einar Braathen
Originally published in the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen 5 March 2014. Translated to English by Celina Sørbøe

Rio de Janeiro three days before the carnival: Yet another street demonstration this record hot Brazilian summer. Twice as many police as demonstrators in the street. The slogans are: Não Vai Ter Copa – “There won´t be World Cup”– and “No to criminalization of protests”.

Não Vai Ter Copa – “There won´t be World Cup” – sounds like a surreal parole in a football crazy country that has already invested around 10 billion USD on arenas for the tournament which will start on June 12th. Still, the parole has received growing support, and not only on social media and among the activists who have already taken to the streets on numerous occasions during this record hot Brazilian summer. In fact, an increasing percentage of the population as a whole is against the country arranging the World Cup: 10 percent in 2008, 26 percent in June last year, up to a record-high 38 percent this February. The Brazilian government and the International Football Federation (FIFA) therefore fear a repetition of the mass protests that took place during the Confederations’ Cup in June 2013, when over 10 million protesters were in the streets in 400 cities throughout Brazil. They are particularly worried that the host cities will be plagued by violent confrontations. Much indicates that this will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Photo: Anne Kjersti Bjørn

The demands from June last year are equally prevalent today, including: a significant improvement of public services within the areas of public transportation, health and education; and no to corrupt politicians, who together with entrepreneurs are getting rich from overpriced and socially destructive construction projects.

The presidency, the congress, and several governors are up for elections this October. They have all proven to be incapable of following up on the promises they gave last year to “listen to the voice of the streets” in order to quell the protests. Instead, the corporate-driven media of the country, led by the Globo imperium, is focusing on the violence and vandalism of certain protesters. The politicians are hoping that repressive measures – such as more police, new laws, and harsher penalties – will quell the tensions and isolate demonstrators. There is much at stake in front of these games.

The public opinion continues to be on the side of the protesters. Not as overwhelmingly as in June last year, but 52 percent of the population still express “support the demonstrations”, according to the poll agency Datafolha. On the other hand, the grand coalition that makes up the federal government was approved by only 39 percent of the people this February, compared to around 60 percent before the mass protests of last year.
“I want FIFA standard buses” Photo: Anne Kjersti Bjørn

The government has presented the following bills for the congress: increased penalties – up to three years imprisonment – for whoever destroys public or private property; prohibiting the use of masks during demonstrations; and obligation to announce demonstrations 24 hours in advance to a series of specified governmental organs. In addition, a proposal has surged that would legalize measures the police has already used on multiple occasions, which is preventive actions – including the arrestment of surveillanced persons before the demonstrations begin.

Romero Juca (PMDB), a parliamentary leader of one of the two largest political parties in the government coalition, does however not feel that the government is going far enough. With enthusiastic support from right wing forces, he has proposed a new “law against terrorism”, which explicitly will strike street protesters accused of using violence. Terrorism is, according to this proposal, the act of “provoking or spreading generalized fear or panic through violating human life or the physical integrity, health or freedom of persons”. The prescribed penalties that are being suggested is from 8 to 20 years if the attack is directed towards public or private property, 15 to 24 years if directed towards a human being, and 24 to 30 years if the act of violence results in death. The proposal is being pushed in order to take effect before the World Cup.

At the same time, a massive police corps is being put together. 150 000 officers from the military police and 20 000 private security guards are preparing in special World Cup battalions, with a budget of around 1 billion USD. Ralf Mutschkle, FIFA´s director of security, is part of the chain of command and in charge of the private security guards. In Rio de Janeiro, the World Cup battalion has its own elite troop. The newspaper O Globo recently portrayed their new armor on the front page with the headline Rio gets “Robocop” against Black Blocks. Black Blocks are the “enemy”- supposedly violent protesters.

Surely, there are anarchist groups that idealize the “right to revolt”, or at least the “right to self-defense”. However, researchers, journalists, and human rights´ activists that have observed the clashes between police and protesters point to the fact that the tumults are almost always triggered by an aggressive police. The law enforcers rarely enter in dialogue with the protesters. The police resorts far too quickly to teargas grenades, rubber bullets and “tasers” (laser guns). On the other hand, the grand majority of protesters are opposed to breaking garbage cans and bank branch windows, which are the most common forms of “revenge violence”.

The violence status from June last year until today is that one person has been killed as a direct result of protesters´ actions – a television photographer who was struck in the head by a fireworks rocket. On the other hand, an unknown number of demonstrators or bystanders have passed away in traffic accidents or similar accidents as they have tried to escape the rubber bullets and tear gas of the police.

Of the many thousands of protesters that have been taken in – during the last demonstration in São Paulo on 21 February, 262 were arrested – the police have only been capable of bringing 27 people to court, in spite of their surveillance cameras and other intelligence. Several hundred police officers have been reported for the use of severe violence in service, but no one has been brought to justice. An especially dangerous development is that the police seems to be actively hindering the work of the media in the field. In São Paulo alone, 57 journalists have become victims of police aggression during protests since June last year, and 107 in the country as a whole, according to the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji).

Sure, there will be a World Cup in Brazil. The question is: what kind of World Cup, and at what price? Economically, socially, and not at least politically, the Brazilians are paying a price that might be too high. Presumably, Sepp Blatter and FIFA will once again get off too easily, with too high profits. One can however ask: is the international audience willing to accept that the right to demonstrate and other democratic rights are being sacrificed because yet another corrupt mega sports show must go on?

For more on this topic, please visit the web site Brazilian Urban Politics

The Bosnian Spring: The citizens take action

By Jørn Holm-Hansen
26 February 2014

The Bosnia unrest started peacefully in Tuzla early February but turned violent as former workers of the city’s large enterprises clashed with police. They had lost their jobs as a result of a row of dubious privatisations. The protest spread to other cities and some official buildings were set on fire.
The Tuzla Canton Government building in flames, 8 February 2014. Photo credit: Juniki San

Soon, however, the unrest went indoors. Street fights with the police were replaced by the organization of plenary meetings, where everyone can show up and have a say. All over the country such plenums have been set up, so far more so in the Bosniak-Croat Federation than in the Republika Srpska, though.

Those of us who witnessed the changes in East and Central Europe at close range 25 years ago have some moments of flashback now. Just like in Bosnia today, citizen committees and forums took over after a first stage of street protests.
Demonstration in Berlin 4 November 1989. Photo credit: Bernd Settnik

Later, what happened in 1989 has been hailed as the big victory of civil society. This may have proved to be a qualified truth since the civil society post-1989 has been weak. Nonetheless the international community has had a strong belief in the practice of promoting civil society development to promote politically accountable regimes all over the world. Bosnia is no exception to this.

Quite a few euros have been spent by international donors to promote civil society in Bosnia. Having conducted evaluations of some of these projects in the past, I must admit I find it difficult to conclude that they had deep impacts. Most of the “civil society” set up as a result of aid efforts had few roots in the remnants of pre-war civil society. Although manned by excellent people these new NGOs seldom were able to be more than “commissioned activists”. When doing projects the local population served a role as “target groups”, not a pool from where local NGOs could recruit new members or activists.

On the other hand, if we look at Bosnia’s vibrant civil society this spring, it would be interesting to check out in what ways skills and insights from the numerous “capacity-building” workshops of the late ’90s and early 2000s turn out to be of use. I don’t think the answer is given. But the answer would be highly interesting. Why? Because Bosnia probably is the first country ever that has been subject to massive aid and democracy-building, and then actually after a while have entered into a phase of popular mobilization for what aid parlance terms good governance.

What has happened in Bosnia now is far from work shop exercises. At last, we observe a genuine initiative from below. The protests are driven by commitment and anger, not a vague wish to strengthen civil society as such. The social discontent is directed against some of the core traits of post-1995 Bosnia and Herzegovina, like shady privatisation, corruption and lack of industrial policies.

The unrest started in Tuzla, which was the centre of the large-scale industrialization of Bosnia after 1945. The city is traditionally a trade union stronghold. The inhabitants were to large degree immune to the ethnic hatred that destroyed Bosnia in the 1990s.
Burned down Tuzla Canton Government building, 8 February 2014. Photo credit: Juniki San

What is now at times called the Bosnian Spring – bosansko proljeće – was initiated by workers at five enterprises in Tuzla. They protested against privatisation, reduction of workplaces and wage arrears. They demanded a halt to privatisation and strict public control of enterprises. The entire privatisation process was to be scrutinized to assess it accordance with law. Also the salaries of the politicians were to be harmonized with ordinary salaries, the protested demanded. And for sure, Bosnia has a lot of well-paid and otherwise privileged politicians.

The complex state structure that followed from the Dayton Agreement in 1995 was a compromise between three nationalisms, Bosniak, Serb and Croat. The power sharing structure of central state, entities, federation and cantons requires no less than 14 prime ministers at various levels in the small country with no more than 3.8 million inhabitants. The number of ministers is 150 and all have high salaries, nice cars and expensive privileges.
Political division of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, after the Dayton Agreement. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Bosnian unrest has spread to a large number of cities and towns all over the country and all now have their own citizens’ forums. They formulate political demands to the regular city councils or cantonal authorities. The demands are directed against the privileges of the politicians, in particular the lucrative “golden handshakes” offered to politicians when they resign. Another demand is for political leaders without party affiliation. Several cantonal governments have resigned as a result of the protests. Political parties are associated with patron-client structures, just like elsewhere in the Balkans.

Some of the citizen forums take a step further, demanding that the privatisation of former state owned enterprises are examined to check the lawfulness of the processes. Before the 1992–95 wars these enterprises were mainly owned cooperatively according to the particular Yugoslav system of socialist self-management, but after 1995 they were made state owned in order to be made ready for privatisation.

Some core traits of the protest is Bosnia remind of what happened in Poland 1980–81. Then the united trade union movement under the banners of Solidarność forced the authorities to sit down and negotiate. Similar to Bosnia today, the Polish unrest had its deep roots in the large industrial enterprises. During the summer of 1980 Solidarność quickly established a counter-power that followed up implementation of agreement. The Polish movement made sure divisions between industrial branches, professions or administrative regions were not allowed to develop into a split-up of the unity.

Today, in Bosnia one of the great questions is whether the protest movement is able to avoid going ethnic. This, of course, may prove difficult in a country that is structured politically and administratively around ethnic categories. Nonetheless, the civilized style of the Bosnians forums is in stark contrast to what we have been witnessing in Ukraine lately. This bodes well for Bosnia and the Bosnia, who finally have started to move after 19 years of political passivity.
Winter landscape of Holy Trinity church in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia. Photo credit:

Extreme climate events and operationalization of India’s climate policy

CIENS/NIBR research presented at global meeting in Delhi (DSDS), February 2014

By Trond Vedeld

India in the global sustainability dialogue
The ambitious 14th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit (DSDS 2014) on “Attaining Energy, Water, and Food Security for All” (February 5–8, 2014) suggests that India has acquired a key position in the “global dialogue” on sustainable development. DSDS is “the most important global meeting held annually to deal with issues of sustainable development” according to R. K. Pachauri, the head of the UN IPCC and director of Teri which organizes the Summit (Teri = The Energy and Resource Institute).

This year’s Summit had special significance because of the current UN process of setting global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2015 – and arriving at global agreements on climate change towards Paris in 2015.
Photo: Guro Aandahl

Overall, the DSDS is a strong reminder that the challenge of climate change promotes innovative thinking, new partnerships and new opportunities for development. The Summit was able to attract many key stakeholders, including several former heads of states and government ministers across the world, corporate business, international development finance, the UN, research and civil society.

Kofi Annan in his opening speech emphasized the fact that millions across the world were still without access to energy, while a growing global middle class continued their exploitation of “common” scarce resources. In his concluding speech, John Gummer, M, UK highlighted the important manifestations of climate change from country cases presented from across the globe on extreme climate events, such as floods and droughts, e.g. from the Seychelles, Buthan, Mongolia, Myamar, Mexico, UK, India and others.

Research on extreme risks and Community-based Adaptation (CBA)
During the Summit, apart from being participants throughout the four days, we presented the first results from our CIENS and NIBR led research project funded by the Norwegian Embassy in India “Extreme Risks, Vulnerabilities and Community-based Adaptation in India (EVA): A Pilot Study” (2012–2014).

The project is a collaboration between five partners; TERI, AFPRO, CICERO, NIVA and NIBR. The scope of this research project, with field work in Maharashtra, has been inspired by the UN Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX).

The project findings were presented in a side event organized in response to the long-term Indo-Norwegian collaboration on climate change and sustainable development supported by Norway and the Embassy of Norway in India. The event was opened by Dr. Pachauri and Mr. Lars Andreas Lunde, Deputy Minister of Climate and Environment, both referring to Norway’s strong support of DSDS and Teri over several years. The Norwegian Embassy was also represented in the event with Ambassador Eivind S. Homme.

Drought and extreme risks in Jalna, Maharasthra
The unfortunate drought of 2012 in Maharashtra; the worst drought in 40 years, had given us as researchers the possibility to follow the consequences of an extreme event – before, during and after – and an opportunity to think afresh about the responses and capacity to withstand possible future extreme climate risks at district and local village levels. While such a disaster will always bring hardship to local people, it also exposes systemic and institutional strengths and weaknesses, and thus offers opportunities for change and innovation.
Photo: Trond Vedeld

Booklet: Drought in Jalna – Community-based Adaptation to Extreme Climate Events in Maharashtra

Trond Vedeld’s presentation at the conference (PDF)

The EVA project has over a period of two years investigated the consequences of extreme risks (drought) and the local impacts on agriculture, water resources and livelihoods in village communities of Jalna District of Maharashtra. The focus has been on understanding how local communities responded before, during and after the drought and were able to withstand the impacts of such an extreme event. The field work was carried out in nine villages in the Jalna District of the monsoon shadow belt of India among relatively poor dryland cotton farmers in Northern Maharashtra. By studying local impacts and perspectives on adaptation across villages and social groups, we reveal some of the enabling and constraining factors for Community-based Adaptation (CBA). In this regard, the project brings out how the government of India at state and district levels mobilizes and coordinates relief efforts, and how the drought emergency system is linked to more long-term risk management and development programs. To this end, the project provides insight into how India operationalizes climate risk management policies from central via state to the local levels.

Key preliminary findings on Community-based Adaptation
A key finding from our interviews with decision makers and participatory research in the nine villages is that local communities were basically not prepared to tackle the severe impacts of such an extreme drought, which lasted well into 2013. Even the better endowed village communities in terms of developed watersheds, agricultural land and access to water from local wells faced hardships. Hence, this means that communities, at present level of resilience, will depend on outside safety nets or assistance to cope with extreme drought. While full resilience to such an extreme event cannot really be expected, we also find that there is clearly scope for many improvements in local climate risk management and governance at multiple levels.

The 2012 drought had severe impacts on water, crops, livestock and people in the district of Jalna. At the same time it mobilized major relief efforts on the part of the state and district government, as well as support from civil society and other local actors. Rainfall was only between 25–50% of normal rainfall.

Hardships were dampened, however, due to many farmers having stored grains or possessed other income sources from earlier good years (2011 was a good rainfall year). The drought did not lead to the massive hardships that were seen in the drought of 1972 (or earlier), reflecting improvements in resilience along several dimensions. Impacts varied a lot, however, from one village and social group to another, reflecting variation in adaptive capacity as well as variation in rainfall across space.

The drought manifested itself first of all in water scarcity. Drinking water and water for livestock quickly became a key concern as the rains failed. Wells went dry. Fodder for animals became scarce. Water for irrigation was prioritized to cash crops. However, irrigation water was grossly inadequate across all villages and most farmers – both for the monsoon cash crops and the winter food/fodder crops. Crop and income losses of more than 50% were experienced by many farmers.

Local authorities launched a massive relief operation at high costs to the government. Water tankers were provided for drinking water to most villages. Fodder was made available in cattle camps. Employment schemes were provided. Crop rescue schemes were launched and crop compensation provided. The emergency operations were significant across different sectors, yet not always so well coordinated across different actors (public and private) and at village levels. People tended to claim that the relief was often delayed or was not sufficient and payments came late. For example, there existed no early warning system for drought linked to a district drought contingency plan with the district authorities, although the district administration possessed long-term experience with drought risk management, and fairly quickly mounted a significant operation with important positive impacts. ‘While the government did the right things, the scale and outreach and timing was not always according to local needs and demands’, according to one observer from civil society. Hence, there is scope for improvements in drought risk management on behalf of the government – as well as on the side of the private agricultural sector – which engaged in smaller operations only (e.g. provision of water tanks). NGOs seemed to be more substantially involved in relief measures at different levels.
Photo: Guro Aandahl

Some key policy implications
Our findings suggest that if stronger CBA is to become a reality in Jalna, there is a need for much more efficient local climate risk management, improved water and environmental governance; the farmers need to see more crops per drop of water; policy gaps and equity issues need to be addressed; and both incremental and transformative change needs to take place. Our presentation at DSDS emphasized the need to reinforce three key policy and governance areas as critical for improving CBA:
• Shift in policy emphasis from relief to long-term climate risk management
• Shift locus from district to village panchayat levels – also to deal with access and equity issues
• Strengthen coordination, cooperation across the public-private divide, and convergence between sectors and actors involved in climate risk management, watershed/dryland farming, and sustainable development

More efficient CBA among local villagers seems to require a stronger and more long-term focus in climate risk management and more innovative and coordinated climate services.

Operationalizing India’s adaptation policy through climate services

The EVA project suggests that more research is required to understand how India operationalizes climate change policies from national to local levels with a particular focus on coordinated climate services. While climate services in Maharashtra have improved considerably over the last few years, for example, with better weather information, there is a need to better understand the interface between the various service providers and the diverse users of weather/climate information and how best climate services can operate to promote improved weather and monsoon forecasting combined with systems of early warning, contingency planning, water budgeting, weather index insurance for farmers, and improved social safety nets.

Capacity building of leaders: risk management everybody’s business
It is critical that climate risk management becomes everybody’s business. Hence, there is a need for capacity building of leaders of government agencies for them to work more systematically on risk awareness and risk management within respective agencies and in closer partnerships and dialogue with private business and civil society through governance networks. It is also important to better understand how capacity building can be reinforced at the local level through partnerships between government, private business and civil society. This should probably be done with a focus on progressive farmers, landless and women through mutual learning and gender focussed capacity development.
Photo: Guro Aandahl

City authorities in Africa unprepared for extreme rainfall and floods

By Trond Vedeld

Municipalities not prepared to tackle floods and climate change
Neither central nor municipal authorities in cities in Africa are prepared to tackle present climate extreme events and flood disasters. They are even less prepared to meet governance challenges related to future climate events, which will involve increase in frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall. The impacts of floods are greatly excerbated by rapid urbanization and proliferation of informal and unplanned settlements in flood prone areas, and the unwillingness or lack of capacity of urban governments to address social inequalities and vulnerability.

These are some of the key findings from our four years study of how flood risks and climate change adaptation are governed within the two coastal cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Saint Louis, Senegal. The study among others examined how key actors at local, city and state level responded to recent specific extreme rainfall and flood events in 2010 and 2011.
From Dar es Salaam. Source:

We presented this research on climate change, governance and resilient cities at a recent workshop in Addis Ababa, 5-8 November, 2013. The research is part of a large-scale multi-disciplinary EU funded research project “Climate Change and Urban Vulnerability in Africa” (CLUVA). The workshop in Addis was co-organized with the African Union – and involved Mayors from five cities in Africa and representatives of UNHABITAT (1).

The research team is now in the process of preparing synthesis articles from our research on Dar es Salaam and Saint Louis with funding from NIBR’s Strategic Institute Program; “Challenges for Governance and Planning in Cities and Municipalities”.

The study of adaptation governance in Dar es Salaam and Saint Louis
The research on these two African cities applies a multi-governance framework as an analytical tool to understand the interplay between state, municipal, private business, civil society and international actors within these policy fields, focusing on structures and processes of coordination (vertical and horizontal). A key focus of the research is on how city and sub-city levels of government and governance respond to climate change and flood risks.

The research combines reviews of policies, legislation and institutions/networks with semi-structured interviews and field-work in two local case study areas in each city in order to explore the local encounters between actors across sectors and scales.

Dar es Salaam and Saint Louis are both located in low-lying coastal zones criss-crossed by important rivers; Saint Louis being situated at the outlet of the large River Senegal that ends in the Atlantic Ocean; and Dar es Salaam being located in a river delta zone with several smaller rivers that cross the city territory and drain into the Indian Ocean. They are both former capitals and represent rich cases for a comparative study of institutional arrangements.
Saint Louis. Source:

Climate change adaptation a fragmented and nascent agenda

The empirical investigations reveal that climate change adaptation, despite many individual adaptation activities taking place across the city territory, is still a fairly fragmented and nascent policy domain, which is not well integrated in urban planning and flood risk management.

Local communities with experience and some coping capacity
While the local communities in flood-exposed areas in both cities have evolved over decades to take initiatives and show ingenuity in coping with floods, the national authorities have not fully acknowledged their responsibilities as laid down in national disaster risk and adaptation strategies and legislation. National governments have provided limited guidance, mandates, resources and technical support to the municipality for taking appropriate climate actions. Within both disaster risk management and climate change adaptation there is lack of clarity in the division of responsibility between national ministries, regional state agencies and the municipality; the regional state bodies representing the “strong” level in terms of urban flood risk management and planning.

The actors involved are many and fragmented and actions more geared towards emergency response than preparedness and long-term adaptation. There are no direct commando lines or early warning systems working from local via city to regional and national levels. There is also no effective implementation of climate and flood risk principles in the land use planning systems, and land use planning is ineffective and weakly enforced, particularly in Dar es Salaam. The annual budgets transferred from central governments to municipal governments are too low for any meaningful investments to address underlying vulnerabilities.
From Dar es Salaam. Photo: Trond Vedeld

Communities need support from above
The community-based organisations – as well as the local wards/subwards – require greater powers and more coordinated support from higher levels to become really effective partners with the municipality and the regional state if the goal is to enhance resilience at the neighbourhood levels, and more so, to bring local actions to scale. At present many of the initiatives on climate change and flood risk management depend on a few individual “champions” within planning, environment, and relevant agencies, in combination with community level action.

Multi-level governance structure and lack of decentralisation
When comparing urban governance across the two cities, we find that in Saint Louis there is greater organisational commitment and stronger leadership for coordination at municipal and regional state levels for flood risk management, as well as more responsiveness to local demands for planning and service support. Urban governance in Dar es Salaam (exemplified by Kinondoni municipality) suffers more from lack of finance, understaffing, a complex multi-layered municipal bureaucracy, and lack of firm coordination at all municipal levels.

Our findings indicate that in both countries there are basically a three tier government structure characterized by a relatively strong unitary state, a relatively autonomous yet weak municipal level, and an even weaker regional elected level (with elected regional councils)(2). Dar es Salaam city is located within the region of Dar es Salaam, while Saint Louis is similarly located within the region of Saint Louis. The regional elected councils are fairly recently established (Senegal) and/or still very weak in terms of administrative capacity, staff, finances and technical competence.

More importantly, the regional state level, as well as the district state level, represent the ´strong´ levels in terms of provision of key relevant land use planning, water infrastructure and disaster risk management and other services. The deconcentrated state services at this level, considered part and parcel of the decentralization reform (mostly so in Senegal), are in both cities located ´next-door´ to the municipal services and to some degree overlap with those of the municipality. The state services are to a large degree coordinated by the Governor at regional level and Prefect at district level in Saint Louis, and, similarly, by the Regional Commissioner and Regional Secretariat at regional level and the District Commissioner at district level in Dar es Salaam. The Prefect and District Commission are on par with the Mayor in the authority hierarchy.

In contrast to what you find for example in a developed decentralized democratic system, such as in Norway, the elected regional level has a limited or no substantive role in coordinating actors for some joint purpose. In contrast, the regional state plays a key role as coordinating nodes for adaptation and disaster risk management services within the city territory. Coordination is mainly done by the Governor/Regional Commissioner at regional level and by the Prefect/District Commissioner at city level. The coordinating committees at this level tend to function through hierarchical instruments e.g. by providing information and guidance in environment and/or disaster risk management committees, while also instructing service agencies on what to do in general development (development committees). These regional state coordinating committees for adaptation and disaster risk management have limited administrative, technical and financial capacity to actually perform their duties. Even if the municipality have much autonomy, and is supposed to be only overseen in their legal handling of budgets and functions by the regional state level, in reality this autonomy lacks content in the sense that they lack powers and legal mandates, finances, staff, technical competence, and capacity to perform their planning and service functions.

None of the city municipalities have any elaborate strategy or action plan developed for coordinating climate change adaptation or for disaster risk management, even if disaster risk management committees according to the law are supposed to be decentralised and established at the municipal and ward/district level.

Moreover, in both cities the formal water supply and sewerage systems, as well as key elements of storm water management is governed under public corporations that report directly to national ministries. These corporations to limited degree work in the informal areas. Major problems thus arise for addressing social vulnerability in that 80% of the people of Dar es Salaam (also in Kinondoni) and 30% of the people of Saint Louis live in settlements that are unplanned and informal and for this reason basically grossly underserviced or not serviced with e.g. sewerage and storm water drainage.

In summary, the national coordination of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management by hierarchical instruments can be characterized as weak, which is not surprising – given that this has been observed also in other African countries (Roberts et al. 2013) as well as in many European countries (Bulkeley 2010, OECD 2009, Hanssen et al. 2013).
Informal settlement in Saint Louis. Photo: Trond Vedeld

Key policy implications
If climate resilience is perceived as an important policy goal for the city municipalities, there is a need to strengthen multi-level governance and coordination on a broad scale. Some selected recommendations from the research are;

• Put in place organisational homes and structures for coordination of the joint disaster risk management and climate change agendas at municipal and sub-city levels, including responsibility for storm water management and flooding

• Ensure appropriate communication lines from local via city to regional and state levels in the national disaster risk management system; enable a coordinated early warning system

• Provide the ward/sub-wards with a formal and stronger role in (community led) land development control systems

• Enable greater acceptance of informality and inequality within the central and local government entities involved in planning, flood risk management and service delivery

• Develop a city climate action plan which interfaces with key sector concerns; with a first priority towards the water resource sector and a need to maintain and improve storm water drainage systems

• Ensure that climate and disaster risk and vulnerability assessments/maps are available and included in plans for developing city resilience; make the maps and plans publicly available

(1) The EU project represents a collaborative effort between 15 universities in Africa and Europe. The final scientific report has been submitted as deliverable under the CLUVA project: “Urban governance, climate extremes and resilience in Dar es Salaam and Saint Louis”, T. Vedeld, W., Kombe, A. Coly, N, Ndour, C., Kweka-Msale, and S. B. Hellevik, Cluva deliverable D3.1.v3.

(2) Tanzania is in reality a union between the mainland territory and the smaller territory of Zanzibar.

Modern Russian family policy

By Ludmila Totland, hospitant at NIBR’s department for international studies

In the 1990’s, when Russian society underwent a strong social and economic crisis, very few children were born in Russia. Despite the fact that the number of newborns since 2000 steadily increases, and currently even surpasses the number of deaths, in 2012 the reproduction coefficient was only 1.6 points, i.e. below the level (2.31 points) that is necessary for the reproduction of the population.

The needs of the modern, professionally active woman should interest Russian politicians and be the focus of social policies, housing programs, labor policies, educational policies, etc. It is therefore interesting to look at what the Russian authorities do to stimulate an increase in the birth rate.

Image credit Public portal “Papa i mama” (Mother and father). Picture gallery. Published 2013.

To give an idea of the situation of young families in Russia today, in this article I will provide an overview of the kindergarten system and social support programs for families with children in the country.

Modern Russian system of kindergartens
The leading normative document for pre-school education is the new Federal law on education dated 1. September 2013 no. 273, which will come into force 1. January 2014.

The new law, like the Soviet law “About the Basic Principles of National Education” no. 4536-8, proclaims the principle of free education made available to all. In the new law, the Soviet hierarchical structure of the educational administration system is maintained, where responsibility for methodical quality, standardization, control and financing lies with the federal level and is delegated to lower administrative units. Such a structure makes it possible to retain a comprehensive policy of state control of the approved national standards of education and training. Education is defined as a general responsibility for authorities at all levels.

The current legislation differs from the Soviet one in three aspects: First, in the new law the principle of private ownership of kindergartens is upheld. Kindergarten owners can independently decide whether they want to finance their cost by payment of parents or by state allowance. Secondly, local authorities may independently, depending on the requirements of the users, decide what services local kindergartens shall provide. Thirdly, the law makes 104 laws from the period 1973-2012 invalid. It simplifies legislation and makes it more accurate.

As distinguished from both the Soviet and the market-based legislation of the 1990’s, the current legislation does not allow state enterprises, state organizations or local governing bodies to act as owners of educational or training institutions. Local authorities cannot independently close down pre-school institutions.

The preschool teacher
In Russia a preschool teacher is called a “tutor” (vospitatel’nitsa). There are a number of expectations related to what kind of a person a teacher in a kindergarten should be: kind, polite, attentive, patient, inquisitive, careful, able to leave personal problems at home, etc. To put it briefly, the “tutor” has to be cultured and educated. There are nine “golden rules” the tutor has to adhere to, but the main principle is: Primum non nocere (do not harm).

In Russia today, there are 182 budgetary, 75 commercial and 5 none state (attached to joint-stock companies) pedagogical universities and colleges, as well as hundreds of local branches associated with the main institutions.

In 2013, the average grades required to be admitted for the study of pedagogy at two Moscow universities were 68.7 and 68.8 points. In comparison, the grades required at the State architectural university in Moscow and the Moscow Academy of business and management were 67.5 and 67.6 points, respectively. At the Ural state pedagogical university the required average grade was 66.5 points and at the Ural state university for transportation and technology, 60.1 points.
Future preschool teachers. Image credit Moscow governmental regional humanitarian college, Pedagogic faculty. Class of 2013.

In 2013, the Russian government allocated 266.5 billion rubles to the educational sector, and in 2016 it plans to increase the allocations to 290.3 billions. In 2010, the average salary of a preschool teacher was 25.400 rubles (approximately 580 Euros) a month. In 2013, the salary was raised to 41.500 rubles a month. By comparison, in 2010 a school teacher received 39.200 rubles a month and in 2013 64.100 rubles a month.

Types of kindergartens
Pre-school education institutions in Russia today are subdivided into two main types:

1. OUDM (Obrazovatel’nye Ucrezhdenija dlja detej Doshkol’nogo i Mladshego shkl’nogo vozrasta) – Educational institutions for children of pre-school and elementary school age. These are subdivided into three categories:

a) school-kindergarten (extended day based on elementary school for 7-year old children)
b) school-kindergarten for children with special needs
c) pre-school daytime groups (preparatory group for 6-7 year old children)

Image credit Ordinary kindergarten. E-Journal “Sovremennoe doshkol’noe obrazovanie” (Modern preschool education. Theory and practice), 2013, no. 7

2. DOU (Doshkol’nye Obrazovatel’nye Ucrezhdenija) – Pre-school educational institutions.

There are 6 categories of DOUs:

a) ordinary kindergartens (general program)
b) special kindergartens (i.e. intellectual, esthetical, artistic, sports or cultural programs)
c) kindergartens with a compensating program for children with special physical or psychological needs
d) kindergartens-sanatoria (for children with health problems);
e) comprehensive kindergartens (various combinations of general, compensating and rehabilitation programs)
f) children’s development centers (correction of deviations in the physical or mental development of the children as well as various health promoting programs).

In all types of kindergartens there are the following groups:

1. Compensating groups, for children with chronic diseases who are offered correctional activities and medicines
2. Health strengthening groups
3. Groups for children with chronic illness
4. Groups with a special profile (knowledge, communication, socialization, health, music, literature, fine arts, etc)
5. Groups for disabled children
6. Mixed groups

Image credit Public portal “Yandex”. Picture gallery. Published 2013

Opening hours
Traditionally, the opening time in kindergartens is 12 hours (07:00-19:00) and 24 hours, five days a week. The system of round the clock stays in the kindergartens was introduced in the early years of the Soviet reign. Both parents were expected to contribute to the building of the country by working. By providing professional care and supervision it enabled both parents to work shift and allowed them to bring their child home when convenient.

Kindergartens with a 24 hour service offer both ordinary and specialized programs. Recently, kindergartens with this kind of offer have become more and more popular among young Russian families.

Apparently, neither Russian parents nor the public perceive it as a problem to send children to kindergartens with a 24 hour service. At least there is no noticeable debate on the possible negative effects on the children related to such a protracted stay. This suggests that people have confidence in the kindergarten system and the competence of the pedagogues.

From 2000, a 10 or 14 hour service is offered in the kindergartens. The 14 hours service is quite popular as it is much cheaper than the round-the-clock service. The short 10 hour service makes kindergartens more available for broad groups of users.

Image credit Public portal “Akademitsjeskaja gimnasija” (Academic gymnasium). Picture gallery. Published 2013

How to register a child in a kindergarten: Example from the Moscow region
In 2009, there were 52.830 kindergartens in the Russian Federation. Never the less, in October that year there were one million children who used temporary solutions while they were waiting for a regular place in a kindergarten. The Minister of Education, Dmitry V. Livanov, promised that by the beginning of 2015 there should be 1.2 million places in kindergartens. Today, for instance, in the Moscow region there are 2.051 ordinary kindergartens with a general program that are visited by 424.000 children. The Moscow authorities have taken measures to create 1000-1500 temporary places annually for children waiting for a place in a kindergarten. This effort was financed with 46 million rubles, and since 2012 41.519 new places in kindergartens have been created. The Moscow government plans to solve the problem of insufficient places in kindergartens within 2015.

From 1 October 2010 an electronic system of registration for a place in a kindergarten has been introduced. Registration takes place continuously from August 1 to June 15, and the applicants can monitor their place in the electronic queue. According to the decision of the federal government, a Council of parents was introduced to supervise the electronic registration. The system guarantees an objective registration process, the parents are allowed to designate three kindergartens and a date of commencement.

The following groups may apply for a place in a kindergarten or are given preferential treatment:

– You have to be registered at a Moscow address to apply for a place in a kindergarten.
– Direct access: Orphans and adopted children, children who have lost one or both parents, children affected by the Chernobyl accident, children who grow up in homes with problems, and children of judges, prosecutors and intelligence officers will automatically get a place in a kindergarten.
– Prioritized according to category: Disabled children, children from families where one or both parents are disabled, children of certain groups of employees (military, police, fire service, etc) and children whose parent have been killed or disabled serving the state (military people, etc) will be given preferential treatment when applying for a place in a kindergarten.
– Category 1: children of sole providers,
– Category 2: children who have siblings in the DOU, except when the sibling receives specialized rehabilitative treatment
– Category 3: children of pedagogues in the DOU and other employed in the educational system in Moscow.

Alternative services

In addition to traditional kindergartens, in Russia there are kindergartens situated in private houses, centers of pre-school education and other alternative solutions. For example:

1. “Day time care” that offers a 10 hour service to children who did not receive a place in an ordinary kindergarten. Such groups are organized by an ordinary kindergarten and can be:

a) Adaptation groups for babies
b) Development groups for children with special needs
c) Evening and periodic stay groups
d) “Learning-by-playing” groups to develop the children’s intellectual, social, esthetic and other skills
e) “The special child” groups for disabled children
f) Correction groups for children with mental problems
g) Language groups for children that speak other languages than Russian
h) “Soon in school” groups
i) “Small Olympians” groups (sport)
j) “Learn to swim” groups
Image credit Private kindergarten «Olympic» i Moskva. Swimming studio. Public portal: “Academic gymnasium”. Published 2013

2. Play groups. An offer to children from 0.2 to 7 years that are unable to visit an ordinary kindergarten, in which children get psycho-pedagogical support, and their parents are offered consultation with experts.

3. Home kindergartens. An offer to children from 0.2 to 7 years. Only one tutor is required, and she must have her own child(ren) in the kindergarten. Local authorities give pedagogical support to the teacher.

4. “Early help”. An offer for children from 0.2 to 7 years that need psycho-pedagogical, social or medical help not available in an ordinary kindergarten.

5. “Play support” centers. An offer for children 0.6-3 years learning to develop certain skills by means of games and play organized by professional pedagogues.

Image credit Public portal “Akademitsjeskaja gimnasija” (Academic gymnasium). Private kindergarten «Olympic» i Moskva. Art-studio ‘Politra’. Published 2013

Private Kindergartens
In October 2013, in the Russian Federation there were 2.551 private kindergartens, of which 233 were in the Moscow region. These kindergartens are financed by payment from the parents, and the kindergartens may independently dispose of their means.

Private kindergartens offer a wide variety of high quality services. In the Moscow kindergarten Olympic, for example, there are such programs as: English, sensory training, mathematics, grammar, art, literature, speech therapy, art and needlework, music and dance, gymnastics, choreography, communication, swimming, developing games, outdoor activities. The health of the children is taken care of by a permanent pediatrician. The kindergarten is open from 7:30 to 22:00. The monthly price for a five-day service per week is 38.000 rubles (approximately 870 Euros).
Image credit Public portal “Akademitsjeskaja gimnasija” (Academic gymnasium). Private kindergarten Nagornaja Street 38, Moskva. Dance and choreography studio. Published 2013

In additives to the standard programs, both private and state kindergartens offer a wide variety of additional programs, such as sports, developing games, etc.

Pre-school education is financed through subsidies from the state budget that has to cover all expenses, apart from municipal and technical. Municipal budgets receive additional resources if kindergartens in the respective administrative districts, in addition to the general programs, offer additional specialized services in the form of sports sections or training courses.

To organize and operate a private kindergarten, a license is required. To obtain a license, the kindergarten, in addition to specialized programs, also have to offer a general program which will be financed from the state budget.

As both municipal and private kindergartens have to offer general as well as specialized programs, there is a fusion of the public and the private sector in pre-school education.

Image credit Public portal “Сампо.ру” Published 11.01.2013

Payment for a place in a budget financed kindergarten
In the Russian Federation, according to Law of 1.9.2013 no. 273, § 5, subsection 3 and subsection 5, 3rd paragraph, education at all levels is free of charge and financed from the state budget. This means that parental fees has to be considered as payment for attention and care.

According to the law, local authorities may, depending on supply and demand, determine the price of the services attached to a place in a kindergarten. So for example, by the resolution of the Committee on education in Moscow of 31. August 2011, no. 404, it is determined that a place in a kindergarten that offers a general program will be financed by the following annual allotments: for children from 1.5 to 3 years 67.440 rubles, for children from 3 to 5 years 79.920 rubles, and for children from 5 to 7 years 93.200 rubles. The annual charges for attention and care are: for children from 1.5 to 3 years 42.560 rubles, for children from 3 to 5 years 35.080, and for children from 5 to 7 years 26.800 rubles.

An important state initiative to support families with small children was to establish an upper limit on the payment of attention and care. By Law of 1.9.2013 no. 273, it is determined that the parents should not pay more than 20% of the real cost. For some categories (large families, families with low income, etc) payment should not exceed 10% of the real cost.

In 2013, the price of a 12 hour place in a kindergarten vary from 176 to 2 129 rubles a month. In the Nizhny Novgorod area, for example, where parents pay 20% of the real cost of services related to attention and care of their child, a place in an ordinary kindergarten with the general program costs 1 394 rubles a month.

Law on compensation
An important incentive to support families with small children was expressed in Federal law of 17.7.2009, no. 48. Paragraph 52, subsection 6 of this law states that parents with children in a kindergarten with the general program are entitled to a partial compensation of the related cost. For one child the compensation is 20% of the cost, for two children 50%, and for three and more children 70%. The same rule applies for children from one family visiting various pre-school institutions in the same administrative region.

This principle was expressed by the resolution of the Moscow government of 27. July 2010, no. 590 (revised 7.11.2012) and also in the latest Law on education of 1.9.2013, no. 273. This means, for example, that parents of one child that visits kindergarten no. 22 in the city of Balakhna in the Nizhny Novgorod region pay only 1.115 rubles a month.

Families with small children get other grants and bonuses as well, for example, 50% reduction of the costs of having a child in a kindergarten for families with a low monthly income and for families where one of parents is disabled, has physical or mental problems etc.

According to the resolution of the city administration of Balakhna in the Nizhny Novgorod region of 3.5.2006, no. 151, kindergartens have to reduce payment if the child does not visit the kindergarten because of illness or rehabilitation. Kindergarten no. 22 in the city of Balakhna, for example, reduces the payment if the child is absent from 3 to 75 days.

Grants during pregnancy
According to a Russian proverb, even a straw hut may be paradise as long as you are together with your beloved. Even if the Russian woman is known for her moderation, it is very seldom that people live in accordance with the moral this proverb conveys.

Neither a successful marriage nor an outstanding career is sufficient to make a woman choose to have more than one child. The modern woman wishes to have social programs that give security in uncertain life situations.

Families with children are supported economically in accordance with Federal law of 19.5.1995, no. 81 (revised 18.7.2013 as Law no.167) “About welfare payments to citizens with children”, Federal law of 29.12.2006 no. 255 (revised 23.7.2013 as Law no. 243) “About obligatory social insurance in case of temporary disability to work and motherhood”, and also by the resolution of the Health and Social Department of 23.12.2009, no.1012 (revised 23.8.2010) “About organization of and conditions for payment of grants to citizens with children”.

By these laws, grants are allotted to eight categories of citizens with children, among them pregnant women, women who give birth and people who look after or adopt children. Additional grants are handed out if the parents serve in the police or military. In case a second child is born, a special grant is paid, the so called maternity capital.

Grants to women who give birth to children
Maternal benefits during the period before and after childbirth is a central part of the state family policy that aims to increase the freedom of choice. According to Federal law of 19.5.1995, no. 81 “About state economic support of citizens with children”, chapter 2, subsections 7-12, for 70 days prior to and 70 days after the delivery women are entitled to economic support corresponding to 100% of their average salary. If two or more children are born, the period increases to 84 days prior to and 110 days after the delivery. Women are also entitled to grants determined by local legislation, for example compensation for temporary disability.

According to the new legislation, the woman herself can choose which one of two years before pregnancy shall be used to calculate the grant related to childbirth. However, the income that is used to calculate the grant should not exceed the size of the salary which is subject to social insurance, which in 2013 is 568.000 rubles.

As a onetime grant, women receive a certain amount of money, in 2013 13.087 rubles, paid by the employer. If both parents are unemployed, the grant is paid by a local social security office or the governmental fund for social support. The grant is paid no later than 10 days after it has been applied for and within 6 months after the delivery. Person’s, who adopt a child, receive a similar grant. Both grants are tax-exempt.

Grants to persons who look after children
If one of the parents chooses to stay at home with the child until it is 1.5 years old, that person will receive monthly payments from the state. In 2013 these payments were 40% of that person’s salary, and they cannot be lower than 2.454 rubles a month for the first child and 4.908 rubles for the second and each of the subsequent children. If a person chooses to take care of several children aged until 1.5 years, the payments are put together, but should not exceed 100% of a normal salary. In Russia today, the average yearly salary is 217.863 rubles, 40% of which is 87.145 rubles. Thus, a person with an ordinary income who stays at home receives about 7.260 rubles a month.

Financial support to unemployed mothers
Women who did not receive a salary during the last two years before pregnancy are also entitled to social support when their child is born. In this case the support consists of: 1) a one-time payment of 13 087 rubles for each live-born child; 2) monthly payments until the child is 1,5 years old, 2 600 rubles for the first child, 5 200 rubles for the second child and for each subsequent child; 3) single parents also receive a monthly extra grant, 2000 rubles until the child is 1,5 years and 4000 rubles until it is 3 years.

Image credit Public portal “Doroga domoj” (Way home. Younger. Annotations to parents). Published 2013

Maternity capital
In Russia, motherhood is protected and encouraged. By Regional law of 12.1.2006 no. 1(updated 6.2.2013) “About measures to support families with children in the Moscow area”, the Moscow government granted families where two or more children had been born or adopted during the period from 1.1.2007 to 31.12.2016 a certificate that grants a one-time payment. The money will be paid before the child reaches the age of three, and only one of the parents will receive such a certificate. In 2013, the allowance is 408.960 rubles, and in 2014 it will be 430.000 rubles. According to Federal law of 16.11.2011 no. 256 “About additional measures of state support to families with children”, the regional authorities may increase maternity capital. Thus, in the Moscow region in 1.1.2011 the amount of the capital was increased by 100.000 rubles. Since 2012, local governing bodies are responsible for documenting claims to maternity capital.

The maternity capital is financed from regional budgets, and the money the families receive is tax-exempt. However, the money can only be used for three purposes: 1) improvement of the family’s housing situation; 2) education of the child; 3) pension savings for the holder of the certificate. Since the beginning of 2007, when the Maternity capital program was introduced, 4.5 million families have received the Family capital certificate, of which two million have used the certificate money to improve their housing situation.

In 2013, there were 75.000 applications to spend the certificate money on university education, and 1.685 applications related to transfer of the money into pension funds. Today, the prolongation of the Maternity capital program till 2025 is discussed.

In the early 1990’s, the Russian state abandoned the Soviet ideology; by the end of this decade it also became clear that a market economy of the Western type was unsuited to Russian conditions. Today, Russian politicians try to find a Russian way to a well-functioning, robust society.

In its family policy, Russian authorities pragmatically utilizes both knowledge and experiences gained during the Soviet period and solutions based upon market economic principles. It remains to be seen whether today’s Russian family policy will increase the birth rate.

Flood crisis response in Russia’s Far East: From Putin’s hands-on control to public mass mobilisation

By Aadne Aasland

An unprecedented flood
The 2013 flood in the Amur river basin in Russia’s Far East has now receded, though much time and effort will still be needed for the difficult task of cleaning up the garbage and mud carried by the floods. The flood, which lasted for two months, was caused by extraordinarily heavy rain from the beginning of August. The extreme event surpassed all meteorological records since systematic measuring began some 120 years ago. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the flooded territories while the number of people who have in some way been affected has reached 168,000. The economic impact is enormous, in the size of tens of billions of roubles, which makes it by far the most costly flood disaster in Russia’s history. However, in contrast both to the crash flood in Krymsk last summer where 171 people were killed, and the flood at the Chinese side of the border where more than 200 casualties were reported – no lives have been reported lost in Russia’s Far East.

Satellite pictures of the Amur river basin under normal conditions and during the flood. Credit: NASA/Wikimedia

President Putin takes the command
How has Russian society handled this extreme event? In the reports made by Russian and international media, apart from photographs from the flood itself, the hands-on control exercised by President Putin is the aspect of the disaster that has received most attention. The president went to the region about one month after the start of the flood – slightly late according to some critics – but immediately took the leadership of the crisis management. Putin gave detailed orders, reprimanded inefficiencies, and criticized excessive bureaucracy. He expressed disappointment with local leaders’ management of the crisis and demanded action at a detailed level concerning issues such as deliverance of fuel, repair of roads and food provisions to flood victims.

The president also warned officials not to steal new housing for their friends and relatives, which has been a feature of previous crises. He declared that all compensations must go to real victims of the flood. Putin furthermore announced a compensation of 100,000 rubles from the federal budget to those whose homes had been damaged beyond repair and 10,000 to individuals having suffered economic losses. These flat rates testify to the slow development of the insurance industry in Russia, where individuals and firms are unlikely to set off risk reserves for insurance, leaving most housing and much of infrastructure uninsured.

Furthermore, crude lump sums for compensations might be easier to administer than compensations based on more accurate estimates of costs of the damage. Compensations based on actual estimation of damage would also leave more room for discretion with the risk of more corruption in the distribution of resources.
The fact that the president takes a keen interest in overviewing the situation and even takes command of the response operations would be expected from him in a crisis situation of this magnitude. However, the informal practice of micro-management of so many aspects and details of the rescue operation – which Putin has applied in this and other similar situations – can also be interpreted as a way to make up for the inefficiencies of Russia’s formal institutions.

The road between two major cities in the region August 2013. Credit: Andshel/Wikimedia

Leadership reshuffle – but who is now in charge of what?

Extreme events can be a favourable time to change the crew. Though officially not related to the flood itself, the Minister for Far East Development and the President’s envoy to the Far East Federal District, Viktor Ishaev, was removed from office at the end of August. Ishaev had remained a powerful politician in the region from the Yeltsin era, but in the capacity of minister he had not fulfilled the expectations of the Kremlin and was accused by president Putin of inefficiency. The many flaws of flood crisis management that were revealed provided an apt opportunity to replace him without disturbance from the local elites supporting him. A former Putin aide, Yuri Trutnev, was appointed as new presidential envoy to the Far East and simultaneously deputy prime minister, while Aleksandr Galushka became new Far East minister.

In early September prime minister Medvedev announced that he would head a new cross-sectoral government commission for development of Russia’s Far East. One of its major tasks would be normalisation of the situation after the flood. Dealing with the inefficiencies that had been revealed in handling the current flood was announced as another important task of the commission. According to Medvedev the commission will also deal with more general socio-economic challenges in the Far East. The region has over the past years shown a negative economic trend, which was further exacerbated by this summer’s flood disaster. With president Putin’s hands-on control, the prime minister’s commission, a Far East Development minister and a presidential envoy in the Russian Far East all heavily involved in flood crisis management and reducing the impact in the aftermath of the flood, some analysts have called for a clearer division of the responsibilities of the leaders and their governance structures. They argue that tasks delegated to various actors seem to overlap, and that the division of responsibilities have not yet been clearly defined in legal or policy documents.

Crisis management and cross-sectoral involvement

What then is the system of crisis management in a situation in which a natural disaster such as a major flood is developing in Russia? It starts with the Russian metereological agency Rosgidromet issuing a warning to the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS) that a crisis situation, such as a flood, could occur. The MChS, being responsible for managing emergency situations, then assesses the potential risk and impact. The next is to inform and give a timely warning to the population. There is a particular regional system of distribution of information to the public for which regional authorities, and ultimately the regional governor (head of one of Russia’s 83 regions), is responsible.

This whole chain is said to have worked well in the crisis situation that emerged in the Far East this summer. The timely response was important for preventing more damage, and probably the loss of lives. The evacuation of people away from the affected areas went quite smoothly. In some places there was enough time to save livestock, in other places they had to focus solely on rescuing people.

During an emergency situation a number of civil and military, state and non-state structures are in operation to reduce the impact: evacuate people, provide shelter, food and other provisions to victims and rescue operations, rebuild bridges and repair other damaged infrastructure, secure transport, assess the risk to public health and avoid the spread of diseases and epidemics, respond to psychological needs, facilitate business and public services to operate as soon as possible – and so on. Russia has set up a so-called ‘unified system of warning and elimination of emergency situations’, and in 2008 the National Centre for Management of Crisis Situations was established as part of the MChS structure for the running management of this system.

In the current crisis the president set up a Government Commission for the Elimination of the Consequences of the Flood in the Far East, with representatives of a number of state institutions: the State prosecutor, the Committee for civil defence, the ministries of natural resources and ecology, finance, energy, health, regional development, transport, employment and social protection, economic development, agriculture, a number of federal services (i.e. for consumer protection, meteorology, technological supervision), the managers of public companies (railways, telecommunications, hydroelectric power) and leaders from the affected regions. The tasks of the commission are to eliminate the impact of the flood, implement measures for social support, organise resettlement, secure supplies, repair damaged roads and transport systems, and other damaged infrastructure.

Speculations have been raised that an evaluation of the flood crisis management during the Far East flood might result in a reorganisation in which the MChS will be transformed to an agency or a directorate to be subordinated to the Ministry of Defence. This would, it could be argued, facilitate better coordination in rescue operations. At the same time, however, it could strengthen the military and weaken the civil control with emergency situations.

Flooded streets in Blagoveshchensk. Credit: EMERCOM of Russia

Could the impact have been reduced? Official and unofficial accounts
During the development of the flood there was a redistribution of the enormous masses of water into the channels, dams and reservoirs in order to prevent peaks of water in places that were not yet prepared for a flood. This enabled the construction of flood protection in many places before the main peak of the flood arrived. Water authorities claim that the disaster would have been much more serious had the dams along the river not been able to accumulate some of the excess water. Floods in the area are said to have been worse in the past, before such artificial water reservoirs were built.

Every step of the engineers at the hydroelectric power plants is strongly regulated and controlled through instructions from state authorities. The regimes for filling and tapping of water in the water reservoirs, including in flood situations, are set by the Federal Agency for Water Resources. In every region the agency has its territorial subunits, so-called Basin Water Boards, that regulate the operations of every hydroelectric power station and dam. Inputs on how these regulations should be set are given by a variety of institutions: the ministries of emergency situations and agriculture and their subordinate structures, the Federal service for veterinary surveillance (Rossel’khoznadzor), the Federal agency for sea and river transport (Rosmorrechflot), and the Federal agency for infrastructure and housing (Rosstroi). The regime of a power station is modified only when instructions for this are given by the territorial Basin Water Board.

In the situation of a potential imminent flood, which was the case with the Far East flood this year, the Government commission for prevention and localization of emergency situations meets to decide on amendments to the regulation regime.
According to the water authorities’ official version, the regulation of water levels was set so that the power stations in the region were able to take up a sufficient amount of water to avoid an even larger catastrophe. Just a couple of months before the flood, however, Rusgidro, one of Russia’s largest power-generating companies and owner of the hydroelectric power stations in the region, announced that water reservoirs of these power stations would be capable of protecting the Far East cities from any amount of water in a flood situation.

Some independent scientists claim that the impact of the flood could have been reduced considerably had two of the major hydroelectric power stations (Zeysk and Bureysk) been prepared for more water to arrive. According to these claims, instead of giving priority to security, the regulation of the filling and tapping of water had been set in order to achieve the highest possible production of energy during the winter season, thus keeping the water levels at such high levels that a significant amount of additional water would cause severe problems. Water allegedly continued to be filled into the reservoirs even after warnings about a potentially imminent flood had been given by the meteorological authorities. Even after Rusgidro itself started to report about increased flood risk, the speed with which the power stations power began tapping water from the reservoirs was much lower than what would have been possible and which could – according to the same critics – have reduced the later impact.

The critics furthermore argue that in both of the mentioned power stations the amounts of water at the time of the flood was far greater than permitted by federal authorities. They claim that if the amount of water arriving had been only slightly greater, the dams could have burst and the impact is likely to have been far more serious with a probable loss of many lives. Such challenges have been foreseen for several years. Previous attempts by ecologists to change the local regulations for emergency excess water storage have failed, allegedly since it is more profitable to have the reservoirs filled up before the usually drier winter season. Ironically, the water reservoirs are now fully filled up, and Rusgidro will earn substantial additional money on the production of energy this coming winter.

The Bureysk hydro-electric power station in normal conditions. Credit: Коренюк Ирина/Wikimedia

Compensating the victims
A number of societal actors are involved not only in the rescue work and reconstruction, but also in providing compensation and humanitarian aid to those who in different ways have been affected by the flood. A cross-sectoral working group was set up to coordinate the collection and distribution of such aid which has come from federal sources, different regions of Russia, businesses, foreign states and individual contributions. This working group is headed by the Minister for Far East Development and consists of representatives of the affected regions, various federal agencies, but also representatives of big companies, various humanitarian and civil society organisations, including the Russian orthodox church. The Russian TV channel Pervyi kanal (First channel) is also represented in the working group.

By 1 October 91% of those with a request for a personal compensation for damage (109,000 individuals) had received 10,000 roubles. More than 8,000 people had received 100,000 roubles, which makes up 75% of those having filed such claims to the authorities. However, by that date not all dwellings had been examined yet for the size of the damage.

About one fifth of damaged buildings were considered non-inhabitable. Lost crop and other agricultural produce caused by the flood are also compensated through federal budgets – the preliminary estimation is in the size of about 6.6 billion roubles. At a meeting 1 October the cross-sectoral government commission reprimanded local leaders for the alleged low speed of examining the damage, compensating victims and building new dwellings for resettlement of those having lost their dwelling as a result of the flood. They stressed that the hard winters of the Far East will be arriving soon, and that this speaks for the importance of quick action.

Civil society is given a prominent role in monitoring the transparency in the allocation of aid. Public committees have been established in order to examine how the aid is being distributed, to whom it is allocated, and its quality. The need for such transparency has been emphasised by the president as well as the above-mentioned cross-sectoral working group, stressing that mass media should have access to information about all allocation of funds in order to be able to report on deficiencies in the distribution. Russian authorities highly encourage this type of civil society involvement, and also media coverage of shortcomings in the execution of policy, as long as it does not question the quality and legitimacy of the policy or the political system as such. It remains to be seen whether the distribution of aid and compensation for losses will indeed be fair and transparent. Previous experience from other natural disasters in Russia is quite discouraging in that respect, something that is also quite openly admitted by the Russian leaders.

Mass mobilisation
Several newspaper commentators have praised the public who ‘under considerable pressure and without aiming at personal rewards’ contributed to limit the damage, built temporary flood protection, helped out during evacuation and enganged in other essential voluntary work. This, they claim, contradicts the current widespread perceptions of Russian citizens as egoistic and oriented towards personal gains without compassion for the misfortunes of strangers. The efforts of volunteers were crucial in order to limit the damage and prevent the loss of lives. The mere size of the rescue operation is indeed quite impressive: a total of more than 45,000 people were permanently or temporarily employed in rescue and related work. There can be no doubt that without the involvement of so many people willing to work for the common good, the consequences of the flood could have been much more disastrous.

People from all parts of Russia, as well as from Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova and other countries, have also contributed humanitarian aid to flood victims, mainly through Pervyi kanal’s telethon on 29 September. In total almost 830 million roubles were collected in this whole day TV event. The amount is perhaps not huge when compared to the 40 billion roubles allocated by federal authorities to eliminate the flood’s impact. Nevertheless, the aid given by ordinary people and civil society is expected to contribute to build several hundred 55m² apartments to flood victims.

Amur river near Khabarovsk in September 2013. Credit: Gleb Osokin/Wikimedia

Criminal cases of negligence
During his visit to the flooded territories the president also ordered the Russian Investigative Committee to verify how officials acted during the floods. Based on expert assessments he hinted that some of them had not acted in compliance with the instructions given to them and with existing legislation. Two criminal cases over alleged negligence have so far been opened in the aftermath of the flood. One of the cases relates to the destruction of one of the dams in the Amur oblast resulting in the loss of 69 dwellings. According to the investigative committee, the maintenance of the dam had been neglected, with the result that the water could not be contained and a nearby town was flooded. The leadership of the dam has been prosecuted. The second case of negligence has been raised against the Land Irrigation and Water Supply Department of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. A 2012 review of repair needs to a dam in the region noted several urgently needed improvements. The Board had even received the funds for the required repairs, but they had nevertheless not been implemented yet. The damage is said to amount to 1.5 million roubles. Mass media suggest that the number of criminal cases is likely to grow as further investigations of flood prevention and conduct during the flood are carried out.

What is the human impact on climate change?
The flood has also somewhat intensified an until now quite weak debate in Russia: are natural disasters such as this one simply part of cyclic climatic fluctuations, or has human activity in the form of greenhouse gas emissions caused or exacerbated them? Until quite recently in the general Russian academic and political discourse only a few voices, mostly ecologists, have assigned any significant human impact to the ongoing climate changes. However, the huge forest fires near Moscow in the super-hot summer of 2010 and other recent natural disasters have increased attention to the possible impact of human activity. Still, the predominant opinion among Russian politicians and scientists is that this impact is negligible or manageable, or that the positive effects for Russia of global warming and other potential changes to the climate are likely to outnumber the negative ones.

The Russian government has deep ties to the petroleum industry from which the state derives huge revenues. This might be one reason why it has put much more emphasis on crisis management than on discussing the causes of the increasing number of extreme events or taking measures to reduce Russian emissions. However, representatives of some state agencies, such as the meteorological centre Rosgidromet, now officially acknowledge the human impact. Still, they have only very slowly started to voice such concerns in the public. For example, the head of the Rosgidromet in Khabarovsk region referring to this summer’s events said that “[i]t is quite possible that such showers are indeed consequences of global warming. How else to explain this constant change in the climate? […] I would not laugh at those who say such things”.

A village on the Amur river. Credit: Andshel/Wikimedia

Despite all flaws: A high state capacity for crisis management
The flood in the Far East has confirmed some of the weaknesses of the Russian governance system. What several analysts have singled out to have been the biggest challenge in handling the crisis, and which was also underlined by Putin himself, is the inability or fear of bureaucrats to make decisions without clear backing from above. With the many layers of subordination in the Russian hierarchy, it takes time from an action is required until all necessary authorisations have been obtained. An environment in which people at subordinate levels are reluctant to make independent decisions for fears of negative sanctions from above is not well suited for crisis management, when timely action of all actors at all levels is crucial. Hands-on control and micro-management exercised by political leaders at higher levels, where informal rules often trump formal guidelines and institutionalised lines of responsibility, are embedded in Russian political culture. Putin’s presidency has done little to remedy this problem.

Despite such weaknesses, during this summer’s flood Russia has proved itself in many respects to be better equipped to handle a crisis of this magnitude than are many other countries, including Russia’s neighbours. Due to its harsh climate Russia has vast experience in handling extreme events and, among them, floods, though they are now occurring with a higher frequency compared only to some decades ago. Laws and regulations, including zoning, are in place, and so are modern anti-flood technologies, an efficient flood forecast-warning system, high-level flood risk assessment and flood-related data bases. Public awareness about the risks is gradually being raised as people have seen the huge damage on TV or with their own eyes. The Russian state capacity is strong from the local to the federal level. An integrated system for handling crises is in place and quite well functioning. Negligence and fraud occur in all societies. Knowing Russia’s rather poor ranking on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index nobody, including the Russian leaders, would be surprised that instances where people exploit the situation for personal economic gains are revealed. Such situations typically emerge when huge amounts of compensations are to be distributed or state procurement contracts for reconstruction work are to be assigned. Public involvement in monitoring such processes is encouraging.

Though some officials, among them the federal head of Rosgidromet, have stressed that this year’s flood was an extreme event that is unlikely to occur more often than once every 200 years or so, other experts argue that the current scientific knowledge already indicates that extreme floods, including in the Far East, are likely to occur more frequently in the future. The mere fact that so much excess water is currently accumulated in the river basin without a natural outlet increases the risk of a flood in the next few years. The responsible institutions have already started to work on adaptation plans for future extreme events in order to prevent the impact of large floods in the future. The building of more water reservoirs that can be filled up in an emergency situation has been brought forward as one of the measures to be taken, though it is not unequivocally supported by specialists. The MChS staff in the Far East district is to be doubled, and much of the equipment used in rescue work that was brought in from other parts of Russia will remain in the region. Reorganisations in the management of emergency situations are also being debated. Whether or not the flood represents a shift in Russian political and public attention towards climate change and spurs more focus on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases remains to be seen.

Find out more about Russbyklim, an ongoing NIBR research project on climate disasters in Russia and their effect on governance and planning processes.

Brazil’s ‘Vinegar Uprising’ and its effects

By Einar Braathen, Ana Lúcia da Silva and Celina Sørbøe* (July 2, 2013).

On June 30 the Brazilians celebrated that their football stars won the Confederations Cup. However, who will win the much more important game that evolved outside the football stadiums, staging the biggest spontaneous street demonstrations in Brazil’s history?

We here try to depict what the extra-parliamentary game has been about, including the surprising decision of President Dilma to support the demonstrators. In particular we are interested to know whether the president’s proposals for political reform and new public transport policies are adequate responses to the social protests, and whether they may have but a symbolic and defusing effect.

The ‘vinegar uprising’
The mass demonstrations that have spread across Brazil over the last weeks against precarious and over-priced urban collective transport, corruption, and grossly expensive World Cup projects, have ironically been nick-named the “Vinegar Uprising” by social movements and protesters. The first demonstrations in São Paulo on June 13 were organized by the movement for free public transport, Movimento Passe Livre (MPL). There, some 60 protesters carrying vinegar to alleviate the effects of the teargas that the police used against them, were arrested for possessing this “weapon”. This has been widely ironized by protesters, and vinegar has become a symbol for the movement. A Facebook campaign to “legalize vinegar” was created, and the ‘March for Legalizing Vinegar’ gathered tens of thousands of attendees.

While there is a humoristic spin on these initiatives, it underlines the absurdity of the situation where everybody are seen and treated as the enemy by a police force that in theory is there to protect and serve. On the contrary, the police engages in a full-on confrontation that does not distinguish between peaceful protesters and the handful of people who have taken advantage of the general confusions to commit acts of vandalism.
Illustration from the blog Pop! Pop! Pop!

World Cup vs. people’s needs
Among the banners carried by protesters in the mass mobilizations across Brazil, a frequent slogan has been demanding “FIFA standard” on education, health and security. The Confederations Cup, the test-run for the FIFA World Cup to be held in June next year, has spurred debate over the massive public spending on stadiums and infrastructure related to the mega-events while the quality on public services is of alarmingly poor quality.

The World Cup 2014 is estimated to cost more than the past three World Cups combined, and approximately 13 billion USD of public money will be spent on the World Cup and 2016 Olympics, two events meant to showcase a modern, developed Brazil. Over the last decade Brazil has had a steady economic growth and social uplift. 10 per cent of the population, nearly 20 million people, has moved out of extreme poverty. However, Brazil suffers from insufficient and inefficient public services, thanks to corruption and the lack of political will to prioritize their proper delivery. Brazil spends only 3 per cent of GDP on education. Two-thirds of Brazilian 15-year-olds are incapable of more than basic arithmetic and half cannot draw inferences from what they read. And Brazil spends only 3.77 per cent of GDP on health, much of it in the private health services for the well-off classes. Brazil ranks lower than comparable economies in Latin America on infant mortality, life expectancy and a range of other indicators. Instead of investing in health and education, billions of public funds are going towards white elephant projects related to the World Cup, such as the 43,000-capacity super-stadium in the Amazon city of Manaus whose 4th division soccer team attracts an average of 588 fans per game. In Rio de Janeiro, the beloved Maracanã stadium has undergone its second renovation in seven years in order to meet FIFA standards. The most recent upgrade exceeded the budget by 48.8 per cent and just within the 50 per cent cost increase allowed by law, raising accusations that the construction consortium has milked the public coffins to the maximum. This underscores the impression that the nation blessed with the world’s most successful soccer team is also cursed by some of the worst levels of corruption and bureaucracy.

Youth vs the power
What is fascinating is how fast the demonstrations spread from being a handful of leftist youth activists marching for cheaper public transportation to becoming an all-encompassing movement that has the support of 81 percent of the population. The street demonstrations were not clearly or primarily against the mega sports events. The Confederations Cup served merely as an arena for international and national media attention, and its costs and corrupt management became an evident symbol of what has been perceived as larger political evils at the national level. The excessive violent crackdown of the police during the initial protests in São Paulo June 13 is what provoked the rapid spread of the demonstrations to other cities. While the conservative media in the beginning characterized the protesters as a gang of vandals and troublemakers, justifying the police repression in order to protect public property, they were forced to change their discourse as the demonstrations spread. From one day to the next, the major Brazilian news corporation – O Globo – switched coat and supported the demonstrations. In other words, the protests were, a huge wake-up call for the traditional power centers. While President Dilma was notoriously quiet the first week, she changed her approach profoundly the second week.

President Dilma’s turn-around
Since her election in 2010, Dilma Rousseff has continued Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s combination of business friendly policies, broad political coalitions and improvement of the well-being for the poorest. However, their Workers’ Party (PT) was involved in severe corruption scandals under Lula’s rule (2003-2010), and President Dilma has been criticized for being a technocrat and unable to secure popular support for the government. They have both championed the spending on the FIFA World Cup and Olympics. This way, the PT which led struggles for democracy and social reforms since the 1980s, has also been hit by the street demonstrators’ critique of the corrupt political parties.

Against this background Dilma took Brazil by surprise on Monday 24th of June. After having met a delegation of activists from Movimento Passe Livre, she held a TV speech to the nation. She praised the demonstrators who used their democratic rights and raised their voices. She claimed they contributed to a much needed “oxygenation of the political system” by resisting the “money power in politics”. She denounced the police using excessive use of force. She promised to deepen citizen participation in policy-making, and announced several initiatives. The key ones are a popular referendum on political reform; secondly, a national transport plan elaborated in a participatory way with full civil society involvement from the city to federal levels, followed by massive investments to improve ‘urban mobility’; and, thirdly, earmarking oil revenues for education.

All of a sudden, President Dilma won the initiative in the public debate. She changed the mood of the country from confrontation to dialogue. The right wing opposition had gained from the first week of protests, and extreme right wing groups expelled left wing parties, trade unions social movements and generally people carrying red flags, T-shirts and symbols from the demonstrations. With her speech the President was able to steer the focus away from her impeachment, which was a demand that had been risen by the right-wing, towards a focus on political reform. Opinion polls show that 73 per cent of the people support her new initiative. Still, only 30 per cent approve the performance of her government, and her speech has not demobilized the people. Rather, her proposals have contributed to what at the moment can be characterized as the world’s largest political workshop.

Political reform
Political reform has been discussed in Brazil for some years now. One of the main points of contestation is whether to end private funding of election campaigns which PT and the left wants to abolish. This proposal has however always been stopped by a majority in the parliament, where most of its members have been elected with private funding, and where politics are characterized by horse-trading and exchange of favors. However, the recent demonstrations have revealed a popular rage against the current political system and the lack of representativity and legitimacy of the politicians and their parties. As a response to the protesters, on June 24 President Dilma proposed a referendum over a political reform.

Two possibilities arise from the discussion about the convocation of a referendum: (i) it may approve a process of electing a special constitutional assembly with power to draft and vote the text for the political reform; or (ii) it may rely on the direct participation of the population who will vote on specific points for the political reform. A combination of the two is also possible. These options are being discussed by the government, experts and the people as to their legality and effectiveness to bring a renewal of the political system. For the last week political reform has been the most discussed topics in social networks, according to the website “Causa Brasil” whose search engine identifies the most addressed issues within Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Google.

Dilma Rousseff also proposed a new law that considers corruption a heinous crime, with harsher penalties and without bail. This decision was approved by the Senate on June 26 and heads for voting to the House of Representatives (“Câmara”) before being sanctioned by the President. The president also called for the implementation of the Law on Access to Information, which will increase transparency.

Public Transport…
A second main focus of Dilma’s speech on June 24 was improvements in the area of public transport. She promised to allocate an additional BRL 50 billion (USD 25 billion) to investments in urban transport systems. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities were quick to reverse the price increases on public transport which initially triggered the demonstrations. The announced decrease in the price of user fares will be compensated by the government in the form of increased subsidies to the companies operating the public transportation. However, these companies and their shady connections to politicians who have given them concessions were one of the targets of the protesters.

Therefore the Movimento Passe Livre (MPL) has criticized these measures, and the movement calls for public inquiries into the linkages between transport concessionaries and politicians. And above all they demand that urban transport becomes a free-for-all public service, as part of the right-to-the-city which is already embodied in the federal City Statute from 2001. The national transport plan that Dilma proposes is to be elaborated with the full involvement of the civil society, as prescribed by the 1988 Constitution. In the 1990s, many cities run by the Workers’ Party (PT) excelled in participatory democracy. After Lula took power in 2003, almost every national policy sector has formulated its priorities and guidelines by conferences starting at the municipality level, continued at state levels and finalized at the federal level. Now it is time for the urban transport sector to practice this type of participatory policy-making.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

… with unknown destination?
The questions are to what extent activists from the MPL and other youth networks will participate, whether the conferences will be able to agree on clear policy recommendations, and last but not least whether policy recommendations coming out from these conferences will be implemented by the executive authorities even when vested private interests are challenged.

Although Brazil has been ruled by a centre-left coalition since 2003, it has not wanted to change the power relations in Brazil. The private financial and business elite has been supported rather than challenged by the government. Radical proposals from the civil and the mentioned public policy conferences have not been adopted by the government when it faces resistance from the right wing political and economic elites.

Due to conservative influences, the federal government has been weak and slow in its efforts to change the huge police forces that, to a large extent, keep on with their ‘shoot first’ legacy of the authoritarian past. Police reform is not yet high on Brazil’s agenda. Hence, the street demonstrators may continue to need vinegar. Where their march will end is still too early to announce.

* Braathen is leader and da Silva and Sørbøe are research assistants of the project ‘Cities against Poverty – Brazilian experiences’ at the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR). The project is funded by Research Council of Norway (2010–2013).