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Ten positive development stories

Maternal mortality in Nepal has plummeted from 901 to 258 per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2015 Maternal mortality in Nepal has plummeted from 901 to 258 per 100,000 live births between 1990 and 2015 Gates Foundation
14 Jan
Among all the negative headlines emerging from the developing nations of the world, the ODI is keen to highlight the positive development stories which have emerged over the past few decades

This time last year saw the public launch of Development Progress, the project by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and PhotoVoice to tell stories from around the world where various development initiatives were creating significant progress towards a more developed and sustainable world – a process which culminated in September 2015 with the adoption of the UN’s 17 new Sustainable Development Goals.

Now that the whirlwind of excitement which accompanied last year’s UN General Assembly – where the goals were officially adopted – has died down, the ODI again wants to remind us that, despite what we may see and hear in the news everyday, there are still many positive stories worth celebrating, with the release of a new document – 10 Things to Know About Progress in International Development.

‘Around the world, incredible progress is being made in the fight against poverty,’ says Katy Harris, co-author of the new release. ‘But sometimes this story gets lost in the more immediate day-to-day news of conflict and humanitarian disasters. In the Development Progress project at ODI, we’re trying to reveal these stories through a suite of 50 case studies – showcasing the achievements of different countries and exploring the drivers lying behind them. We decided to highlight ten of the best from countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, showing that change is possible, even in fragile states and some of the poorest countries in the world. What’s more, the stories suggest that with a few crucial ingredients, progress could be made even further and faster in the decades to come.’


The ten selected stories highlight a wide range of improvements from around the world, including reductions in poverty in Vietnam and Peru, improvements in education in Kenya, female political voice in Tunisia, maternal health in Nepal, inequality in Ecuador and sustainable agriculture in Burkina Faso. Plus there’s security in Timor-Leste, employment in Sri Lanka and overall development in Ethiopia. Harris explains how these ten case studies were selected as a representation of the issues being tackled across all 50 studies. ‘We chose the stories we ourselves found most surprising and revealing,’ she adds.

The conclusion to the document identifies multiple influential ingredients which the authors believe had a significant role to play in the trends identified, and therefore could be similarly influential in ensuring that such results are continued around the world. These include visionary political leadership, effective policies, creating or reforming capable institutions, encouraging state-funded service provisions, enabling donor partnerships, and ensuring citizen involvement through collective action. Nevertheless, it ends with the sobering observation ‘common to every case study’ that, ‘despite the amazing levels of progress that have been achieved, some groups of people continue to be left behind – the most impoverished, marginalised and vulnerable.’

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