SEATTLE — Dr. Dolf te Lintelo is a research fellow on the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team at the Institute of Development Studies. His interests include political economies of social regulation, public policy, participation of various groups in policy making and the effects of implementing policy on the lives of the poor.
Lintelo has worked around the world on various food and nutrition projects and was the lead researcher for the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index of 2013, released this past June. HANCI 2013 looks at 45 developing countries’ political commitment to addressing hunger and malnutrition by ranking them in order to provide information and give them more incentive to tackle the problems. I recently sat down with Dr. te Lintelo to discuss his approach to fighting global poverty.
How did you become interested in the issue of global poverty?
As a kid, I was fascinated by world history, and as I grew up, the diverging economic and political trajectories of different parts of the world grabbed my attention. From primary school onwards, my parents involved me and my siblings in fundraising efforts for development projects.
Once a year we participated in a 40-km walk, the “Midvastenloop,” during the Lent period, and we asked friends and family to sponsor us for each kilometer we completed. Looking back, these fundraising events seem to have been quite formative for my growing interest in understanding questions of global poverty.
What strategies are working on the ground?
I am no great believer in blueprints and one-size-fits-all approaches. Strategies must be nimble and very sensitive to social, political and cultural context, widely owned and affordable to be successful.
What are your views on foreign investment in policy development?
Policy development must be home grown and driven by domestic demand. Government, citizens, civil society and private sector actors should have strong opportunities to be involved in the formation, monitoring, review and revision of public policies that seek to achieve development.
Foreign investments can help to translate such demand in action on the ground and thus can make a successful contribution to development. This could take the shape of providing technical assistance, or for instance in the case of social protection systems, by providing funding to support high initial start-up costs which otherwise could not be covered by domestic tax revenues.
If you could invest a billion dollars in improving the world, how would you spend it?
The recently published Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index shows that in high-burden countries in Africa and South Asia, political commitment to address hunger is often stronger than commitment to act on nutrition. It also shows that the general public is indifferent about the importance of public action on nutrition. Low general awareness means that public demand for government action on this crucial development issue will remain weak, and in turn, throttle greater political commitment and political leadership to act.
I would thus invest such monies in activities that generate high levels of public awareness about the importance of–and the ways to achieve–adequate infant and young child nutrition. Such a campaign would raise awareness of how nutrition is a critical investment in children, enabling them to achieve their full human potential, to live and learn and stay free from chronic diseases during the course of their lives.
I would also make sure that such a campaign would highlight that a group of Nobel laureate economists identified that spending time and money on nutrition is one of the soundest economic investments for countries.
– Nicole Advani