Challenges of Poverty: Confronting Issues of Sustainability and Inequality

Thursday, February 5, 2015
2:00pm – 3:15pm
Race Conference Room 201, Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC)
Moderated by: Dr. Susan Bridle-Fitzpatrick, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University

Sustainability Challenges for Rural Water Boards in Panama
Kathryn Cheney, Tulane University

Panama, like many Central American countries, has two water systems – a publicly-managed urban system, and a more informal rural water system. The rural water system, made up of mostly gravity-fed aqueducts, has been largely created and maintained at the grassroots, community level without government support. Rural water boards, officially Juntas Administradoras de Acueductos Rurales (JAAR), are community-organized water governance systems that manage aqueducts serving their community, often consisting of 20-50 households. Over 3,700 JAARs throughout Panama’s rural areas face sustainability issues in various forms; recent legislative changes that require JAARs to legally register with the government are particularly concerning, as these changes threaten JAAR’s sovereignty as community organizations and most importantly, their access to water. This research examines the community-based and community-led structure of these rural water boards, and delves into the sustainability challenges JAARs face in the coming years.

Addressing Inequality in Brazilian Education: Considering the Potential of Teacher Quality Reforms and Performance Pay Initiatives
Kelly Stetter, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies

In much of Latin America, high inequality, informality, and lack of access to quality public services have long presented barriers to those on the margins, preventing the socially and economically disenfranchised from breaking out of cycles of poverty and exclusion. Over the past 15 years, Brazil has undertaken direct efforts to dismantle many of these barriers, with particular focus on access to education. Conditional cash transfer programs like Bolsa Família have established a minimum standard of living for many of Brazil’s poor and are credited with helping Brazil achieve near universal primary school enrollment. Quality of Brazilian public education has also improved, as demonstrated by Brazilian students’ scores on the OECD Program for International Student Assessment. However, within the country, regional and racial inequalities remains a challenge for policymakers, with the northeast lagging behind the more industrialized south in terms of social and economic development. This paper examines education policies that attempt to address these inequalities by improving the quality of instruction in the public sector. Specifically, this paper considers a recent performance pay reform in the state of Pernambuco, in which teachers and schools received cash bonuses for achieving pre-set performance targets. Little has been published on the results of these types of programs and the Pernambuco program is innovative in its attempt to improve the quality of education by addressing Brazil’s notoriously low pay for public school teachers through performance based incentives. At the same time, affirmative action policies attempting to decrease racial imbalances in higher education are becoming commonplace. This paper argues that reforms that aim to address the imbalances in Brazilian education by improving teacher quality will ultimately have a greater effect on overall educational outcomes, as they attempt to address the problem at its root cause: poor quality instruction in the public sector.

Conditional Cash Transfer Programs in the Dominican Republic: The Beginning of the End for Clientelism?
Mart Trasberg, Tulane University

During 1950-1980s, most Latin American social assistance programs did not target the poor effectively, or served merely as clientilistic tools for securing electoral support. The implementation of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs in the late 1990s and early 2000s introduced important changes in these dynamics, making social spending more pro-poor and creating better economic incentives for the marginalized. The CCT programs provide direct cash transfers to poorest households, while the beneficiary families must assure in exchange that their children attend school and participate in preventive healthcare services. This research paper sets out to explore to what extent have the new targeted social policies instituted changes in clientelist practices and constituted more programmatic approaches in welfare provision. The paper contributes to this debate by analyzing the case of Dominican Republic’s (DR) Solidarity (Solidaridad) program, seeking out to answer the question if the DR’s CCT program has constituted a truly programmatic approach to poverty reduction. The study focuses on the evolution institutional structures of Solidarity program during 2004-2014, and evaluates to what extent have the public technocratic criteria been used in the targeting of the benefits. Primary data was collected during field research in Santo Domingo in June-July 2014. Firstly, 12 interviews were conducted in aforementioned central government institutions and local Solidarity program offices, civil society organizations (Participación Ciudadania, Centro Bono) and academic institutions (Fundación Global de Democracia y Desarrollo, Universidad de Caribe). Secondly, 15 in-depth interviews in poor households receiving social assistance in the form of the Solidarity were conducted in Los Guaricanos and Los Minas neighborhoods in Santo Domingo, which are characterized by high poverty rates and large percentage of social assistance recipients.


Challenges to Development: Education, Exclusion, and Accessibility

Saturday, February 7, 2015
1:30pm – 2:45pm
Jones Hall 102
Moderated by: Dr. Laura Murphy, Department of Global Health Systems and Development, Tulane University

Identity and the Millenium Development Goals: Consideration for the post-2015 Agenda 
Shauna Lewis, Tulane University

This paper explores the relationship between legal identity, social exclusion, and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and uses this relationship as a backdrop for evaluating whether a rights-based focus in the post 2015 agenda — with specific inclusion of citizenship-related targets — could improve development outcomes for marginalized and vulnerable populations. Widespread MDG-motivated social programs and interventions related to poverty reduction and access to health and education systems are analyzed to determine the extent to which they are accessible and relevant to indigenous groups, populations of African descent, and those without birth certificates (the argument is also presented that these first two categories are disproportionately represented in the third). The 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court in the Dominican Republic and the resulting statelessness of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent is discussed in the context of comparison of the national policies throughout the region that govern the provision of identification documents and citizenship rights to individuals. In addition, the continued struggle around birth registration and the strengthening of civil registry systems throughout the region are considered, with an eye toward distinguishing legitimate capacity challenges from exclusionary practices. The conclusions of these analyses, and of examinations of the guidelines of existing international agreements such as the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons will serve as the foundation for recommendations concerning the construction of targets and indicators for a citizenship goal addressing birth registration and statelessness.

Ciudadanía y modernidad en Memorias del subdesarrollo
Héctor Alfonso Melo Ruiz, University of Notre Dame

La efervescencia política y cultural que concentró la década de los sesenta en Cuba, producto del triunfo de la Revolución castrista, dio lugar a uno de los reductos intelectuales más importantes de la izquierda latinoamericana, europea, e incluso, norteamericana. Dos grandes debates ocupan de lleno la intelectualidad del momento: la idea de la descolonización y la idea del subdesarrollo. La descolonización de todas las estructuras sociales, económicas y culturales, como una necesidad de primer orden, ocupó sin duda la agenda revolucionaria en torno a temas tales como la dependencia, la soberanía y la libertad. Por su parte, la idea de subdesarrollo, como una condición también económica, intelectual y cultural inherente a los países “post-coloniales” reflejaba justamente el viejo paradigma colonial civilización-barbarie y lo reinstalaba ahora en el centro del contexto capitalista bajo la premisa del desarrollismo. En el ámbito de dichos debates se sitúa la novela Memorias del subdesarrollo de Edmundo Desnoes y la posterior adaptación cinematográfica hecha por Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. Novela y filme exploran la subjetividad de un habanero burgués que, imbuido en sus concepciones de clase, interpreta los vertiginosos cambios sociales que trae consigo la Revolución y su marcha hacia la construcción del hombre nuevo. La tensión entre el personaje y la sociedad (entre el individuo y la colectividad) se plantea a través de una racionalidad europeizante––representada en Sergio y su intelectualismo diletante––y las masas “subdesarrolladas” que remplazan la vieja burguesía cubana, ahora en el exilio. En esta ponencia me propongo analizar los problemas de las masas y la ciudadanía desde dos ópticas: (1) la representación de las masas desde el locus modernizador de la Revolución, y (2) la crisis del letrado frente a esta problemática modernidad.

When Teaching and Research Aren’t Enough: Extensão in Modern Brazilian Universities
Miranda Stramel, Tulane University

Article 207 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 states that universities should obey “the principle of indivisibility of teaching, research and extension,” with extensão in the Brazilian context meaning the relevance of the university to the local community, or, the ways in which universities facilitate a connection between those with access to higher education and those who do not have the same access. As described by José Ernandi Mendes and Sandra Maria Gadelha de Carvalho in “Extensão universitaria:
compromisso social, resistência e produção de conhecimentos,” Brazilian universities have suffered many transformations in the neoliberal context that threaten the purposes of education as related to citizenship and full participation in society. Ideally, universities create dialogue through presenting varying perspectives and play a social role by facilitating the sharing and co-creation of knowledge. Institutions now run like for-profit businesses, however, with goals limited to the production of a workforce for the global market, compromise the role of universities in modern Brazil. Looking at various case studies, this work investigates the purpose and work of offices of extensão within Brazilian universities and within Brazilian society to uphold Article 207 of the Constitution of 1988, and some of the ways that social activists and academics work together to solve community problems under the umbrella of extensão. Using various interpretations of Article 207 that connect the purposes of higher education to full participation and citizenship, these case studies demonstrate how the modern university can remain relevant to the larger community by fostering dialogic knowledge production.