Stephen Tomlin Karen Doyle Grossman
December 8th SVMN speaker Event recap written by Leslie Roulias, photos by Elena Pons-Conforto:
Microfinance in Post-conflict areas and Failed States
The SVMN Speaker Event on December 8th focused on the role of micro-finance and health care services in the most fragile economic and political regions and featured Karen Doyle Grossman, Vice President, Social Innovations at Mercy Corps and Stephen Tomlin, Vice President, Program Policy & Planning at International Medical Corps. While many micro-finance and aid organizations look for relative stability before entering new markets, both Mercy Corps and International Medical Corps target their efforts to countries in transition.
Karen presented several case studies from Mercy Corps’ experiences in these countries including, Bosnia, the Congo, North Korea and Afghanistan. She also talked about failed states that Mercy Corps decided against entering due mostly to lack of minimal infrastructure and safety. Karen advocated that micro-finance enables people to establish their own individual identity apart from the persecuted or war-torn group to which they belong. Reaching these markets presents unique challenges, which include fear, lack of future orientation, legitimization of violence, hyperinflation, destroyed infrastructure, and tenuous political environments. In these delicate situations, timing is essential as is political neutrality and balancing acceptance and inclusion by local powers with the U.S. Government mandates. In the future, Karen hopes to see a wider use of mobile financial services, which she sees as having the ability to make a transformative impact in providing services in fragile states.
Stephen Tomlin spoke about the health and wellbeing of communities within failed states, which are countries where the central government does not exert effective control over significant parts of its own territory or assure provision of vital assets. Stephen’s talk focused on health care, nutrition and agriculture, all of which contribute to “health” as reflecting one’s wellbeing. Stephen presented startling statistics on “fragile states” (failed, failing, or recovering from conflict), such as:
- Fragile states comprise 1/3 of all those living in absolute poverty in developing countries.
- 1 in 3 people in fragile states are undernourished.
- Fragile states comprise nearly ½ of all children dying before their 5th birthday.
Stephen spoke about what International Medical Corps provides in failed states and sited specific projects. Their focus is on training local people to provide basic medical services in local clinics and hospitals, especially relating to trauma and the top 10 causes of mortality in that country. Stephen sees logistics and the inherent security in them as key to doing anything successfully in these states.
For more on Failed States, you can go to the link.