Researching Poverty: Brandt School Students Participate in the EU Project Nopoor and the European Development Days

by: Theresa Herrmann

Besides the mandatory internship, the project group work during the third semester of our MPP program offers us a chance to apply what we learned in practice and to gain professional experience. Eighteen of us second-year students joined the project group under Dr. Edgar Aragón’s guidance, “The EU Project Nopoor”, and thus became a small part of a large EU-funded research project involving more than one hundred researchers from twenty institutions worldwide.

Project Group

Nopoor aims at “enhancing knowledge for renewed policies against poverty” and is decidedly policy-oriented. Besides nine research work packages that take a comprehensive approach to poverty and its reduction, there are work packages concerned with policy recommendations and dissemination. Research findings are translated into policy briefs and other formats in order to be communicated to the European Commission and other stakeholders. Research is carried out in twenty-one countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Our role within the project is to support the Nopoor researchers by identifying stakeholders’ current policy needs regarding poverty alleviation in both the EU and the southern countries. Nopoor research should then be aligned with these needs. Moreover, our tasks include identifying stakeholders in both the EU and the southern countries, and keeping track of the EU agenda with regard to poverty. Hence, we are a communication link between researchers and policy stakeholders. Two students have been assigned to each of the work packages and we are contributing to a milestone report due in March 2014.

A first highlight of our project group work was our field trip to Brussels to take part in the European Development Days 2013 (EDD). Since 2006, the European Commission has organized this annual conference as a platform for dialog and exchange on international development issues. The 2013 edition took place on November 26-27 and brought together 5,000 participants from 125 countries, amongst them policy-makers, civil society actors, private sector representatives, and researchers. Since the framework of the UN Millennium Development Goals is coming to an end in 2015, the EDD mainly focused on discussing a universal post-2015 development agenda. The EU aspires to place the focus of attention on poverty alleviation and sustainable development.

During the EDD, we heard high-level speakers such as José Manual Barroso, President of the European Commission, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia. We attended sessions of interest to our respective work packages and learned a lot about actors and policy fields. Thus, we were able to familiarize ourselves with the current debate within the international development community and to identify key themes of relevance to Nopoor, such as the role of the private sector in poverty alleviation or policy coherence for development.

Besides attending the EDD, during our stay in Brussels we had the opportunity to participate in a training organized by the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, the French project coordinator of Nopoor, and to visit the European Parliament.

Back in Erfurt, our field trip has given us additional motivation to contribute to the project until the end of the semester because it emphasized the political relevance and urgency of poverty reduction and eradication.