With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
Technology, infrastructure, governance and anticorruption, human development, subjective wellbeing/happiness
Charles Kenny is a senior fellow and the director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development. His current work focuses on gender and development, the role of technology in development, governance and anticorruption and the post-2015 development agenda. He has published articles, chapters and books on issues including what we know about the causes of economic growth, the link between economic growth and broader development, the causes of improvements in global health, the link between economic growth and happiness, the end of the Malthusian trap, the role of communications technologies in development, the ‘digital divide,’ corruption, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of the book "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding, and How We Can Improve the World Even More" and “The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Great for the West.” He has been a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a regular contributor to Business Week magazine. Kenny was previously at the World Bank, where his assignments included working with the VP for the Middle East and North Africa Region, coordinating work on governance and anticorruption in infrastructure and natural resources, and managing a number of investment and technical assistance projects covering telecommunications and the Internet.
Improving rights for gays and lesbians is a critical human rights issue. Even where it is not illegal, gays and lesbians face violence, discrimination, and social stigma. But our research makes clear that in the developing world as a whole, both laws and attitudes are changing for the better, and that legal change is not only a positive step in itself, but it can also help shift attitudes too.
Washington – Today, Center for Global Development Senior Fellow Charles Kenny and Researcher Dev Patel released a new study that finds that just as social attitudes toward gays and lesbians have changed rapidly in the developed world, these attitudes are also changing in the developing world. The study also suggests that the changes in social attitudes often follow and are caused by changes in government policy toward gays and lesbians.
For Media Inquiries
Media Relations Consultant
The study, “Norms and Reform: Legalizing Homosexuality Improves Attitudes” uses public opinion data on this issue from the Gallup World Poll and the World Values Survey and matches changes in attitudes over time with the timeline of laws concerning same-sex decriminalization. The study also includes data visualizations that show legal trends over time and geography.
Legality of homosexuality across the globe
“Improving rights for gays and lesbians is a critical human rights issue. In some countries, people are still imprisoned and even killed because of their sexual orientation. Even where it is not illegal, gays and lesbians face violence, discrimination, and social stigma,” said Charles Kenny. “But our research makes clear that in the developing world as a whole, both laws and attitudes are changing for the better. And legal change is not only a positive step in itself, it can also help shift attitudes.”
The study finds:
As of May 2017, there were 124 countries without any legal penalties for homosexuality, compared to 72 countries that criminalize same-sex sexual activity.
In the last three decades the proportion of the world that report they do not want to live next to a gay or lesbian individual has dropped by about ten percentage points.
International social norms influenced social norms in developing nations. For example, looking at Eastern European Block nations, eyeing admission into the European Union and the international community, attitudes changed quickly to match the EU consensus on gay and lesbian equality.
When examining differing colonial origins of developing nations, former British colonies lag behind in legalizing homosexuality. 56% of countries where homosexuality is illegal are former British colonies, and 71% of former British colonies criminalize homosexuality.
As law change so do social attitudes and norms. That means that those advocating for policy changes are playing an enormous role – changing not just laws but attitudes as well across the globe.
“A number of developing countries were decades ahead of the United States in legalizing homosexual sex and ensuring gay marriage rights, but they aren’t given much credit,” said Kenny. “While there are still disastrous human-rights violating policies in countries like Zimbabwe and Uganda that demand our attention, they are – thankfully – increasingly the exception.”
You can read the full study here.
This analysis examines the relationship between legal reform and social norms surrounding homosexuality. First, about a fifth of the variation in individual preferences can be explained at a country level. Second, using a difference-in-differences strategy, legalizing homosexuality improves how individuals view the tone of their communities. Third, we provide further evidence supporting a legal origins argument by examining former colonies. We conclude that adopting legal reform can improve societal attitudes.
McDonald's has just gone global with its commitment to serve chicken free from antibiotics that are critically important to human health. Building on a similar phase-out in its US chicken supply in 2016, the company will ban critical antibiotic use from sourced chicken in a handful of high-income countries and Brazil in 2018, expanding to a longer list of “designated markets” by 2027. That's evidence of both the potential to reduce global antibiotic use in livestock and the vital role consumers can play in speeding progress.
A few months ago, I wrote a note calling for financial incentives to increase the number of women in (military) peacekeeping operations from its current level of about 4 percent closer to the UN Security Council target of about 20 percent. This post includes some more thoughts about the idea, around what to use financial incentives for, and how to fund that.
Without global action, by 2050 there could be as many as 10 million antimicrobial resistance-related deaths each year. An important—and often overlooked—part of the problem is the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals. CGD recently convened a roundtable discussion with technical experts to discuss possible ways to strengthen global cooperation to address livestock’s contribution to AMR. Drawing on that productive discussion, we outline steps that could help make inroads into the problem.
A year ago, I requested comments on a draft manuscript about corruption. Last week, we launched the resulting book: Results Not Receipts: Counting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption. I think the text was considerably improved by the comments process (and I hope the commenters agree). So I’m hoping the discussion can continue even though the book is now out.
Available evidence points to a superior payoff to female migration from gender-unequal countries to more gender-equal countries for the migrant, the sending country, and recipient country alike. This suggests that a policy by relatively gender-equal countries to provide entry preference to female economic migrants from gender-unequal countries would combine development impact and economic self-interest.
At present rates of progress, it will take more than three centuries for the UN to see the same number of women as men in peacekeeping operations, even though evidence suggests that increasing the proportion of women in operations will improve the success rate of peacekeeping missions and reduce levels of sexual misconduct. One method to speed up the march to equality could be financial incentives directed at troop contributing countries. These could significantly increase the proportion of women peacekeepers, potentially for as little as $77 million per year.
Results Not Receipts explores how an important and justified focus on corruption is damaging the potential for aid to deliver results. Noting the costs of the standard anticorruption tools of fiduciary controls and centralized delivery, Results Not Receipts urges a different approach to tackling corruption in development: focus on outcomes.
Development Finance Institutions (DFIs)—which provide financing to private investors in developing economies—have seen rapid expansion over the past few years. This paper describes and analyses a new dataset covering the five largest bilateral DFIs alongside the IFC which includes project amounts, standardized sectors, instruments, and countries. The aim is to establish the size and scope of DFIs and to compare and contrast them with the IFC.
A common objection to results-based programs is that they are somehow more vulnerable to corruption. This paper explains why results-based approaches to foreign aid may be less vulnerable to corruption than traditional approaches which track inputs and activities. The paper highlights corruption costs associated with failing to generate benefits and outlines the conditions under which one approach or another might be preferable. It concludes that results-based programs may be less vulnerable to corruption costs associated with failure because they limit the capacity of dishonest agents to divert funds unless those agents first improve efficiency and outputs.