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The political economy of development policies and aid, innovative finance, transparency and accountability, complexity, technology, public financial management, information, knowledge, new media, Africa, health economics.
Owen Barder is a Vice President at the Center for Global Development, Director for Europe and a senior fellow. He is also a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics and a Specialist Adviser to the UK House of Commons International Development Committee. Barder was a British civil servant from 1988 to 2010, during which time he worked in No.10 Downing Street, as Private Secretary (Economic Affairs) to the Prime Minister; in the UK Treasury, including as Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and in the Department for International Development, where he was variously Director of International Finance and Global Development Effectiveness, Director of Communications and Information, and head of Africa Policy & Economics Department. As a young Treasury economist, Barder set up the first UK government website, to put details of the 1994 budget online.
In a recent TV documentary, Professor Hans Rosling suggested that middle-income countries (MICs) get three times as much aid per person in poverty as countries which are further back in their development. Is aid being spent disproportionately in MICs? As you would expect, countries are diverse, and so too is the amount of aid they each receive. We show that the apparent under-allocation of aid to low-income countries (LICs) calculated by ODI, which is cited by Rosling, depends heavily on the choice of averages.
Our migration team has kicked off a new research program on forced migration to better understand people’s motivation to flee their homes, and the implications this has for the legal migration framework. What space does the current system have to accommodate individuals who do not qualify for formal refugee status?
Nine thousand delegates gathered in Istanbul for the first World Humanitarian Summit. There was no shortage of great commentary in advance, all of which pointed to the pivotal role that the WHS could play in the future of humanitarian aid. Depending on who you ask, the humanitarian system is either broke or broken. How could the Summit have tackled the system's mounting problems?
Although the real value of global aid has grown 9% in the last five years, all of that increase has been eaten up by the rising costs of humanitarian aid and refugees. Instead of condemning more and more people to a long-term future as aid-dependent refugees, what if we turned the support they would receive from donors over many years into an endowment that would enable them to start a new life in a new country?
Companies that own property in the UK are going to have to publish the names of their owners, in a publicly-accessible registry. And they will also have to list their owners if they want to get a contract from the UK government.
“For too long there has been a taboo about tackling [corruption] head on. The summit will change that.” That, at least, is the optimistic pronouncement from the leader of Her Majesty’s Government ahead of the UK anti-corruption summit in London this week.
The High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers
The Report of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers shows why giving aid directly in the form of cash is often a highly effective way to reduce suffering and to make limited humanitarian aid budgets go further. We urge the humanitarian community to give more aid as cash, and to make cash central to future emergency response planning.
On the eve of the Social Impact Investment summit in London this Thursday, 6th June, I am excited that CGD and Social Finance are releasing a consultation draft of the report of the Working Group on Development Impact Bonds that we have convened over the past year.
David Cameron co-chairs the UN Panel on the future of the development agenda, so his 'golden thread' view of development is likely to have a global impact. In the second of three blog posts looking at development policy through the lens of complexity thinking, Owen Barder asks whether the British government's golden thread is good development policy. He concludes that though it has much to commend it, it also has significant weaknesses.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wants us to stop talking simply about the quantity of aid we give, and:
“start talking about what I call the ‘golden thread’, which is you only get real long-term development through aid if there is also a golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law, transparent information.”
This is not a new wheeze: Mr Cameron has been talking about the golden thread since before he became leader of the Conservative party. Given that he is a co-chair of the UN High Level Panel on the global development agenda after 2015, we can expect to see some of this thinking in that panel’s recommendations.
The Financing for Development Conference, which drew to a close yesterday in Addis Ababa, was never going to solve all the world’s development problems. What it could do was establish a shared policy framework within which decisions for the rest of 2015 can be taken. The outcome document, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, actually does that pretty well. But the real test is still to come: what specifically will countries commit to which will make these ideas real?
Disaster aid is often too little, too late. Pressure on aid budgets is prompting donors to find ways to handle more crises with less funding. But the current model of discretionary, ex-post disaster aid is increasingly insufficient for these growing needs, and does little to create incentives for governments in affected countries and donors to invest in risk reduction and resilience. This framing paper sets out how the global community can do better.
There are 20 pages covering the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. And while they are inevitably bubble-wrapped in diplo-speak and hat-tipping, there is a solid package of proposals nestled within. They cover domestic public finance, private finance, international public finance, trade, debt, technology, data and systemic issues. Amongst many other things, the Agenda calls for more tax and better tax (less regressive, more focused on pollution and tobacco). And it is long and specific on base erosion, tax evasion and competition and tax cooperation. It calls for financial inclusion and cheaper remittances. The draft discusses blended finance and a larger role for market-based instruments to support infrastructure rollout, as well as a new measure of “Total Official Support for Sustainable Development.” It calls for Multilateral Development Bank reform including new graduation criteria and scaling up. And it suggests a global compact to guarantee a universal package of basic social services and a second compact covering infrastructure. Finally, the draft has a good section on technology including the need for public finance and flexibility on intellectual property rights.