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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.
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn debacle has unexpectedly forced the first leadership turnover at a Bretton Woods institution since the global financial crisis—the first leadership transition in what we might call the G-20 world. The tacit deal that has long put an American atop the World Bank and a European in charge of the IMF, rooted in the geopolitics of the 1940s, looks more archaic than ever. That’s why this time around, the calls have grown even louder to make the leadership selection process of the World Bank and IMF open, transparent, and meritocratic. Owen Barder suggests on his widely read blog that transparency and merit are key to maintain the reputation and relevancy of these international institutions, and Nancy Birdsall agrees that the decision needs to be based on merit, not nationality. The Financial Times and others news media say that it is time for everyone to acknowledge that we are in the 21st century with several emerging powers that must have a larger role in the Bank, the Fund and other multilateral organizations. One of us (Vij) has made this argument too, constructing a model of global governance that factors in GDP and population as of 2011, not 1941.
In a recent blog post in the Guardian, Jonathan Glennie welcomes the new focus on results in foreign aid and has some good things to say about Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) in particular. (We especially like this: “COD Aid demonstrates a post-ideological humility regarding how to achieve development.”)
In his article, but even more so in readers’ reactions below it, there are some questions about the possible effects of linking aid to results. We think that the commenters are right to raise these worries, because they are concerns that we share. But we believe that these concerns are relevant for other forms of results based aid, and to an even greater extent for conventional forms of aid, and that COD Aid would in fact go a long way towards allaying them.
Here are the main worries raised, with some reflections on whether and how they apply to COD Aid:
Next week about 2,700 delegates from around the world will gather in Busan, Korea to talk about aid effectiveness: whether there has been progress on aid reform since previous forums in Paris and Accra, and what ‘development cooperation’ (the term for ‘aid’ coming back into vogue) should look like going forward.
This podcast was originally recorded in March, 2012.
Most Wonkcasts focus on CGD’s research and policy work. This one is different. My guest is Owen Barder and our topic is CGD itself, specifically the effort that Owen is leading to greatly increase the Center’s engagement in Europe. Owen, a CGD senior fellow and director for Europe, previously worked for CGD on our Advance Market Commitment initiative, which led to a $1.5 billion pilot commitment to purchase and ensure delivery of new vaccines to prevent pneumococcal disease. He subsequently spent three years in Ethiopia and recently resumed working for CGD, based in London, to strengthen the Center’s ties with the European development research and policy community. [Note: Owen continues to maintain his own excellent blog, Owen Abroad and to host occasional podcasts, Development Drums; these are also now available on the CGD Website multimedia page.]
Lawrence MacDonald is traveling this week, so we're re-releasing an episode from our archives. This interview was originally posted on March 22, 2010.
My guest this week is Owen Barder, a visiting fellow here at the Center for the Global Development and the director of the AidInfo project at Development Initiatives, a UK-based NGO. Owen's current work focuses on improving the transparency of the international aid system—making it easier to know where and how aid is being spent.
Owen explains that more easily available aid data would benefit a number of audiences. Researchers and policymakers need the data to study what aid interventions work best. Developed country taxpayers have a right to information on how government is spending their money. Developing country governments need information on donor spending in order to budget their own resources effectively. However, according to Owen, the most important audience for aid data are the citizens of developing countries-the intended beneficiaries of the spending.
"They need to hold their government to account, they need to hold service delivery organizations to account," he says. "And to do that, they need to know what services they should be expecting, what money is being allocated, what's being spent, so they can make sure they're getting the services they need."
One result of President Obama’s visit to the UK last month was a statement on the UK-US Partnership for Global Development in which the U.S. President and Prime Minister David Cameron “reaffirm [their] commitment to changing the lives of 1.2 billion poor people in the world today." In the statement they promise to work together on a range of important development issues: economic growth, conflict and fragile states, aid (accountability, transparency, results), global health, girls and women, and climate change.