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Following the Money: Owen Barder On Why Aid Transparency Matters

Owen BarderMy 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."

The Private Sector And Global Health: Interview with April Harding (Video)

In this video, CGD visiting fellow April Harding describes the private sector's success in supporting health initiatives in developing countries. Harding provides an example of maternal care in India where government vouchers for private doctors provided the additional human resources to lower rates of maternal mortality.

Harding lead a CGD working group to identify how the private sector could support the health goals of the public sector. The working group recommended that donors create a private sector advisory facility that would provide on-demand support to policymakers in developing countries. So far, five donors have agreed to support this facility.

Market Access for the Poor: Kimberly Ann Elliott on Trade Preference Reform

Kimberly Ann ElliottThis week, I’m joined on the Global Prosperity Wonkcast by Kimberly Ann Elliott, a senior fellow here at the Center for Global Development. Kim’s research focuses on ways in which rich country trade policy affects the developing world. She currently chairs CGD’s working group on Global Trade Preference Reform.

Trade preferences are a way for countries to offer access to their markets to poor countries, in spite of other import tariffs or quotas that might otherwise apply. Kim tells me that most countries, including a growing number of advanced developing countries, have some form of trade preference program. However, she says, not all of them benefit developing countries very much.

Cash on Delivery Aid: Ayah Mahgoub on COD in Education

Ayah MahgoubI'm joined this week by Ayah Mahgoub, a program coordinator here at the Center for Global Development who works on issues related to the effectiveness of foreign aid. Along with Nancy Birdsall and Bill Savedoff, Ayah is working on designing a new form of development assistance called Cash on Delivery Aid that would pay for progress on specific development outcomes.

Nancy summed up the basic idea of the Cash on Delivery approach on a Wonkcast last month—read that post or go here for a short introduction to the idea of COD Aid. While discussions are underway to develop COD aid mechanisms for a number of sectors (including water and health), the initial application is in education. In this sector, a Cash on Delivery contract would pay recipient governments a fixed amount for each additional student who completes primary school and take a standardized test. Ayah is helping to match aid donors and recipient governments who are interested in supporting a pilot of this innovative approach. I asked Ayah to tell us about the countries where the first COD Aid programs might happen: Malawi, Ethiopia, and Liberia.

TED Talk: Paul Romer's Radical Idea: Charter Cities

Why does one country experience economic success while another country from the same region lags behind? In this TED Talk, CGD nonresident fellow Paul Romer argued that the successful country made a set of decisions that lead to their prosperity. The challenge arises when trying to test which decisions promote development and which decisions hinder it. Romer proposes what he calls “charter cities,” geographical zones governed by a coalition of nations collaborating to create prosperous cities.

David Roodman on Microfinance and a Year of Blogging

David RoodmanMy guest on this week’s show is David Roodman, a research fellow here at CGD who has spent the past year writing a book on microfinance. He has shared this experience online through his open book blog, posting chapter drafts, analyzing ongoing research in the field, and soliciting comments and suggestions. I ask David why he decided to write his book in such a public way, and what he’s learned over the last year.

David replies that when it comes to policy research, people write books for four reasons. “One is to help you think through a complicated process… Another is to provide a basis for shorter spin-off pieces… Another is to signal that you’re an expert about something. And then the last is, oh yeah, to write something for people to read.” David says blogging about the book-writing process has helped him to partially accomplish the first three goals even before the book is complete. It has also, somewhat unexpectedly he says, changed his writing style, something he discussed recently on the blog.

Getting Aid Right in Northern Uganda—Interview with Julius Kiiza

Julius KiizaI'm joined on the Wonkcast this week by Julius Kiiza, a visiting fellow here at the Center for Global Development. Julius is an associate professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and is spending time at CGD on a grant from the Canadian International Development Research Center. His research addresses the prospects for aid effectiveness and development in northern Uganda.

Julius tells me that northern Uganda has presented a difficult paradox for aid donors. For years, the country as a whole has been touted as a success story, and a potential model for other developing countries. It boasts one of the fastest rates of economic growth in all of Africa and has cut poverty nearly in half since 1992. However, Julius explains, the north of the country has made very little progress during that time. While the national poverty rate is around 30%, the poverty rate in the north is still around 60%.

Nancy Birdsall on Cash on Delivery Aid

Nancy Birdsall

Can aid donors find a better way to deliver aid? My guest this week is Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development. Along with William Savedoff and Ayah Mahgoub, Nancy is working on a potential new way of disbursing foreign assistance called Cash on Delivery Aid. COD Aid seeks to devise simple, results-based contracts that reward developing countries for making progress towards previously agreed goals—such as increased primary school completion rates, vaccination coverage, or access to clean water.

In the podcast, Nancy explains that the traditional mode of giving aid, in which donors often take an active role in prescribing which actions recipient governments should take, can undermine incentives for governments to identify problems and design and implement locally appropriate solutions. "We have to create a system in which outside resources actually help the developing country governments find out what works in their particular setting," says Nancy.

Development and Obama’s Budget; Interview with CGD’s Sarah Jane Staats

Sarah Jane StaatsI'm joined for this week’s CGD Wonkcast by Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach here at the Center for Global Development. Last week, President Obama released his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. Sarah Jane and others here at the Center have been poring over the budget request, examining what signals the budget sends on the administration's approach to development.

$3.8 trillion is a number a little too large to comprehend; Sarah Jane and I break down some of the numbers in the budget and have some fun comparing development and diplomacy programs with some of the government's big ticket spending items.

Population, Poverty, and Economic Growth

Rachel NugentMy guest this week is Rachel Nugent, deputy director for global health here at the Center for Global Development. Rachel directs the Center's work looking at the links between population, poverty, and economic growth and serves as the coordinator of the Population and Poverty Research Network, which held its fourth annual conference recently in Cape Town, South Africa.

Many of us are familiar with how development influences population growth: as incomes rise, fertility rates and average family size tend to fall; populations grow more slowly. Rachel explains that while this relationship is important there are many important unanswered questions about how population policies affect development outcomes. For example: if a poor country slows population growth by actively encouraging family planning, will the families involved and the nation reap economic benefits? Under what circumstances?

Six Lessons for Disaster Relief in Haiti

John SimonI'm joined this week by John Simon, a visiting fellow here at the Center for Global Development. Before coming to the Center, John served in a range of influential positions, from U.S. Ambassador to the African Union to Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. During the George W. Bush administration, he was a member of the National Security Council, serving as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Relief, Stabilization, and Development.

That last role placed him at the center of the American response to natural disasters including the 2005 South Asia earthquake and Hurricane Stan. On the Wonkcast, he shares some of the lessons he learned through those experiences, expanding on a blog post he wrote last week (a post I highly recommend reading!).

CGD Hosts Secretary Clinton Address: "Development in the 21st Century"

Hillary Rodham ClintonIn a major policy speech hosted by CGD, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared international development a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy, together with diplomacy and defense. She hailed Raj Shah, recently confirmed as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and said she intends to rebuild USAID into, “the premier development agency in the world.”

In her speech, Clinton said that, especially in tough economic times, the American people have the right to ask why the United States spends tax dollars to help developing countries. Development overseas is critical to U.S. security and prosperity, she said, and development professionals must do a better job of measuring and communicating the impacts of their work.

Fragile States: Development in the World’s Basket Cases

My guest this week is Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow here at the Center for Global Development. Vij directs the Center’s research on fragile states—countries where, often due to recent or ongoing conflict, the basic functions of government are weak or nonexistent. These states present special challenges to aid donors and practitioners, both in planning how to give aid effectively and in delivering it.

Vij explains that learning how to respond to state fragility will hold benefits for development even in more functional states. “”We certainly have a set of countries that are a complete puzzle to policymakers, to development practitioners, to the foreign assistance community,” she explains. “But there are other countries that have weaknesses within them, elements of fragility. They might not be fragile overall, but they may have certain areas that are in need of assistance, or they may at different points in time present as cases that are representative of very weak states.”

Birdsall on Clinton, Elevating Development, Taking Stock in 2010

Nancy BirdsallI'm joined this week by Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development. Nancy introduced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when Clinton came to speak to CGD last week. On the Wonkcast, she shares her impressions of Clinton's speech and places it in the broader context of U.S. development policy reform—including two ongoing assessments, the White House Presidential Study Directive or PSD and the State Department’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review or QDDR.

In the second half of the interview, Nancy reviews the past year in development and offers a policy wish for 2010.

 

Bases, Bullets, and Ballots: U.S. Military Aid and Conflict in Colombia

Oeindrila DubeMy guest this week is Oeindrila Dube, a postdoctoral fellow here at the Center for Global Development and an assistant professor of politics and economics at New York University. She is the author, along with Suresh Naidu, of a new paper that examines the relationships between U.S. military aid to Colombia and paramilitary violence and electoral participation in that country. Her paper reaches the unsettling conclusion that U.S. military assistance dollars may in fact be responsible for raising the levels of political violence.

AIDS and Aid: Rethinking PEPFAR (Podcast)

This week on the Global Prosperity Wonkcast, I'm joined by Nandini Oomman, director of the Center's HIV/AIDS Monitor. Our conversation focuses on the new 5-year strategy laid out earlier this month by Ambassador Eric Goosby, the new U.S. global AIDS coordinator and head of PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).

Nandini praises the evidence-based framework PEPFAR has laid out and its move towards much greater openness and transparency. She stresses that the challenge ahead will be in designing concrete plans that implement the strategy effectively and measure its impacts.

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