Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity


CGD's weekly Podcast, event videos, whiteboard talks, slides, and more.

Liliana Rojas-Suarez on U.S. Financial Reform (CNN en Espanol)

CGD senior fellow Liliana Rojas-Suarez discussed the main differences and hot button issues regarding the proposals of Democratic and Republican Senators on the Financial Regulatory Reform. Four major areas of debate were identified: the consumer protection agency, financial derivates, the roles and limitations of the banks, and the rescue fund.

Paul Romer’s Bold New Idea for Charter Cities

Paul RomerThe planet's population will swell by two to three billion people over the next few decades. Where will all those people live? My guest on this week's Global Prosperity Wonkcast has a bold new idea. Paul Romer is a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, a non-resident fellow here at the Center for Global Development, and one of the world’s leading growth economists. He is proposing brand new cities—he calls them ‘charter cities’—built from the ground up with sound rules designed to promote swift development.

The two ideas at the heart of Paul's proposal are, first, that good rules are fundamental to development and, second, that new cities might be able to draw their rules, people, and land from different sources. He argues that inadequate property rights, legal systems, and other types of rules hold back development in poor countries. If the residents of a poor country could choose to live in a new city, governed by the rules of a well-functioning country, they might benefit enormously. If good rules are in place, Paul says, where that city is located doesn’t matter much.

A Conversation with Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan

On Wednesday, April 14, 2010 Center for Global Development hosted a conversation with The Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan, who offered his perspective on several of the key issues that his country faces, including electoral reform, consolidation of the gains of the Niger Delta Amnesty, the fight against corruption, and improvement to the power and energy sectors.

Fighting Corruption in Nigeria: Nuhu Ribadu

Nuhu RibaduCan a few brave souls make a difference in the fight against corruption? My guest on the Global Prosperity Wonkcast this week is Nuhu Ribadu, the former head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or EFCC and a visiting fellow here at the Center for Global Development. Nuhu is working on a manuscript that tells the story of his four years (2003-2007) at the helm of the EFCC during which he won more than 275 convictions and recovered an astonishing $5 billion in stolen assets.

Nuhu explains the circumstances that led Nigeria to create the EFCC, starting with the 1999 democratic elections, the first in 16 years. The new president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had campaigned on an anti-corruption platform. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks provided an additional push, heightening international awareness of the illicit financial flows that enable terrorist networks and political corruption alike. As a result, in late 2001 Nigeria found itself on an international blacklist of countries that enable money laundering, a list maintained by the independent Financial Action Task Force. It took nearly two years for Nigerian officials to realize they were on this black list and take action to get off of it. When they finally acted, they created the EFCC, a new office charged with cracking down on money laundering.

Nick Kristof on Story Telling and Development

How can people who care about international development interest the public? Last month, CGD hosted award-winning New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, one of the world’s most powerful voices on issues ranging from women’s rights to global health to genocide. In this special edition of the Global Prosperity Wonkcast, I’ve put together excerpts of Nick’s remarks and the question and answer session that followed. For those of us who were in the room, it was a valuable glimpse into how Nick thinks about his work and his audience.

Highlights from "Open Markets for the Poorest Countries: Trade Preferences That Work"

This video includes highlights from the Center for Global Development's trade preference report launch, Open Markets for the Poorest Countries: Trade Preferences That Work. Working group chair and CGD senior fellow Kimberly Elliott presented the reports recommendations, and CGD president Nancy Birdsall moderated a panel discussion with working group members William Lane and Gawain Kripke on how trade policies can better support development objectives.

Liliana Rojas-Suarez interviewed on CNN en Español

CNN en Español interviewed CGD senior fellow Liliana Rojas-Suarez on the U.S. financial reform.

Rojas-Suarez expressed concern that the Federal Reserve will only supervise entities that have an asset value of more than $50 billion, but won’t supervise the small entities which usually start banking problems like the recent crisis in the United States. She argued that the only way for the U.S. to achieve financial stabilization is by giving the Federal Reserve the authority to supervise the entire financial system.

Connecting Citizens: Twaweza’s Rakesh Rajani on Public Accountability in East Africa

Rakesh RajaniHas technology boosted the ability of citizens in African countries to influence their governments? This week, I'm joined by Rakesh Rajani, founder and head of Twaweza, an initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in Tanzania and other countries in East Africa. His organization has made good use of both new and old technologies—cellphones, TV, and radio broadcasts—to expand the ability of citizens to access government information and hold their leaders accountable.

Rakesh tells me that cellphone use has exploded in the last decade in Tanzania, rising from perhaps 200,000 users to over 14 million today. Except for the most remote areas of the country, he says, just about everyone can access a mobile phone. That new connectivity, Rakesh explains, has opened new channels for reducing corruption in government.

Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Foreign Aid

At the March 23, 2010 launch of their new book, Cash on Delivery: A new approach to foreign aid with an application to primary schooling, authors Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development; William Savedoff, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development; and Ayah Mahgoub, Program Coordinator to the President, Center for Global Development, presented an approach that links aid directly to outcomes in ways that promote accountability and strengthen local institutions. Cash on Delivery builds on existing initiatives that strive to disburse aid against results, but it takes the idea further by linking payments more directly to a single specific outcome; giving the recipient country full authority to achieve progress however it sees fit and without interference of any kind from donors; and assuring that the recipient country's progress is transparent and visible to its own citizens.

Beyond Relief: Helping Haiti

Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow jointly appointed at the Center for Global Development and Peterson Institute, participated in the recent event Beyond Relief: Helping Haiti hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The panel discussed medium- and long-term goals for Haiti’s recovery, including Subramanian's innovative idea for donors to give cash and mobile phones directly to Haitians instead of routing aid through the Haitian government.

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.