Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD in the News

More Bang for the Wonk: How the Center for Global Development Leverages Donor Dollars (Inside Philanthropy)


If you suddenly found yourself with a fortune to give away, this is what might happen. First, you'd go out and talk to a lot of smart people about how to have an impact with your money. Second, you might quickly come to see that your dollars will go further if you try to help people in poor countries rather than rich countries. Third, you could next realize that the capacity of private philanthropy to make a difference in people's lives is small compared to the power of national governments and international organizations to effect change through aid, trade, and finance. So, fourth, you might well cast about for policy groups to fund who know how to influence these big entities.

Which means that, fifth, you'd probably one day find yourself on the doorstep of the Center for Global Development, the premier policy shop working to reduce global poverty. And if you were smart, you'd start writing this outfit some very big checks as part of your giving.  

Have Higher Food Prices Actually Helped the World's Poor? (Bloomberg Businessweek)


Food prices are rising in the U.S.—up 0.4 percent in March alone, another indicator the economy is showing new signs of life after the recession. Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) announced last week it will raise prices, and many pizza chains, facing higher cheese bills, are following suit. Worldwide, food prices reached a 10-month high in March, a level about 50 percent higher before a series of price spikes began in 2005, prompting concerns about a world food crisis. Surprisingly, it turns out a lot of poor people seem to have benefited from higher prices; hunger appears to be no worse. In the long term, high food prices probably hurt efforts to reduce global poverty, but it’s good news that poor people haven’t suffered over the short term nearly as much as we feared.

Biometric Identification That Goes Beyond Fingerprints (USA Today)


Who has the right to collect your biodata? Who gets to access it? How can it be used? And what happens in case of security failures? After all, you can change your passwords after a Heartbleed bug, but you can't change your irises.

Even agnostics agree that laws haven't kept pace with the technology. "The technology itself is ethically neutral," says Alan Gelb, a researcher at the Center for Global Development who studies national ID systems, including biometrics. "The question is how the technology is used."

But Gelb says there's not enough oversight or regulation of the technologies. Although the 160 national ID programs Gelb and his co-researcher found go a long way toward bridging the "identity gap," half of them lack adequate data-protection laws, he said.

Deforestation and Climate Change (The Kojo Nnamdi Show)


Jonah Busch: "We're used to thinking about our transfer payments to poorer countries as charity, something to feed hungry bellies or teach inquiring minds. But more and more in this century our transfers to other countries will be about global public goods, things that help them and help us. And climate change is a clear example of this. One carbon molecule going into the atmosphere from Guyana or from the U.S. is the same everywhere. And so we should be trying to keep that carbon on the ground, in the forests and be willing to pay for that."


The deforestation has gone down in Brazil for a number of reasons. One of the best is that they have been enforcing their forest laws. Many countries have forest laws that govern how they'll be cleared, but many don't enforce them very well. Brazil had put in place excellent monitoring of where their forest were being cleared, and then used those monitoring alerts to send in law enforcement when the laws were being violated. At the same time, they removed some subsidies to growers to be clearing land and instead put in place incentives to be growing more crops, more soy and beef on already cleared land. The result of that is that while Brazil's deforestation fell 80 percent over the last decade, its soy and beef production continue to climb, never fell off and went up about 50 percent over the same period. A remarkable success story.

The IMF and World Bank Are More Democratic Than They Look (Bloomberg Businessweek)


This weekend, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had their spring meetings in Washington, D.C. As the black limousines stuffed with the world’s treasury officials queued in front of the Bank’s mirror-glassed facade with its spreadsheet-inspired frames, a small band of protestors chanted peacefully outside. Although a long way from the mass arrests of giant-puppet-wielding demonstrators from years past, the protests are a reminder of the swath of opinion that views the two global financial institutions as antidemocratic forces of capitalist evil.

The World Bank and IMF are far from models of transparency and egalitarianism, but they are pretty much the most democratic global institutions we have. And that reality underscores why we need considerable innovation in the governance of global institutions far beyond those based in Washington.

Sweden: The New Laboratory for a Six-Hour Work Day (The Atlantic)


In a 2012 article for Foreign Policy, Charles Kenny explored the complicated connections between output and work hours:

The bottom line is that productivity -- driven by technology and well-functioning markets -- drives wealth far more than hours worked. And very few jobs in developed economies nowadays are classic assembly-line positions, where working 20 percent longer will mechanically produce 20 percent more widgets. Psychology plays a role here too: At least 40 years of studies suggest that people work harder if you limit their time to complete a certain task. In some cases, working too hard can actually reduce output. Long working hours are also associated with ill health, which means lost labor in the long term, as well as higher medical costs for employers and government.

Straight Talk Africa: Power Africa Initiative (Voice of America)


“There is no silver bullet for promoting economic development. But what I think is very clear, and what I think the White House and the federal agencies have come to recognize through [the Power Africa] initiative, is that one of the major, and in many cases the number one, constraint on job growth [and] on economic development in Africa is a lack of affordable and reliable electricity. The data on business constraints is very clear: electricity is the number one constraint in most countries and, as we heard in the opening to the program, the lack of electricity has an effect on people’s health, on people’s education and on their livelihoods. I think it’s very important that the administration pull together all of these tools in a focused effort with specific targets to try to help alleviate this problem.”

“It is both immoral and impractical for us to try and fight climate change through putting restrictions on power projects in places like Sub-Saharan Africa. Just to give you a contrast, in U.S. we have more than 3,000 power plants that run on fossil fuels. Ghana, one of the countries in Power Africa, has two. Ghana would like to build a few more. We are not going to deal with climate change problems by constraining Ghana [from building] two, four, six, eight [plants] when we have thousands of plants online. So the source of the problem is with us, and the demand for energy sources is in Africa. And we need to be sure that we are allowing flexibility for people to do what people everywhere do, which is build the electricity and energy that they need to have modern economies.”

Defining Moments in Climate Change: Hope and Crisis in Copenhagen (The Guardian)


Michele de Nevers was attached to the World Bank delegation. She says the lack of an overarching agreement made setting a carbon price impossible. "Whether it was a high price or a low price didn't matter as much as the fact that there would be an agreement on what the reduction of emissions was going to be … which would make all of these carbon markets for climate finance kick in functionally."

De Nevers says the $100bn per year pledged for developing countries would have been "very easy to reach" had the world had a functioning carbon market. Instead the onus for fundraising has fallen on nation states. So far, the total pledged stands at $37.5bn, almost half of which comes from Japan.

Why Education Spending Doesn't Lead to Economic Growth (Bloomberg Businessweek)


It is college acceptance season, and letters with financial aid offers attached are dropping on doormats nationwide. Many students and an even greater number of parents are facing the sticker shock associated with tertiary education. As college prices rise—the average annual cost hit $18,497 in 2010-11, according to the National Center for Education Statistics—the question inevitably arises: Is it worth it? For the average student in the U.S. and worldwide, the answer is affirmative: Education remains a fantastic investment for individuals. The tougher question is whether education at all levels is such a great investment for societies as a whole.