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Africa, debt relief, international financial institutions, private investment, aid selectivity
Ben Leo is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and a member of the Center’s Advisory Group. He currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Copernicus.io, an Africa data analytics firm. Copernicus is a proprietary geospatial platform that provides reliable and representative data on almost any customizable geographic area across the African continent.
Until October 2016, Leo served as a CGD senior fellow. His research focused on the rapidly changing development finance environment, with a particular emphasis on private capital flows, infrastructure, and debt dynamics. In addition, he tested a range of new technological methods for collecting high-frequency information about citizens’ development priorities. His research has been cited in leading international and regional media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, Forbes, USA Today, Mail and Guardian, CNBC Africa, This Day, and Daily Nation.
Prior to CGD, Leo held a number of senior roles at the White House, US Treasury Department, the ONE Campaign, African Union, and Cisco Systems.
Dr. Raj Shah has officially left the building. USAID’s headquarters in the Ronald Reagan building that is. He has a long list of accomplishments to take with him. Helping launch and oversee two presidential initiatives (Feed the Future and Power Africa), implementing organizational reforms (USAID Forward), and establishing close working relationships with Congress in an otherwise toxic environment. There is no doubt that Raj Shah has left USAID in a much stronger position than he found it five years ago. Now the questions will intensify about who should take his place. My colleague, Casey Dunning, outlined several characteristics that President Obama should be looking for. But, what should the next USAID Administrator focus on?
There are three specific areas that warrant immediate attention and action. All of them have witnessed some progress in recent years, but much work remains. They also would contribute to better results, greater accountability, and deeper partnerships with developing countries. In short, they represent an ambitious aid reform agenda for the final two years of the Obama Administration and the makings of a meaningful legacy for the next USAID Administrator.
Develop a Standard Metric for Evaluating Project Performance. USAID has aggressively pushed for more and better evaluations, and then made these evaluations publicly available. As my CGD colleagues, Casey Dunning and Rob Morello, have pointed out, USAID should build upon this impressive progress by establishing a universal rating system for all projects. These systems are common at the multilateral development banks and many bilateral aid agencies. By illustration, the World Bank assigns an outcome rating to every project, ranging from “highly satisfactory” to “highly unsatisfactory.” This information, which is supplemented by more detailed and customized project evaluations, allows management to compare portfolio-level performance and make adjustments to where the World Bank is investing its scarce resources. It’s startling that USAID doesn’t have such a system in place. The next USAID Administrator can and should fix that.
Engage and Reflect Local Views Throughout the Project Cycle. USAID needs to better engage with its intended beneficiaries on the ground, alongside regular engagement with partner governments. There are baby steps in some areas, such as USAID using local organizations to execute projects. That’s a great start. However, there also is a critical need for representative local input when determining priorities, developing projects, and monitoring whether goals have been achieved. [Just to be clear, this means the rigorous collection of input from a sample that is statistically representative of the broader population, which USAID is not doing now.] Americans don’t like it when Washington tries to set their priorities. Why should people in Africa or Latin America be any different? Ordinary people want a voice in, and a greater sense of ownership over, how USAID and other development agencies impact their lives. And then hold all actors accountable afterwards. Flexible, low-cost techniques – such as mobile phone-based surveys – can be a powerful tool for addressing this gap in representative, real-time input.
Better Collect and Publish Where All of the Money is Going. USAID is the biggest bilateral aid agency in the world and commits almost $20 billion a year in development funding. Yet, USAID regularly performs poorly compared to its peers in terms of publishing where all that money is going. If USAID wants to be a premier development agency, then it must dramatically improve its aid transparency. It can start by publishing timely, comprehensive, accurate, and geo-coded data to the global repository for foreign assistance information, the IATI registry. The Agency has committed to achieve this by end-2015, but it will only happen with a big push from the top.
None of these reforms will be quick and easy fixes. Nothing meaningful ever is. Yet, there is an opportunity for real progress. There is widespread support for these types of measures within the US-based development community, including the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and Publish What You Fund. And who knows, following Raj Shah’s constructive engagement with Congress, these reforms could find support on Capital Hill too.
Congress will soon make some big trade policy decisions that impact Sub-Saharan Africa. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which provides duty free access to the $17 trillion US market for qualifying African countries, is set to expire this fall. Word on the street is that draft legislation will be dropped in the coming weeks, which suggests that another extension is likely. What’s unclear is whether Congress will grapple with the factors that have long constrained US-Africa trade flows. Namely, most African firms are smothered by fickle and costly business climates that price them out of US and other global markets. Put differently, boosting US-Africa trade ain’t just about access, it’s about improving competitiveness. So, if Congress wants to use AGOA as a policy lever for incentivizing market-friendly reforms and promoting broad-based prosperity, then significant changes are required. Unfortunately, Congress’s in-house source for non-partisan analysis, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), has missed this point entirely.
One revision, key to unlocking greater opportunity for African firms, is reforming how the US government implements AGOA country eligibility decisions. AGOA originally was established as a compact with African governments, not altogether dissimilar from the model later employed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation. A grand bargain that offered the promise of greater US market access for countries that demonstrate “continuing progress” towards democratic pluralism, free markets, rule of law, and the protection of human and worker rights. While Congress created these eligibility criteria equally, they have been implemented in highly unequal ways by the executive branch. The US has never revoked (or granted) AGOA benefits on the basis of economic governance. But the reality is that property rights, corruption, customs procedures, and other elements of the business climate directly impact whether African firms can become globally competitive, make use of AGOA preferences, and contribute to job creation and economic growth. My CGD colleague, Vijaya Ramachandran, and I proposed some options for fixing this going forward (see my related congressional testimony here).
Unfortunately, Congress’s in-house source for non-partisan analysis largely failed to address the gap between AGOA’s original vision and executive branch decisions about country eligibility. In a new report, the GAO was silent on whether AGOA-eligible countries have actually demonstrated “continuing progress” on economic, political, and development reform objectives over time. This could have been achieved by examining publicly available indicators (see graph below) and past AGOA review reports produced by USTR and other agencies, which are not publicly available. Then, GAO could have detailed whether and/or how US agencies factored this information into their annual eligibility recommendations to the President.
Country Performance: Select Business Climate Indicators, 2012 Versus 2000
Source: 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance database
Instead, the GAO simply inventoried the bureaucratic steps of the annual AGOA review process (which actually is the best summary I’ve seen) and the handful of African countries that have lost eligibility, typically because of a military coup or gross human rights violations. It also ran a bunch of simplistic, endogenous correlations on whether AGOA-eligible countries have fared better than the handful of basket case countries that have not received AGOA preferences. I’ll spare you the suspense – Ghana and Rwanda have achieved better economic outcomes than Somalia and Zimbabwe. Not particularly instructive information for US policymakers.
GAO typically produces high-quality, thoughtful findings that help inform lawmakers’ policy positions. Politics come into play, but the GAO helps to frame the decisions through solid non-partisan analysis. That’s why this report is so disappointing. Congress may ultimately decide to maintain the status quo and incentivize economic reforms through other means. But, first it needs to know that AGOA isn’t being implemented the way it was designed. In that context, GAO has done Congress a disservice.
The President’s budget submission was perfectly timed this year to coincide with Ground Hog Day. And just like Bill Murray, we lined up to argue yet again about whether the current president has demonstrated a true commitment to global security and poverty. By that, the script is always whether he’s proposing a big increase for development budgets. It’s all about dollars. Both topline dollars and program specific dollars. And if he doesn’t drop a doozy of a development number, then the standard dialogue (or rather series of monologues) is about how US security and foreign policy will be imperiled. How millions of lives will be put in jeopardy. And how crisis upon crisis will soon follow. It’s a very sensationalist and very tired plot line. In its place, the mass-market should be focused not on spending lines, but on what US development policies and programs are actually achieving.
In that calendar, Budget Day would be just another day. Instead, other dates would garner much more attention. Such as August 21st, when USAID releases its annual performance report. Or May 21st, when OPIC publishes its annual report. Or when Power Africa delivers its performance update every July. The reviews would be focused on whether each of these agencies or initiatives are delivering real value for taxpayer money or adequately leveraging their balance sheet to expand economic opportunities abroad. After that, the development wonks and watchdogs would scour the books for ways to deliver better and more efficient results. Yes, agency or program budget numbers would feed into that story. Sometimes it might even make sense to focus on them. But, they often should be a side story, a minor part of the central plot line.
All of this would naturally contribute to a greater appreciation that development results ≠ dollars spent. Moreover, many of the most relevant development approaches don’t cost US taxpayers a dime, such as spurring private capital via OPIC and investment promotion treaties or expanding economic opportunities and remittances through H2 visas for Haitians. The existing budget fetish means that these efforts are overwhelmed by whether country X or issue in vogue Y are getting $500 million this year or just $400 million. We’d expect the Beltway bandits with an eye on contracts to track the budget numbers with a laser-focus. It’s a problem when the broader development community focuses on the President’s budget much more than when US agencies publish what they’re actually achieving on the ground.
In Burkina Faso, where most live on less than $2 a day, people want better infrastructure even more than they want jobs. In Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Tanzania – some of Africa’s poorest nations – it is the same. In fact, the cry for more and better basic services is heard in nearly every African country. It is a top-tier economic, political and social issue. Investments in transport, power and sanitation are widely viewed as critical for promoting growth, increasing economic opportunities and improving social services such as health and education. Much has been written about African infrastructure demand but, until now, few studies have examined the nature of that demand: who wants what where?
In a new CGD paper, we draw upon Afrobarometer survey data from 33 African countries to provide at least partial answers to these important questions.
Our analysis shows us:
People in poorer African nations are more concerned with infrastructure (or lack thereof) while citizens of wealthier countries tend to emphasize jobs and income-related issues.
Specifically, transportation and sanitation are the biggest infrastructure demands.
Some countries don’t follow the trend, e.g., Mali and Niger where food security are major issues. In others, electricity and housing top the list of peoples’ greatest concerns.
Within countries, citizens’ priorities transcend demographics, even gender and urban/rural divisions.
Infrastructure rollout often follows a pattern: first mobile phone services, then piped water and electricity, then paved roads, and finally, in wealthier areas, sewage services.
Africans living in areas without infrastructure services are significantly more likely to say it’s a national problem – and the more people want better services, the lower they tend to rate their government’s performance in providing them.
In this study, we attempt to move beyond topline estimates of infrastructure access rates towards a more nuanced understanding of broader service availability and citizen demand across African nations. This analysis also allows us to identify several potential implications for policymakers. We’ve listed some of these after the graphs below, which highlight what the survey data tells us about Africans’ most pressing concerns.
Figure 1 – Most Frequent First Response, by Country Income Level (% of Respondents)
Figure 2 – Most Frequent Second Response, by Country Income Level (% of Respondents)
Figure 3 – Most Demanded Type of Infrastructure, by Country Income Level
Potential Policy Implications
The politics of infrastructure can be both charged and highly nuanced, depending on citizen demands, sub-national differences in service availability, and past government investments. Readily available time-series data can help inform policymakers’ investment strategies and reform agendas. This information is likely most useful for deepening policy discussions and informing political decisions within African countries. However, there also are potential lessons and applications for global development partners, including bilateral and multilateral agencies. These include:
Public attitude survey data can be a tool for better understanding political economy issues within and across African countries.
Mapping infrastructure service availability to household access could help to highlight impediments, and also possible solutions, for improving service outcomes. For example, Afrobarometer data can be cross-referenced with DHS household data to identify geographic areas with available services but low access rates. This information could help narrow potential public policy options, such as first considering why millions of people are living under the electrical grid without power instead of pursuing massive capital expenditures for grid extension.
Donor agencies should be cautious about pushing priorities from their capitals, instead of responding to pressing priorities emanating from African citizens and their governments. Previous research has illustrated how US development assistance is not aligned with African citizens’ most pressing concerns. Comparing citizen demands with service availability (infrastructure, schools, clinics, etc.) can help shape and inform donors’ investment decisions at the regional, national, and sub-national levels.
Service availability and citizen demand patterns reinforce the need for customized infrastructure investment strategies that reflect countries’ unique circumstances. Beyond this, when considering large infrastructure investment projects, African and donor governments may wish to compare plans against infrastructure rollout hierarchies within that country, for both urban and rural areas.
We readily admit that the relevant survey data has its limitations. For instance, it only provides a snapshot in time of service availability and citizens’ most pressing demands. Yet, this information may provide an important, yet often overlooked, insight into highly localized political and social dynamics. Such dynamics should be considered much more systematically when African governments and their international partners are making important decisions about how scarce resources should be invested.
The need for infrastructure improvements is a top-tier economic, political, and social issue in nearly every African country. Although the academic and policy literature is extensive in terms of estimating the impact of infrastructure deficits on economic and social indicators, very few studies have examined citizen demands for infrastructure.
Clay Lowery, our group’s chair, is Vice President at Rock Creek Global Advisors, an international economic policy advisory firm, where he focuses on international financial regulation, sovereign debt, exchange rates, and investment policy. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and serves on the Policy Advisory Board at the European Institute. He was an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University in international finance and a lecturer at the National War College.
Originally published in October 2013 and updated January 2015
Food security has arisen again on the development agenda. High and volatile food prices took a toll in 2007–08, and in many low-income countries agricultural yields have risen little, if at all, in the last decade. Moreover, food production in these poor countries is especially vulnerable to climate change. Meeting this demand is a global challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is expected to lead the way in meeting this challenge and, with the arrival in 2012 of the first new director-general in 18 years, it has an opening to restructure itself to do so.
As the International Development Association (IDA) pushes for more funding for the neediest and most vulnerable countries, visiting fellow Ben Leo examines whether IDA’s existing performance-based allocation system (PBA) gives the developing world its fair share of funds. He says the system already has several built-in biases toward the neediest, but some donors feel it is not enough.
We have been anxiously waiting for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) to introduce legislation that promotes electricity access in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yesterday, Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Corker (R-TN), the respective SFRC Chairman and Ranking Member, introduced the Energize Africa Act (S. 2508). Senators Coons, Isakson, Markey, and Johanns also co-sponsored the legislation. This bipartisan bill is thoughtful, comprehensive, and would give a significant boost to US efforts to promote growth and economic opportunity in the region. Here are three reasons why.
(1) It would ensure that the Obama Administration develops a highly comprehensive multi-year strategy. To date, the Power Africa Initiative has been implemented on a transaction-by-transaction basis. That’s been fine so far, but it’s always been unclear how the disparate activities fit together and whether things will fizzle in 2016. Congress is seeking to change that. As with the Electrify Africa Act, the Obama Administration would have six months to submit a multi-year strategy. While the White House will have the pen on crafting the document, the Senate has provided a very detailed outline to work off (covering 24 separate components). The level of guidance may be a bit extreme, but it will force the Obama Administration to outline a plan that considers all of the major factors required to achieve reliable and commercially sustainable electricity access. This is essential for ensuring that Power Africa outlives the current administration.
(2) It provides the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) with new authorities, tools, and resources. OPIC is the cornerstone of President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative. Yet, it remains highly constrained by outdated authorities and inadequate resources. My colleagues and I have argued that Congress should unleash OPIC. The Energize Africa Act takes several important steps in that direction, including:
OPIC Reauthorization: The bill would reauthorize OPIC for five years (through 2019). By comparison, the House Electrify Africa Act contains a three-year reauthorization. The multi-year reauthorization (hopefully of the five-year variety) will remove unnecessary uncertainty that discourages OPIC’s private sector partners from entering into long-term deals.
New Instruments and Tools: The bill would establish a five-year pilot for local currency guarantees to foreign financial institutions that facilitate lending for US investors’ power projects. This will help to crowd in local capital in African countries, which may be sitting on the sidelines today. The Energize Africa bill would also encourage more joint ventures with African companies by lowering OPIC’s US ownership requirement to a simple majority. In addition, it would allow OPIC to provide insurance, guarantees, or reinsurance spanning 30 years for renewable projects. (The current maximum timeframe is 20 years.)
Additional Hiring Authority: OPIC would be allowed to hire up to 20 people on a limited-appointment basis. The average OPIC employee currently oversees roughly $75 million in portfolio exposure, which is a multiple higher than most peer institutions. This demonstrates both the efficiency of, and hard constraints placed on, existing OPIC staff. The bill also indicates that appropriations between 2015 and 2019 should allow for hiring personnel and upgrading systems infrastructure. If enacted, these provisions would boost OPIC’s capacity, allowing the agency to do many more power deals and generate more revenue for US deficit reduction in the process.
(3) It calls for a study on the effectiveness of OPIC’s existing authorities as well as the likely impact of new tools, such as direct investments. The Energize Africa Act provides OPIC with several important new authorities and tools. Yet this critical agency still remains constrained compared to many of its peer institutions. These institutions – such as the Netherlands’ FMO and France’s Proparco – offer the full spectrum of investment promotion services (financing, advisory services, direct investments, etc). The Energize Africa Act authorizes an independent study that will help to inform the ongoing debate about whether Congress should provide OPIC with further authorities down the road, including the ability to provide direct investments. This is another constructive step toward additional development finance reforms.
Update: Since the original publication of this blog, Where in the World Are US Development Initiatives? has been updated. The new version includes the President’s Malaria Initiative and refines the PEPFAR specification to county operational plans. Some figures within this blog post have been updated to reflect these changes.
The Rethinking US Development Policy team has launched a new tool: “US Development Initiatives: Where in The World Are They?” This allows users to geographically explore US development policy efforts as well as the quantity of aid commitments, and the magnitude of trade and investment. Do you want to quickly see where OPIC is active? Where the US has a bilateral investment treaty, trade preferences, or a free trade agreement? Or, what are the focus countries for PEPFAR, Feed the Future, or other aid initiatives? With one or two mouse clicks, this new tool will give you the answer.
At the aggregate level, we find that Tanzania and Ghana are involved in more US development initiatives than any other country (12). But, aid flows don’t necessarily follow initiatives. For example, while Kenya participates in six and Pakistan isn’t a part of any major initiatives, they practically tie for fifth place in receiving the most aid. Yet, a country like Ghana is only the 31st largest recipient of US aid. US investment initiatives may tell a similar story. Even though four of the BRICS (not China) are OPIC eligible, tiny Luxembourg has more than twice their total cumulative investment.
One of the map’s messages is a reminder of how US development policy truly spans the globe. It covers every region and practically every country. Some initiatives, such as Power Africa and Partnership for Growth, are focused in just a few countries. While there are benefits for being active in almost every country, would US development policy achieve better results if it had a greater degree of focus in country selection? Or, is the current global footprint still the best approach? These are just a few of the big policy questions that come to mind when exploring this new tool. What strikes you?
Also, we plan to make further improvements and adjustments to this tool over time. In many ways, this very much remains a beta version. So, please send any suggestions to Rob Morello (email@example.com) about ways to make this better or more applicable to your own interests or efforts.
We would like to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its generous support that made this tool possible.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Report: Time for FAO to Shift to a Higher Gear
Focusing the FAO on Global Public Goods
Experts Urge FAO to “Shift to a Higher Gear”
Agriculture and development policy experts recommend a renewed focus on global public goods to meet growing demand for global food security
Washington, D.C. – Experts are urging the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the leading global institution dedicated to raising agricultural productivity, to shift to a higher gear in the face of trends likely to worsen food scarcity.
A new report from the Center for Global Development says that the FAO, despite its respected status as the premier global food agency, risks squandering its potential at a time when demand for food is rising fast, supplies are under threat, and hundreds of millions of people already don’t have enough to eat.
The report says that the FAO should stop backing the pet projects of agricultural ministers and instead focus on global public goods—activities like coordinating research to raise agricultural productivity, especially in poor countries with little research capacity of their own, global data gathering and monitoring, and early warning systems for plant diseases and pests. No single country can undertake these activities on its own.
“Now more than ever before, the world needs an effective FAO,” says Vijaya Ramachandran, CGD senior fellow and head of the working group. “The FAO is uniquely placed to help prevent more widespread hunger in the face of adverse global trends. But it won’t succeed if it continues to putter along with business as usual.”
“This report makes a compelling case that the world needs the FAO today as never before. It shows that the FAO can make a huge difference in the world, but only if it does the right things better—and stops doing things that can be done as well or better by national governments, NGOs, and bilateral and multilateral funders,” says CGD president Nancy Birdsall.
The CGD report, Time for FAO to Shift into a Higher Gear, notes that the UN organization itself is the source of data that reports about one-in-nine people routinely go hungry and that as many as one-in-three people currently suffer from micronutrient deficiency—they have enough calories but lack specific vitamins or minerals. These statistics are increasingly built on sound databases and analysis, and reflect the ability of FAO to produce public goods of the highest quality.
“Food deprivation is already unacceptably high and it will get much worse in the years ahead without forceful leadership from FAO,” says Peter Timmer, one of the world’s top experts on agricultural economics and a CGD non-resident fellow who served on the working group.
“Trends such as lower yields due to climate change, rising energy prices, increased demand for meat and protein-rich foods due to income growth in emerging economies, and two billion more people in the world by 2050 will all combine to make it incredibly hard to provide enough safe, nutritious food for everybody,” says Timmer.
Timmer acknowledges that the FAO cannot solve all food security problems on its own. Poor people go hungry not because there is too little food in the world but because they lack the means to buy what they need. Nonetheless, with demand from more affluent people expected to continue to rise quickly, and supplies under threat, poor people who already have too little to eat will suffer the most.
“Increased production will be key. It is impossible to consume food that is not produced,” says Timmer. “Increasing supply should be the first order of business for FAO.”
Jikun Huang, a member of the working group and the director of the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, says “FAO’s expertise in many areas has been severely eroded. FAO needs to reestablish its world-class expertise in areas where it has a comparative advantage.”
The Center for Global Development working group report is not the first to call for an overhaul of the FAO.
Established after World War II to coordinate relief and agricultural development, the FAO became a trusted source of assistance for poor countries on technical issues ranging from veterinary services to forest management. In recent decades the agency slipped into stagnancy and dysfunction, and has struggled to maintain funding for its core activities.
In 2007, the FAO itself commissioned an independent outside review that recommended sweeping reforms. The report found that the FAO’s governing bodies and leadership failed to make strategic choices about which activities to drop in the face of declining funding in the 1990s, and that it did not form effective partnerships with the many new players in the food security field. As a result, FAO’s expertise in many technical areas was severely eroded. Western donors, in particular, faulted FAO for its reliance on support from agricultural ministers who often represented narrow constituencies even in their own countries.
Six years later, the CGD study finds that the FAO has implemented many of the recommendations of the earlier study, but it needs to do much more. The CGD working group, which is comprised of nearly two-dozen food policy experts from a wide variety of nationalities and technical backgrounds, offers two main suggestions:
For FAO Management: Focus on Global Public Goods
The FAO’s global perspective and cross-border reach, the respect and trust it continues to enjoy in developing countries, and its network of agricultural and economics experts are the FAO’s strongest assets.
To make the most of these, the FAO should focus on global public goods—activities that individual countries do not undertake on their own. Examples include:
increasing agricultural productivity, especially among small holder farmers, since increases in small holder production can lead directly to increased consumption and improved nutritional status;
the collection and dissemination of data on global food production and consumption;
early warning systems related to hunger, disease, and pests;
and providing a neutral forum for international policy dialogues on food and agriculture.
The report recommends that about half of the FAO’s non-emergency spending should focus on global public goods such as these, with an additional quarter of its non-emergency funding going to regional activities.
Currently less than half of the non-emergency spending goes to global and regional public goods, and almost four out of ten dollars is spent in local community projects—a low priority that the report says should attract no more than 5% of the organization’s non-emergency spending.
Within the FAO, these public goods activities are sometimes seen as being limited to the organization’s headquarters in Rome—and at odds with a strong FAO presence in member countries. The report argues that this is not the case. Many of these activities, such as long-run investments to raise productivity of small holder farmers and collecting data for early warning systems, require a strong local field presence.
For FAO Member States: Improve FAO Governance
The working group report urges that FAO member states—especially large donors such as Europe, Japan, and the United States—should ensure that financing for the FAO is aligned with these priorities.
Rather than funding earmarked, short-term programs, members should provide a reliable stream of funds for the FAO’s core activities – namely, the provision of global and regional public goods. For most of the large donors in the OECD countries, this will require stepping away from domestic self-interest and towards a focus on reducing global hunger.
Developing country FAO members, meanwhile, should stop pushing for highly visible pet projects within their borders and instead seek a greater say in FAO policy formulation , advocacy, and development activities that offer longer-term benefits. Focusing on its strengths instead of the pet projects of national agricultural ministers will enable the FAO to better serve all its members, the report says.
Among FAO staff there is a clear recognition of the importance of global public goods. Regina Birner, a department chair at Germany’s University of Hohenheim and a member of the working group, recalls that when she asked staff at FAO headquarters what they would consider their biggest achievements, most referred to global public goods, such as the eradication of rinderpest, a viral disease of cattle eliminated by a decade-long, worldwide vaccination campaign led by FAO.
Adds working group member Sushil Pandey, an agricultural economist and author of several studies on food security in Asia, “the FAO is an important source of national and regional data on food production, utilization and prices. These data are critically important for monitoring the long-term trends on various aspects of agricultural production and are used by national and international agencies for their planning purposes. This provision of public good by FAO needs further strengthening.”
The CGD working group report identifies several valuable activities that the FAO already performs. Noting that the FAO is well placed to provide these important services, it urges that these be shifted into higher gear given the coming strains on the global food supply. These include:
Support for increasing agricultural productivity, especially among small holder farmers. Donors have often cut back on funding for agricultural research when short-run commodity prices are low. The FAO should focus on longer-run signals of scarcity.
Issuing early warnings on hunger, pests, and diseases in collaboration with other international agencies. Tracking emerging threats and emergencies, and helping countries to mount rapid response programs.
Gathering global data on food and agriculture, including information about production, trade, irrigation, inputs, land and soil, forestry, fisheries, and investment. Continuing to produce reports, policy analysis, and statistical information about these issues and remaining the primary repository for such data.
Providing a neutral forum on food and agricultural policy issues. This would capitalize on the organization’s reputation for neutrality and objectivity and provide a venue to exchange expertise and views on food security. FAO has been active in mobilizing research and policy advice on food price volatility, and should continue to emphasize this role.
Overseeing standard setting agencies including the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the International Plant Protection Convention Secretariat.
Read the full report here.
The Center for Global Development is an independent, non-partisan think tank which works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community. CGD combines world-class research with policy analysis and innovative communications to turn ideas into action.
On March 19, 2015, senior fellow and director of CGD’s Rethinking US Development Policy Initiative Ben Leo testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy at a hearing about the potential for greater US trade and investment with Sub-Saharan Africa.
The Supporting Business Climate Reforms Working Group
Africa remains extremely difficult for entrepreneurs. Donors are increasingly targeting assistance to address the investment-climate constraints that hinder private-sector growth. This report lays out the case for promoting investment climate reforms more strategically, various options for implementing a system to do so, and possible institutional homes for the proposed facility.
CGD research fellow Ben Leo estimates that the World Bank could provide an extra $7.5 billion to the poorest countries over the next three years by adjusting the balance sheets of IDA and IBRD, its main lending arms.