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Charles Kenny is a senior fellow and the director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development. His current work focuses on gender and development, the role of technology in development, governance and anticorruption and the post-2015 development agenda. He has published articles, chapters and books on issues including what we know about the causes of economic growth, the link between economic growth and broader development, the causes of improvements in global health, the link between economic growth and happiness, the end of the Malthusian trap, the role of communications technologies in development, the ‘digital divide,’ corruption, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of the book "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding, and How We Can Improve the World Even More" and “The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Great for the West.” He has been a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a regular contributor to Business Week magazine. Kenny was previously at the World Bank, where his assignments included working with the VP for the Middle East and North Africa Region, coordinating work on governance and anticorruption in infrastructure and natural resources, and managing a number of investment and technical assistance projects covering telecommunications and the Internet.
Results Not Receipts explores how an important and justified focus on corruption is damaging the potential for aid to deliver results. Noting the costs of the standard anticorruption tools of fiduciary controls and centralized delivery, Results Not Receipts urges a different approach to tackling corruption in development: focus on outcomes.
Each year, 29 May marks the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, in remembrance of the more than 3,500 people who have lost their lives in peacekeeping operations over the UN’s 70-year history.
This year, it also falls on Memorial Day, when Americans commemorate their fallen servicewomen and men. On the face of it, there is little overlap between these two solemn anniversaries as the United States provides just 78 of the 97,774 peacekeeping troops currently deployed. However, the United States remains the single largest funder of UN peacekeeping operations, contributing 28 percent of the almost $8 billion annual cost, and it could play a major role in improving peacekeeping operations in one crucial area: gender balance. Doing so could be a low-cost way to improve peacekeeping operations, as well as the role of women around the world.
According to 2015 figures, only around four percent of UN peacekeepers are women. This is up from one percent in 1993, but far short of former secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s campaign to reach 10 percent by 2014. And at that rate of progress, it would take the UN 337 years to reach gender parity in peacekeeping operations. We have an idea about how to speed up this progress, but before that, it’s important to understand the very real and evidence-based reasons why more women peacekeepers would be a good thing.
Firstly, the UN must address the issue of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers. In the 18 months from January 2015, 106 formal allegations were made against the blue helmets—around one allegation per 1,000 peacekeepers. Many more acts of misconduct undoubtedly go unreported. In fact, in a survey of 475 women aged 18 to 30 in Monrovia, Liberia, considerably more than a quarter reported having had transactional sex with a peacekeeper. But studies suggest that increasing the proportion of women in a peacekeeping operation from zero to five percent reduces the expected number of sexual misconduct allegations against that contingent by half.
Second, there is some evidence that missions with more women personnel are more likely to meet their mandate and bring sustainable peace. Simply put, more women peacekeepers better ensure the peace.
Third, adding more women to peacekeeping missions could help shift norms both in the countries that send peacekeepers and the countries that host them—norms about women in society, with knock-on economic and security benefits. But all these effects are only likely to materialise if women peacekeepers are given real responsibilities and play an active role outside of UN bases.
So, how do we increase the number of women in peacekeeping missions? The evidence of several past missions is that the UN’s favored approach—of calling for or requiring greater participation in the specific language in a mission’s mandate—has limited effect on the proportion of women actually deployed. We need more powerful incentives.
The fact is that troop-providing countries are responding in part to financial incentives when they provide peacekeepers. The UN pays a fixed amount per troop per month—around $1400—and for many poor countries that is more than it costs to train and provide the troops. That is why developing countries provide far more UN peacekeepers than richer nations. Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, Rwanda, and Senegal between them provide 30 percent of the UN’s total peacekeeping force. So, why not offer them a premium for providing women peacekeepers? The UN already pays $303 extra for specialist troops. We calculate that if the same supplement were offered as an incentive to countries to provide more women peacekeepers, the UN could achieve a target of 20 percent participation for around an extra $77 million, which, given the $8 billion annual price tag of peacekeeping operations, is a tiny additional amount for a considerable gain.
Of course, this can’t be a permanent solution; it should be a programme designed to put itself out of business by fostering equality in armed forces worldwide. In addition, any such incentive programme should be nested in a broader set of initiatives to ensure that women peacekeepers play an active role in operations. In particular we would like to see Secretary-General Antonio Guterres select more women force commanders and police commissioners.
Payment-based affirmative action may be abhorrent to some who think it puts a price tag on a woman soldier’s head, but the current system of quiet encouragement towards greater female participation simply isn’t working. Secretary-General Guterres has made clear his commitment to gender equity: this is one way to make good on it, as well as to improve peacekeeping operations. What better way to honour the fallen?
This post originally appeared as an op-ed on IRIN.
Please join us to celebrate the launch of Charles Kenny's latest book, Results Not Receipts: Counting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption. This work illustrates a growing problem: an important and justified focus on corruption as a barrier to development has led to policy change in aid agencies that is damaging the potential for aid to deliver results. Donors have treated corruption as an issue they can measure and improve, and from which they can insulate their projects at acceptable costs by controlling processes and monitoring receipts. Results Not Receipts highlights the weak link between donors’ preferred measures of corruption and development outcomes related to our limited ability to measure the problem. It discusses the costs of the standard anti-corruption tools of fiduciary controls and centralized delivery, and it suggests a different approach to tackling the problem of corruption in development: focus on outcomes.
The World Bank’s soft lending arm for poorer countries, IDA, is busy rolling out a new $2.5 billion Private Sector Window. (See last year’s outline proposal for reference.) Bigger private sectors in IDA countries would be hugely welcome, so there is much to like in the broad thrust of the proposal, as suggested by Nancy Lee. But I’m left a little baffled by the details, and would love some reactions as to what I’m missing.
About half of the $2.5 billion IDA private sector window will be used to provide risk reduction to lending from the IFC (the Bank Group’s private sector investment arm) through project-based guarantees, hedging against local currency fluctuations and blended finance. The other half will provide MIGA (the Bank Group’s private sector insurance arm) with shared first-loss on its guarantees. The window’s transactions will be limited so that the maximum loss to IDA will be capped at the $2.5 billion of the fund. In other words, IDA will swap $2.5 billion of credit-making capacity for a combination of guarantees, hedging and grants of $2.5 billion. The return expected from the average PSW investment will be considerably below market rates (potentially a return on IDA’s capital for local currency hedges, for example). And this suggests all of the various arms carry a generous implicit or explicit subsidy.
While the proposal suggests that concessional elements will be minimized, they will be allocated based on perceived need by IFC and MIGA staff as they develop investment proposals. Given these investments traditionally start with a client company approaching the IFC or MIGA, this suggests the PSW will be primarily allocated on an unsolicited, noncompetitive basis to IFC/MIGA investments.
The scale of the PSW’s impact is estimated at approximately the $2.5 billion of additional financing/guarantees/grants that the IFC and MIGA will make supported by the risk reduction mechanisms of the window.
Here's what concerns me:
This seems like a conservative way to offer guarantees: IDA is swapping $2.5 of credits for $2.5 of guarantees (and some subsidies). The IBRD’s record suggests that when countries have the (effective) choice between IBRD lending and IBRD guarantees booked at 100 percent, they’d rather have the lending, thank you very much. If that’s true of IBRD lending, surely it would be even more true of IDA credits. Which country wouldn’t rather have $1 lent on IDA terms to spend on public investments than a $1 guarantee provided on its behalf to a private sector investor—and which country wouldn’t be right in their preference?
On a related note, this seems an odd way to allocate risk reduction resources to IFC and MIGA. The point of the Window—the development target set for the Window—is to increase total IFC/MIGA investment in IDA countries. If you believe the IFC and MIGA can't take on more projects in fragile states because of their own overall credit rating concerns (and language in the proposal suggests this is a factor in the design), you would set up a first loss investment or guarantee system for all IFC investments or MIGA guarantees in IDA countries. If the portfolio as a whole produced negative returns, losses of up to $2.5 billion would be made up from the facility (and IDA could charge the return on its capital for providing this first loss guarantee). Such a first-loss instrument should allow the IFC and MIGA to take on far more than $2.5 billion-worth in additional projects in IDA countries without any risk to their own credit ratings. And if they didn’t manage to deliver a lot more projects even after this generous IDA guarantee, IDA could simply shrink the size of the first-loss facility.
And this seems an inefficient way to allocate subsidies to the private sector. If you believe the barrier to more IFC/MIGA projects in IDA countries is simply that there are not enough socially advantageous private sector projects in those countries that can make sufficient profit to attract investment without a subsidy, you would start with a government/sector approach to efficiently allocate subsidies where the social advantage is largest: “we think this water and sanitation solution with immense social benefits could be delivered by the private sector but won't happen without a subsidy so we are going to auction off a subsidy to the lowest bidder.” You certainly wouldn't rely on something that looks like a behind-closed-doors system of sponsors coming to the IFC saying “I'd love to do this project in this sector in this country” and the IFC replying “oh, OK then, and here’s a subsidy.” And finally an IDA overseer agreeing “sure, why not?” Without a decent project selection method and competitive allocation, subsidies are going to go to the wrong companies for the wrong projects, quite possibly in the wrong countries.
I can imagine that the World Bank Group’s management would not want a PSW model that demands up-front country allocations, and so throwing subsidy decisions to IFC and MIGA investment officers has an appeal in that regard. But it is hardly reassuring when it comes to ensuring this subsidy program is efficiently used. And while a project-based model will have the attraction to funders that they will be able to point to particular IFC/MIGA investments as ‘stuff they helped make happen’ with aid resources and deny any direct ODA support to less IDA-constituent-friendly investments, as money is fungible and guarantees are (and should be) about reducing the risk to the portfolio as a whole, those claims will look a little thin.
If these are valid concerns, it does raise the question, “why this model?” I’d love to read some reactions—either as to why I’ve got the critiques wrong or what’s driving the choices the Bank Group has made.
Kate Raworth's new book Doughnut Economics discusses "seven key ways to fundamentally rethink economics and transform the economy into one that works for all." Raworth will present her ideas from Doughnut Economics, to be followed by discussion and debate with the audience. Kate Raworth is a senior research associate at Oxford and senior associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.
We’ve just put up a new working paper on gender laws, values, and outcomes worldwide. It looks at the correlates with attitudes towards women in education, the work place and politics, and links those attitudes to the legal status of women, as well as outcomes—including labor force participation, college enrollment, and the percentage of women in parliament.
Among the results:
Individuals can have very different views about equality in schooling compared to political equality or equality in the labor force, and there’s considerable variance within countries on these questions. Most variation in attitudes is not correlated with standard demographic variables. Beware assuming broad national gender norms or stereotypes explain all.
Attitudes towards education (the equal importance of university for boys and girls) are more progressive than attitudes to business and politics. That’s reflected in outcomes—where education is close to gender parity while business and politics remain unequal.
Moving ahead 50 years changes the average response worldwide by between 8 and 18 percent of the way between 100 percent opposition to gender equality to 100 percent support, depending on the question. At present rates of progress, perhaps by 2100 nearly everyone planet-wide will agree that women are as good business and political leaders as men.
With the above caveats, younger people are more in favor of gender equality. So are women. All else equal, men aged 20 have about the same attitudes towards gender equality as women aged 70.
Individual income and education as well as national average income and education are associated with more positive attitudes towards equality. That said, faster growing countries do not see more rapidly improving norms.
Unsurprisingly, laws favoring gender equality, values, and equality of outcomes are all strongly correlated. Previous literature and this paper suggests working to change both laws and values can work to improve outcomes. And there is a space for international agreements like the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) to foster legal change that improves outcomes.
The pessimist will look at the paper’s results and see that progress is slow, halting, and can reverse. The optimist will see that the trend around norms is in the right direction and that outcomes can be improved by legal change. Either way, there is still a considerable global agenda to improve all three of these interlinked components—attitudes, laws, and outcomes, particularly in the marketplace—and no time like right now to start.
This paper analyzes six waves of responses from the World Values Survey to understand the determinants of beliefs about women’s roles in society and their relationship with the legal system and outcomes.
The last decade has seen considerable progress enrolling children in schools worldwide: today most people live in countries on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of 100% primary completion by 2015.
Sadly, enrollment doesn’t necessarily equal learning. A new report by the CGD Study Group on Measuring Learning Outcomes shows a shockingly wide gap between education inputs and learning outcomes – many children finish primary school unable to read, write or do simple addition. The report, Schooling is Not Education: Using Assessment to Change the Politics of Non-Learning, finds the learning crisis reflects systemic issues in education sectors worldwide. It recommends strong assessment regimes as part of the solution.
On May 9, CGD president Nancy Birdsall will chair a conversation on the report with Alice Albright, chair of the Global Partnership for Education; CGD Study Group co-chair Lant Pritchett; Project director Charles Kenny; and other members of the Study Group. They will discuss the findings and implications for education in the post-2015 development agenda.
In 1996, Burkina Faso enacted legislation banning the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Much of the qualitative literature surrounding FGM/C discounts the impact of legal change on what is considered a social/cultural issue. We use data from the Demographic and Health Surveys DHS(VI) in Burkina Faso to test for a discontinuous change in the likelihood of being cut in the year the law was passed. We ﬁnd robust evidence for a substantial drop in hazard rates in 1996 and investigate the heterogeneous impact of the law by region, religion, and ethnicity.
This is the latest in a series of CGD blogs suggesting improvements to the SDG targets.
The first target of the first goal of the Sustainable Development Goals is to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere” by 2030. The second target is to “reduce at least by half the proportion of…. [people] living in poverty…..according to national definitions.” These are noble and historic targets that deserve their status at the top of the list. But they also illustrate issues that affect a considerable number of the 169 proposed measures of development selected by the Open Working Group. Not least: how do we measure them and are they plausible?
These two questions are linked –how we resolve the challenges of measurement will have a profound effect on the power of the targets to motivate as well as the likelihood that we will meet them. Poverty lines at the national and local level are frequently revised upward, and there are good reasons for this. But this approach risks the possibility that steady development progress will not yield poverty reduction, simply because the poverty line keeps moving, too.
As the Open Working Group suggested, extreme poverty is “currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day.” But that is unlikely to be the case for long. The ‘official’ extreme poverty line and the numbers living under it are calculated by a (well meaning) cabal in the bowels of the World Bank's main building. They are working on a revision that could have a dramatic impact on the dollar consumption figure deemed the ‘extreme poverty line’ as well as the number of people under it. $1.25 a day is already out of date.
Moreover, the way the extreme poverty line has been traditionally calculated may also prevent us ever reaching a target to eliminate it. In the past, the global extreme poverty line has been set to reflect the value of national poverty lines in the world’s poorest countries. The original 1990 ‘dollar a day’ poverty line was designed to be ‘typical of low income countries’ at the time. In 2008, that was updated to the latest available national poverty lines of the world’s fifteen poorest countries, converted at an exchange rate designed to reflect the different prices of the same goods and services across countries.
The World Bank is in the process of developing a proposed new global line and poverty numbers based on more recent national poverty lines as well as data from a 2011 global survey of prices. When the Bank decides it is ready to release the numbers –and the process has taken up to two years in the past-- the global extreme poverty line may end up at $1.75 or more. But because the new data suggests that the price of goods in poor countries is lower than we thought, that would still suggest a dramatic decline in the number of people in poverty –by as much as a third (from a 2010 number of 1.2 billion using the old price data and line to below 900 million using the new data, according to estimates by the Brookings Institution).
But one thing is clear: if we are to “eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere” by 2030, we will have to use an entirely different approach to setting the planetary extreme poverty line than the one the World Bank has used in the past.
Imagine we’re in 2030, and we look at the national poverty lines of the world’s 15 poorest countries. How likely is it that they will all be set at a level below the consumption of their very poorest citizen? They shouldn’t be set that low. It’s ridiculous to imagine that countries whose average income, at best, will be a fraction of that of the poorest people in Europe or the United States today would declare they have no poor people. But under any international definition of extreme poverty based on the most recent national poverty lines of a set of countries, there will always be poor people in the world –including all of those in poverty according to the national definition in the countries used to set the global ‘extreme poverty’ line. That suggests a zero poverty goal using the World Bank’s current methodology could never be met.
If we’re going to set a zero goal for global poverty in the post-2015 development agenda, it has to be an absolute goal, not one set relative to national poverty lines. And the process of setting the new global poverty line should be open, transparent, and participatory. For years the World Bank has kept secret the data it uses covering global levels of income and consumption. It chooses when and how to incorporate data from income and price surveys. And it chooses the method to calculate the poverty line. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals process and the data revolution that must underpin it, shouldn’t the world’s poor people and developing governments have some input into ‘what is poverty’?
But, failing that, at least the goalpost of ‘extreme poverty’ should be set. Perhaps the target should be “By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty measured as people living on less than $1.75 a day in 2011 International Dollars.” And perhaps, going forward, that poverty line should be specifically adjusted for relative inflation in the price of goods that poor people buy. Or, as a Plan C, $1.25 in 2005 purchasing power parity dollars –again, perhaps adjusted for the price changes in a basket of goods that reflect poor people’s consumption patterns compared to overall price changes.
Meanwhile, there is a similar if less severe measurement challenge with the second poverty target, around halving the proportion of people living in poverty in each country according to national definitions. How those definitions are calculated varies considerably across countries. In the United States, for example, the number is meant to reflect the same (inflation-adjusted) income over time. But in many other countries, the poverty line is explicitly or effectively a relative line. As average incomes increase, so does the income below which people are defined as poor. In those countries, halving the proportion of people in poverty can only be accomplished through a dramatic reduction in inequality.
That’s no bad thing –within country inequality has been rising across the world, and we should reverse the trend. But the work is yet to be done to show that the scale of inequality reduction required to halve the number of people under a relative poverty line is plausible in most (or even many) countries. And the last thing we’d want the SDGs to encourage is to ‘lower the bar’ of national poverty lines –whereby countries would meet the SDG target by making their official poverty line a smaller and smaller proportion of average incomes over time. That speaks to the potential advantage of setting an explicit relative target at the country level –reducing the gap between the bottom forty percent and the top ten percent in every country by 25 percent, or closing the gap between the median income and the mean income by a third, as it might be. Or perhaps the target language could be “By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty according to current (2015) national definitions.”
For the first two targets of the first goal of the Sustainable Development Goals, there is considerable work to do before September, then. Because before we set the goal, we should fix the goalposts.
Construction is a vital part of development, but it often falls prey to poor governance and corruption. Making the details of construction contracts public is one proven way to help citizens get what they are paying for.
Women’s economic empowerment is increasingly recognized as critical to achieving development outcomes around the world. Informed by a roundtable discussion at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and additional suggestions from CGD researchers, this four-point memo aims to issue practical proposals for the next US administration, particularly aimed at economically empowering women and girls worldwide, as a building block toward the full realization of broader gender equality and women’s agency and empowerment. The recommendations build on those in CGD’s The White House and the World briefing book, as well as the CGD policy memo “A US Law or Executive Order to Combat Gender Apartheid in Discriminatory Countries” and ongoing work at CGD focused on women’s financial inclusion.
Are pay-for-performance aid programs such as Cash on Delivery Aid more vulnerable to corruption than traditional input-focused programs? My guests this week, senior fellows William Savedoff and Charles Kenny, argue in a new new working paper and brief that the opposite is true.
Bill says that input-tracking programs –those that attempt to track how the money was spent rather than paying based on previously agreed outcomes—favor the dishonest.
“It’s much easier for the dishonest person to divert money and not do any work, than for the honest person who’s trying get their job done and then also report on all this,” he says.
Bill explains with a simple story that I like to call the parable of the bean counter.
“You give somebody beans, and say, ‘We want you to account for all these.’ The person produces records showing that they planted all the beans. “
“When nothing grows, they have plenty of excuses for why inputs didn’t turn into outputs. They can say, ‘It was a bad year for rain,’ or ‘the birds pulled them up.’ The point is, all they had to do was show the records and they got the money.”
An honest bean grower would have to plant and tend the beans as well as keeping records. Since results don’t matter for payment, it’s easier to be dishonest than honest.
However, with a results-based approach, Bill explains, the honest bean grower has only one task (grow beans!) while the dishonest bean grower has a double job, growing beans even while finding ways to skim something off the top.
It all depends on which beans the bean counter counts: inputs or outputs.
Charles offers a real-life example citing Justin Sandefur’s essay on a little-known but highly successful USAID health program in Afghanistan. The program, he says “has saved thousands upon thousands of people’s lives…at an incredibly low cost. But because we don’t have all the receipts in a nice little book, SIGAR [the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction] is shutting it down.”
Charles’ example shows just how badly things can go wrong when a system prioritizes receipts over results. Payment for performance, he says, can put things right.
“Get the bureaucracy to care about what the taxpayer cares about. Measure what they care about, and make payment based on the outcome you are trying to achieve. Then corruption cannot stop your programs working,” he says.
Charles is adamant that we still need bean counters. “We just need them counting the beans that we want delivered, not the beans we put into the process in the first place.”
Persuaded? Good! Not so much? Listen to the Wonkcast!
My thanks to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast and for a draft of this blog post.
The US has a unique opportunity to lead in improving economic opportunities for women and girls by establishing a global vision and a corresponding fund with significant financial resources to spur change. The next US administration should allocate at least $1 billion in additional resources—equal to a little over two percent of current US overseas assistance—exclusively dedicated to advancing gender equality in developing countries, with a specific focus on improving women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and outcomes.
The World Bank is in the process of reforming its procurement system, the set of rules that borrowers have to follow when they use Bank financing to buy goods and services. Most of the proposals sound very sensible: much less “prior review” of the process for smaller contracts (World Bank staff looking over bid documents, evaluation reports, and contract documents before they are finalized); more flexibility to use other people’s procurement systems if they’re high quality; more flexibility to use quality alongside cost in evaluating bids in return for greater transparency. There’s some worrying potential expansion of an already clunky safeguards system into procurement, but that aside it all looks great — at least in theory.
It is only great in theory because we have pretty much zero evidence on what actually works and what doesn’t when it comes to the current set of World Bank procurement rules. There’s some doubt that they prevent corruption (their primary aim), but almost no empirical evidence on that topic, let alone their broader impact on development outcomes.
There’s Great Data to Analyze…
What makes this dearth of evidence particularly odd is that there is a rich set of data on procurement processes sitting on World Bank servers: information on thousands of contracts and projects that could help guide a discussion of reform. It isn’t all in the public domain (though, kudos to the World Bank, more and more of it is). Surely there’s a spare economist somewhere amongst the 10,000 plus staff in the institution who could spend a few weeks putting together and analyzing a dataset. Here’s the kind of thing it could include:
From existing research: evidence on country characteristics, project characteristics, project development outcomes, supervision, and task manager quality.
From the World Bank procurement database on prior review contracts: measures of number and size of (prior review) contracts in a project, the number of bids on contracts in the project, the average negotiation length on contracts in the project, the number of contract amendments in the project.
(More of a reach) From the INT database of investigated and tainted contracts regarding fraud and corruption: a list of contracts.
…And it Could Help Answer Some Interesting Questions
I can’t think of a natural experiment that would allow for strong causal statements out of such a database, but a bunch of correlations alone would put us in a considerably stronger empirical position than we are today. The type of questions that could be informed by such an exercise:
What makes for good procurement outcomes in terms of plentiful bids, short negotiations, and few amendments? Is it something about the country, the sector, the task manager, or the project (or all of the above)?
Do procurement outcomes matter for project outcomes? Which ones?
Do higher rates of prior review or fewer contracts in a project or (even) contract suppliers from particular regions make for better project outcomes (and/or better procurement outcomes)?
(More of a reach) Do higher rates of prior review or fewer contracts in a project, or country, sector, task manager, or contract characteristics, correlate significantly with investigated or tainted projects?
There are surely more things that could be put in the database and more questions that could be addressed (thoughts very welcome in the comments). But for an institution that prides itself on evidence-based policymaking, the Bank should surely put the horse before the cart with a little bit of analysis before implementing procurement reforms?