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Technology, infrastructure, governance and anticorruption, human development, subjective wellbeing/happiness
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.
A bipartisan group of eight Senators led by Senate Foreign Relations Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD) has just reintroduced a new version of a bill designed to identify and combat corruption overseas. The Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017 ties some potentially useful anti-corruption measures to a less-than-useful exercise in corruption ranking that will blunt their impact. That’s a shame, but it also suggests an easy fix: junk the ranking.
The world of business is still extremely gender-unequal. Across the countries in the World Bank’s enterprise surveys, less than one in five firms are run by a woman, for example. Governments could help fix that problem by using their immense purchasing power (close on $10 trillion a year in procurements) to foster the growth of women-owned enterprises. But at the moment—at least in the US—the government is a laggard rather than a leader when it comes to awarding contracts to women owned business. It’s time for that to change.
The World Development Report for 2017 is on Governance and the Law. The report fits into (and helps address) two linked debates about development and the role of the World Bank: first is the tension between best practices, rankings, and learning across economies with the ideas of going with the grain and problem-driven iterative adaption that have culminated in the President of the World Bank, Jim Kim, suggesting “we will never go back to the bad old days when the World Bank and other organizations told countries what to do. We don’t do that anymore.” Second is a debate over the strategic role of the Bank –building consensus and backing holistic endeavors like the SDGs or being more adversarial and pushing prioritization. Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva, co-director of the Report will discuss these issues with Michael Klein, former vice president for financial and private sector development at the World Bank and a driving force behind the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators. An open discussion will follow.
Martin Kirk and Jason Hickel published a piece earlier this week on the annual Gates Letter. The core critique is that the letter is too rosy. In particular, Kirk and Hickel say of the Gates' letter: "some of their examples are just wrong." The case they provide in illustration is the idea that poverty has been cut by half since 1990. The Gates "use figures based on a $1.25 a day poverty line, but there is a strong scholarly consensus that this line is far too low." Use other poverty lines, and global poverty "hasn’t been falling. In fact, it has been increasing—dramatically.” (See related pieces by Jason here and here). I don't think this critique holds up.
For all the protestations about equality, there’s evidence to suggest both the International Olympic Committee and FIFA turn a blind eye to evidence of considerable discrimination against women when it comes to the opportunity to compete at the highest levels of sport. They should be ready to back their beautiful words into concrete actions that make a difference, and one tool would be banning countries that grossly discriminate from participating in events.
In 2015, there were 77,470,857 visits to the United States from other countries. These visitors brought tremendous benefit: not only did they each spend an average of $4,400 on US goods and services during their stay, but also they helped US firms engage with foreign markets, raise the quality of students here, and help with the diffusion of knowledge. We should want more of these tourists and businesspeople, and the above suggests a real cost to inaccurate visa screening mechanisms—of which blanket bans are a prime example.
There’s increasing appetite in the US to follow the UK model and launch a review of US spending through international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank. There is a lot to be said for such an exercise—my colleague Todd Moss even carried out a mock version for the US a few years ago which suggested plaudits for Gavi and the African Development Fund alongside brickbats for the ILO and UNESCO. But I think the model has a serious weakness if it is going to be applied as broadly in the US as some proposals, including a draft executive order making the rounds, imply. I’d argue for (preferably) limiting the review to like-to-like comparisons covering aid and development institutions or (at least) using different criteria for judging the many different types of international organizations.
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.
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.
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 Millennium Challenge Corporation is a US agency that provides results-oriented assistance to low- and lower-middle income countries that exhibit strong performance on a number of measures of development. Among these measures is the Worldwide Governance Indicator for control of corruption. A country must score in the top half of its income group on control of corruption to pass the overall selection procedure. This paper examines the empirical underpinning of this “corruption hard hurdle.”
President Obama will deliver his 2014 State of the Union speech Tuesday, January 28. We polled CGD experts to find out what they’re hoping to hear when the president addresses Congress and the nation. Check out their oratorical contributions below and read about the development-related decisions and policies they would like to emerge in support of the rhetoric.
This paper discusses the role for policy integration to speed progress towards delivering the SDGs. This paper suggests a mechanism for prioritizing coordination and the use of coordination tools including regulation, safeguards, taxes, and subsidies. It also suggests re-orienting ministerial responsibilities where possible from input control to achievement of outcomes as well as tools to promote innovation by subnational governments and the private sector.
Governments buy about $9 trillion worth of goods and services a year, and their procurement policies are increasingly subject to international standards and institutional regulation. Using a database of World Bank financed contracts, we explore the impact of a relatively minor procurement rule governing advertising on competition using regression discontinuity design and matching methods. Our findings suggest the potential for more significant and strongly enforced transparency initiatives to have a sizeable effect on procurement outcomes.
The New York Timesreported yesterday that the Trump Administration is considering a new Executive Order that mandates cutting all funding to bodies that give full membership to the Palestinian Authority and fund abortion amongst other categories, but also suggests “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in remaining US funding towards international organizations. The proposed cuts would do almost nothing to reduce the deficit while weakening US national security and international leadership.