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Development economics, globalism and inequality, the aid system, international financial institutions, education, Latin America, climate financing
Nancy Birdsall is president emeritus and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a policy-oriented research institution that opened its doors in Washington, DC in October 2001. Prior to launching the center, Birdsall served for three years as senior associate and director of the Economic Reform Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her work at Carnegie focused on issues of globalization and inequality, as well as on the reform of the international financial institutions.
From 1993 to 1998, Birdsall was executive vice-president of the Inter-American Development Bank, the largest of the regional development banks, where she oversaw a $30 billion public and private loan portfolio. Before joining the Inter-American Development Bank, she spent 14 years in research, policy, and management positions at the World Bank, most recently as director of the Policy Research Department.
Birdsall has been researching and writing on economic development issues for more than 25 years. Her most recent work focuses on the relationship between income distribution and economic growth and the role of regional public goods in development.
Birdsall is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Food Policy Research Council (IFPRI), of the African Population and Health Research Center, and of Mathematica. She has chaired the board of the International Center for Research on Women and has served on the boards of the Social Science Research Council, Overseas Development Council, and Accion. She has also served on committees and working groups of the National Academy of Sciences.
Birdsall holds a PhD in economics from Yale University and an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Putting Education to Work in Egypt, by Nancy Birdsall and Lesley O'Connell. Prepared for Conference, Growth Beyond Stabilization: Prospects for Egypt, sponsored by The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies in collaboration with the Center for Institutional Reform and the Informal Sector, University of Maryland; the Harvard Institute for International Development, and the US Agency for International Development, February 3-4, 1999, Cairo, Egypt. March 1999.
"Intergenerational Mobility in Latin America: Deeper Markets and Better Schools Make a Difference," with Jere R. Behrman and Miguel Szekely, in New Markets, New Opportunities? Economic and Social Mobility in a Changing World (1999)
"The U.S. and the Social Challenge in Latin America: The New Agenda Needs New Instruments," with Nora Lustig and Lesley O'Connell, in The Search for Common Ground: U.S. National Interests and the Western Hemisphere in a New Century (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1999)
"Deep Integration and Trade Agreements: Good for Developing Countries?" with Robert Z. Lawrence in Global Public Goods: International Cooperation in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, 1999)
"No Tradeoff: Efficient Growth Via More Equal Human Capital Accumulation in Latin America," in Beyond Trade-Offs: Market Reforms and Equitable Growth in Latin America (1998)
"That Silly Inequality Debate," in Foreign Policy, May/June 2002
"Education in Latin America: Demand and Distribution are Factors that Matter," with Juan Luis Londoño and Lesley O'Connell in CEPAL Review 66, December 1998
"Life is Unfair: Inequality in the World," in Foreign Policy, Summer 1998
"Public Spending on Higher Education in Developing Countries: Too Much or Too Little?" in Economics of Education Review, 1996
In 2016 on the CGD Podcast, we have discussed some of development's biggest questions: How do we pay for development? How do we measure the sustainable development goals (SDGs)? What should we do about refugees and migrants? And is there life yet in the notion of globalism? The links to all the full podcasts featured and the work they reference are below, but in this edition, we bring you highlights of some of those conversations.
Is big money really necessary, or even sufficient, to improving learning outcomes for children in the developing world? CGD’s background research submitted to the Commission has convinced us that the key to faster progress is not incremental money; it is focused action in two critical areas. The first necessary, unavoidable step is for political leaders, education officials, and parents in low-income countries to recognize the depth of the problem (children’s lives and public money wasted) in their country, and have the information to design and implement local solutions. The second is to shift education funding to paying for results, rather than inputs and plans.
“We are going to have global markets still operating,” says Nancy Birdsall confidently, but “the big issue is, will we have a good global politics operating?" And that is indeed the question, as turbulent 2016 draws to a close and 2017 rolls into view. It’s one that will continue to occupy Birdsall, who is stepping down at the end of December as CGD’s first and only president, but will stay on as a senior fellow. No doubt she will join me on the CGD Podcast in the future, but the somewhat symbolic occasion of her last podcast as CGD president offers a chance to reflect on what’s changed, and what she hopes development folks will think about over the coming years.
The Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) measures donors’ performance on 31 indicators of aid quality to which donors have made commitments. The indicators are grouped into four dimensions associated with effective aid: maximizing efficiency, fostering institutions, reducing the burden on partner countries, and transparency and learning. The 2014 edition finds that donors are overall becoming more transparent and better at fostering partner country institutions but that there has been little progress at maximizing efficiency or reducing the burden on partner countries.
Global governance is no substitute for a country’s own well-managed policies of politics and economics, but the interconnected nature of our world demands that our leaders recognize the necessity for global coordination to keep pace with the for a more farsighted global order.
In this working paper, the authors investigate the relation between class (measured by the position in the income distribution), values, and political orientations using comparable values surveys for six Latin American countries.
The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.
In a new CGD report, U.S. and Pakistani development experts urge a substantial revamp of the U.S. approach to Pakistan, saying that U.S. efforts to build prosperity in the nuclear-armed nation with a fledgling democratic government, burgeoning youth population, and shadowy intelligence services are not yet on course.
This paper applies a new approach to the estimation of the impact of policy, both the levels and the changes, on wage differentials using a new high-quality data set on wage differentials by schooling level for 18 Latin American countries for the period 1977–1998. The results indicate that liberalizing policy changes overall have had a short-run disequalizing effect of expanding wage differentials, although this effect tends to fade away over time.
In 1999, the United States and other major donor countries supported an historic expansion of the heavily indebted poor country (HIPC) debt relief initiative. Three years after the initiative came into existence, we are beginning to see the apparent impact that HIPC is having, particularly on recipient countries' ability and willingness to increase domestic spending on education and HIV/AIDS programs. Yet it has also become clear that the HIPC program is not providing a sufficient level of predictability or sustainability to allow debtor countries (and donors) to reap the larger benefits, particularly in terms of sustained growth and poverty reduction, originally envisioned. After reviewing some of the main critiques and proposals for change, we offer here a new way forward -- a proposal to deepen, widen, and most importantly insure debt relief to poor countries.
Nigeria is currently classified by the World Bank as a ‘blend’ country, making it the poorest country in the world that does not have ‘IDA-only’ status. This paper uses the World Bank’s own IDA eligibility criteria to assess whether Nigeria has a case for reclassification.
This paper argues that regional public goods in developing countries are under-funded despite their potentially high rates of return compared to traditional country-focused investments. In Africa the under-funding of regional public goods is primarily a political and institutional challenge to be met by the countries in this region. But the donor community ought to consider the opportunity cost – for development progress itself, in Africa and elsewhere – of its relative neglect, and explore changes in the aid architecture that would encourage more attention to regional goods.
In the face of continuing development challenges in the world's poorest countries, there have been new calls throughout the donor community to increase the volume of development aid. Equal attention is needed to reform of the aid business itself, that is, the practices and processes and procedures and politics of aid. This paper sets out the shortcomings of that business on which new research has recently shed light, but which have not been adequately or explicitly incorporated into the donor community's reform agenda. It outlines seven of the worst "sins" or failings of donors, including impatience with institution building, collusion and coordination failures, failure to evaluate the results of their support, and financing that is volatile and unpredictable. It suggests possible short-term practical fixes and notes the need ultimately for more ambitious and structural changes in the overall aid architecture.