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Owen Barder is a Vice President at the Center for Global Development, Director for Europe and a senior fellow. He is also a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics and a Specialist Adviser to the UK House of Commons International Development Committee. Barder was a British civil servant from 1988 to 2010, during which time he worked in No.10 Downing Street, as Private Secretary (Economic Affairs) to the Prime Minister; in the UK Treasury, including as Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and in the Department for International Development, where he was variously Director of International Finance and Global Development Effectiveness, Director of Communications and Information, and head of Africa Policy & Economics Department. As a young Treasury economist, Barder set up the first UK government website, to put details of the 1994 budget online.
In 2019/2020 donor governments are anticipated to pledge up to $170 billion to various multilateral organisations as part of their replenishment cycles. This unusual bunching of replenishments of some of the largest organisations in 2019 provides an opportunity to think more coherently about multilateral funding and to address key systemic problems, such as overlapping mandates and under-funding of some parts of the system.
This is the first of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development. These posts draw on a new online lecture by Owen Barder, based on his Kapuscinski Lecture in May 2012 which was sponsored by UNDP and the EU. In this post, Barder explains how complexity science, which is belatedly getting more attention from mainstream economists, gives a new perspective to the meaning of ‘development’.
The immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, such as that the typhoon which devastated part of the Phillipines on Friday, can bring out the best of the global community. There will come a time to discuss how we can do more to prevent the environmental changes which make such events more likely; but the immediate priority is to get water, food and shelter to people who urgently need it.
The Economist has called the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID) "a model for other rich countries." CGD Senior Program Associate Owen Barder, a former director of information, communications, and knowledge at DFID, provides an insider's account in:
As President Obama convenes an important global summit on refugees, and world leaders at the UN General Assembly address the burgeoning issue of migration and forced displacement, we’ve taken a closer look at how the richest countries in the world support development and the alleviation of poverty through their migration policies. Migration is one of the seven components of our Commitment to Development Index, an annual exercise to marshall millions of data points to track how rich country policies affect the world’s poorest people and places, across seven different policy areas.
This report explains how Development Impact Bonds (DIBs) can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of development funding. Based on Social Impact Bonds in industrialized countries, a DIB creates a contract between private investors and donors or governments who have agreed upon a shared development goal. The investors pay in advance for interventions to reach the goals and are remunerated if the interventions succeed. Returns on the investment are linked to verified progress.
Governments, donors, and public sector agencies are seeking productive ways to ‘crowd in’ private sector involvement and capital to tackle international development challenges. The financial instruments that are used to create incentives for private sector involvement are typically those that lower an investment’s risk (such as credit guarantees) or those that lower the costs of various inputs (such as concessional loans, which subsidise borrowing).
International aid works, but it could work much better. Reform efforts focused on better planning often ignore what constrains aid agencies and takes the bite out of their commitments. In this working paper, Owen Barder shows how forming a "collaborative market" around aid—one marked by transparency and collective regulation—would pave the way for more effective aid.
In this working paper, Owen Barder raises fundamental questions about the purpose of aid transfers. For many donors the purpose is "poverty reduction" in the narrow sense of growth that reduces poverty. Barder argues that such a focus ignores key trade-offs, such as between reducing current and future poverty and between addressing the causes and symptoms of poverty, and results in less effective aid. This is an important paper for practitioners as well as students of how the aid system works.
The aid business has long grappled with the trade-off between showing results and supporting a country's own institution-building. Donors want to be sure that their money makes a difference, and often quickly. But close monitoring raises costs and pushing for quick results leads to projects that bypass or even undermine domestic institutions that are crucial to development. In Payments for Progress: A Hands-Off Approach to Foreign Aid, Owen Barder, now director of Global Development Effectiveness at the United Kingdom Department for International Development, and CGD president Nancy Birdsall propose solving this problem by having donors pay for proven progress towards such agreed goals as additional children completing school and additional kilometers of roads built. How to achieve these goals would be left to the aid recipient government. They suggest this approach may be particularly useful in fragile states. Learn more
It is sometimes claimed that big surges in aid might cause Dutch Disease--an appreciation of the real exchange rate which can slow the growth of a country's exports--and that aid increases might thereby harm a country's long-term growth prospects. In this new working paper CGD senior program associate Owen Barder argues that it is unlikely that a long-term, sustained and predictable increase in aid would, through the impact on the real exchange rate, do more harm than good. Learn more
Donor countries have pledged to increase aid by 60 percent over the next five years, and larger increases would be needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Can developing countries use more aid effectively? In this new working paper, CGD senior program associate Owen Barder argues that the obstacles to effective use of significantly increased aid can be overcome by a small number of practical improvements in how aid is provided and used. Learn More
This new working paper by Owen Barder and Ethan Yeh analyzes the benefits and costs of frontloading and predictability, two innovative features of the International Finance Facility for Immunization (IFFIm). The paper concludes that taken together, predictability and front-loading increase the health impact of vaccine coverage by 22 percent, even taking account of the additional cost of finance. By delivering the same money better, about two million extra lives will be saved.