With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
The political economy of development policies and aid, innovative finance, transparency and accountability, complexity, technology, public financial management, information, knowledge, new media, Africa, health economics.
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.
Last year more than 83 million people in low- and middle-income countries were affected by natural disasters. We may not know when or where the next disaster will strike, but we know it will. So why do we still treat disasters like surprises? A new CGD report urges a different approach: make disasters predictable, using the principles and practices of insurance. Hear from four members of the working group in this week's podcast.
Last year more than 83 million people in low and middle income countries were affected by natural disasters. We may not know when or where the next disaster will strike, but we know it will. So why do we still treat disasters like surprises?
International appeals are generous, but they are usually launched only after disaster strikes, and funds and supplies are slow to arrive. A new CGD report urges a different approach: make disasters predictable. The report looks at how we can pre-arrange disaster response funding using the principles and practices of insurance, so that countries get the money as soon as they need it and donors actually pay less in the long run.
We launched the report at a recent CGD event with working group co-chairs Stefan Dercon—Chief Econmist at DFID, professor of economics at Oxford Univeristy, and co-author of a book called Dull Disasters—and Owen Barder, CGD vice president and director of our Europe program. They were joined by two members of the working group: Alice Albright, head of the Global Partnership for Education, and Rowan Douglas of insurance group Willis Towers Watson.
Today's podcast brings you a flavor of that event.
Attention UK political parties: we know you are pretty busy right now, what with Prime Minister Theresa May calling a snap general election in a few weeks. So, we wrote an election manifesto on development for you. Feel free to plagiarize it; in fact, we’ve written it so you can just copy/paste parts of it if you want. To M Macron and Mme Le Pen, your manifestos are written (and here's what we think), but you will find some good ideas here too. Needless to say, not all our CGD colleagues will agree with all our ideas, nor will many readers. So please let us know what we have missed or got wrong, in the comments below.
This piece was written with significant input from Owen Barder, Hauke Hillebrandt, Anita Kappeli, Joanna Macrae, Maya Forstater, Lee Crawfurd, and Caitlin McKee, our colleagues at CGD Europe, based in London.
Britain’s unique role in the world
We will ensure that everyone in the UK can be proud of our role in the world, taking steps that will benefit UK citizens for generations to come.
Britain is a small country with global influence. We are the sixth largest economy in the world. We are among the world’s leaders on the environment, international development, and ending modern slavery. We are the only advanced country which meets both the international commitment to spend 2 percent of national income on defence and 0.7 percent of national income on development, and our armed forces and development programmes are admired the world over.
We are leaving the European Union because we want to control our own future, not because we want to retreat from the rest of the world. Britain is at its best when we trade freely, cooperate voluntarily with others to solve international problems. We will continue to lead the world in finding fair solutions to issues like extreme poverty, financial stability, international taxation, human rights, human trafficking and modern slavery, the environment, migration and refugees, drug resistance and pandemic disease. These actions will benefit UK citizens today, and for generations to come, by helping to shape a safer, fairer, more prosperous and sustainable world.
Britain’s international development policies are aimed at meeting the Global Goals for Sustainable Development agreed in 2015. As well as our effective aid programme, we will implement policies across all of government to help achieve these goals.
Aid policies for the 21st century
In every year of the next parliament we will spend at least 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance (ODA), according to the internationally-recognised definition agreed by the OECD; and we will spend 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on defence.
We will maintain our aid spending because the UK lives up to it promises, but more importantly because foreign aid saves lives and helps the world’s poorest people.
This aid must be spent in the most effective way. We owe that to the people who need the aid as well as to the British people who pay for it.
We will take risks, and some aid programmes will fail. That is the price of trying to succeed, and the good that is done by successful projects far outweighs the costs of failures. But we will ensure that we learn lessons from every aid programme, whether it succeeds or fails, so that we can do better the next time. We will continue to have zero tolerance of corruption and waste.
The primary goal of British aid is to put itself out of business: we all want a world in which foreign aid is no longer needed. This requires investments in education, jobs and growth, reducing conflict, and promoting the rights of women and girls and good government. In the shorter term, aid provides a vital lifeline to the poorest and most disadvantaged people, providing health care, food, water, sanitation, and other vital services.
We will take a new approach to aid spending, fit for the 21st century—first, transforming the system and second, refocusing aid for maximum impact.
Part 1 - Six reforms to transform the aid system
To transform the system that allocates aid, we will undertake six reforms which add independent scrutiny to ensure our aid is effective and give taxpayers and Parliament a greater say in how and where our money is spent. The six reforms are:
1. A National Institute for Development Effectiveness to assess what works
We will be guided by what works. We will establish a National Institute for Development Effectiveness (NIDE), modelled on Britain’s world-leading National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which will issue public guidance about which interventions have been proven cost-effective in rigorous, transparent, impact evaluations such as randomised controlled trials, supported by open data. Additionally, NIDE will provide a summary of the effects on women and girls of each programme that it analyses. NIDE will also assess all aid programmes against the benchmark of direct cash transfers. From 2019 onwards, we will not invest more than £10m of bilateral aid in any programme that has not been assessed by NIDE, and we will only invest in programmes that have been demonstrated to benefit women and girls at least as much as men and boys.
2. A stronger Independent Commission on Aid Impact
To enable it to provide independent advice to parliament on the results being achieved by UK ODA, we will double the resources of the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, and to ensure its independence we will transfer responsibility for budget and appointments to Parliament's International Development Committee.
3. Coherence and accountability for development across all of Government
The Department for International Development (DFID) will remain a separate government department, headed by a Secretary of State for International Development. They will chair a new Cabinet Committee, supported by the secretariat of the National Security Council, to coordinate aid spending and other policies across government, and will be accountable to the Prime Minister and to Parliament for overall value for money, transparency and coherence of Britain’s aid spending and policies affecting international development. The Committee will develop, publish and oversee the implementation of whole-of-government strategies for each priority developing country, replacing country strategies developed separately by individual government departments.
4. Tough love for the multilateral system
Britain will continue to champion a rules-based, legitimate, efficient multilateral system. But some of the world’s most important institutions are not fit for purpose and we will be uncompromising in driving reform, working with others. Multilateral institutions will benefit from earned autonomy: we will give more money and freedom to organisations that have earned the trust and resources of British taxpayers. Where agencies are completely transparent, so that money can be followed from top to bottom, and their programmes are demonstrated to be good value for money by independent, transparent, rigorous impact evaluations, we will provide more core funding. For organisations that have not yet demonstrated their impact and value for money, we will enter into tightly-specified results agreements as a condition of core UK funding, with a substantial part of the funding provided only when results have been demonstrated. For the least effective institutions, British contributions will be earmarked, not core, and closely linked to an agreed programme of organisational improvements and results. Organisations in this last group that do not improve within three years will cease to receive money from the UK government. We aim to increase multilateral aid, i.e. core funding to demonstrably effective multilateral institutions to at least 50 percent of ODA (from 42 percent now), as and when their performance merits it, while reducing the proliferation of so-called “multi-bi” earmarked programmes such as trust funds to less than 5 percent of ODA (from 20 percent now). This will be a significant improvement in the effectiveness of British aid, 64 percent of which is currently provided as bilateral aid, much of which is going to multilateral institutions anyway, leading to unnecessary bureaucracy, duplication and burdens on developing countries.
5. Using technology to make aid spending more transparent and accountable
We will make aid more transparent, using new technology to enable citizens to “follow the money” to see where their aid has been spent and what impact it has had. By 2019 all government departments administering UK ODA will be required to meet the good or very good standard the independent Aid Transparency Index. By 2020, the public will be able to “follow the money” for at least 90 percent of bilateral UK aid whether it is spent through NGOs, international organisations or private contractors. This will be achieved through a programme of geo-coding, traceability and standardised quantitative results. By 2020 we will move all grants and contracts to transparent reporting of expenditure and results through the open data standard of the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which implementing partners may choose to use instead of separate reporting to the government, so reducing the bureaucratic burden on implementers while increasing transparency.
6. Letting taxpayers choose
If taxpayers want to choose for themselves where their aid goes, they will be able to take the decision into their own hands using our new AidChoice initiative. Income tax payers will each be able to allocate up to £100 a year each UK ODA to UK-registered charities working in the field of international development.
Part 2 - Six ways to re-focus aid for maximum impact
To refocus our current aid to significantly increase its impact, we will draw on evidence on the effectiveness of aid spending, and change our approach in six ways:
1. Use cash transfers wherever appropriate
We will distribute at least a quarter of our bilateral aid as cash transfers, directly to the very poorest people and those affected by humanitarian emergencies. We will use technology to minimise waste and corruption so ensuring our aid goes into the hands of those that need it to be used for what they most need. We will not invest in other aid programmes exceeding £10m unless they have been assessed by NIDE and shown to be more cost-effective than direct cash transfers.
2. Lead global reform on humanitarian aid
We will work with the other donors to reform humanitarian aid to help end the duplication, lack of planning, overlap and ineffectiveness that characterizes the international response to crises, as agreed at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. We will bridge the humanitarian and development divide; work with countries hosting refugees to create more jobs, for example by providing access to our markets; give cash transfers rather than aid-in-kind by default; help countries to take out new concessional insurance policies that incentivise risk reduction and pay out in case of disasters like drought or hurricanes; and use innovative finance to increase refugee resettlement. We will open humanitarian aid to innovation and new technologies by working with the private sector and other new actors.
3. Resource the UK’s development finance institution, CDC, to increase investment, growth and jobs so that countries graduate from aid
We will use aid to support private investment, jobs and growth in the developing world. This is essential to provide countries with a path to graduate from aid and to meet the Global Goals. We will implement a planned programme of sustained expansion of CDC group (the UK’s development finance institution), increasing the British government’s investment to £6 billion over the next 15 years, to scale up investment and development impact of the company. Though our contributions to CDC count as ODA, they do not add to the government deficit or public spending so they will be additional to the 0.7 percent target for ODA. As part of its new strategy CDC will be increase its transparency, including full compliance with the International Aid Transparency Initiative.
4. Bilateral aid to focus on British innovation and values
Our bilateral aid will concentrate on programmes that are innovative, which draw on specialist British expertise, are neglected by others, or which help to promote our values such as human rights and the rule of law. We will increase our support to the Global Innovation Fund, research and development, think-tanks in the UK and internationally which generate knowledge and policy ideas [self serving suggestion klaxon!], and civil society groups around the world which promote rights and accountability. We will link payment to results wherever possible. This ensures that everyone is focused on what our aid achieves, rather than on spending the money, enables flexibility for risk-taking and adaptive programming, and draws in a wider range of delivery organisations.
5. Improving outcomes in fragile and conflict states
We will continue to increase the proportion of aid targeted to the most fragile and conflict-affected states, where people are most vulnerable and security threats most significant. In line with the Global Goals, Britain will ensure it leaves “no one behind” by reversing recent trends of decreased aid spending to sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of fragile states are located. We will review the way in which we use aid in these contexts to ensure that DFID has the right policy frameworks, partnerships, human resources and finance to deliver development outcomes in these most difficult contexts, and to improve coordination between the Ministry of Defence, Foreign Office, Department of International Trade, Department of Health, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and DFID.
6. Increasing impact investment from the private sector
We will establish a £1 billion outcomes fund for Development Impact Bonds, to enable social impact investment in key services in developing countries. We will expand the successful model of Trade Mark East Africa to support economic growth across the continent.
Many of the other policies that make Britain an outward facing, successful global, trading nation are good for Britain and good for the developing world. These include:
We will make a British Trade Promise that our post-Brexit trade policies will be better for developing countries than they are within the EU. We will use the control given to us by Brexit to strike deep and comprehensive trade deals with the EU and the US that show the benefits of free and open trade. We will take the Four Steps that would achieve lower prices for rich and poor UK consumers alike, driving up business productivity, and establish the UK as a leader on trade for development.
2. Investment and Finance
We will further develop the The City of London as a world-leading hub for enabling capital to be invested efficiently, responsibly, with integrity and in alignment with the opportunities for green economic growth globally. We will implement the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure and collaborating to develop financial instruments such as green bonds and catastrophe insurance.
The UK will promote leading standards in tax and transparency. We will convene the UK’s leading businesses, tax professionals, NGOs and think tanks to establish common principles for how they can work together to scrutinise and improve the UK’s impact on tax revenues in developing countries.
British courts will not uphold future contracts or agreements entered into by companies whose beneficial owners are not publicly known. Any company or organisation wishing to take advantage of the fair and efficient British legal system must be publicly transparent about the true identities of its beneficial owners.
We will support an effective UN body working on international tax systems. We will continue with our commitment to double annual aid for tax systems to £40 million annually by 2020, including seconding UK tax inspectors to work with revenue authorities in developing countries. We remain a leading member of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and the Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and will work with our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to ensure that they offer well-regulated financial services and demonstrate the highest standards of integrity.
3. Climate and energy
Within the UK we will introduce a carbon tax, on a revenue neutral basis, recycling the revenues to households in the UK. This will increase incentives to invest in clean energy, and reduce demand for the most polluting forms of energy, production and consumption.
Climate change and energy scarcity hits developing countries the hardest. To address both issues we will increase spending on energy innovation research and development. Focusing on energy innovation policy is a global public good that is vital to create the next generation of affordable, carbon-free energy creation and storage capabilities. Investment in this research will not only benefit the world, but also our economy in particular. We will stay committed to the Mission Innovation initiative and our pledge to double energy innovation spending by 2021 to over £400m per year.
Britain will remain at the cutting edge of innovation, research and development. We will simplify our intellectual property rights to support rather than stifle innovation, tackle patent thickets and trolls, and spread British ideas through technology transfer. We will invest at least £1 billion a year of ODA in research and development for challenges that affect the world’s poorest people, including neglected diseases, clean energy and new forms of agriculture.
6. Peace and security
A major driver of conflict is the exploitation and sale of natural resources. Under international law, these resources are owned by the citizens of the country where they occur, and they may not be appropriated or sold without the consent of those citizens. The UK will in future not recognise or enforce transactions involving oil, minerals or other natural resources sold or licensed by governments that did not demonstrably have legitimate ownership of them at the time of extraction. The standard used will be based on ratings for civil liberties and political rights from Freedom House. Anyone trading in resources from such countries will be regarded as dealing in stolen property, for which the usual sanctions will apply.
Britain will no longer grant arms export licences for exports to low income countries, nor to countries that have not been designated electoral democracies by Freedom House. Instead we will invite democratically elected governments in low income countries to apply ex ante for a Security Guarantee - a time-limited insurance contract guaranteeing that British - and potentially other - armed forces will step in to defend that government from any attempt at the violent seizure of power, from either internal or external armed groups.
Once we have taken back full control of migration after Brexit, our approach will be to ensure that migration is managed, fair, and benefits the country. Migrants make a huge contribution to our public services and our economy, and we will continue to welcome people who want to come here to flee persecution, to join family members, to make a better life for themselves and their family, or to participate in our vibrant economy.
Overall migration will be paced to be below 1 migrant for every 200 British citizens per year. Migrants will be welcomed from all parts of the world, rather than just high-skilled or already-wealthy migrants. As well as being good for the British economy, migration from developing countries can provide life-changing opportunities for the people who move, increases remittances and investment in developing countries, and accelerates the spread of ideas and values which underpin development. We will introduce the equivalent of the US Green Card lottery system for developing partner countries with sound security.
We will introduce Global Skills Partnerships which will enable talented people from developing countries to be trained and accredited to fill key roles in the British economy without contributing to a brain drain from the poorest countries in the world, so benefiting Britain, the migrant, and their country of origin.
That’s the right decision and the Prime Minister deserves praise for committing to this against the wishes of many of her own backbenchers. I will explain in a moment why I think she is right. But let me say first that I understand why people have serious reservations about the spending target.
A spending target encourages us to focus too much on how much we spend and too little on what we achieve.
It could cause a rush of hastily-arranged spending at the end of the year to hit the target, wasting money on second-rate projects. (I don’t believe this happens in practice, but I can see why people fear it might.)
It appears to exempt international development from proper scrutiny. Aid, like every other use of scarce taxpayer money, should have to make its case.
Those are legitimate grounds to oppose a spending target. In many ways I would prefer that we commit ourselves to achieving particular goals in development—such as making sure every woman has access to family planning, or eliminating deaths from easily preventable and treatable diseases, or stopping deforestation—and then spend as little as we possibly can to achieve them. It is crazy to judge aid by how much we get out of the door rather than by what we achieve.
Saving lives and reducing suffering is the right thing to do. It is also a good investment for Britain. Our aid helps countries become more peaceful, better governed, more environmentally sustainable and more prosperous, and eventually helps those countries to graduate from aid altogether. It is far better to invest a small part of our income on aid than to face the much higher costs of being surrounded by poverty, disease, environmental degradation and violence.
Britain’s aid is admired globally, and with good reason. Our aid is among the most effective in the world (only Ireland and Denmark do aid better). It is a key part of Britain’s soft power and influence abroad. (Ironically, our Ministers’ desire to sweat the equity of the UK aid brand has tended to diminish our reputation for flexible, selfless and effective support—generosity buys you more friends when it isn’t accompanied by noisy self-promotion.).
Britain’s commitment to meet the international target has not just resulted in an increase in our own aid. We have led the world. Germany has recently also met the 0.7 percent target for the first time—the result, in part, of peer pressure arising from Britain’s example.
The 0.7 percent target is unquestionably arbitrary, and its origins now long obsolete (as my colleagues Todd Moss and Michael Clemens have documented.) But sometimes an arbitrary target is better than no target: we don’t call for abolition of the speed limit on the grounds that 70 mph has nothing more to commend it than 72 or 68 mph.
So I would like to see the UK spend at least as much as we do now on aid—indeed, I think we should spend more, as Scandinavian countries do. Ideally we would invest more without needing a spending target, because we can see what our aid achieves. But if we did not have a target, enshrined in law, it is very likely that aid would have been cut in recent years. That would have led directly to tens of thousands of deaths that would otherwise have been avoided, as Bill Gates rightly says. It would have slowed down the growth of aid from other donors. And it would have been a terribly myopic decision for Britain as we try to shape our role in world.
Aid represents fantastic value for money, both for the UK and for the world’s poorest people, and if we need an arbitrary spending target to protect aid from being cut, so be it. Theresa May has done the right thing by reaffirming our commitment to the 0.7 percent target. Now, as she rightly says, we have to make sure it is properly spent.
Emergencies cause poverty, drive displacement, and exacerbate insecurity. Aid to tackle natural disasters is generous, but mainly arrives when needs are acute rather than when it would do most good. Responding effectively is hard because budgets are uncertain and funding gets promised but not delivered. Please join us for the launch of a new CGD report Payouts for Perils: Using Insurance to Radically Improve Emergency Aid setting out how we can use the principles and practice of insurance to save lives, money and time when catastrophes strike.
Unpredictable funding undermines effective response to natural disasters. Two key innovations pre-agree funding for future disaster risks to save lives, money, and time: pivot existing funding to enable goverments and agencies to pre-enroll for quick-fire sup[port aganist predicatable future costs
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.
We will be publishing the full index in October, but, we are revealing the CDI’s migration rankings now, so they may offer a backdrop for the discussions in New York. Read on to find out how countries measure up.
The Who, What and Why
Migration policies are one of the most important, and underused, tools to reduce poverty and promote development. In the words of our colleague Michael Clemens, we are leaving trillions of dollars on the sidewalk (or pavement). As Clemens has convincingly argued, migration leads to a development gain, not a brain drain. Increased opportunities for well-managed migration bring massive increases in incomes and well-being for individuals, their families and their countries, through higher earnings potential, remittances, trade, and the increased circulation of ideas and knowledge.
To arrive at the index for each country, we look at three broad aspects of rich countries’ migration policies. First, their willingness to accept migrants from the developing world; second, how well those migrants are integrated; and third, whether the country participates in a raft of international conventions on migration.
Based on those broad criteria, New Zealand, Norway and Australia have the most development-friendly migration policies; while the Visegrad four - Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, languish at the bottom of our table of 27 rich countries. Of the G7 major economies, Canada ranks highest for its migration policies, at 4th place, with Germany 6th and Italy at number 12. The US, Japan, UK and France all lie in the bottom half of the table.
More Detail on Where our Numbers Come From
First we score countries on the number of people they accept: migrants and students from developing countries; and refugees and asylum seekers; and we look at these broadly in proportion to their population. Australia and New Zealand have the largest inflow of immigrants relative to their populations, while, if you’ve been following news reports of the reaction to (mainly) Syrian refugees arriving in Eastern and Central Europe, you perhaps won’t be surprised to learn that the least open are the Visegrad countries – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. New Zealand and Australia are also the most welcoming toward students from developing countries. On this measure, the Czech and Slovak Republics again find themselves at the bottom, where they are joined by Denmark and The Netherlands. (To be fair, the relatively low numbers of people wanting to study in these countries may have something to do with the perceived difficulty of the language, as well as how welcoming they are to students.) Though the Netherlands does badly on students, it can boast of rivalling Sweden for being most open to refugees and asylum seekers. Portugal, Slovakia and South Korea accept the fewest refugees, and Japan and Poland accept the least asylum seekers.
The benefits to migrants, and their families and countries of origin, depend not only on numbers but on how those people are treated and the opportunities that are available to them in their new home. We use data from the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), a tool which comprehensively assesses whether countries have good policies to support the integration of migrants. MIPEX takes into account 167 policy indicators, which grouped into 8 categories: education, health, political participation, family reunion, anti-discrimination, access to nationality, and permanent residence. Among the CDI countries, Portugal and Sweden top the list for integrating migrants, followed by Finland, Belgium, and Canada.
Finally, we look at the extent to which countries participate in international conventions on migration. We understand, of course, that international conferences often have only a distant connection to people’s real lives; but we also know that over time, international conventions help to establish standards, norms and principles which help shape the behaviour of the international community and individual countries. We argue that there are therefore long-run benefits from countries being willing to agree to these standards, even if they are not always able to live up to their commitments in full immediately. The migration component therefore gives countries credit for ratifying three international agreements: the 1949 Migration for Employment Convention, the 1975 Migrant Workers Convention, and the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. Only three countries – Italy, Norway, Portugal – are party to all three conventions, while Japan and South Korea have ratified none of them.
Migration policies reflect the economic, social and political circumstances of each country, and it is foolish to claim that any country could simply adopt the policies being pursued elsewhere. Nonetheless, looking at the fine detail of countries’ policies can help us understand where there might be room for improvement, and help us to identify inspiring examples of countries that do this well.
And the CDI migration scores are on element of the annual Commitment to Development Index, along with hundreds of other indicators across six other policy areas: aid, trade, finance, security, climate and technology. This short video helps explain. The full CDI results for 2016 will be released in a few weeks.
This piece was originally posted on Owen Barder's blog, Owen Abroad.
The mainstream broadcast media do not always do a good job of covering international development issues. The constraints of the medium mean that they have to pitch much of their content to a broad audience. Poverty porn sells better than nuanced analysis. One reason I like podcasts is that they are not constrained in the same way as the media. They can be targeted at niche audiences out in the long tail of the distribution. There is a small group of people with an appetite for a more long-form analysis of development which mainstream media are normally not able to serve (though it amazes me that the BBC World Service does not have room anywhere in its schedule for a hour-long programme devoted to development.)
Podcasts often work well for people who have limited other options for media (for example because they have limited bandwidth) and/or regularly have long journeys by air or road. Less glamorously, they also seem to work well for people who run, commute or look after small children.
I’ve listed my favourite development podcasts and economics podcasts, below. Please let me know in the comments if I have forgotten any. What are your favourites?
More or Less(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
Tim Harford and colleagues take a look at statistics in the news.
NPR Planet Money(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
The best economics podcast.
EconTalk by Russ Roberts(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
This does to economics what I try to do in Development Drums, except that Russ does it much better than I do. An in depth interview on an issue of relevance to economics.
World Weekly with Gideon Rachman(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times looks at an international political story.
Taxcast – The Tax Justice Network(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
A twenty minute podcast with the latest news about tax havens and corruption from the Tax Justice Network.
LSE public lectures(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
Does what it says on the tin. Some of these are very interesting; some not so much. The production quality is pretty variable.
BBC Africa Today(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
Recommended in the comments by Tanya Cothran: “BBC’s Africa Today is a great round-up of Africa’s news stories. They get some interviews with top politicians and it’s always interesting to hear them try to talk their way out of the interview. Also, they have arts and comedy segments spread throughout the week.”
UPDATE: Podcasts suggested in the comments
Africa Today from the BBC (Feeds: iTunesRSS)
A great round-up of Africa’s news stories. They get some interviews with top politicians and it’s always interesting to hear them try to talk their way out of the interview. Also, they have arts and comedy segments spread throughout the week. Recommended by Tanya Coltham.
The Development Policy Centre(Feeds: iTunesRSS)
shares its events (which are all about aid and development) via podcast and are looking to do more interview-style podcasts soon.
Marginal Revolution on Development Economics by Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen (recommended by Sam Gardner)
The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) (Feeds: iTunesRSS)
Publishes talks in audio and video formats. Recommended by April Harding.
(You can either download individual episodes from the websites, or have them download automatically by subscribing to them in iTunes or other podcast player.)
There is much uncertainty now about how the UK will respond to Thursday’s referendum result calling for Britain to leave the European Union. The effects on developing countries—and development cooperation—will depend in part on what is agreed in the coming months and years. But here is some speculation about the possible threats that Brexit implies, and a (rather shorter) list of the possible opportunities.
Brexit will lead to direct effects on economic growth, trade, remittances, and aid which could have negative implications for developing countries:
A slowdown in the British economy will have negative implications for developing countries with close economic links to Britain, such as South Africa and Nigeria (and other, mainly Commonwealth countries), perhaps leading to slower growth of exports, inward investment, and remittances. If there is a broader negative impact on the global economy, for example because of a loss of economic confidence in the European Union, this would have commensurately bigger negative effects on a wider range of developing countries, potentially reducing exports, growth, investment, jobs and remittances, especially among commodity producers.
The UK’s commitment to spending 0.7 percent on aid may be abandoned if the fiscal position deteriorates and the government has to find further spending reductions, or wishes to switch public spending to programmes with a greater domestic multiplier to stimulate the economy. Depending on the political complexion of the next government, this could result in substantial contraction of aid spending, perhaps even down to a small humanitarian programme, and perhaps the closure of DFID. Even if the 0.7 percent commitment is maintained, lower GDP will reduce the aid budget compared to where it would have been. The immediate effect of the depreciation of sterling (6% against the dollar at the time of writing) will be that the value of the UK aid programme abroad has declined. This may create short-term problems for organisations with local currency or dollar liabilities but sterling-denominated grants.
The poorest developing countries will automatically lose their duty-free, quota-free access to UK consumers and the liberalised rules of origin, which they currently get under the Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement and the European Partnership Agreements (EPAs), assuming that the UK leaves the European trading bloc. Market access to the UK won't automatically be transferred if the UK leaves the Single Market, but the UK could make similar arrangements itself for some or all developing countries (though not, under WTO rules, for a hand-picked group of them). Uncertainty about future access to the UK market may immediately reduce investment, growth and jobs in developing countries with close economic ties to the UK.
The UK will be able to abandon fishing quotas, and will come under pressure from domestic fishing communities (especially in Scotland) to do so, which would contribute to the depletion of global fish stocks.
The UK will lose the legal basis for nearly all of its economic and financial sanctions—meaning it will either need to pass new UK sanctions legislation or those sanctions will disappear with the repeal of the European Communities Act.
As well as these direct effects on development, the UK after Brexit seems likely to have diminished global “soft power” which it has used in recent years to promote progressive international change—tackling issues like climate change, humanitarian aid reform, and corruption. There may be some people who think that an independent Britain will have more, rather than less, influence on the world stage because it will look less towards Europe and more towards the rest of the world. But in general, the UK has a progressive, liberal impact on European policies—promoting a more open, liberalised trading system; opposing agricultural subsidies; and pushing for generous, effective, poverty-focused foreign aid. There may be others who have a less rosy view than me about the UK’s positive influence on European development-related policies, or who think that the EU’s approach to development is largely irrelevant anyway. But overall, the risk is that Brexit will lead to a diminution in a progressive, pro-development global voice, in at least the following ways:
For the next few years, the UK will have very little bandwidth or negotiating capital for any international initiatives or global leadership (e.g., hosting big events on family planning, nutrition, vaccination etc): not least because much of the civil service will be devoted to negotiating the post-EU settlement, especially a raft of new trade deals; and no Minister will want to use up their scarce international political capital securing agreement to such initiatives.
The UK will no longer be within the EU arguing against agricultural production and export subsidies, and in favour of liberalisation of trade with developing countries, which may tip EU trade policy more towards protectionism and away from development-friendly trade policies. Nor will the UK be able to continue to push the EU into more ambitious targets for low-carbon growth in the future, on which it has a record of which to be proud.
The UK will no longer provide a strong voice within the EU pushing for measures to 1) increase transparency (e.g., country-by-country reporting, public registers of beneficial ownership), 2) reduce international tax avoidance (e.g., automatic exchange of information), and 3) reduce corruption. To the extent that the EU position on these issues matter, that may slow progress across the world.
The UK will lose its influence over the world’s largest multilateral aid agency (EuropeAid spends considerably more each year than World Bank), thereby reducing a mainly progressive voice on how and where this aid is spent. As a result, it is likely that more European aid will be spent in the European neighbourhood and less on the poorest countries in the world.
The UK risks losing influence and leverage over key partners, notably Turkey, with which it maintains its relationships in part through the EU. It may try to compensate for this by reallocating aid spending away from poor countries to these strategically important countries with whom it would otherwise gradually lose its ties.
The UK will no longer be part of European coordination meetings which agree a common position for key global forums such as the World Bank, World Health Organisation, etc., despite being by far the world’s largest funder of the multilateral development system. Both UK and European voices are likely to be weaker as a result.
Set alongside these threats, Brexit does offer some possible opportunities for more development-friendly policies, which we should identify and seize. For example:
If the UK sticks to the 0.7 percent commitment but does not spend it through the European Commission, there is an opportunity to target UK aid more sharply on the poorest countries and communities, or to shift this aid to more effective multilateral institutions than the European Commission (notably the World Bank).
The UK could offer preferential market access to developing countries, including duty-free, quota-free access and simplified rules of origin, if it leaves the European Singe Market. This won't happen automatically, and the UK would need to be careful to comply with WTO rules; but it could at least duplicate the market access currently available the Everything But Arms and European Partnership Agreements, and perhaps more (either to a broader range of countries or more open market access).
Though immigration to the UK may be lower overall, there may be increased opportunities for migrants to come to the UK from non-EU countries, especially Commonwealth countries such as Nigeria and India. That may increase the share of immigrants to the UK from developing countries, which is good both for the migrants themselves, and through increased remittances for their families at home.
The UK could unilaterally reduce or abandon agricultural and fishing subsidies, improving prospects for agricultural producers and fishing industries in developing countries. EU farm subsidies will be reduced if the UK’s net contribution to the EU is not replaced from elsewhere, which is also good for developing countries; though it is more likely that in the absence of Britain’s voice in Europe, agricultural support will increase.
The UK could adopt more scientifically-justified restrictions on GMOs—which may help increase the global food supply—and perhaps other phytosanitary standards which unnecessarily restrict developing country agricultural exports.
If Scotland votes to become independent, the Scottish government may pursue a set of development policies which look more like those of progressive Scandinavian countries than the existing UK position, promoting not only generous and effective aid but also a much greater commitment to policy coherence.
Overall, the list of threats seems greater than the opportunities. I didn’t vote for Brexit, but the British government is now faced with implementing the voters’ decision as effectively as possible. CGD will work with the British government as it navigates a future outside the EU to do what we can to limit the potential harmful effects on development, and to take advantage of as many of these opportunities as possible. We would welcome ideas and collaboration to do increase the chance of this happening in the coming months.
And finally: the Brexit referendum should be a stark warning to those who have benefited over the last two decades from globalisation and technological change. Unless the benefits of these profound economic shifts are shared with all citizens, in rich countries and in poor countries, those citizens will eventually overthrow the apple cart.
How can we make humanitarian aid better? Give refugees cash. That’s the main recommendation of a high level panel convened by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and chaired by CGD’s Owen Barder. You can read his blog on the Panel’s report here.
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).
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: