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Rajesh Mirchandani came to CGD from BBC News, where he garnered more than two decades’ experience as a journalist and broadcaster, reporting and anchoring from around the world for the BBC’s global television and radio networks, including BBC World News and the World Service. He has covered a wide range of stories and issues, from two US presidential elections to the Haiti earthquake, AIDS in India to oil exploration in the Arctic, education for displaced children in Colombia to green energy investments in California. He previously won two awards from the Los Angeles Press Club for his work during six years as a BBC North America correspondent.
Mirchandani brings a passion for international development and climate change issues—and says his most rewarding journalistic assignments were stories of solutions to development problems. He is regularly invited to participate at high-level events around issues such as the post-2015 agenda, girls’ empowerment, and changing media landscapes. In 2012 he completed an MA in public diplomacy at USC in Los Angeles, where he focused on communication strategies of state and nonstate actors, and the power of social movements as agents of change.
How well do your country's policies make a positive difference for people in developing nations? That’s the question CGD seeks to answer each year in our Commitment to Development Index (CDI). It’s a ranking of 27 of the world’s richest nations based on seven policy areas: aid, finance, technology, environment, trade, security, and migration.
The team behind the CDI, deputy director of CGD Europe Ian Mitchell and policy analyst Anita Käppeli, join me this week on the CGD podcast to discuss why these rankings matter and how countries stack up.
In first place this year is Denmark, followed by Sweden, Finland, France, and Germany. Greece, Japan, and South Korea rank at the bottom—though South Korea actually ranks first on the technology component.
Among the countries in the middle are the UK, tying with the Netherlands for 7th place, and the US, all the way down at 23rd. In the future, how might these scores be impacted by the changing politics of the two nations?
“On Brexit, there’s real potential for this to affect the CDI score,” Mitchell tells me in the podcast. “The UK will take control of its own migration policy more fully and it will have its own trade policy and it will take control of agricultural policy form the EU. All of those things feature in the Commitment to Development Index.”
As for the the Trump Administration’s America-first approach, Mitchell says, “It’s surely in the interest of countries to see other countries developing to reduce the security risk, to make sure there’s lower risk of disease emerging . . . and the CDI is a framework for prioritizing action on that.”
Overall, Käppeli tells me, the CDI is a reminder to countries that “policy coherence is an issue; that they should not pursue policies in [only] one field—for instance, give a lot of aid, but then close the boarders for products from developing countries.”
“The CDI is holistic,” Mitchell adds, pointing out that the CDI’s focus on policy is “complementary” to the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on outcomes: “If you think about how we’re going to achieve the SDGs, then looking at the CDI [is] a great way to do that.”
How well do your country's policies make a positive difference for people in developing nations? That’s the question CGD seeks to answer each year in our Commitment to Development Index (CDI). The team behind the CDI, deputy director of CGD Europe Ian Mitchell and policy analyst Anita Käppeli, join me to discuss why these rankings matter, how countries stack up, and how their scores may be impacted by the shifting political environment.
In 2014, unprecedented numbers of children and families began crossing the southern border of the United States, sparking an ongoing debate on what was driving them and how the U.S. should respond. Using data provided by the Department of Homeland Security, new research by Michael Clemens finds the flow of unaccompanied child migrants to the United States has been driven by a complex mix of violence and economic forces. How do these elements interact, and how can foreign policy be a form of migration policy?
There are three UN food agencies all based in Rome. What separates them and justifies ongoing international support? On this week’s podcast, the head of one those agencies makes his pitch for more resources.
“Between 2010 and 2015, independent assessment [found] that IFAD has helped 24 million out of poverty,” former Prime Minister of Togo Gilbert Houngbo tells me in the podcast. “So I’m saying that the results speak for the need to keep us in business.”
IFAD—the International Fund for Agricultural Development—is part implementing agency, part development bank, and works on the idea that food security can drive a nation’s development, peace, and prosperity.
Houngbo joined me on the podcast just after the UN warned that 20 million people are facing famine in four countries—Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and north-eastern Nigeria. How can IFAD help?
“Beyond the moral side of it … investing in long-term development turns out to be cheaper than jumping from one crisis to another,” Houngbo says, clarifying that IFAD is not a humanitarian agency. “When you start talking about the transition economics, that’s where we start working with the government … or at the local level to start building new programs for long-term development.”
Recently the UN warned that 20 million people are facing famine in four countries. How can the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) help? Gilbert Houngbo, former Prime Minister of Togo and new IFAD president, joins the CGD podcast to discuss IFAD's impact and unique mandate.
Here we are, deep in the throes of summer, which hopefully means you have finished your planned holiday books and are in need of another good read or two! But what should you choose? We asked CGD experts to share their recommendations. Check out the list below to find what fits your mood, whether that's a deep dive into migration policy, a surprising look into Machiavelli's life, or a techno-utopian, time-traveling adventure (I know what gets my vote!).
If you'd like to get more reading recommendations from CGD, you can also sign up for our weekly Friday "What We're Reading" newsletter.
"A love story set amidst the colonial evils of Dutch-ruled Indonesia. Transcribed from stories the author told his fellow inmates while a political prisoner in the 1970s, and beautifully translated. At once vivid historical fiction and haunting social commentary." – Jonah Busch
"This book makes the migration policy crisis comprehensible through the epic journalistic feat of personally accompanying one Syrian man from Egypt all the way to Sweden. If you have policy ideas about how to address the crisis, see if they survive reading Kingsley's deeply engaged account." – Michael Clemens
"Beckert explores the early stages of globalization and the industrial revolution through the lens of the cultivation, processing, and trade of cotton and cotton textiles. He also focuses on the links to the slave trade in the early days of the cotton trade, and the changing fortunes of India, China, and other developing countries as their roles in the 'cotton empire' shifted over the centuries." – Kimberly Ann Elliott
"I'm not normally a fan of sci-fi, so I wasn't expecting to get into this time-travel/alternate-reality book, but I did. In this novel, Tom Barren runs into a time-travel mishap when he leaves his techno-utopian, idealistic 2016 world of flying cars and moving sidewalks behind and changes history so that he ends up stranded in our 2016. Mastai's piece is a thought-provoking, funny, and entertaining novel that's a perfect read for any vacation." – Rebecca Forman
"Fictional short stories about people haunted by abrupt failure in the wake of rapid success. The most famous story concerns Lonesome Rhodes, who rises from itinerant Arkansas guitar picker to local media rabble-rouser to TV superstar and political king-maker. Whether you read the book or not, you must see the movie, A Face in the Crowd, directed by the amazingly talented Elia Kazan, which underscores the role of the media in electing our most prominent politicians and invites viewers to draw parallels to the current situation in the United States." – John Hurley
"Alexievech documents ordinary Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and their experience with revolution, capitalism, and Putin. It reads less like a history book and more like an oral history—unassuming, frank, and raw. It's a fascinating investigation into modern Russia, and it contains all these insightful nuggets on democracy, capitalism, and revolution that are surprisingly relevant for American politics." – Jared Kalow
"A fascinating account of Machiavelli's life and lifelong struggle to restore Florence as a republic. He emerges as a more complex figure than you might think from reading The Prince—as interested in justice, freedom, and the rule of law as in power. On his deathbed, he is said to have claimed he'd rather be in hell with Plato, Plutarch, and Tacitus than in a heaven that banished them." – Nancy Lee
"The late-night TV host tells the stories of his childhood in the slums of Johannesburg where, being racially mixed, he belonged to no group. He finds his way through to his teenage years through tenacity, the unwavering support of his mother, and a preternatural sense of the absurdity of societal norms. It is a very funny and touching book. I listened to the book, rather than read it. Noah himself narrates and his theatrical vocal presence was the icing on the cake. Great for a long car trip!" – Mark Plant
"Haasse tells the remarkable story of Charles d'Orléans, a celebrated medieval French poet and prominent nobleman. Head of a family caught up in bitter dynastic strife at thirteen, English prisoner of war at twenty-one, Charles spends much of his life struggling against forces far beyond his control. And yet, even as his life's joys are snatched from him and his freedom denied for 25 years, the poet finds a way to live his life with dignity and grace. A stunning meditation on nothing less than the meaning of life itself, Haasse's work presents the vibrant, tumultuous world of the later Middle Ages with rare compassion and understanding." – Mallika Snyder
Today on the CGD podcast: Mexicans, Cubans, and Indians and their impact on the wages of US workers, courtesy of our experts Michael Clemens and Gaurav Khanna.
Drawing from the findings of his new paper on high-skilled IT workers, Khanna says, "The H-1B visa program has played a role in the expansion of the IT sector in India and in the US, and these productivity gains have made peoples' lives better off in many ways."
Meanwhile, Clemens has publishedextensively on whether low-skilled immigrants lower the wages of US workers. "The reason that women could enter the labor force from 14 percent to 75 percent over the course of the 20th Century and there not be a third of men out of work," he says, "is because firms in the economy adjusted to take advantage of that new labor. The only question is how long did that adjustment take?"
Between them, Clemens and Khanna look at high- and low-skilled workers from three countries across several decades. Different studies, different perspectives—but all pointing at the same thing: immigrants have an overwhelmingly net positive effect on the US economy.
On August 2, the White House unveiled a plan to make drastic cuts to legal immigration, reigniting a debate about the net effects of US immigration policy on jobs and the country’s economy. CGD experts—including Lant Pritchett, Michael Clemens, and Gaurav Khanna—have written and researched extensively on this hot topic, and have been quoted widely in recent media coverage. In this blog post I wanted to give you a flavor of what the evidence that we’ve been examining says. Spoiler alert: immigration has an overwhelmingly net positive effect on the US economy.
Michael Clemens and Gaurav Khanna approach the subject from different perspectives. While Khanna, whose latest paper is out this week, focuses on the impact of high skill immigration through the H-1B visa scheme, Clemens has written extensively about the impacts of low-skill immigration, drawing on wage data following large influxes and outflows of Mexican and Cuban workers in past decades. Clemens notes that “economic research time and again has shown that drastic cuts to legal immigration would be a lose-lose proposal for both the United States and global economy.” This past week, Clemens continued to highlight the economic impacts of this proposed policy, drawing on fact-based evidence and his own research.
Here’s an excerpt from his recent interview with Vox:
Sean Illing: If you're not familiar with the data, it seems intuitively right to argue that allowing low-skilled immigrants into the country means low-skilled American workers will have fewer opportunities. Why is that wrong?
Michael Clemens: American history shows without a doubt that more low-skill workers doesn’t mean fewer jobs. The American economy and the jobs it creates were built by low-skill workers. As recently as 1940, the fraction of European immigrants to the US who had no high school degree was 88 percent. That includes at least one grandparent of more than 40 percent of Americans, and those people fueled modern economic growth in this country. So something’s wildly wrong with the notion that low-skill workers have harmed American workers.
It is indeed intuitive to people that when there are more workers around, wages drop. But that’s a bad cartoon of how complex the economy is. I think it’s also intuitive to people that workers and firms adjust to changes in the labor supply in myriad ways. US workers respond to there being more workers around by moving to where there’s more opportunity, by going into business for themselves, and by specializing in tasks that use their strengths, like native English ability.
Women in the US respond to the presence of low-skill immigrants by entering the labor force, because immigrants make child care and elder care more accessible. Firms respond to there being more workers around by shifting toward production technologies that use labor more intensively, by moving plants from one place to another, and by producing in new ways that allow natives and immigrants to specialize in different tasks.
These complex adjustments are very intuitive to Americans out there who depend on low-skill immigrants caring for their kids, preparing food in kitchens, guarding buildings, shipping fresh vegetables. So I think when people stop to think about it, the “intuitive” thing is that immigrants fuel the US economy overall, creating more opportunity for US workers than the jobs that they take themselves. And that has been true for many, many generations in this country.
For additional coverage and information on this issue, and on Michael Clemens’ policy proposal, check out these links:
The world’s development challenges are far too vast for the old way of doing things. To generate the trillions of dollars necessary to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, international institutions, policymakers and the private sector need a new approach that unlocks the power of private investment. IFC Executive Vice President and CEO Philippe Le Houérou will address how his institution’s new strategy of “creating markets,” especially where they are weak or nonexistent, can help redefine development finance in an uncertain global economic environment. Following Le Houérou’s remarks, he will be joined by a stellar panel for a discussion of the private sector development agenda.
Is the World Bank still relevant? As it approaches its 75th anniversary that’s the question I put to Shanta Devarajan, the Bank’s Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa in our latest CGD podcast. We’ve been looking ahead to the Bank’s 75th anniversary in a few years’ time and asking what is the role of the World Bank in development in a rapidly evolving global landscape, when Bank lending competes with a growing number of other sources of financing? And what might the World Bank look like at 100? Ambitiously, Devarajan hopes to see the Bank well on its way to putting itself out of business. Have a listen.
“It’s nice to have a list,” CGD senior associate Scott Morris told me about the shortlist of eight candidates for the Presidency of the African Development Bank. He was giving credit to the Bank for holding what appears to be a truly transparent election process to succeed out-going President Donald Kaberuka. Who’s on the list? What’s good about it? And where does it fall short? These are all things Scott and I discussed in the latest CGD Podcast. Take a listen….
Here at CGD, we’ve been following the numbers on the Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals, 169 targets, 1063 proposed indicators. We can now add a new number to that list: 230, the number of indicators that have finally been approved by the UN to measure development progress.
If the SDGs answered the “what” question of the 2030 development agenda, the indicators answer the “how.” But as CGD senior policy analyst Casey Dunning tells me on this week’s podcast, those 230 indicators raise new questions as well.
First, with 230 sets of data to collect, how are countries supposed to prioritize? The indicators are meant to create “a full and complete SDG agenda, not a menu of options,” Dunning says. However, with so many indicators, the menu approach may start looking more likely in practice.
Then there are the indicators themselves, some of which are going to be hard to pin down. Or, as Dunning tells me, “they defy logic. You can’t even define them in a single country context, much less apply [them] to a global context – and that’s the definition of the indicator, not even how you would actually operationalize it and measure it.”
Finally, there’s the question of whether all 17 goals are “nationally appropriate” worldwide. Should rich countries like Belgium and Luxembourg dedicate limited resources to reporting on the lack of extreme poverty within their borders? Logically, this seems like a waste.
But here’s the problem: where do you draw the line on what is “inappropriate” for a specific country?” As Dunning explains in the clip below, “you can use that same logic to apply to sexual and reproductive health and rights, or governance, or democracy. Choose your highly contentious issue.”
If the SDGs answered the “what” question of the 2030 development agenda, the newly approved list of 230 indicators answer the “how.” But as CGD policy analyst Casey Dunning tells me on this week’s podcast, those 230 indicators raise new questions as well.
If anyone understands the nuances and political realities of the American position on each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, it is Tony Pipa. As the US Chief Negotiator for the Post-2015 Process, he helped hammer out the wording of the final document and, when he visited CGD last week to record a podcast, he was keen to remind me that “this was a politically inclusive process.… All countries are committing to the norms and the aspirations the goals set out.”
True enough. If the Millennium Development Goals were about rich countries helping poor countries, the SDGs apply to all nations and are designed to improve all our lives in a range of different ways.
That also means all countries that sign up are expected to implement (at least some of) them at home.
So what will the US do differently — domestically — once it signs up to the goals in New York later this month? (Clue: This is why I said "political realities" earlier).
“I would put it the other way,” the chief negotiator tells me. “The SDGs are reflective of the agenda that President Obama and his administration have been pursuing domestically. When you look at the focus on inequality … the focus on 'leave no one behind' within the SDGs, when you look at the president’s proposals on universal early childhood development, you look at proposals on access to a community college system — that fits with the focus on economic growth and about having people prepared for the knowledge economy.”
With the negotiations now concluded, Pipa can reflect on the text that countries will sign up to in a few weeks’ time. Click on the video below to find out how he thinks the SDGs could be better and how the world will measure progress.
US domestic policy may not exactly be facing an overhaul in light of the SDGs, but Pipa says domestic departments within the US government have “a familiarity” with the SDG process and have been helping to shape US positions in the negotiations.
“We have had a very robust interagency process throughout the last couple of years of negotiations.… We brought some of the best thinking from our domestic agencies as we were negotiating and engaging with other member states at the UN to help shape this agenda. We were learning from some of things we have done here in the US and some of the models that have been successful in bringing that to bear both internationally and domestically.”
Some SDGs are better than others. Pipa may not say as much publicly, but it’s clear that he — and let’s be honest, by “he” we mean the United States — is happier with some of the 17 goals than others.
Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
“We’re very happy to see Goal 16 in there,” he admits.
Not surprising really, when Goal 16 is a less-than-subtle nod in the direction of democracy. But how does that fit with the world-beating progress of China in lifting hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty with nary a whiff of political representation?
“From our perspective,” the chief negotiator begins, “nations will set their own benchmarks and their own milestones of what they’re trying to achieve via development. From our perspective, we’re about promoting resilient, democratic societies. We want to see the elements that are in Goal16 … taken seriously by every country.”
Goal 16 is one of the SDGs that members of the US Congress may appreciate, and getting US lawmakers on board is crucial to the success of the process overall. Pipa says Congress has already been involved.
“We’ve been in conversations with our congressional committees and members to get their input. They were very excited about the focus on governance and strength of governance and peaceful societies of Goal 16.... We went through the entire agenda with them trying to get input on where they thought the important things were on food, hunger, health.”
“There are transformational elements to this agenda … peace and governance, the inclusive nature of it, the focus on gender and other vulnerable populations, and I think all that will be exciting to members of Congress.”
You can see the full video Podcast with Tony Pipa below.
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? In this edition, we bring you highlights of some of those conversations.