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.
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.
Consider this statement: Science knows how to deal with a pandemic outbreak, but policy gets in the way. That was how we framed a recent event at CGD with key people who led the US government’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Drawing from that event, this podcast brings you some ideas of how to improve the global system of response and increase our preparedness for the next inevitable outbreak. Speakers include Jeremy Konyndyk, Amy Pope, David Smith, Rebecca Martin, and Amanda Glassman.
The African Development Bank recently turned 50. In that time it's made more than 4,000 grants and loans, totaling more than $71 billion. So what might its next half-century look like? Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina joins me on this week's podcast to share his vision for Africa's future.
After a decade of strong growth, African economies are slowing down. So what is the role of the African Development Bank in turning that around?
The institution recently turned 50. In that time it's made more than 4,000 grants and loans, totaling more than $71 billion. So what might its next half-century look like?
"We've got to focus on five things," Bank President Dr. Akinwumi Adesina tells me in this week's podcast. He recently returned to CGD to participate in our Spring Meetings event on financing for Africa.
Dr. Adesina's list of priorities includes electricity, food, integration, industrialization, and quality of life. But the trick?
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.
The Indian Ministry of Finance’s 2017 Economic Survey considers—though does not commit to—the idea of a large-scale experiment in UBI, or universal basic income. How would it work? What effects would it have? Arvind Subramanian—lead author of the Survey, chief economic adviser to the government of India, and a CGD senior fellow on leave—joins me to discuss the big ideas currently shaping India’s economy.
Could a universal basic income (UBI) fundamentally change the picture of poverty, health, and well-being in a country? How would it work? What effects would it have?
Those are some of the questions raised by the Indian Ministry of Finance’s 2017 Economic Survey, which considers—but does not commit to—the idea of a large-scale experiment in UBI.
The Survey’s lead author is Arvind Subramanian, chief economic adviser to the government of India and a CGD senior fellow on leave. Subramanian spoke at a recent CGD event on the big ideas currently shaping India’s economy, and he joined me on the podcast to continue the discussion.
One of the big benefits of a UBI, he tells me on the podcast, is that it provides people with a “minimum wherewithal” they can use to access credit, invest, or respond to emergencies. The main challenge, on the other hand, is that the money obviously has to come from somewhere: “you can’t pay for it unless you get rid of something else.”
Hear more of the pros and cons below, and listen to the full podcast at the top of this page or on iTunes.
Just ahead of the annual World Bank/IMF spring meetings, the Bank’s new CEO, Kristalina Georgieva, spoke with me about a new way of thinking at the 72-year-old institution. The Bank has renewed ambition, she told me, to be a catalyst for massive transformative investment in development. She went on to lay out how the Bank plans to do that in this edition of the CGD Podcast.
The multilateral development banking (MDB) system is regarded as having been remarkably successful—but is the model still fit for purpose? CGD president Nancy Birdsall and senior fellow Scott Morris delve into a new CGD report's recommendations on how to make MDBs more effective.
Are the Sustainable Development Goals achievable? That’s a question I hear a lot from colleagues, journalists and friends. And, with the UN Summit to adopt the Goals looming, how will history look back on the drawn-out, consultative and fractious process that has brought us to this set of 17 Goals and 169 Targets?
“You ask the question, 'Are they are achievable,'” says Nancy Birdsall, President of CGD, “and my sense is it’s not that important. It would be great to achieve them, but what’s important is measuring progress and the rate of progress, and clarifying who is accountable for what.”
But hang on. If it’s not important that we achieve them, why do they matter? For Birdsall, the SDGs, just like the MDGs before them, redefine how we understand development.
“The MDGs changed at the global level our definition in the normative sense of what development is,” she says in a new CGD podcast. “It’s not just, or mostly, growth of economies…. They captured a view of development that was about people. They also however had this quality that you could set a rather specific goal and measure it.
“The SDGs have the same good thing around this change in our feel of what is good and important in the world.”
A Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the Age of Metrics
For Michael Elliott, President of the ONE Campaign, the SDGs and the existence of good data to track progress on them will help fuel the continued growth of civil society organizations that hold governments to account.
“I see these goals as the world making a promise to itself,” he says in the same podcast. “Because we’re including so many of the broader aspects of human progress in these goals, we're making a promise to ourselves that we are one world, one planet, one society, one people, who look out for each other, and look out for how we get along in the world and how our one home is going to be handed down to the next generation – that’s a pretty wonderful thing to do.”
Growing global interconnectedness means that the problems the world faces, that hold back development, are increasingly shared.
“Climate change, or how tough it is to deal with tax evasion, or what are we going to do about antimicrobial resistance to drugs, or about cybercrime? So much of development is about those systemic issues often at a global level,” says Birdsall.
“You can’t deal with the system problem without some collective action.”
Does It Matter If We Can’t Measure the SDGs?
The lack of definite indicators to measure progress on the new Goals has been cited as a potential problem. CGD’s Casey Dunning wrote about it recently here. As Tony Pipa, the US Chief Negotiator on the Post-2015 Process, said in a recent CGD Podcast, some of the Goals “are more aspirational” specifically because they will be extremely hard to measure.
An example is Goal 5: "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." Birdsall acknowledges the challenge, but says, “Civil society groups and think tanks like CGD will try to develop metrics and all that, and that’s progress in itself.”
It’s worth remembering that the predecessors to the SDGs, the MDGs, if seen strictly as numerical targets, were mainly not achieved. However, there has been huge progress on problems such as child health and maternal mortality. There are legitimate questions about how much of that progress was down to the MDGs, as my colleague Charles Kenny has written about here, but nevertheless, millions more people are alive and well now than might have been.
Even if we do not achieve the SDGs, they have a value: they describe a better world for all, and any steps we can take along that path will count as progress. How wonderful if we can get there. How crucial that we try. As Birdsall says, “it’s more important that they’re there, despite the fact that they're flawed.”
Rules to name, shame, and punish banks, whose clients may funnel money to terror groups, are denying much-needed funds to developing countries. It’s a clash of two sets of sound policies, says Clay Lowery, former assistant secretary for international affairs at the US Treasury and the chair of a CGD working group on this problem of “de-banking.” “Those two policies are in conflict with each other,” Lowery says, “and that’s a very difficult thing to overcome.”
The first set of policies was designed to curb money laundering and the financing of terrorism, especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Lowery told me in a new CGD podcast. Faced with the obligation of trying to track the final destination of money flows they service — and the reputational risk involved if their clients are less than law-abiding — a string of big-name financial institutions have simply been closing down the accounts of legitimate businesses that offer remittance services to millions of people working in different countries.
One of the primary aims of those rules, Lowery says, “was to hurt the reputation of financial institutions: so if they were going to be doing business with bad people we were going to ‘out’ [them]. So that reputational risk became something that banks worried about a lot.”
CGD Working Group Chair Clay Lowery discusses de-banking
The second set of policies was focused on how to facilitate finance flows into developing countries in an efficient way that aids economic growth and development. Remittances — money sent home by workers overseas — are estimated to total $400bn annually through formal channels and another $130bn through informal channels. They have become a huge source of revenue for developing countries — far greater than official aid. Money transfer organizations are often the only route available to send funds to poor countries. De-banking may deny revenue to some criminal or terror groups but it also stops innocent people sending much-needed money to their families.
As Lowery and I discussed, central banks in the United States and United Kingdom, as well as regulators and policymakers are among many key players examining these unintended consequences of rich countries’ anti–money laundering policies, along with CGD’s working group which aims to report later this year.
Ann Mei Chang wants to “turn development upside down.” That’s how she describes the aim of the Global Development Lab, the arm of USAID that she runs. The Global Development Lab is tasked with finding new, innovative development solutions, testing them, rolling them out, and then trying to scale them.
With the World Humanitarian Summit looming, and in the absence of a unified global response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the head of the United Nations Development Programme Helen Clark says in a new CGD Podcast that governments and international institutions are shifting their focus from traditional humanitarian relief to more sustainable ways to help millions of displaced people.
China has long been the factory of the world. But as wages there rise, manufacturers are looking to other countries and regions. Meanwhile, African countries have a huge and burgeoning population of young people looking for jobs. So now many wonder—could Africa be the next big destination for manufacturers? And if not, then what? CGD senior fellow Vijaya Ramachandran joins the podcast to discuss a new CGD paper on that very question.
How can poor countries beat the resource curse? CGD research fellow Justin Sandefur returns to the Podcast hotseat to update us on a project that posed this question to ordinary people in Tanzania. CGD teamed up with REPOA to bring hundreds of Tanzanians to Dar es Salaam to debate what to do with that country’s newly-discovered natural gas deposits. This week, Justin is back to share the project’s results.