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.
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How should developing countries cope with new and emerging global challenges? How do we ensure they don't get left further behind?
These were some of the questions discussed at a recent CGD event, a conversation between World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim and CGD president Masood Ahmed.
On this week’s podcast, we hear from Jim Kim on robots, blockchain, multilateralism, and development finance—including the critical role of private actors.
“There should be a new ethics of global development that includes the private sector, because it's the only way to get to the kind of volume we need to end poverty,” Kim said. To get there, he continued, multilateral development banks need to work together.
Hear more in the clip below.
This is also a special episode of the podcast—it's my last as host, as I am leaving CGD for a new role. Thank you for listening these past three years, and please stay tuned for more episodes of the CGD Podcast.
This week marked a controversial anniversary in the US—that of the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that women have the right to an abortion. Add in the anniversary of the Women’s March, recent revelations of sexual harassment by men in high-profile roles, and controversial policy moves on access to family planning services, and it seems that the issue of women's empowerment and reproductive rights is more politically charged than ever.
Today we hear from a country that's taken a strong stand in favor of women by creating a feminist international assistance policy. Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, visited CGD to speak at our recent conference on family planning and women’s economic empowerment, and joined me on the podcast to discuss Canada’s new policy.
“From now on, at least 15 percent of our bilateral contributions must be for women-targeted projects,” Bibeau tells me in the podcast, adding that almost all the others are requred to have a women’s empowerment component.
The new policy underscores the importance of focusing on women and family planning in global development efforts. For many girls around the world, Bibeau says, early pregnancy comes with gender-based violence and reduced access to education. “If we want to empower women economically, we have to take care of the girls,” Bibeau says. More on that in the clip below.
At a time when other countries are pulling back support for family planning services, Canada is proud of its new policy. “This is our strong belief and we do not shy away and we talk about it honestly with evidence to support our policy, our priorities,” Bibeau says. “We really intend to be bold on the importance of women's empowerment, including sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson recently announced that the British aid budget will be directed toward projects that promote British interests. The announcement follows a lot of criticism in some media of UK aid spending, which has had a negative effect on public opinion. So how does the UK Department for International Development’s new chief economist think that view can be changed?
“If you look at polls of why people are skeptical of giving aid, it's because they think it doesn't work,” Rachel Glennerster tells me in this week’s podcast. “If you can show that this is really changing people’s lives for the better, then that is a key part of building the case for aid.”
One of the ways that aid is working, she says, is by helping girls stay in school—and family planning plays a key role in that. “You have this really important window in adolescents’ lives when there are all these different decisions that are being made, some of which the adolescent girl has power over, some she doesn’t,” Glennerster says. “This is a critical time for women to invest in their own skills, and having kids in that period can really disrupt that investment.”
Glennerster presented some of her research on family planning at a CGD conference on the topic late last year—you can watch it on the event page. To hear more about what drew Glennerster to DFID and what she plans to bring to the table, check out the clip below.
What will you remember about 2017? The growing crisis of displacement? The US pulling out of the Paris agreement and reinstating the global gag rule on family planning? Or that other countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris agreement, that Canada launched a feminist international assistance policy, that Saudi Arabia finally let women drive?
CGD experts have offered analysis and ideas all year, but now it's time to look forward.
What's going to happen in the world of development in 2018? Will we finally understand how to deal equitably with refugees and migrants? Or how technological progress can work for developing countries? Or what the impact of year two of the Trump Administration will be?
Today’s podcast, our final episode of 2017, raises these questions and many more as a multitude of CGD scholars share their insights and hopes for the year ahead. You can preview their responses in the video below.
Thanks for listening. Join us again next year for more episodes of the CGD Podcast.
History was made in Zimbabwe this week as Robert Mugabe finally agreed to resign the presidency after almost four decades in power. How the country will be governed by new leadership is still very much unknown—yet it is not too early for the international community to start considering how it can offer help to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy for the benefit of its people.
“The question is, is this going to be just a junta with some kind of fig leaf,” asks Todd Moss, CGD senior fellow and longtime Zimbabwe watcher, in this edition of the CGD Podcast, “or is this a genuine transitional authority that is going to lead to something better, which the international community can get behind?”
In the end, Mugabe’s own party and his military turned on him and forced him from office, where decades of economic decline, political opposition and international condemnation could not. Zimbabwe is left in a parlous state—indebted and unstable. Yet Moss, who lived and worked in Zimbabwe for some time and also served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under President George Bush, says there are specific things that donor governments, including the US, and international institutions, should be considering.
In the short term they include initial assistance in setting up free and fair elections, due next year, as well as reviewing Zimbabwe’s debt arrears and the sanctions against some regime members. In the long run, Moss says, Zimbabwe could benefit from the kind of truth and reconciliation process its neighbor South Africa undertook after apartheid. Moss outlines his ideas in a new blogpost entitled Seven Ways the International Community Can Help Zimbabwe through Tough Times.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world don't have a legal record of identification. Legally, they don't exist. Most of them are in the developing world—and they can't access services like healthcare or education, or get food rations or fuel subsidies. But what happens when more than a billion people get a digital ID in just five years?
“I don’t think people have fully internalized the agency that this gives,” says Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of the tech giant Infosys, on this week’s podcast. “The fact that you can go to any PDS [Public Distribution System] outlet to get your rations, go to any BC [business correspondent] to withdraw money—the bargaining power shifts from the supplier to the consumer.”
Nilekani is the founding chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, which devleoped Aadhaar—India's biometric ID system that has changed how the country's government provides services and subsidies.
According to Nilekani, 1.18 billion people are currently enrolled in Aadhaar, 12 billion dollars have been transferred using the platform, half a billion bank accounts have been linked to the platform, and India has saved 9 billion dollars by cutting down on fraud and waste.
But opponents of the system say that Aadhaar erodes people’s privacy, pointing to an Indian Supreme Court ruling that privacy is a constitutional right. “Yes, privacy is a fundamental right,” Nilekani says in the podcast. “However, the state can circumscribe certain privacies of people for certain good goals. . . . When the Aadhaar case gets taken up, it will pass the Supreme Court with flying colors.”
Hear his full response below.
For Nilekani, Aadhaar is just the beginning of a new era of innovation, built on digitally-enabled “societal platforms.” He is already putting this approach to work in the area of education, as the Co-founder and Chairman of the EkStep Foundation, and sees great potential for private development as well: “The next wave of innovation will be private innovators using this to come up with ideas which we can’t even fathom,” he says.
Listen to the full podcast at the top of this page and be on the look out for forthcoming CGD research on Aadhaar—including the results from a massive on-the-ground survey of Aadhaar users. In the meantime, you can hear more of what Nilekani had to say about Aadhaar on our website.
More than 65 million people are forcibly displaced, for on average about ten years. That's the scale of the problem facing Mark Lowcock, the new UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs.
This is not only a short-term humanitarian problem but a development issue as well. How well equipped is the system to respond? What types of reform are needed to make it more fit for purpose?
That was the topic of conversation when Mark Lowcock joined CGD's president Masood Ahmed in Washington recently for his first public event since taking up his new role.
“I am particularly enthused by the work that’s going on to join the development and humanitarian systems up better, which is absolutely at the heart of the UN reform agenda,” Lowcock said. “The truth is there are very few humanitarian crises which are solved on their own by humanitarian interventions.”
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 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.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh in a matter of weeks. The UN has called the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” What can the international community, and especially the US, do about it? Refugees International's Eric Schwartz and CGD's Jeremy Konyndyk have some ideas.
Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, believes that Africa’s development potential lies in the hands of Africans themselves and that underdevelopment is due to the lack of a suitably ambitious worldview. He lays out his ideas in his book Emerging Africa and, in our latest CGD podcast, Moghalu expands on the lessons learned from his time in office in Nigeria and on Africa’s development future as a whole.
Kellyanne Conway called him a “man of action” after a whirlwind first week in which President Trump signed 14 Executive Orders and presidential memoranda, covering most of his key campaign issue areas from health to immigration to trade. It should be noted that President Obama signed 13 such orders in his first week, including an order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, which he was unable to achieve in eight years in office.
President Trump’s agenda will undoubtedly face policy hurdles and legal challenges (starting with Saturday’s late night stay of certain measures in his immigration order), but the breakneck pace at which he has wielded the pen signals his intention to carry through his most strident campaign promises.
In a series of blogs, CGD experts have been examining how some of these specific policy intentions could impact development progress. As you would expect from a group of economists, we believe in—and encourage—evidence-based policymaking, and here we look at what the existing evidence and research tell us about how likely these Executive Orders are to achieve the president’s stated goals.
On Friday night, President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning refugees and citizens of seven majority Muslim nations from entering the United States. Our research shows this ban will result not only in serious harm to the world’s most vulnerable, but will also alienate allies the United States needs to fight violent extremism and protect American interests.
Some months after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US government shut down all unofficial, unmanned border crossings with Mexico. In 2013, that crossing was reopened. The re-opening has been a win-win for people on both sides of the border. But with Trump’s executive order calling for construction of the border wall, much remains to be seen in the realm of US-Mexico cooperation.
The New York Timesreported last week that the Trump Administration is considering a new Executive Order that mandates cutting all funding to bodies that give full membership to the Palestinian Authority and fund abortion amongst other categories, but also suggests “at least a 40 percent overall decrease” in remaining US funding towards international organizations. The proposed cuts would do almost nothing to reduce the deficit while weakening US national security and international leadership.
On his first day in the office, President Trump signed an executive order reinstating a 30-year-old political hot potato, the “Mexico City Policy." Like many, I will point out that reinstating the global gag rule does not reduce abortion.
By Amanda Glassman, Mayra Buvinic, and Charles Kenny
The scale of the turnout at the Women’s Marches across the world recently, along with President Trump’s early reinstatement of a ban on US funding for organizations that offer family planning services in foreign countries, seem to suggest an administration already at odds with an entire gender. On this podcast, three CGD senior fellows weigh in on the evidence that engaging and empowering women—both at home and overseas—makes good sense, especially in an America-First strategy.
It’s quite the buzz phrase: results-based development. But what is actually meant by "results"? Here at CGD, we think of achieved, verified development outcomes, not outputs, i.e. children actually learning more in school as opposed to just more schools built, or fewer deaths from malaria as opposed to increased roll-out of bed nets, or real-time satellite data showing more areas of tropical forest still standing.
In a new CGD Podcast I asked the same question of my guests, Dr. Raj Shah, former Administrator of USAID under President Obama, and Michael Gerson, former presidential speechwriter and Assistant for Policy and Strategic Planning under George W. Bush, and now a well-known columnist for the Washington Post. The two have reached across a generational and political divide to collaborate on "Foreign Assistance and the Revolution of Rigor," a chapter in the book Moneyball for Government, which underlines the importance of data-driven decision-making in development.
“Results are about, in my view, using American assistance to create human opportunity and to end extreme poverty around the world,” says Shah. “You just have to know what you’re trying to achieve, measure it with rigor and sophistication and make adaptations to ensure you’re delivering those results.”
Listen to the podcast to hear the response from Michael Gerson, who, during his years in the White House, helped create PEPFAR, President Bush’s celebrated scaling-up of efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS. How does Gerson know that initiative has achieved results?
“One of the most moving things I’ve ever seen in Africa were empty hospital beds,” he says of a visit to a rural clinic in Rwanda in recent years. Gerson recalls asking the head of the hospital how many patients were being treated for opportunistic infections related to AIDS. “We don’t have any,” Gerson recalls the man telling him.
India is a great example of what not to do, suggests Professor Karthik Muralidharan of the University of California, San Diego, a leading researcher on what works – and what does not work – in education in developing countries.
Seems strange when you consider Indians head up some of the biggest companies on the planet, including Google, Microsoft and Pepsi. But Muralidharan says these high achievers show up the weaknesses in India’s education system.
“The history of education in developing countries has not been about how to educate whole populations but how to channel those who are smart,” he told me in a CGD Podcast, recorded earlier this year.
The result is that many students stay in school for only a short time.
“[Kids] are dropping out not because they don’t want an education. They’re dropping out because they’re learning nothing,” he says starkly.
Muralidharan’s work, and that of other researchers, finds many problems with the received wisdom of how to improve levels of learning among schoolchildren. Smaller class sizes? Fail. Buy more textbooks? Fail. Hire more teachers, train them better, pay them more? Fail, fail, fail.
CGD is working in this area too, with Senior Fellows Lant Pritchett and Justin Sandefur taking a lead role on the RISE program to measure the quality of education in developing countries.
So, what does work? Watch the clip of our podcast below to hear Muralidharan’s one key piece of advice for policymakers. Or you can check out the full video here.
Muralidharan doesn’t seem too downcast about education. The Millennium Development Goals have seen a lot of progress in education in developing countries, he tells me. But the measurable outcomes of the MDGs – such as getting more children into school – have not been reflected in actual improvements in what children are learning.
“The default of putting more resources into schools is not working because the two key ingredients are missing: pedagogy and governance,” he says, by which he means how the resources pumped into schools are actually being used, and how education systems are held accountable and rewarded for performance.
From these principles, Muralidharan offers some rules of thumb:
Textbooks are usually written by elites and only benefit the best students,
Extra teaching for struggling students works if you throw away the textbook and focus on where the child is at, and
Teachers need to feel rewarded for good work in helping students improve.
Muralidharan does have positive comments about de-worming, the subject of the recent #wormwars social media frenzy, which CGD wrote about here. He describes it as small-scale with big impact – some good news in the otherwise checkered landscape of education interventions.
A dozen years since it was set up with a remit to reduce global poverty through economic growth, the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation recently revealed a new Strategic Plan. Deputy CEO Nancy Lee joined me on the CGD Podcast to discuss how the new plan responds to a very different development landscape.
A tenuous ceasefire notwithstanding, the millions of Syrians displaced will not be returning home anytime soon. What CGD can do is to delve beneath the anti-migration rhetoric to examine the facts about migrants and refugees, courtesy of our migration expert, Michael Clemens, who joins me on the CGD Podcast.