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.
What impact does corruption have on development, and what’s the best way to stamp it out? Some in the media would have you believe that large amounts of public money are being pocketed by corrupt officials, and that the only way to stop it is to cut foreign aid budgets. Meanwhile, aid agencies and others argue that foreign aid is necessary to save lives. How do we square these?
In a new book called Results, Not Receipts: Counting the Right Things in Aid and Corruption, CGD senior fellow Charles Kenny offers a way to strengthen the case for aid and reduce corruption at the same time: focus on outcomes, rather than inputs.
“If you get a road built to quality . . . and you’ve ended up with a price that seems right for the cost of building that road, there’s no money left over there to fuel corruption,” Kenny explains in this week’s podcast. On the other hand, he says, if you don’t monitor the outcome of your project, it becomes very easy for contractors to cut corners.
Focusing on outcomes also helps donors and agencies demonstrate impact. “When you focus very heavily on receipts, all you have to show your voter is a bunch of paper,” Kenny tells me. “I want to see the healthy kid, I want to see the kid who’s been educated. . . . If we can deliver that, I think we make the case for aid much stronger.”
As we mark World Refugee Day, it is increasingly clear that there is a desperate need to fill the gap between short-term humanitarian response and long-term development need. Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury and CGD senior policy fellow Cindy Huang join the CGD podcast to discuss an innovative solution: refugee compacts.
“Twenty percent of our population is made up of Syrian refugees,” Jordan’s Planning Minister Imad Fakhoury tells me in this edition of the CGD Podcast. His estimate is twice the official count from UN agencies, and is based on his country’s last census. “There are villages and towns in the north and the center where the number of Syrians is higher than the number of Jordanian citizens living there, so it makes it very difficult to maintain social cohesion.“
Jordan’s response has been to innovate, through piloting a more integrated approach to refugee response called a compact—an agreement between host and donor governments and humanitarian and development actors. Compacts acknowledge that traditional short-term approaches to humanitarian crises—for example, refugee camps and emergency hand-outs—are no longer appropriate when 65 million people have been forcibly displaced, and the average duration a refugee stays away from home is ten years.
As we mark World Refugee Day, it is increasingly clear that there is a desperate need to fill the gap between short-term humanitarian response and long-term development need. CGD senior policy fellow Cindy Huang, along with IRC’s Nazanin Ash, are authors of a joint report between the two organizations that looks at how compacts of the type pioneered in Jordon, and in Lebanon, can be used more widely to address this gap.
Minister Fakhoury and Cindy Huang join me for this podcast. Click below to hear some results from Jordan’s refugee compact experiment.
President Trump’s recent decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement—what does it mean for the agreement? For the climate? And for the US? CGD senior fellows Scott Morris, director of CGD’s US Development Policy Initiative, and Jonah Busch, coauthor of the recent book on climate change Why Forests? Why Now?, join this week’s podcast to discuss.
When President Trump announced his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement recently, CGD senior fellow Jonah Busch described the move in a CGD blogpost as a "shameful act of self-harm." Given the chorus of good intentions from other world leaders, as well as governors and mayors in the US, Busch offers advice for how they can step up on climate action, in this edition of the CGD podcast as well as in a follow-up, more forward-looking blogpost How Leaders Condemning Trump’s Paris Pullout Can Match Words with Deeds on Climate.
"It’s great that these many political leaders have signed on,” says Busch, “and I hope that they start turning these into climate action. If they do, they will go a long way toward filling the gap."
My other podcast guest, Scott Morris, senior fellow and director of CGD's US Development Policy Initiative, agrees with Busch’s characterization of the president’s decision as harming the US, which, he says, has traditionally shared a sense of common purpose with other countries.
“In my mind, the politics of this globally have very, very wide ramifications beyond climate—and that’s certainly not to sell climate short,” he says. “It’s a hugely consequential issue, but it really implicates a much wider issue where the modus operandi, particularly as a leader among nations, has been to work in this community of nations. And what we are seeing from this administration in the very justification for the withdrawal is a flat out rejection of that approach. And that really is deeply concerning for a wider range of issues.”
The location for this year's G7 Summit, in the Sicilian coastal city of Taormina, is a reminder that Italy's shores are a frontline for refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from North Africa and the Middle East. For the summit dignitaries who will attend, IRC's David Miliband has some advice on how to address the refugee crisis, which he shares in this edition of the CGD Podcast.
"They call themselves the Group of Seven leading economies—live up to it," says David Miliband, CEO and President of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), about the A-list club of rich-nations—US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan—whose leaders are about to gather to discuss, among other things, the refugee crisis.
The location for this year's G7 Summit, in the Sicilian coastal city of Taormina, is a reminder that Italy's shores are a frontline for refugees making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean from North Africa and the Middle East.
For the summit dignitaries who will attend, Miliband has some advice, which he shares in this edition of the CGD Podcast. Remember, he urges, "this refugee crisis is a trend not a blip." His suggestions echo a recent, joint CGD-IRC report, Refugee Compacts: Addressing the Crisis of Protracted Displacement. Click below to hear what Miliband wants world leaders to realize about the global refugee crisis.
"We need an economic bargain with hosting countries," Miliband tells me in the podcast, "not just a social services, short-term humanitarian bargain."
One such type of economic bargain are compacts—agreements between host countries and humanitarian and development actors. The CGD-IRC report recommends compacts as one sustainable measure to address the refugee crisis. For more on that, check out the report and infographic, and watch for a podcast on the topic coming later this summer.
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. What did the US—the biggest global health responder—learn in that time? And what can other organizations such as the World Health Organization learn?
As the World Health Assembly gathers in Geneva, today’s podcast brings you some ideas of how to improve the global system of response and increase our preparedness for the next inevitable outbreak. It also highlights the role that global health plays in national security—hear what Amy Pope, former deputy homeland security adviser under President Obama, had to say about that in the clip below.
Along with Pope, our speakers included Jeremy Konyndyk, CGD senior policy fellow and former director of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance; David Smith, currently performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs; and Rebecca Martin, director of the Center for Global Health at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Amanda Glassman, CGD’s chief operating officer and senior fellow in global health.
President-elect Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to "make America great again." Development may not be high on his agenda, but he will come into office at a time when Americans are more dependent than ever on the global economy and when global challenges can threaten Americans’ security at home. As CGD’s White House and the World project puts it, “what happens abroad matters at home.” And effective US development policy, while no cure-all, can make a difference. It can help open markets to US businesses and others. It can build partnerships to strengthen health systems to prevent the next pandemic from reaching our shores. And US development policy can—and has—lifted millions out of poverty.
Today, it is worth revisiting both why US leadership on development matters and how it can be improved. As Nancy Birdsall and Ben Leo wrote in White House and the World:
Effective global development policies are central to maintaining America’s stabilizing leadership in the world, improving Americans’ livelihoods, and growing America’s markets overseas for the coming decade. With responsibility to protect the American people and promote their prosperity, the next US president must develop and promote a unifying strategy that addresses vexing global threats while also advancing US commercial and foreign policy interests. Such a strategy must deploy the full range of military, diplomatic, and development tools available to the US government in a coordinated and cohesive manner. In this century, global development policy — and one that includes trade, investment, and migration as well as foreign aid — is no longer just the right thing to do. It is a sound investment in America’s long-term security.
Many of the security threats that imperil Americans have arisen in settings where democracy and development have never taken root — or were stalled or reversed before they were consolidated. Destructive and destabilizing conflicts are raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. Afghanistan faces a highly uncertain transition as US troops withdraw and the foreign engagement–led boom declines. Weak or failed states — such as Somalia — remain a haven for armed groups that destabilize and undermine development progress in their neighbors. Religious extremism in Nigeria, the Sahel, and the Middle East puts democracy and human freedoms in fledgling economies at risk. These freedoms appear fragile, or even on the retreat, in Egypt, Myanmar, and a number of Sub-Saharan African nations.
Other global and regional challenges also undermine progress in poor countries and threaten Americans’ own future. The Ebola crisis in West Africa — exacerbated by weak health systems and the lack of a timely global response mechanism — was a frightening reminder of the risks of global pandemics. Gender discrimination, corruption, lack of opportunity, and repressive governments in many parts of the developing world are an affront to universal values. America is often the only actor capable of marshaling the resources, political capital, and technical know-how required to address these tough issues.
In addition to security threats, the US economy and the American workforce are more reliant than ever on developing-country markets. US exports to developing countries have grown by more than 400 percent over the last 20 years. Today, they total more than $600 billion annually and are greater than US exports to China, Europe, and Japan combined. Brazil, Colombia, India, Korea, Malaysia, Turkey, and other countries are leading markets for US exports. Three decades ago, these were relatively poor countries that offered limited US export potential. Populous countries like Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Nigeria have the potential to be the next wave of emerging markets. It makes strategic sense to further advance America’s global prosperity agenda, thereby helping to grow middle-class societies that drive democratic change, promote peace with their neighbors, and reliably purchase US products and services.
While the list of challenges is long, US global leadership has contributed to tremendous progress throughout much of the world. Over the last 25 years, health and education outcomes have improved at a pace previously unknown in human history. Life expectancy has increased by nearly a decade in poor countries. Child mortality has nearly halved. Girls in poor countries are almost two times more likely to complete secondary schooling. Seemingly intractable conflicts in Africa and other regions have been contained. Democratic freedoms are demonstrably higher than during the Cold War era. US engagement and leadership has played a critical role in helping to achieve these remarkable gains in human well-being and in greater long-term security for people around the world, as well as for Americans.
In the months and year ahead, CGD experts will continue to look for the practical, evidence-based ideas that offer a win-win for all countries, rich and poor. We’ll analyze the new administration’s policies and pronouncements and work to make them better for people around the world.
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.
Georgieva has returned to the Bank to take up the newly-created role of CEO after years in high level positions within the EU and its governing structures, including as head of its refugee and migration policy. So I also asked her how the Bank’s new way of thinking could address transnational problems like the refugee crisis and climate change, and how all the multilateral development banks can work together better – something CGD examined in a major report last year.
Imagine the panic and frustration you’d feel if you lost your passport or driver’s license. They are basic proofs of identity that we – in the developed world – readily use to access a huge range of services from getting on a plane, to opening a bank account, to proving our eligibility for education, to exercising our right to vote. Yet around 2 billion people – mainly in the developing world – have no legal form of identity. That includes some 650m children who have never been registered at birth.
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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.
Many in the development world call themselves change agents—campaigners, organizers, development workers, even researchers here at CGD. But how does change actually happen?
My guest this week on the CGD Podcast is Oxfam senior strategic advisor Duncan Green, who’s about to release a book on that very question. The book, Green tells me, is partly a response to the fragmented theories of change that have been touted in the development sector.
“Everybody talks abut change but we don’t have a proper language for talking about change,” Green says. “We have lots of conversations where people are talking past each other—economists and political scientists using different language, anthropologists using another language. And so [the book] is partly an attempt to try to get a common discussion going around the central issue of development.”
Can there really be one unified theory of change? “I got over that,” laughs Green, a former physics student. But there is, he tells me in the clip below, a common element: “In any system, a development intervention is often about rearranging power.”
While still a work in progress, the Trump Administration’s first budget request to Congress is expected to contain deep cuts to the US foreign affairs budget. What would substantial funding reductions mean for US efforts to advance global development and for US interests more broadly? What does the evidence tell us about US investments in foreign aid? How can the administration and Congress work to ensure the best use of assistance dollars?
How do you make the case for US foreign aid to an Administration that has proposed slashing it? That was the task for Mark Suzman, Chief Strategy Officer and president of Global Policy and Advocacy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, when he recently accompanied Bill Gates to meetings at the White House. In this week's CGD podcast, Suzman gives us two very different versions of the fight against global poverty and disease—the perception and the reality. At an event called Financing the Future, he joined CGD experts Masood Ahmed, Amanda Glassman, and Antoinette Sayeh to discuss ways the development community can better convey their results.
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.