Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.


An image of someone casting a ballot.

Scaling the Summit of Democracies

One of President Biden’s foreign policy campaign commitments was to hold a “Summit of Democracies” in the first year of his presidency. While skeptics have raised valid concerns—not least which countries should appear on the guestlist— a summit could spur useful reforms at home and abroad.

Close-up of a person casting a vote into a ballot box

8 Principles of Direct Democracy

We propose eight principles of direct democracy that shall provide guidance on the basic premises to be considered when direct democratic decision-making institutions are constituted. While institutional setups vary immensely across countries, there may exist a number of fundamental propositions that are widely applicable; propositions that make the use of direct democracy less controversial, less risky, more cohesive, and, not least, more democratic. It is important to discuss and clarify the use of this constitutive democratic institution that receives rather little attention.

Stock photo of oil pumpjacks

How Can Countries Escape the Natural Resource Curse? Answer: Democracy

How can countries escape the natural resource curse? And to what extent do cohesive and democratic institutions facilitate this process? In a new CGD working paper, we look at Nigeria—often seen as the prime example of a country cursed by its wealth. We show that when political institutions are cohesive and power is shared among the diverse groups in a multi-ethnic society, political contests over resource revenues are less likely to be violent. What produces cohesive institutions? Democratic elections.

Nancy Birdsall to Deliver Kapuscinski Development Lecture in Berlin

On February 23, CGD President Nancy Birdsall will deliver the first Kapuscinski Development Lecture of 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Her lecture, “The New Middle Class in the Developing World: Does It Matter?” will take a hard look at what it means to be middle class in developing countries and explore the role of strugglers, the rapidly expanding group of people caught between extreme poverty and the middle class.

What Is Development?

This is the first of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development. These posts draw on a new online lecture by Owen Barder, based on his Kapuscinski Lecture in May 2012 which was sponsored by UNDP and the EU. In this post, Barder explains how complexity science, which is belatedly getting more attention from mainstream economists, gives a new perspective to the meaning of ‘development’.

Why Democracies Fail: Lessons from Mali?

The recent coups in the Maldives and Mali against democratically elected leaders, and the continuing political struggles in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya following the Arab Spring, are potent reminders that democracy is a fragile institution. In fact, of the 120 attempts at democratization that have occurred around the world since 1960, nearly half have been reversed at some point. The reasons for democratic failure, however, are surprising.