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Losing Another Congressional Champion on Global Development: Lantos to Retire

*This is a joint post with Sheila Herrling
The announcement Wednesday that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) will not seek reelection in 2008 following a diagnosis of esophageal cancer is another loss for what is becoming a slim group of congressional champions for development and responsible U.S. global engagement. In a press release from his office, Lantos said:

It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.
Throughout my adult life I have sought to be a voice for human rights, civil liberties and social justice, both at home and around the world. My wife, Annette, and I look forward to continuing this vital work with purpose and verve every day for the remainder of my term.

Bring Back Nuhu Ribadu: Nigeria's Dedicated Corruption Fighter

DAKAR, Senegal: Nigeria's anti-corruption chief, whose investigations have ensnared some of the country's wealthiest politicians and officials, will be sent to a year-long training course in a remote police academy, according to senior law enforcement officials in Nigeria, in what many analysts and anti-corruption activists say is an attempt to sideline him.

Howard White Selected as First Head of the New International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3IE)

Our efforts toward more and better impact evaluation of development programs made a major advance this week with the announcement that Howard White, who has dedicated his career to building evidence about development effectiveness, has accepted the position as the first director of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (see the CGD initiative: Closing the Evaluation Gap).

Bali: Disaster Loomed and Everyone Blinked. Now Let's Get Serious, Fast

The White House finally blinked in the final hours of the UN's Bali Conference on Climate Change. The catalyst may have been the unprecedented boos and hisses directed at the US delegation from the floor, or the peremptory challenge from Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea's representative: "If for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please, get out of the way." Confronted by the prospect of pariah status, the US dropped its categorical resistance to emissions reduction targets and permitted their inclusion in a footnote to the final agreement.

Improving Climate Projections and Adaptation: A Hot Research Topic in Bali

Besides the official negotiations and speeches, the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali that I've been attending also provided opportunities for sharing new research and ideas. Two subjects dominated the schedule: adaptation and forestry (no doubt reflecting the preferences of our Indonesian hosts). Here I briefly discuss the use of climate models in adaptation -- a critical issue for those in the development community. [In a separate post to follow I'll note some new efforts in the measurement and monitoring of forest carbon.]

Beyond the HELP Commission

*This is a joint post with Sarah Jane Hise
On Monday, the HELP Commission released its much-anticipated final report, "Beyond Assistance." The Commission, created by an Act of Congress spearheaded by Congressman Wolf (R-VA) in January 2004, certainly achieved its mission -- to conduct a thorough review of current U.S. foreign assistance efforts and make bold recommendations for mechanisms, structures and incentives to empower recipients and meet U.S. national security and foreign policy goals and objectives. The fact that such a diverse group of political and other interests could agree that foreign assistance is vital to U.S. interests but is broken and needs to be rebuilt in a way that elevates development to more equal footing with diplomacy and defense is music to our ears. As were most of the guiding principles and specific recommendations put forth by the Commission, including:
consolidating the disarray of organizations, purposes and accounts of assistance;rewriting the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to establish a new compact on foreign assistance;enhancing policy coherence, particularly by aligning U.S. trade and development policies;increasing resources -- staff, management training, and budget -- for foreign aid;ring-fencing long-term development assistance from redirection to short-term security and policy needs;encouraging greater investment in economic growth, agriculture and infrastructure programs; removing trade restrictions that hamper development, including reducing U.S. agricultural subsidies and providing duty-free/quota-free access for Millennium Challenge Account countries and for countries with $2000 per capita GDP;reestablishing an independent Office of Monitoring and Evaluation to track performance and report results; andinstituting a Quadrennial Development and Humanitarian Assistance Review.

Down and Out in Bali: U.N. Climate Change Negotiations So Far Lack Urgency

I'm in one of the world's most beautiful places, and I am seriously bummed. Few people had much in the way of expectations for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali -- its purpose is to simply set the terms for negotiations over the next two years -- but I had retained a modicum of hope. I was especially hopeful that, in light of the IPCC's synthesis report and mountains of observational evidence of rapidly changing climate, we would see a new sense of urgency in the talks.

The Value of Rejecting Expert Advice

This is a joint posting with Peter Timmer.
This past weekend, the New York Times published a provocative story titled "Ending Famine, Simply By Ignoring the Experts" (login required), about how Malawi has rescued itself from endless cycles of famine. The Times argued that Malawi accomplished this seemingly impossible goal by ignoring experts from the World Bank and rich-country aid organizations who have insisted that Malawi should cut back or eliminate its subsidies on fertilizer. But Malawi's newly elected president, Bingu wa Mutharika, did just the opposite--he reinstated and deepened the subsidies, which in turn increased yields and resulted in exports of corn to neighboring countries. Was the president right to do this?

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