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Views from the Center

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All That Glisters: The Golden Thread and Complexity

David Cameron co-chairs the UN Panel on the future of the development agenda, so his 'golden thread' view of development is likely to have a global impact. In the second of three blog posts looking at development policy through the lens of complexity thinking, Owen Barder asks whether the British government's golden thread is good development policy. He concludes that though it has much to commend it, it also has significant weaknesses.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wants us to stop talking simply about the quantity of aid we give, and:

“start talking about what I call the ‘golden thread’, which is you only get real long-term development through aid if there is also a golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law, transparent information.”

This is not a new wheeze: Mr Cameron has been talking about the golden thread since before he became leader of the Conservative party. Given that he is a co-chair of the UN High Level Panel on the global development agenda after 2015, we can expect to see some of this thinking in that panel’s recommendations.

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’.