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What a difference 20 years can make. Twenty years ago, I was the World Bank point person organizing a response to the Houston G7 Summit's mandate to the bank and what was then called the European Community or EC to devise an Amazon forest protection program.
Davos does feel different this year. CEOs as a group, if I can generalize after less than one full day, are crowding into open sessions to hear the experts opine on the world economy and the financial crisis (large meeting halls are filled early and many would-be attendees are left out in the cold). In prior years they seem to have spent more time networking with each other in the corridors. The press has emphasized that the Davos stars this year will come from the political not the corporate or entertainment worlds. So it seems.
Eldis, the online aggregator of development policy, practice and research at the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, is conducting a survey to identify "the most significant new piece of development research of 2008." This strikes me as having roughly the same statistical validity as American Idol does for when it comes to finding new singing talent. Still, as with Idol and other talent shows, the entertainment value of a popularity contest is hard to dispute!
“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you. . . . And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.”
Our former postdoc Chris Blattman has terrific advice for aspiring graduate students wondering if they should get into the business (via a Ph.D) of impact evaluation via randomized controlled trials (RCTs) -- RCTs have apparently become all the rage. For development aficionados an RCT-based Ph.D. has many benefits: field work in exotic settings, a rationale for doing applied empirical work while also being visibly rigorous and scientific (!) and apparently, a straightforward path to a journal publication.
We are at the start of what promises to be an unusually difficult year in the global economy. Policy decisions in the United States and other rich world countries will matter immensely for poor and vulnerable people living in developing countries.