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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.

 

SERGIO and the Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century

This is a joint post with Lauren Young.

A dashing Brazilian man who keeps a flakjacket in his midtown Manhattan office, two firefighters from New York and Miami, a terrorist attack, and an attempted rescue using nothing but a string and a ladies handbag. Would you believe that this is a film about the United Nations? Sergio, which premiered on HBO this month, is the story of Sergio Vieira de Mello, an extraordinary public servant who died in the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq. The film (based on the book by Pulitzer-prize winning author Samantha Power) is a tribute to his leadership and service in the world’s worst troublespots.

Sergio Vieira de Mello began his career with the United Nations in Bangladesh, at the age of 23, and continued to mediate conflicts for the next three decades in countries such as Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Mozambique, and Lebanon.

UNESCO’s Decision to Accept Money from One of Africa’s Worst Dictators is Outrageous

This posting is joint with Julia Barmeier

According to its website, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has stopped accepting nominations for its UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. But we are guessing that the applicant pool remains quite small. Frankly, who would want his or her name affiliated with one of Africa’s worst dictators? Besides UNESCO, that is.

Esther Duflo’s Clark Medal Is a Great Sign for Development Research and Policy

This is a joint post with Vijaya Ramachandran.

A hearty congratulations to Esther Duflo, winner of this year’s John Bates Clark Medal! Since 1947 the American Economic Association has awarded the medal to “that American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” In our profession, the Clark Medal ranks second only to the Nobel Prize, and about 40 percent of medal winners have gone on to win a Nobel. Esther, a 37-year-old native of France, richly deserves this platinum honor.

GAFSP! U.S.-Led Food Security Fund Could Push Better Risk Management at World Food Program, Reducing Hunger

An illustrious lineup was on hand today at the U.S. Treasury for the launch of the somewhat awkwardly named Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a multidonor trust fund that the global leaders promised to create at the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh last September. The new fund’s goal: to help countries reduce poverty and hunger by increasing investments in agriculture, particularly amongst smallholder farmers. Speakers included U.S.

How the World Food Program Can Feed More People More Quickly with Better Risk Management Tools

The World Food Programme feeds almost 100 million people around the world. It has a world class logistical capability but its financial risk management capacity is extremely limited. In a new paper coauthored with Benjamin Leo and Owen McCarthy, I argue that the World Food Programme must be empowered to actively manage price risk, using financial markets to feed more people in a timely manner.

The UN Goes to Hollywood—But Is It Ready for a Close-Up?

This is a joint post with Lauren Young.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been getting negative press about the relief efforts after the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Perhaps worst is a scathing report from Refugees International accusing the UN of ineffectual leadership, missing coordination, and weak communication while an estimated 1.2 million Haitians remain displaced. Though much of the report consists of standard blandishments (the authors spent just 10 days in-country), there is indeed evidence of serious negligence. To give just one example: the organization initially planned on allowing itself two and a half months—well into the rainy season—to distribute plastic sheeting to protect the displaced. It took a personal intervention from a senior official to get this activity moved up.

Blurring the Line between Defense and Development

This is a joint post with Julia Barmeier.

In a little-noticed move in January, private military contractor DynCorp bought 100% of the shares of international development contractor Casals & Associates (the value of this acquisition was not disclosed). DynCorp says it plans to integrate Casals & Associates into its International Global Stabilization and Development Solutions division. In 2007, CGD research highlighted the Pentagon’s ever-expanding role in the development space. In the administration’s 2010-2011 budget proposal, 20% of the 2011 Department of State and Agency for International Development (USAID) budget is slated for “securing frontline states” (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan). The DynCorp-Casals merger suggests a blurring of the line between development and defense in the private sector, as well.

Should we be worried?

Dubai's Labor Market - A Model for Other Countries?

Dubai has many unique features—it is a city state arising improbably out of the desert, boasting some extraordinary buildings, including a hotel shaped like an Arabian dhow and a 12 million sq ft shopping mall, with a fountain four times the size of the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.  But despite this uniqueness, its labor market policies may well serve as a model for other countries.  Dubai has actively sought talent from all corners of the world—its population of 1.7 million has four times as many foreigners as locals.  These guest workers staff hotels, drive cabs, build skyscrapers, a

Postcard from Dubai—Infrastructure Investments May Eventually Prove Wise After All

Dubai must be seen to be believed. Even its skyline is unreal--rising straight out of the desert and now dominated by the 2625 ft tall, 160-story, silver and glass structure, the Burj Khalifa, built by Samsung to be twice as tall as the Empire State Building in New York. But two months after its grand opening, the Burj remains mostly empty with its observation deck closed to visitors--perhaps symbolic of the fate of this Emirate, which has recently become dependent on huge amounts of short-term debt to keep its economy going.

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