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Views from the Center

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Brave New World: Emerging Donors and the Changing Nature of Foreign Assistance

This is a joint post with Julie Walz

As we approach the Fourth High Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, the topic of emerging donors looms large. While some policymakers hope the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will play a larger role, others warn they lack a collective agenda and do not have enough influence in a space dominated by members of the OECD-DAC.

G-20 Endorses World Food Programme Hedging

This post is co-authored by Vijaya Ramachandran

Last week, the G-20 agriculture ministers meeting in Paris issued a communiqué calling for the World Food Programme to develop hedging strategies to purchase food. In a little-noticed section towards the end of a 24-page document, the ministers stated:

We invite the multilateral, regional and national development banks or agencies to further explore, in connection with the private sector as appropriate:

Development of hedging strategies that could help international humanitarian agencies, in particular WFP, to optimize food procurements and maximize the purchasing power of financial resources, building upon forward purchase… (Annex 5)

What WOULD It Take for the US and Europe to Give Up Control of World Bank and IMF Leadership?

This is a joint post with David Roodman.

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn debacle has unexpectedly forced the first leadership turnover at a Bretton Woods institution since the global financial crisis—the first leadership transition in what we might call the G-20 world. The tacit deal that has long put an American atop the World Bank and a European in charge of the IMF, rooted in the geopolitics of the 1940s, looks more archaic than ever. That’s why this time around, the calls have grown even louder to make the leadership selection process of the World Bank and IMF open, transparent, and meritocratic. Owen Barder suggests on his widely read blog that transparency and merit are key to maintain the reputation and relevancy of these international institutions, and Nancy Birdsall agrees that the decision needs to be based on merit, not nationality. The Financial Times and others news media say that it is time for everyone to acknowledge that we are in the 21st century with several emerging powers that must have a larger role in the Bank, the Fund and other multilateral organizations. One of us (Vij) has made this argument too, constructing a model of global governance that factors in GDP and population as of 2011, not 1941.

Equatorial Guinea Dictator to Lead the African Union

Yesterday, the African Union chose Equatorial Guinea’s dictator of 31 years, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, to serve as their chairman; a move that will undoubtedly undermine the AU’s attempt to bring stability to the African continent and to confront leaders who cling to power./

Obiang has been criticized for violating the basic human rights that the AU swears to uphold and is consideredone of the world’s worst dictators. Having ruled the country since 1979, Obiang claims to have won 97 percent of the vote in 2002 and 95 percent in 2009. And despite their oil wealth, the people of Equatorial Guinea have seen little benefit. Life expectancy is a mere 50 years, half of the children who live in that country do not complete primary school, and about 15 percent die before age of 5. The country ranks 118 out of 182 in the UNDP Human Development Index.

South Africa to Launch Development Aid Agency

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

South Africa announced last week that it will launch its own development aid agency in 2011 - the South African Development Partnership Agency. This move places South Africa ahead of other emerging donors such as India and China , who have yet to create separate agencies to dispense aid.

No longer just a recipient of aid, South Africa has quietly ramped up its role as a leader on the African continent, largely via peacekeeping, post-conflict reconstruction, and even analytical work.

Baby Doc Return to Haiti!? Let Bill Clinton Run for President!

This post is joint with Julie Walz

The surprise return of ousted dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier to Haiti has thrown more uncertainty into a country already struggling with political paralysis from the November election and a painful recovery from last year’s quake. Duvalier returned after nearly 25 years in exile and was arrested in Port au Prince for charges of corruption and embezzlement. The following day, a lawsuit was filed against him for torture and crimes against humanity. Duvalier is blamed, along with his father Francoise “Papa Doc” Duvalier, for the torture and rape of thousands –between 40,000 and 60,000 Haitians are thought to have died under their rule from 1957 – 1986. Despite this horrendous record, some young Haitians are drawn to Baby Doc, believing that he might bring some relief from the desperate conditions in which they find themselves.

Still Time to Prevent Another Food Price Crisis—and the One after That?

This is a joint post with Vijaya Ramachandran.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) recently reported that the December 2010 Food Price Index surpassed the peak reached in June 2008. A closer examination of the data, however, provides some modest hope that the worst effects of the 2007-08 price spikes can be avoided, with luck and better policies.

First, it is important to note that only two of the five components of the Food Price Index were above 2008 levels—meat (slightly above) and sugar (more than twice as high). Second, as shown in the chart below, staple grain prices, which are key to preventing hunger among the poor, are increasing sharply, while rice and, to a lesser degree, wheat remain well below their 2008 peaks. Maize is the exception, thanks in part to U.S. policies supporting corn-based ethanol that bring to mind the zombies populating popular culture—they just won’t die!