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.

 

How Leaders Condemning Trump’s Paris Pullout Can Match Words with Deeds on Climate

Last Thursday President Trump announced he’d withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement—a shameful act of self-harm. Condemnation has been swift, widespread, and gratifying. But if dangerous climate change is to be prevented then dissenting statements must be backed up with strong climate policies. Fortunately some countries, states, cities, and businesses are already matching words with deeds on climate. Here’s a rundown.

As Green Climate Fund Considers Results-Based Payments for Forests, Two Lessons from Earlier Initiatives

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) could begin offering results-based payments for protecting and restoring tropical forests as early as July. That’s good news for developing countries, where tropical deforestation can be nearly half of low-cost emission reductions. Yet funding to protect forests remains low and slow, as Frances Seymour and I explain in our book, Why Forests? Why Now? As the GCF moves to enable results-based payments for forests, earlier initiatives offer valuable lessons on two things the GCF should—and can—get right: 1) keep rules simple, and 2) recognize that institutional procedures built for upfront investments may not always be appropriate for results-based payments.

The World Needs More Bad Schools

A commission led by the UN's special envoy for education, Gordon Brown, is calling for a doubling of global aid for education, without any clear reform agenda to raise learning levels in the world's failing school systems. That might be ok: bad schools in poor countries still seem to produce big benefits.

How Much Aid is Really Lost to Corruption?

One of the questions reportedly from the Presidential transition team to the State Department was: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?” During the nomination hearings for Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, Senator Rand Paul provided one answer: seventy percent of aid is “stolen off the top.” The question is a fair one to ask. The bad news is that the short answer is “we don’t know.” The better news is that the slightly longer answer is “nowhere near 70 percent.” And the best news is that if we spent more time tracking the results of aid projects, we’d have a much better idea of where corruption was a problem and if our efforts to reduce it were working.

Can Payment for Results Repair Political Accountability Relations?

When people hear that a foreign aid program is paying for results, they can think about it in two very different ways. Some people think that paying for results is a way to control recipients, making them more strictly accountable to the people or organizations that are paying them. Others think that paying for results is a way to give recipients more autonomy and encourage them to be accountable to their beneficiaries (in the case of service providers) or their constituents (in the case of governments). It turns out that both perspectives are right—depending on just how the program that pays for results is designed.

Two Smart Ideas to Achieve a ‘Learning Generation’

Is big money really necessary, or even sufficient, to improving learning outcomes for children in the developing world? CGD’s background research submitted to the Commission has convinced us that the key to faster progress is not incremental money; it is focused action in two critical areas. The first necessary, unavoidable step is for political leaders, education officials, and parents in low-income countries to recognize the depth of the problem (children’s lives and public money wasted) in their country, and have the information to design and implement local solutions. The second is to shift education funding to paying for results, rather than inputs and plans.

What Can International Development Learn from Britain’s Olympic Team?

There is a lot of chatter about the reasons for Britain’s relative success in the Olympic games. This transformation in Britain’s sporting performance has generated a raft of tortured analogies with various non-sporting challenges, such as industrial and education policies (on which Britain’s performance is rather less stellar). So I’m leaping on the bandwagon with two lessons for international development.

First (Out)come, First Served? “Dispensers for Safe Water” Tests a COD Hypothesis

I’ve been working on the idea of Cash on Delivery (COD) for some years under the hypothesis that if we could define good outcome indicators, someone would step forward to buy them. So what would happen if an organization came forward with a plan to supply a verified outcome in return for a set unit payment after delivery? In a sense, this is what Dispensers for Safe Water, an Evidence Action program, is currently doing.

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