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We’re a third of the way through the lifetime of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were set to transform the world by 2030. But when it comes to SDG 5 on gender equality, global progress towards targets remains either unmeasured or too slow.
For much of the last decade, the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), has delivered a share of its profits as grants to the World Bank Group’s soft lending arm for governments, the International Development Association (IDA). In the last couple of years that pattern has reversed.
It is now abundantly clear that aid money will provide only a fraction of the resources needed to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. That realization came early on, and it was a central theme of the Addis Financing for Development conference of 2015, held before the SDGs were even signed.
Do the fifteen year targets of the SDGs stand in the way of their vision of integration and sustainability? If you wanted to achieve long term development progress, you’d probably focus on technology change, learning and innovation in policies, and improving institutional functioning. If you wanted to improve outcomes in fifteen years, you’d probably focus on throwing money at technical solutions. The problems with the second approach include that we don’t have the money, and the technical solutions won’t necessarily work best over the long term.
There were two major gatherings of global leaders this year – in New York for the UN General Assembly and in Paris for the climate talks. In some ways, the agreements that came out of both meetings look similar. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a bunch of aspirational targets for national and global progress without any legal authority, some of which look simply implausible without truly revolutionary global policy change of which there is little sign to date. Paris
Has the effort to make the goals famous laid the foundation for a global movement? The initial evidence suggests ‘not yet.’ And in defense of the Global Goals organizers, that isn't for lack of trying.
In 2004, Michael Clemens, Todd Moss, and I wrote a paper on the Millennium Development Goals. It made a lot of forecasts about development trends, aid flows, and political fallout from the goal-setting exercise over the next 11 years.
There were a lot of speeches made around the SDGs by prime ministers and presidents this weekend that had a broadly similar format. The result was much stirring rhetoric, and almost nothing in the way of progress.
Next week, President Obama will head up to New York to deliver two speeches to the General Assembly. One will be the "standard" once-yearly address at the opening of the new Assembly Session. The second will focus on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a fifteen year vision of development progress from ending extreme poverty to halting biodiversity loss that will be adopted by the largest ever gathering of world leaders.
In two weeks, a teaming mass of world leaders are going to descend on New York to sign up to the Sustainable Development Goals. Among the targets to be met by 2030 are global universal access to water, sanitation, reliable modern energy, and communications technologies. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that meeting these infrastructure targets would involve a trillion or more dollars in additional infrastructure investment in developing countries every year. That begs the question: where is the money going to come from?