Impacts and Influence

Over the years, CGD has developed new tools and new ideas that continue to have significant impact on the lives of millions; we’ve influenced multilateral organizations and governments, we’ve encouraged them to implement best practices in their operations and governance, helped them improve development policy, and provided policy solutions to make global finance fairer for all.

We’re thankful to our supporters, friends, and partners for helping us work to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for us all.

New Tools, New Ideas

development impact bonds schematic

Development Impact Bonds (DIBs) finance development programs with money from private investors who earn a return if the program is successful (paid by a third-party donor). With greater focus on outcomes instead of inputs, DIBs create space for more innovation, local problem-solving, and adaptation. DIBs were proposed and designed in a 2013 CGD working group report; the first DIB was implemented in 2014 to improve education in Rajasthan, India.

man getting iris scan

The importance of identification for development is enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals. Alan Gelb’s work on new biometric technologies for identification helped the World Bank launch an entirely new program of analytical work, lending, and assistance,  ID4D,  which takes an integrated view of the role of ID in development. CGD’s ongoing expertise in this area is helping shape best practices in numerous applications including elections, financial inclusion, and discouraging child trafficking.

Advance Market Commitments came out of CGD working group co-chaired by Ruth Levine in 2005. In 2009, G-7 finance ministers endorsed its approach of donors’ promising to buy a vaccine against a specific disease when and if such a vaccine is developed. Five countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have since committed $1.5 billion in a pilot program for a vaccine to prevent the strains of pneumococcal disease common in developing countries.

boy in school library in Ethiopia

CGD proposed Cash on Delivery Aid as a way to make aid more effective by paying for development outcomes rather than inputs (e.g., increasing learning rather than building more schools). In 2010, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Ethiopia became the first to implement an aid program inspired by this model. This pilot aims to increase the number of students who successfully complete a lower secondary education.

Encouraging Best Practices


CGD’s Priority-Setting Institutions for Global Health working group proposed the creation of a new institution to support developing countries and donors in making better-informed resource allocation decisions for health care in a 2012 report. In 2014, the UK’s Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, drawing on technical support from CGD, announced their support for the creation of the new International Decision Support Initiative (iDSI), led by NICE International. One early outcome of the iDSI network was a 2015 agreement on a new framework for better priority-setting between emerging economy governments and multinational pharmaceutical executives.

Recommendations of a CGD working group, Delivering on the Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with the Nairobi-based African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) were reflected in the UN’s A World That Counts report and the OECD’s Informing a Data Revolution roadmap. The working group’s recommendations were also a core input to, and echoed, in the Africa Data Consensus, adopted by the Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. 

commitment to development impact

In 2003, CGD introduced the first metric to gauge countries’ policies across seven policy areas important for development: aid, trade, finance, migration, security, technology, and climate. Now produced by CGD Europe, the annual Commitment to Development Index has become a valuable tool for policymakers around the world. Finland and the Netherlands use the CDI as an official performance metric for their development policy, and the UK’s Department for International Development lists the index as a measure of overall Whitehall policy coherence.

girls in South Africa

Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health was the first major product of CGD’s global health policy program and continues to have an impact more than a decade late by challenging the myth that development investments are costly and ineffective. Millions Saved has been welcomed by the policy and advocacy community and an academic edition of the book has become a key teaching aid for public health policy classes in colleges and universities around the world. A third edition is planned for release in April 2016 and will include 22 new case studies. 

international initiative for impact evaluation

Efforts to design better aid programs are often hampered by the failure to evaluate what works in existing programs. In 2004, Ruth Levine convened a working group to find solutions to this problem; its 2006  report urged the creation of a new institution to establish best practice standards, identify high-priority areas for study, and fund and review new impact evaluations. With significant technical support from CGD, a group of bilateral and international donors backed the creation of the new International Initiative for Impact Evaluation or 3ie (“Triple I E”).

Improving Development Policy

passport visa

After Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake, CGD assessed what was needed for the country to “build back better.” First stop? US immigration policy. Led by Michael Clemens, the Center successfully advocated to add Haitians to the list of nationalities eligible to participate in the United States’ largest temporary work visa program, opening the door for them to increase their earning potential by about 10 times through temporary employment in seasonal jobs in the United States. 

us soldier in afghanistan

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, focused fresh attention on security threats emanating from chronically underdeveloped regions. In response, the Center's Commission on Weak States and US National Security convened congressional actors, academics, and NGO leaders to craft a coherent strategy toward weak states. Their conclusions spurred policymakers to take action, and their recommendations served as an impetus for a Presidential Directive that established a Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization under the Secretary of State. Carlos Pascual, the first coordinator, recognized the role of the commission's work.

President Obama

CGD work continues to influence at the highest levels of government. Several CGD initiatives appeared in President Obama’s firstsecond, and final Global Development Council reports. Ben Leo and Todd Moss’s work on a proposal to establish a US Development Finance Corporation featured prominently. CGD ideas on Cash on Delivery AidDevelopment Impact Bonds, and tropical forests were also included.

The research and analysis of CGD’s US Development Policy Initiative (DPI) helps shape efforts to reform US investment, trade, and foreign assistance policies that impact developing countries. The team’s advice has been sought for the Presidential Study Directive on US Global Development Policy, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, congressional reviews, and other key reform efforts. DPI was also instrumental in creating the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Millennium Challenge Corporation logo

CGD made significant contributions to the design of the US Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), administered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Steve Radelet’s book Challenging Foreign Aid set forth many of the guiding premises of the new aid program. Later, CGD launched the MCA Monitor, led by Sheila Herrling, to provide analysis and advice on country selection, program implementation, and adherence to the MCA’s core principle of transparent, nonpolitical aid allocation. On the basis of the MCA Monitor’s strong reputation, Herrling was asked to lead President Obama’s transition team's work on the MCC.

rice prices in a market

In mid-2008, rice prices had spiked fourfold since the start of the year, and poor people in many parts of the world were facing extreme hardship. Yet Japan held 1.5 million tons of imported rice that it did not want but could not re-export without US permission. Drawing on research by Peter Timmer and market intelligence from Tom Slayton, CGD used blogs, media, congressional testimony, and other tools to quickly win Washington’s assent. With news of the approval, global rice prices fell by 25 percent in just two weeks, alleviating shortages in several poor countries. (Getting Japan to actually release the rice proved more difficult.)

hiv aids monitor logo

US legislation in 2008 reauthorizing PEPFAR through FY2013 incorporated recommendations from CGD’s HIV/AIDS Monitor, led by Nandini Oomman. In addition, the 2009 White House Five-Year Strategy for PEPFAR included a policy framework that mirrored HIV/AIDS Monitor recommendations. Separately, recommendations set out in a 2013 CGD paper were well received by Ambassador Deborah Birx, who said it has influenced her leadership at PEPFAR.

Influencing Multilateral Organizations

In 2015 the Asian Development Bank announced a merger of its loan and grant funds, allowing it to increase its lending capital substantially. This followed a formal independent assessment of the proposal at the request of the bank’s donors by Nancy BirdsallScott Morris, and Enrique Rueda-Sabater.  The restructuring and provides an important launch point for further innovations and much-needed flexibility to the multilateral development bank model.

Charles Kenny’s and other CGD researchers’ proposals regarding draft agreements for the 2015 Addis Ababa Financing for Development Conference were taken on board by several member state negotiating teams. While ultimately not adopted, language in drafts had moved toward CGD-suggested text in the areas of tax, tobacco, and the global social floor. CGD work by Casey Dunning also provided suggestions for US government deliverables on domestic revenue mobilization as put forward in the Addis Tax Initiative.

A 2013 CGD working group report featured recommendations for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to get more health for its money. Ongoing engagement has led to a number of pilots of results-based grant-making, including Cash on Delivery aid models.

African Development Bank logo

A 2006 CGD report challenged the management and stakeholders of the African Development Bank with bold recommendations for further reform. The report influenced AfDB’s president Donald Kaberuka and his staff, who later implemented recommendations for the management. CGD later wielded influence in 2015 by holding a live question-and-answer event with seven of the eight candidates to be the next AfDB president. The event was cited as being influential in the contest won by Akinwumi Adesina.

CGD’s Working Group Report on IMF Programs and Health Spending, led by David Goldsbrough, examined the Fund’s influences on health spending and generated six recommendations to help clarify its role in low-income countries. The IMF responses to the report indicated broad agreement on all six and were included in a series of IMF policy papers. The IMF board welcomed the working group’s recommendation to limit the use of wage bill ceilings to exceptional cases justified in a transparent manner.

Making Global Finance Fairer

Working with Nigeria’s minister of finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (now a member of the CGD board of directors and distinguished visiting fellow), CGD played a vital role in reducing Nigeria’s debt stock by $30 billion. The Center spearheaded initial efforts to change Nigeria’s classification within the World Bank, making the country eligible for a Paris Club debt buyback. Todd Moss, who led CGD’s efforts, then proposed a “discounted buyback” within the Paris Club. The final deal was the first from the Paris Club to include this type of buyback.

CGD is shaping the international agenda to increase access to financial services in the developing world—a key to shared global prosperity. The G-20 Toronto Summit in June 2010 adopted Principles for Innovative Financial Inclusion that closely mirror those of a 2009 CGD task force report led by Liliana Rojas-Suarez. The CGD report complements the International Monetary Fund’s Access to Finance Project, an online database that underpins research into the provision of consumer financial services worldwide.

Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

In 2003 Liberia faced a foreign debt burden that crippled its development prospects after 14 years of war and failed governance. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf tapped Steve Radelet as a high-level advisor helping to shape strategies for economic policy, aid coordination, and poverty reduction. In April 2009 the Liberia negotiated a commercial debt buy-back of $1.2 billion at a 97 percent discount off face-value, which opened up Liberia to the international financial community and led the way to HIPC completion in 2010.

girl celebrating South Sudan's independence

Ben Leo’s CGD Working Paper, Sudan Debt Dynamics: Status Quo, Southern Secession, Debt Division, and Oil contributed to the African Union’s mediation efforts over Sudan’s $35 billion of external debt when South Sudan was created as an independent state. Leo subsequently served as a technical expert and mediator in 2011 under the leadership of the African Union’s High-Level Implementation Panel for Sudan. The historic agreement he helped facilitate between the parties included much of the road map for debt relief suggested in his paper.

The 2008 global financial crisis started in the United States but hit developing countries hard with reduced exports, remittances, and access to credit. Ahead of the London G-20 summit, Nancy Birdsall published a CGD policy note How to Unlock $1 Trillion Developing Countries Need to Cope with the Crisis. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon picked up the call, and the G-20 included the pledge in their Summit communiqué. Birdsall later testified before the US Congress, helping to unlock the country’s contribution to the global relief and stimulus package.