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From the article:
President Donald Trump's decision to cut $450 million in foreign aid to three Central American countries – collectively known as the Northern Triangle – will end dozens of projects designed to bolster security, the economy, education and judicial systems.
The goal of the programs is to improve conditions in the countries so citizens don't flee to the U.S. While Trump wants to cut the assistance, former officials say the programs are seeing results. For example:
In Honduras, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officials have been working in local communities to reduce violence, contributing to a drop in the homicide rate every year between 2011 and 2018.
In El Salvador, where a struggling economy has pushed people to make the trek north, USAID helped small- and medium-sized businesses create more than 22,000 jobsbetween 2011 and 2016.
And in Guatemala, where the judicial system has been wrought with corruption and inefficiency, U.S. money has helped the government hire more judges and provided security for justice officials to protect them from cartels they are trying to prosecute.
Trump said the aid cuts, and his threat to close the southern border entirely, will punish governments of those countries for failing to prevent people from fleeing.
Researchers at Vanderbilt's Latin American Public Opinion Project surveyed 29,000 people living in five Central American countries, and found that those living in neighborhoods with U.S.-funded projects saw less violence. In those communities, 51% reported fewer murders and extortion attempts, 35% said they no longer avoided walking through dangerous areas and 25% said they saw a drop in drug sales.
"It's an extraordinarily rigorous study, and it's very persuasive," said Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, who was not part of the report but has studied the reasons young people flee Central America for the United States.
Trump sees things differently.
The combination of violence, poverty and food insecurity in Central America has driven record numbers of families to head north to seek U.S. asylum.
On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said rising migration showed that U.S. aid was not working.
Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 36,000 members of family units in February – a record – and border communities are being overwhelmed trying to care for them. That figure has steadily increased in recent months, with Border Patrol officials predicting a further rise for March.
"The president has determined that these programs have not effectively prevented illegal immigration from coming to the United States, and they’ve not achieved the desired results," Palladino said. "It's not succeeded in stemming this flow."
Still, Clemens said cutting off funding was misguided. He said the evidence, including the Vanderbilt study, shows that U.S. aid has led to gradual progress in living conditions in Central America.
"There is literally zero evidence that bludgeoning the (Central American) governments and long-time partners of those governments is somehow going to produce security in the region," he said.
From the article:
MEXICO CITY — Until last week, U.S. officials held up El Salvador as proof that foreign aid could help curb migration. The partnership between the two countries drew praise from diplomats, members of Congress and even America’s top border enforcement official.
Then President Trump announced that he was withdrawing economic assistance to the Central American country and its neighbors Guatemala and Honduras.
“They haven’t done a thing for us,” the president said Friday.
The claim baffled development officials and Salvadorans, who saw the country’s cooperation with the United States on security, civil society and economic development as a success story, inasmuch as it achieved the Trump administration’s goal of slowing the flow of migrants heading north to the United States.
In the past three years, both El Salvador’s homicide rate and migration flows have declined sharply. More than 72,000 Salvadorans were apprehended crossing the U.S. border in 2016. By 2018, the number had plummeted by more than half, to fewer than 32,000.
Analysts caution against attributing reductions in migration solely to U.S. aid. They say changes in migration are likely the result of a variety of causes, many of them beyond the control of governments.
“There has been no serious look at the historical relationship between development and migration that would convince anyone that economic development of any form across the developing world leads to sudden decreases in migration,” said Michael Clemens, co-director of migration at the Center for Global Development in Washington. “Demographic forces are so much stronger.”
Over the last decade, the Salvadoran population aged out of the so-called youth bulge, when a disproportionate number were ages 15 to 29 — the period when people are most likely to migrate.
Guatemala and Honduras are several years behind El Salvador demographically, which might help explain discrepancies in their migration rates.
Migration from the three nations of Central America’s Northern Triangle rose rapidly from 2012 to 2016, much of it undocumented minors fleeing growing gang violence.
According to the Center for Global Development, more than 8 percent of 17-year-olds from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras arrived at the U.S. border from 2011 through 2016. In a separate study linking violence to migration, it found that for every 10 additional murders in those three countries, six more children migrated to the United States.
From the article:
Beto O’Rourke isn’t known for his wonkish heft. But in his formal announcement for president on Sunday, the former Texas congressman offered one of the most important policy proposals of the nascent presidential campaign: He argued that to solve America’s problems at the border, America’s leaders must “help people in Central America where they are.” In so doing, he began laying a foundation to effectively rebut Donald Trump on his signature issue: immigration.
Every major Democratic presidential candidate decries Trump’s actions at the border. In her announcement speech, Kamala Harris called his policy of putting “children in cages” a “human-rights abuse,” and his proposed border wall a “medieval vanity project.” In hers, Elizabeth Warren said that under Trump, America’s “immigration system … lacks a conscience.” Amy Klobuchar used her announcement to demand “comprehensive immigration reform.” In his, Bernie Sanders called for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States and “a humane border policy for those who seek asylum.”
O’Rourke’s competitors are right to demand a fairer and more humane system for evaluating asylum claims. But an improved asylum system won’t reduce the number of people fleeing violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—Central America’s “Northern Triangle.” To the contrary, the better chance migrants have of gaining asylum, the more likely they are to seek it.
American aid can reduce this violence and the migration it creates. In 2014, the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University released a study of a U.S. Agency for International Development program aimed at improving public safety in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. USAID funded job training and community policing, paid to install streetlights and remove graffiti, and according to the Vanderbilt researchers, “51 percent fewer surveyed residents reported being aware of murders in their neighborhoods” than “we would expect to see without USAID interventions.”
Michael Clemens, co-director of migration, displacement, and humanitarian policy at the Center for Global Development, then analyzed U.S. government statistics on the 179,000 unaccompanied children from the Northern Triangle picked up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents over a six-year period. Comparing murder rates in a given Salvadoran, Honduran, or Guatemalan town with the rates of apprehended migrant children, he found that “a decline of 10 homicides in an average municipality of this region caused six fewer children from there to be apprehended at the U.S. border.” His ultimate conclusion: “Projects financed by U.S. aid have been shown to reduce violence in the region, and that violence is a major driver of illegal migration.”
From the article:
The Trump administration on Sunday demanded that Mexico and three Central American countries curb the surge of thousands of undocumented migrants heading to the United States, noting that the homeland security chief for former President Barack Obama agrees there is an immigration crisis at the southern U.S. border.
"We need your help," acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador in an interview on ABC News. He said Mexico needs to solidify its southern border with Guatemala to prevent the caravans from heading north through Mexico to the U.S. and that the three Central American counties need to curb migrants from leaving their countries.
He left open the distinct possibility that President Donald Trump would close the U.S. border with Mexico in the coming days, even as he says he intends to cut off about $500 million in U.S. aid to the three Northern Triangle countries.
Congressional action would be needed to cut off aid to the three countries. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Trump's order a "reckless announcement" and urged Democrats and Republicans alike to reject it.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat and chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, warned in a statement released Saturday that cutting off aid will further destabilize the Northern Triangle countries.
"By cutting off desperately needed aid, the administration will deprive El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras of critical funds that help stabilize these countries by curbing migration push factors such as violence, gangs, poverty and insecurity. Ultimately, this short-sighted and flawed decision lays the groundwork for the humanitarian crisis at our border to escalate further,” he said.
Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at The Center for Global Development, says the administration’s strategy to shape migration through aid needs to be done right.
“If what the United States wants to do is prevent irregular child migration in a way that works and is cost-effective, it should not do what it has traditionally done — spend 10 times as much on border enforcement trying to keep child migrants out as it spends on security assistance to the region," he said. "In fact, smartly packaged security assistance" is the only thing that has been "shown to reduce violence effectively and cost effectively.”
From the article:
The trade battle between the U.S. and China could exacerbate deforestation in the Amazon, an analysis published Wednesday in Nature warns.
Last year, the Trump administration imposed tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods being imported to the U.S. China retaliated with a set of its own tariffs, including a 25 percent import tax on U.S. soybeans. To avoid paying higher prices, China cut soybean purchases from the U.S. by 90 percent and bumped up imports from Brazil to fill the gap.
Now, Brazil is responding by increasing soybean production, which means farmers might clear more land in the rainforest to make room for new crops.
“Massive deforestation of the Amazon over what’s already happening will have profound impacts on global attempts to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity,” the report states.
If the tariffs continue, the researchers behind the report say, increased soybean production could cause up to 32 million acres of deforestation in the Amazon over the next several years — more land than in New York state. Aside from the ecological devastation, Brazil’s burgeoning soy fields could supplant American farmers and their exports. The researchers, from Germany and the UK, say major steps such as eliminating the tariffs as soon as possible must be swiftly taken to stop irreversible damage
Is ending the trade battle the solution?
The U.S. and China are taking steps to reduce trade tensions. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping reached a truce as their countries continue negotiations. As a result, China bought a large supply of soybeans in December, putting a damper on Brazil’s soybean exports.
Even if the tariffs ended tomorrow, the damage could already be done.
“A lot of trade is built on trust and networks,” Fuchs told the NewsHour. “Once this is damaged or even destroyed, I wonder if the Chinese wouldn’t learn a lesson from that in the future to diversify their supplier,” relying less heavily on the U.S. to meet its demand.
And eliminating tariffs will not halt the growing demand for soybeans throughout the world.
As the economies of developing nations grow, demand for meat, and the soybeans that go into animal feed, are likely to increase — putting further pressure on Brazil to expand its soybean production, anyway.
“There were already concerns about deforestation in the Amazon before the trade war, and I definitely agree that makes things worse, but there is still the underlying problem that needs to be addressed,” said Kimberly Elliott, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global development who focuses on trade policy and is not affiliated with the research team.
The main way to address it: reduce meat consumption. That is a heavy lift for many nations, including both Brazil and the U.S., which have some of the highest meat consumptions per capita in the world.
From the article:
Structural reforms enforced by the IMF prevented state bureaucrats from implementing essential policies in service such as health, education, and national security, according to a report by social scientists from universities including Oxford and Cambridge.
The IMF rejected the findings, pointing to other research that found the implementation of structural reform conditions had in fact helped spur public investment.
Sanjeev Gupta, a senior policy fellow at the Centre for Global Development thinktank and a former IMF official, recently published research based on conditions covering 115 countries between 1992 and 2016. It found that conditions relating to structural public financial management, such as on budget execution and control, had proven to be effective in boosting the long-term level of education, health and public investment expenditures.
Implementation of structural conditionality helped spur public investment by 10%-19%, the research found. “In fact, the conclusion is that it helps countries build capacity over time and, for somebody who has spent 30 years in the business, I have seen the capacity of countries improving,” he said.
Gupta, who was deputy director of fiscal affairs at the IMF, said he did not find the AJS paper’s conclusions “tenable” and that he had written rebuttals to similar papers the same authors had produced recently.
“You cannot have stabilization without structural reform. You don’t just say ‘cut spending and raise revenue’ and that’s it. You have to go deeper into the analysis and see what policies to implement,” he said.
“All stakeholders, whether countries or financial institutions, have to ensure that critical spending, whether social spending or public investment, is taken care of and doesn’t get slashed.”
Jeremy Gaines, Center for Global Development, email@example.com
Colin Bowyer, Stanford University firstname.lastname@example.org
Stanford, CA – An estimated 210,000 girls may have “gone missing” due to China’s “Later, Longer, Fewer” campaign, a birth planning policy predating the One Child Policy, according to a new study from the Center for Global Development. The study looked at hundreds of thousands of births occurring before and during the “Later, Longer, Fewer” policy to measure its effect on marriage, fertility, and sex selection behavior.
The researchers found that China’s “Longer, Later, Fewer” population control policy—which began in the 1970s and preceded China’s One-Child Policy—reduced total fertility rates by 0.9 births per woman and was directly responsible for an estimated 210,000 missing girls countrywide. Importantly, the study emphasizes that because this policy existed before ultrasound technology was widely available—and therefore before selective abortion was an option—these missing girls must have been due to postnatal neglect of infant girls, or in the extreme, infanticide. The phenomenon of “missing girls” widely recognized in later years under the One Child Policy is largely thought due to sex-selective abortion after ultrasound technology spread across China.
“Prior research has shown that sex ratios rose dramatically under China's One-Child Policy, leading to stark imbalances in the numbers of men and women. But we’re finding that girls went missing earlier than previously thought, which can in part be directly attributed to the birth planning policy that predates the One-Child Policy.” said Grant Miller, Director of the Stanford Center on Global Poverty and Development, a Non-Resident Fellow at the Center for Global Development, and one of the authors of the study.
The top findings of the study include:
The birth planning policy reduced fertility by 0.9 births per woman, explaining 28% of the overall decline during this period.
The Later, Longer, Fewer policy is responsible for a roughly twofold increase in the use of “fertility stopping rules,” the practice of continuing to have children until the desired number of sons is achieved.
The Later, Longer, Fewer policy is also responsible for an increase in postnatal neglect, from none to 0.3% of all female births in China during this period.
Sex selection behavior was concentrated among couples with the highest demand for sons (couples that have more children but no sons), with sex ratios reaching 117 males per 100 female births among these couples.
“Population control strategies can have unforeseen consequences and human costs,” Miller said. “At the same time, as China debates the future of birth planning policies, it’s also important to note that family planning policy does not appear to be the largest driver of fertility.”
You can read the full study at https://www.cgdev.org/publication/limits-and-human-costs-population-policy-fertility-decline-and-sex-selection-china.
From the article:
Small agencies that work alone, siloed off from the rest of a country’s development work: That’s how development finance institutions might have been described just a decade ago. But DFIs have gained prominence as the role of the private sector has been accepted and because their work can be put in direct service of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.
As the paradigm shifted from a focus on social service support and grant-based official development assistance to one more driven by private sector development, countries have turned to development finance institutions to provide solutions to help create jobs, spur economic development, and reduce poverty. As a result, the number of institutions has proliferated.
In the past several years, a number of DFIs moved to invest more in least developed or low-income countries.
Deals in LDCs are difficult and complex. They require taking more financial risk and more effort and creativity, said Colin Buckley, chief operating officer at CDC.
Historically, DFIs have been hesitant to invest in fragile states and risky settings where the investment had less than an 80 percent probability of success, even if it had the capacity for transformative impact, Buckley said.
“One thing DFIs need to be more comfortable doing is rolling the dice for transformative impact,” he said.
DFIs will not, and cannot, solely invest in the poorest, riskiest places. In an effort to remain profitable and balance their portfolios, they will continue to make some investments that are deemed safer, even as they look to invest more in low-income countries.
But some experts believe that DFIs should be taking more risk and doing more to crowd capital into higher risk markets where private finance is especially scarce.
“Some DFIs — I’d pick on IFC [the International Finance Corp.] for sure here — are mostly not in high-risk markets and not very engaged in high-risk sectors and are mostly doing safe projects,” said Todd Moss, the executive director at the Energy for Growth Hub, a spin-off from the Center for Global Development, where he is also a visiting fellow.
Part of the problem has to do with incentives: At some DFIs, investment teams are rewarded based on the amount of money invested, rather than on where it is invested or what its impact will be. There is also often pressure on the financial side, especially for DFIs that operate like commercial banks and are trying to maintain AA or AAA credit ratings.
“The scale and risk issues mean for these agencies to succeed, they need to create internal incentives for people to take risk and subsidize upfront costs,” Moss said.
As a result, in some industries, DFIs appear to be preventing a natural progression to more commercial capital over time, keeping them locked in as sectors dependent on concessional financing, he said.
Not all DFIs are investing in that way, the investor noted. He pointed to a recent Overseas Private Investment Corp. deal where OPIC made part of its investment junior debt, a move that would allow the fund to raise more commercial sources of capital, which would need to be senior debt.
“I dont think they’re chasing out private capital very often. The bigger problem is sometimes crowding in other DFIs rather than truly private capital,” Moss said, adding that it could be an issue of immature markets that would change over time.
Some, including Andreasen, said that they don’t see competition as a problem, and instead often see DFIs working together. About one-third of individual investments that the European bilateral DFIs make are done alongside other European DFIs, he said.
“It’s fine to have debate and scrutiny in this respect, but I don’t see a lot of specific evidence,” Andreasen said.
One place DFIs are playing a critical role, and are working together, is in financing local banks in Africa in the wake of restrictive regulations around risk that have led many commercial banks to pull out, he said.
Buckley said DFIs haven’t been very good at coordination with one another or with aid agencies. Often, transformative investments need regulatory or institutional reform — and that is where DFIs should work more closely with aid agencies to address some of those challenges.
“I think people should demand more cooperation as DFIs grow in prominence and capital,” Buckley said.
Transparency and measurement
As more funds are funneled through DFI investment mechanisms, demand is growing for better measurement and improved transparency.
“As public agencies, they should be as transparent as possible — they don’t need to release every detail of every project, but they should release information about activities ... as maximally as possible,” Moss said.
A DFI should release all information unless there is a commercial reason not to, he said. It should be transparent about systems for evaluating development impact during and after it makes investments, and the data should be made available in easily accessible formats.