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London – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria asserts that it and its partners have saved 27 million lives—but researchers say that more evidence and data collected using rigorous and transparent methods is needed to back up that claim, in a new analysis published in The Lancet this week.
The analysis, written by Dr. Rocco Friebel of The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Rachel Silverman, Amanda Glassman, and Dr. Kalipso Chalkidou of the Center for Global Development (CGD), calls on The Global Fund to publish more robust data and be more transparent in its official impact reports, and highlights ways the financing organisation can improve its evidence base.
The authors note that The Global Fund likely has had a positive impact, having distributed over $39 billion of aid funding around the world, but suggest improvements that The Global Fund and others could adopt for their impact measurement and reporting, including:
More rigorous performance evaluations: Rather than relying on theoretical, modelled results alone, more rigorous performance evaluations would help assess whether The Global Fund’s grant recipients are delivering the services and products being financed.
Structuring grants to prioritize evidence from the start: Taking this step would help ensure the most effective projects and products are being funded.
Expanding the scope of impact evaluation: The Global Fund should expand the scope of its evaluations and refocus on areas where evidence is most needed, like particularly large projects and programs using new and untested strategies.
Publishing the data and models used to estimate impact: Where empirical evidence isn’t available, The Global Fund should at least make the data and models used to estimate impact available to researchers and the public.
The analysis also details current shortcomings of The Global Fund’s evaluations, including:
Opaque methodology: Without further details in the public domain, the methodology used by The Global Fund in calculating the lives it has saved cannot be verified or reproduced by external researchers. More transparency with regard to its modelling methodology, the authors argue, would build confidence in the organisation’s claims among funders and external researchers. Since the draft of the analysis was shared, The Global Fund has revised its methodology statement on its website, but the authors call for further improvements.
Distinguishing The Global Fund’s institutional impact from the impact of the broader partnership: The authors’ analysis suggests The Global Fund results report conflates the impact of The Global Fund “partnership”—encompassing other donors, NGOs, and country governments—with the impact of The Global Fund as a standalone institution with a roughly $4bn per year annual budget. The authors argue that more clearly breaking out the activities of The Global Fund from activities carried out by partner organisations would make its impact much clearer. For example, domestic policies in large countries such as India and South Africa have led to significant investments to tackle tuberculosis and HIV. In addition, economic growth is estimated to be responsible for a significant reduction in maternal and child deaths from 1990-2010. The impact of both of these external factors is not distinguished in The Global Fund’s claim of saving 27 million lives.
Unreliable data: Much of the data comes from countries where statistical systems are weak or non-existent. The authors acknowledge the difficulties of working with data in these scenarios—it would be unrealistic, for example, to produce reliable and up-to-date data in these countries for the number of people who died from each of the diseases covered by The Global Fund—but reiterate their call for data collected in rigorous performance evaluations to supplement the results of modelling exercises.
“There is no doubt that organisations like The Global Fund do great work but to ensure continuous donor investment they need to be more open and honest with their reporting,” said Dr. Rocco Friebel, Assistant Professor of Health Policy at LSE. “The methods and underlying data of the modelling exercise conducted by The Global Fund and others should be released and subject to public scrutiny. The organisation should be clear about its methodology, share relevant data and open itself up to peer review. Taking these steps toward openness will instil confidence in partners and lead to more sustainable fundraising for aid relief.”
“Funders have tough choices to make, and a more grounded and evidence-based assessment of The Global Fund’s actual impacts would help the organisation make its case in the difficult replenishment cycle ahead,” said Amanda Glassman, chief operating officer at the Center for Global Development.
“Our concerns are not new,” said Kalipso Chalkidou, director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development. “For years, we’ve called for The Global Fund to stand on firmer ground when estimating the lives its work has saved. The Global Fund does important work, and in order to make sure everyone has confidence in that work, it’s time for the organisation to take our calls for transparency seriously.”
“Global health partnerships, including The Global Fund, hold a position of immense responsibility as the stewards of scarce aid dollars,” said Rachel Silverman, policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. “To best serve the populations in need of that assistance—and to attract additional resources in the upcoming replenishment cycle—we hope that The Global Fund and other funders will embrace the highest standards of evidence and accountability.”
To read the analysis, visit the Lancet’s site here.
From the article:
In many developing countries, women face significant barriers to their equal participation in society. While some of these barriers are easy to see, a new line of research is uncovering a surprising and less obvious possibility: the very structure of certain languages may shape gender norms in a way that limits women’s opportunities.
But Ozier and his colleague Pamela Jakiela of the Center for Global Development wanted more conclusive evidence, and in a new paper they document the results of a journey to identify the grammatical gender structure of 4,334 languages, together accounting for 99 percent of the world’s population. To achieve this linguistic feat, they drew not only on existing sources of information like the World Atlas of Language Structures, but also deep dives into textbooks and academic research as well as the knowledge of World Bank staff in offices as far flung as Fiji.
Ozier and Jakiela were able to take this newly assembled body of data and relate it to outcomes for women around the world—specifically female labor force participation, educational achievement, and gender norms.
Drawing on data from the World Values Survey, Ozier and Jakiela found that those who speak a gendered language are more likely to agree with statements like “On the whole, men make better business executives than women do” or “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.” Perhaps even more surprisingly, women are just as likely as men to hold these attitudes, suggesting just how pervasive the effect of language is on beliefs.
Not satisfied with the wide-lens analysis of countries around the world, Ozier and Jakiela also closely scrutinized a handful of countries—Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda, and India—where both a gendered and non-gendered indigenous language is widely spoken. What they found confirmed their broader findings: gendered languages are consistently associated with lower female labor force participation. In these countries gendered languages are also associated with lower rates of primary and secondary school completion.
From the article:
It's quite clear that 2018 was a tough year for the world's humanitarian agencies. They tried to provide help to the victims of ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Somalia, to name a few hot spots. And then there were the major disasters like the floods in India and the tsunami and earthquakes in Indonesia.
This year, the challenges will continue in full force, according to an annual report from UNOCHA, the U.N. humanitarian agency, called World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2018.
Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and former director of disaster assistance for USAID, says these longer-lasting crises are being driven by conflicts that "just are not being resolved."
Today's dominant conflicts, like those in Yemen, South Sudan and Syria, have been ongoing for years and are still far from a conclusive political solution, he says. As these conflicts drag on, the ability of local people to cope wears thin, making them even more vulnerable to additional shocks. In the meantime, Konyndyk says humanitarians are a "band-aid brigade – sometimes on an indefinite basis."
From the article:
The race to select the next president of the World Bank could be shaped by a strong international desire for the institution to have its first female president.
“It would help the U.S. if they went with someone pathbreaking,” said Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development think tank and former World Bank senior economist.
“It would be great to have a female president of the World Bank, and given the U.S. is going to nominate someone, these are two really viable candidates,” Ms. Ramachandran said of Ms. Powell and Ms. Nooyi.
From the article:
United Kingdom Member of Parliament Boris Johnson has once again called for the Department for International Development to be scrapped and rolled back into the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
“Had the Conservatives come back with a big majority [in the 2017 general election, in which Theresa May won a minority government], we suspected they might have seriously considered merging the departments,” Ian Mitchell, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, told Devex.
The justification often given is that a joined-up approach between DFID and FCO would create greater coherence and efficiency. In reality, changes such as these are “generally driven by political motivations,” Mitchell said. “It doesn’t seem to be that it’s more effective; it seems that it’s a political choice to integrate.”
Having a single voice for the U.K. internationally and perceived greater control over foreign spending appeals to some and is a way to win over aid skeptics, Mitchell explained. In the minds of some MPs, “development should be secondary to our U.K. foreign policy objectives.”
From the article:
Merchandise trade between China and the countries targeted by its “Belt and Road Initiative” is predicted to grow by US$117 billion this year, according to new analysis.
For China, this will mean US$56 billion in additional exports, while it will import an extra US$61 billion worth of goods from the 80 countries named in the Chinese government’s official manifesto, research from trade credit insurer Euler Hermes shows.
A report last year from the Center for Global Development, an American think tank, implied that countries are concerned about being stuck in a debt trap, unable to repay loans and forced to cede assets such as commodities or infrastructure instead.
“The primary concern is that an US$8 trillion initiative will leave countries with ‘debt overhangs’ that will impede sound public investment and economic growth more generally,” the report read.
From the article:
Here’s a wild statistic: The 26 richest people on earth in 2018 had the same net worth as the poorest half of the world’s population, some 3.8 billion people.
That statistic, which comes from the charity group Oxfam, is a bit of an annual tradition. Every year, to mark the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — that yearly convocation of the world’s richest and most self-important plutocrats — Oxfam puts out a statement that “the top [X] people have the same amount of wealth as the bottom” half, as the Center for Global Development’s Maya Forstater and Vijaya Ramachandran once generalized it. In 2018, X was equal to 26, and as it does every year, the stat went viral.
But as the Center for Global Development’s Forstater and Ramachandran noted, Oxfam’s defense smuggles in something interesting: The richest 147 billionaires in the world control about 1 percent of global wealth. That’s way, way more than the 0.000002 percent of the world’s population they represent, but it’s not the case that a small handful of billionaires control most of the world’s wealth.
China’s rapidly expanding footprint in developing countries around the world is facing mounting scrutiny, even as states across Asia and Africa compete for Chinese investment dollars.
China has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects across Asia and Africa as part of its Belt and Road project, providing what many acknowledge is badly-needed investment for developing countries — but what’s at the same time sunk several nations into deep debt. Analysts point to Beijing’s offers of cheap loans and then demands of control over infrastructure as compensation when those debts cannot be paid off.
In 2017, Sri Lanka, with more than $1 billion in debt owed to China, handed over a port to Chinese state-owned companies. According to the non-profit Center for Global Development, the countries most affected by Chinese debt include Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, and Pakistan, with the first three facing national debt at more than 75 percent of their GDP as of March 2018.
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