Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD in the News

December 28, 2010

The 10 Most Charitable Countries on Earth (MSN)

MSN Money featured CGD's Commitment to Development Index in a special holiday piece highlighting the world's most charitable countries.

From the Article:

'Tis the season for giving (yes, it's probably best we maintain our charitable efforts even though Christmas has passed), so what better time to dust off the Center for Global Development's annual Commitment to Development Index (CDI)? What is the CDI? It's far from a simple catalogue of the most charitable nations on earth; rather, it gauges how well the governments of developed countries aid their developing nation counterparts around the world. How does Canada rank when it comes to helping out less fortunate countries? Click through to find the CDI's most helpful nations for 2010. * Index scores (e.g. 6.7) should be compared against the CDI's average standard, 5.0. CDI indices account for seven development factors: country's commitments to aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security and technology.

Read the Article.

December 27, 2010

Rise In Haitian Immigrants Could Signify Oncoming Wave (San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted senior fellow Michael Clemens in an article on Haitian immigration.

From the Article:

Some Haitian immigrants and their advocates have been protesting the U.S. government’s deportation plan, saying conditions in Haiti are still deadly.

“We are going to be sending people back to a situation where 10 percent of the population is still in tent cities, the cholera epidemic is still increasing and much of the capital is homeless,” said Michael Clemens, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a research group in Washington. “The U.S. State Department thinks that conditions are so bad in Haiti that no U.S. citizen should travel there, yet we are going to have armed agents pushing people back there.”

He is working on a proposal that would offer a humanitarian entry to individuals from countries devastated by natural disasters such as the Haiti earthquake.

Read the Article.

December 23, 2010

Names: Radelet from State to USAID (Foreign Policy)

Foreign Policy mentioned CGD in an article about former senior fellow Steve Radelet and his switch from the State Department to USAID to serve as their Chief Economist.

From the Article:

Steve Radelet, who joined the State Department last January to be Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's top advisor on development, is moving over to USAID to be their first Chief Economist since the 1990s. Radelet left his post as a senior fellow the Center for Global Development to help Clinton during the development of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which was unveiled earlier this month. While at State he co-led the QDDR task force on aid effectiveness and helped stand up the Feed the Future Initiative, a huge program that will be transferred to USAID as part of the QDDR implementation. The Chief Economist job at USAID is new.

"The new position of Chief Economist (CE) will help establish USAID as a global leader for innovative policy analysis, research, and implementation," read an internal USAID email about Radelet's move, obtained by The Cable. Radelet will be part of the senior management team and report director to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah...

Before working at CGD, Radelet was a founding co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Africa, the Middle East, and Asia from 2000 to 2002.

Read the Article.

December 22, 2010

Migrant Workers Are More Than 'Tools' for Economic Growth (The Guardian)

The Guardian mentioned Michael Clemens comments on migration and development in a Guardian blog post on Migrant Workers.

From the Article:

Last December, the Centre for Global Development's Michael Clemens argued that labour migration was "the biggest idea in development that no one really tried". More recently, David McKenzie, a senior economist at the World Bank, proclaimed migration – and particularly temporary seasonal and guest worker programmes – "the most effective development intervention we have evidence for".

Comparing returns from popular development interventions like microfinance and conditional cash transfers, McKenzie finds dramatically higher gains in household well-being from New Zealand's seasonal worker programme, which he promotes as a politically viable model for leveraging the development potential of migration at a time marked by increasing restrictions.

The fact that remittance flows have so dramatically outpaced levels of aid has led many to suggest that people themselves are better and more reliable development fundraisers than states. Accordingly, much of the debate around migration has centered around initiatives to better leverage remittances so that these largely private cash flows to families and friends at home can help drive broader economic development. This often means things like improving access to saving and credit and developing an environment (and ethos) favourable to investment and entrepreneurship. But the weak state of international protections for migrant workers, combined with persistent abuse and exploitation, is a reminder that evaluating the development potential of migration means looking at more than dollar figures for remittance flows – it is important to understand, for example, the conditions under which people emigrate and the conditions under which they work. Migrants, after all, are first and foremost humans with rights – not tools for economic growth.

Read the Article.

December 20, 2010

Diplomacy and Development, Working Together in the US (The Guardian)

The Guardian's Poverty Matters Blog featured Connie Veillette's piece on the Presidential Study Directive and the QDDR.

From the Article:

For the past 18 months, various sections of the US government have been engaged in two important studies that may have profound effects on how the country interacts with the world. Now that they have been released, we can assess what they mean for US diplomacy and for development programmes.

Many observers believe these studies set Washington on the right course. While I agree, I also believe more clarity is needed with regard to how the US partners with other donor nations to address development needs. This is especially important given that both reviews advocate that programmes be more focused and selective.

The subjects of the two studies cover different ground. The Presidential Study Directive (PSD-7), led by the National Security Council (NSC), focused on development and how to better manage the activities of more than two dozen government agencies. The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), was led by the state department and USAid to look at how diplomacy and development can work together more effectively. It was leaked ahead of schedule last month.

The studies came about because of the recognition that US diplomacy and development strategies need to adjust to a world filled with new threats, new players and new ways of engaging with friends and foes alike. "Fitness for purpose" has been a popular term in London that has not yet caught on in Washington. One can make the argument that US agencies remain fit for the purpose of cold war dynamics, but have not adapted to current conditions. The QDDR does a fine job of identifying 21st century threats and trying to craft diplomatic and development responses. It falls down on the job of how to implement the rhetoric.

Read the Article.

December 20, 2010

State Department Self-review Promises Transparency, Civilian 'Face' (Government Executive Magazine)

Government Executive Magazine featured part of a blog post by director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program, Connie Veillette, in an online article on the State Department and the QDDR.

From the Article:

Requested in July 2009 by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said she had benefited greatly from the Defense Department's quadrennial reviews when she was on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the self-assessment reflects efforts by State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to "stay ahead" of the world's many changes while making the work of the many players "more unified, more focused and more efficient," Clinton wrote in an introduction. "We will work to break down walls between agencies. We will eliminate overlap, set priorities, and fund only the work that supports those priorities. We will empower our people to make decisions and hold them accountable for the results."

State and USAID also will establish multiyear strategic plans and multiyear budgets, according to the review.

"We are talking about our civilians across the federal government," Slaughter said. "We will be working with the Justice Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Treasury, the Department of Agriculture -- all the civilians across the government who increasingly run programs and build relationships with their counterparts abroad."

Cheryl Steele, a former Foreign Service officer now working on State Department issues at the consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, said the quadrennial review marks "the first time we have it in the words of the secretary of State how diplomacy and development fit into the national security agenda."

With today's overseas issues likely to involve not just war and terrorism, but climate change or natural disasters, she added, the review also is an acknowledgment that "the best actor to address a crisis or a development may not be in State or USAID but in the Agriculture or Commerce departments," or in the private or nonprofit sectors.

The next step in the cross-government approach, she said, is to move the initiative down from the Cabinet and undersecretary levels to those of the office directors and desk officers "so they can know if they are right to engage their partners in other agencies in a dialogue."

Many in the development community were cautiously encouraged. The quadrennial review "represents an ambitious agenda filled with commitments to 'do better,'" wrote Connie Veillette, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program at the Center for Global Development, in a blog post. "Operationalizing those commitments, and changing the culture required to do so will be difficult. If State and USAID do not constructively engage with Congress, I can predict that many of the proposed changes will not see the light of day."

Read the Article.

December 20, 2010

Publish or Perish (Foreign Policy and NPR)

Foreign Policy featured a column by senior fellow Charles Kenny titled, "Publish or Perish" on the need for more transparency with contracting agencies and development work.

From the Article:

On Dec. 7, Nigerian authorities filed charges against former officials of Halliburton -- including one Richard Cheney -- for their involvement in a 10-year, $182 million cash-for-contracts scandal related to the construction of a power plant in southern Nigeria. The charges were ultimately dropped, but only after Halliburton agreed to pay $250 million -- and that's in addition to the $177 million Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR have already paid to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges surrounding the same deal.

In defense of Halliburton, they're hardly the only contractors playing in legal gray areas -- you don't even have to move out of the infrastructure sector to find other examples. Enron was widely accused of wrongdoing in connection with the construction of the Dabhol power plant in India, a project that produced electricity at a cost four times higher than local producers. Meanwhile, Siemens paid $1.6 billion in fines to U.S. and European regulators to settle charges that it used bribes to secure public-works contracts around the world. Local companies also get in on the act. Surveys of Afghan firms suggest bribes to obtain government contracts are equal to an average of 3 percent of the total contract value -- in the Philippines, that figure is 10 percent. All that weak governance can have a big impact on prices and quality -- road rehabilitation financed by the World Bank, for instance, costs 50 percent more in countries where the average contract bribe size is above 2 percent than in less corrupt countries...

Read the Article.

December 17, 2010

Tony Blair African Governance Initiative Speaking Event (Media Highlights)

Former Prime Minister of the U.K. Tony Blair gave a speech at CGD titled, "Making Government Work Will Transform Africa" to a crowd of approximately 300 guests and numerous members of the media. Below are media highlights from the event.

Media Highlights From the Event:

Blair urges West to follow China development example, AFP, December 17, 2010

From the Article:

Former prime minister Tony Blair said Thursday that China sets a good example for Western governments seeking to help Africa develop.

"There is a reason why a lot of African leaders will deal with China. And it's not just because China is a powerful country," Blair told AFP after giving a speech about development in Africa.

"It's because our systems can be very bureaucratic and the Chinese are quite direct in what they do," he said.

"So they will say to the leader of a country, 'Well what do you need?' and he'll say I need a road from A to B,' and then the next day someone's there with a shovel," he said during a visit to Washington.

In his speech to the Center for Global Development, he said Western countries needed to "work on things the country judges to be vital, not necessarily the things that we think back in our home legislature gets the biggest cheer."

Read the Article.

Tony Blair's vision for Africa, BBC World Service, December 17, 2010

Summary of the Interview:

Former British Prime Minister Tony has set out his vision for a new partnership with Africa. He was speaking yesterday in Washington DC at the Centre for Global Development.His theme was 'Reform for Results: How Africa's Leaders are Transforming Government and How We Can Help' BBC Network Africa's Lewis Machipisa asked Mr Blair, who is the founder of the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, for more details.

Listen Here.

Center for Global Development: Tony Blair on African Gov't Reform Program (Tony Blair on African Government Reform, C-SPAN, December 16, 2010

Summary of Event Coverage:

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed development issues and international aid for Africa. He recently established the Africa Governance Initiative which strives to reduce poverty through improved governance in Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Liberia. After his remarks he answered questions from the audience and Nancy Birdsall.

>Listen Here.

We must support visionary African leaders,The Guardian, December 16, 2010

From the Article:

This year has been remarkable for Africa. Even in these tough times, you can scan the continent and find numerous examples of sustained economic growth. The World Bank now predicts a 21st-century economic takeoff for Africa comparable to that of China, India or Brazil in recent decades.

Democracy is also spreading. By December, almost a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa will have gone to the polls since January. And it is no coincidence that we have a new generation of inspirational African leaders in place, making what President Obama has called "the tough choices that will unleash the dynamism of [their] countries".

In a speech at the Center for Global Development today, I will be reflecting on the visionary African leaders who are tackling poverty by transforming government, and what the international community needs to do differently to support them.

Read the Blog Post.

December 16, 2010

We Must Slow the Spigots That Inflated the Credit Bubble (Financial Times)

David Roodman had a letter to the editor included in the opinion section of the Financial Times on microcredit in India.

From the Letter:

Sir, In the face of the welter of criticism of microcredit in India, this defence of microcredit is timely (“Microcredit is not the enemy”, Comment,, December 13). But it misses a larger point. To understand and learn from what has gone wrong, we must view Indian microcredit not only as an intervention, but also as an industry. Imagine a piece entitled “Mortgages are not the enemy” that enumerated the good things done by mortgages in the UK. That would ring hollow as an analysis of the problems of the mortgage business and the needed fixes. At its heart, the story of Indian microcredit is familiar: credit grew too fast. For a while, easy money masked and exacerbated the repayment difficulties of some borrowers.

Meanwhile, microcredit may well have become the most inflexible kind of credit available to India’s poor, making it most apt – in loan officers’ insistence on prompt, weekly repayment – to force cornered borrowers into acts of desperation such as suicide.

The authors are right to take individual suicide reports with salt, for we have little systematic evidence of what is happening in the slums and villages.

But by the same token, they cannot be so sure that microcreditors committed no more than the “occasional overstep”.

Let us attack the problem of fast growth by slowing the spigots that inflated the bubble. Indian banks should no longer be able to count loans to microcreditors in satisfying the government’s “priority sector” lending quotas.

Internationally, public and private investors in microcredit – most of which seek social betterment as well as profit – ought to launch a sort of credit bureau for microcreditors.

This would track the borrowings, equity placements and growth rates of microcreditors and issue guidance about when fresh funds seem safe, and when it would be better for the poor and the industry not to invest.

Read the Letter.

December 16, 2010

Glass Half Full Dept: FP's Optimist Has One of the Year's Top Ideas (Foreign Policy)

Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating discusses CGD Fellow Charles Kenny's inclusion in this years 'Year in Ideas' article in the New York Times


From the Article

The New York Times Magazine's Year in Ideas issue and all of it is fascinating and well worth a read. But we were particularly happy to see that our colleague Charles Kenny's notion that 2000-2010 was the greatest decade in human history made the cut. Here's part of the write-up by Clay Risen: Average worldwide income, at $10,600, is 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago. Thanks to increases in agriculture efficiency, cereal production grew at double the rate of population in the developing world. Vaccine initiatives have helped cut the death rate from common diseases like measles by 60 percent. Child mortality is down 17 percent.

One of the many factors behind these improvements was increased telecommunications (especially television) in Africa and Asia: education and better health practices could penetrate communities where illiteracy and geographic isolation long stymied public-health efforts. Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New American Foundation, wrote about the awesome aughts for FP's print edition in September and about the positive effects of Television in Oct. 2009. You can also now get Kenny's shockingly positive take world events every week online. Check out his first two columns, debunking the idea of the oil curse, and celebrating the transformative power of the LED lightbulb.

Read the Article.