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CGD in the News

April 14, 2019

Ivanka Trump promotes women’s empowerment in Ethiopia (Associated Press)

From the article:

Far from the din of Washington, Ivanka Trump toured businesses run by women in Ethiopia on Sunday while promoting a White House global economic program for women.

President Donald Trump’s daughter and senior adviser visited a coffee shop and textile company in Addis Ababa. It was her first stop in Africa on a four-day trip to Ethiopia and Ivory Coast on behalf of a White House project intended to boost 50 million women in developing countries by 2025.

Aiming to offer assistance and learn about the struggles of women in business, she took part in a traditional coffee ceremony, visited with weavers and announced new financial support for businesses

“Investing in women is smart development policy and it’s smart business,” Trump said, sitting in Dumerso Coffee, a dimly lighted space with a woven ceiling, tile floor and colorful paintings. Alongside were women who work in the industry. “It’s also in our security interest, because women, when we’re empowered, foster peace and stability,” she said.


Experts praised the government-wide approach, which will incorporate new and existing programs, though some stressed that it was early in the process. The investment comes as the president is proposing cuts to foreign aid, and as the administration is expanding a ban on U.S. aid to groups that promote or provide abortions.

“The part of the proposal which is around looking at laws — that is a good thing to focus on,” said Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, referencing the initiative’s support for changing laws, regulations and customs that create barriers preventing women from fully participating in the workforce.

But he said the abortion-related ban could have a negative economic impact. “I think one of the most powerful tools for women’s economic empowerment is the ability to choose when and how many children they have,” Kenny said.

Daniel Runde of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said Ivanka Trump was strategically building on the work of past administrations. He called her an effective “goodwill ambassador” for the issues and a smart emissary to send to Africa.

Hillary Clinton, as U.S. secretary of state, “provided high-level attention to these issues,” said Runde, who previously worked for USAID and is an informal adviser to the administration on development policy. “Ivanka Trump is playing a similar role to the role that Secretary Clinton played.”


April 10, 2019

US lawmaker threatens World Bank capital increase over private sector concerns (Devex)

From the article:

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, voiced concerns about a World Bank effort to direct more private investment to low-income, fragile, and conflict-affected countries — and she threatened to withhold support for the bank’s capital increase package unless the institution shows greater transparency.

In a hearing with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday, Waters began her opening remarks with a statement about the International Development Association — the arm of the bank that delivers grants to 75 low-income countries — and its “private sector window.” Her remarks came just as the World Bank Spring Meetings were getting underway, and on the day that David Malpass, a now-former U.S. Treasury official, took over as the institution's president.

“I’m concerned that IDA, through its new private sector window ... today is transferring $2.5 billion to the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, and is subsidizing private firms selected without competition on the basis of unsolicited proposals,” Waters said.

“The PSW is likely to prioritize financial returns over positive development impacts, which will be difficult to monitor. The PSW also stands in conflict with the World Bank’s own principles that call for subsidies to be justified, transparent, competitively based, focused on impact, and guarded against rent-seeking opportunities,” she said.

Waters concluded with a specific request — and a specific consequence if the bank chooses not to heed it.


Waters is not the first to raise questions and concerns about IDA’s private sector window.

After a review late last year noted that the PSW had only allocated $185 million of its resources, Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Developmentobserved that, “If anyone was still dreaming that there were a bunch of significant shovel-ready public-private infrastructure deals in low-income countries just waiting for slightly better financing terms, the PSW’s experience should get them woke.”

Kenny and others have also raised some of the transparency and open competition questions that Waters focused on in her remarks to Mnuchin. Resources from the IDA window subsidize private sector deals, but information about who actually receives those subsidies, and on what basis, and with what development impact are difficult to come by, Kenny wrote last year.

“The taxpayers who provide this finance, as well as the client countries of IDA which would otherwise have received it, have the right to know how it is being used,” he argued.

The World Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.


February 8, 2019

US launches women's economic development initiative, questions remain (Devex)

From the article:

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump signed a national security presidential memorandum on Thursday officially launching the long-discussed White House women’s economic empowerment initiative — the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative, or W-GDP.

While the first government initiative of its kind was applauded by several aid advocates, it also raised a number of questions about how it fits into the administration’s broader foreign aid priorities, especially as the White House has repeatedly proposed cutting foreign aid budgets.


Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, wrote in a statement Thursday that the first two pillars of the initiative “seem to suggest a rebranding of existing funding for women’s economic empowerment efforts in USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] and a repackaging of previously announced initiatives at the World Bank and Overseas Private Investment Corporation.”

“But the third pillar is potentially more encouraging,” Kenny said, adding that “quite what is being proposed in this area isn’t yet clear.” He suggested that there is a lot the U.S. can do to combat laws that require a man’s permission to participate in the economy, own property, or leave the house, including making legal reforms a precondition of trade agreements and passing legislation that would push the private sector to work on these issues.

February 7, 2019

Ivanka Trump’s plan pledges $50 million of USAID money to pull 50 million women from poverty (Washington Post)

From the article:

Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the president and a senior White House adviser, announced a new global effort Thursday to help 50 million women in the developing world by 2025.

“This new initiative will for the first time coordinate America’s commitment to one of the most undervalued resources in the developing world — the talent, ambition and genius of women,” Trump wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that announced the news. For the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, the U.S. government will team up with several private companies such as UPS and Pepsi to “facilitate complementary private-sector investments to achieve our shared goals,” Trump said.


“$1 per woman, or rather $0.02 per woman, once you subtract the money WalMart and others will spend on glossy, self-congratulatory advertisements,” Brad Simpson, a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, wrote on Twitter.

“If you ever doubted the Trump Administration’s belief in aid effectiveness, think again: the new Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative provides $50m a year from USAID to economically empower 50 million women worldwide by 2025,” Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at a Center for Global Development, wrote in his own tweet. “That’s just a dollar a year each!” Kenny added.

Nancy Lee, a former U.S. Treasury official who is now a fellow at the Center for Global Development, agreed that the $50 million in initial government funding is notably small, but she said she hoped that it could have a larger effect.

“Most important is to firmly embed empowering women across the programs of all of the agencies that are supposed to work together under this initiative,” Lee said. "If agencies actually have to look at how each project can boost benefits for women and girls and measure results carefully and consistently, that would truly transform U.S. development practice.”

January 16, 2019

Next World Bank chief could bring Trumpian mindset to one of the world’s major lenders (Global News)

From the article:

Whoever U.S. President Donald Trump nominates to run the World Bank will likely take over one of the largest lenders on the planet, with the power to slash green-energy funding and push the organization into a more political role on the international stage.

No matter who takes over the role, he or she will lead a 189-member organization that hands out nation-changing loans for projects it deems suitable. The bank, which draws money from its member organizations, committed to nearly $67 billion in loans last year. However, its influence has waned over the last decade as countries have decided to invest in funds seen to be less tilted toward U.S. interests.


There’s also a chance the Europeans might break their deal with the U.S. if Trump puts forward a polarizing candidate, according to Charles Kenny, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington.

“If the administration offers a plausible candidate, I think they’ll get in,” he told Global News.

Kenny says Trump’s choice would likely fail the nomination process if he or she openly supported some of Trump’s more scientifically dubious policies.

“If it’s a strong candidate, my guess is they’ll pull through,” Kenny said. “If the candidate is not plausible, I think all bets are off.”

January 11, 2019

A World Bank shakeup could drive Trudeau even further from Trump (Financial Post)

From the article:

But that was then. With Donald Trump in the Oval Office, a more aggressive movement to overturn five decades of U.S. domination is underway. “The U.S shouldn’t get to pick the head of the World Bank. And not just because Trump is president,” said a Slate commentary by Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Media reports warn that Kim’s departure, three years before the end of his term, “tees up a battle between the Trump administration… and critics seeking to break the U.S. stranglehold” on the bank’s presidency.

Maybe the critics of U.S. domination should be granted their wish. Ending U.S. domination of the bank’s hierarchy could be exactly the kind of reform it needs.

January 8, 2019

Bank of America: The US shouldn’t get to pick the head of the World Bank (Slate)

From the article:

On Monday, Jim Yong Kim stepped down as president of the World Bank Group, moving to the private sector 3½ years before the end of his second term in 2022. While, as its name suggests, the World Bank is a global financing body that made $66 billion in commitments to developing country governments and private sector investment projects in 2018, traditionally the White House has chosen its president.

That has many people concerned about whom Donald Trump might nominate to replace Kim, given the president’s contemptuous attitude toward foreign aid and international institutions in general. But the U.S. lock on the top job at the bank has been a problem for far longer than the past two years. And now would be a perfect time to end it for good...

Read more here!

November 19, 2018

Myths of Global Inequality and Underdevelopment w/ Dr. Charles Kenny (Robert Strauss Center)

Video Description:

On Monday, November 5, 2018, the Strauss Center welcomed Dr. Charles Kenny, Director of Technology and Development and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, for a talk on "Myths of Global Inequality and Underdevelopment."

Watch the full video here


October 30, 2018

Opinion: How blockchain technology can reduce risks and lower costs after disasters (Devex)

By John Schellhase

From the article:

Among the many disruptions created by blockchain technology, the most profound may come in the way aid is delivered to people whose lives are upended by wars, famines, and natural disasters.

The influx of aid following a disaster shows the power of human generosity. Sadly, corrupt officials and middlemen often see it as an opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the displaced. The Center for Global Development estimated last year that about 5 percent of global aid, or $8 billion, is lost to theft and corruption each year. Measured against disaster victims’ relatively modest needs, it is a staggering sum.

Blockchain-based distribution systems won’t eliminate corruption, but their ability to confirm identity and execute secure digital transactions can ensure that a larger proportion of aid will reach its intended recipients.

Blockchain technology promises to change the way we store information, confirm transactions, exchange money, and protect our identities. The transparency and security of blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, can increase trust and lower costs for a variety of programs and projects. This is particularly true in countries with a weak or underdeveloped legacy of telecommunications and financial infrastructure.

Read the full article here.


October 29, 2018

Flush with money from Saudi monarchy, Silicon Valley grapples with Khashoggi’s death (New Indian Express)

By Anahita Mukherji

From the article: 

“Saudi Arabia wasn’t always this repressive. Now it’s unbearable,” read the headline of a Washington Post piece by journalist Jamal Khashoggi in September 2017. Over the last year, Khashoggi wrote a series of columns on Saudi Arabia’s violation of human rights, in which he spoke of the widespread arrest of activists and reformers who challenged the monarchy.

None of his pieces moved Silicon Valley tech companies enough to sever ties with Saudi Arabia, a country that has massive investments in America’s tech hub. But all of a sudden, Khashoggi’s gruesome murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month, believed to be orchestrated by Saudi’s monarchy, has put the spotlight on Silicon Valley’s blood money, leaving the tech industry in a quandary.

Earlier this year, Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Silicon Valley, and was photographed with the biggest stars of the tech world as they showed him around their offices. The crown prince was often referred to by his initials, MBS.

Over the last month, the acronym has come to stand for Mister Bone Saw, a reference to the manner in which Khashoggi’s body was allegedly dismembered and disposed off.

While it’s unlikely that Silicon Valley was completely unaware of Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights track record before Khashoggi’s death, it has now become impossible to ignore.


In a piece for Slate, Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development, calls Giridharadas’s proposal “a new form of international boycott — one that involves refusing to accept cash rather than the more traditional approach based on refusing to hand it over.”

As many tech firms that Saudi Arabia has invested in are private, he says this would involve a more straightforward process than for companies listed on the stock exchange.

He points to close ties between Saudi Arabia and the US, which make the US government-led sanctions against Saudi Arabia unlikely. Saudi Arabia is the largest buyer of US weapons, both countries are involved in military and intelligence cooperation and both are distasteful of Iran. And then there’s Saudi investment in President Donald Trump’s business.

Kenny points to consumer and institutional boycotts as an alternative to government sanctions. While the traditional method involves a refusal to buy or invest in a country, as was done to South Africa’s apartheid regime, Kenny believes this method won’t work for Saudi Arabia.

“Consumers don’t know where their gas comes from when they pump it at the station, and anyway, little Saudi gas oil makes it to the US,” Kenny wrote, adding that there is no point refusing to invest in Saudi firms, as the country is “desperately trying to find investment opportunities for its surplus cash.” According to him, the only option left is Giridharadas’s proposal of refusing to take Saudi money.

Read the full article here.