Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD in the News

April 18, 2019

FT Health: Foreign aid and the threat to multilateralism (Financial Times)

From the article:

At a time of rising populism and questions over the value of foreign aid, a new analysis suggests Britain’s contributions are largely well spent — especially the share channelled directly by its international development agency.

The Center for Global Development think-tank concludes that nearly four-fifths of the £28bn donated via the British government over eight years was spent well or satisfactorily. It was reviewing 65 individual assessments by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, a UK watchdog.

While most of the money goes via the Department for International Development, other agencies were less well rated. In particular, spending via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — which some ministers are keen to have take back direct control of Dfid — performed worst, with some disbursements possibly not even meeting the legal definition of aid.

There is no room for complacency. A previous analysis by CGD highlighted that some other countries — and multilateral institutions — perform better than the UK when considering factors such as efficiency, transparency and fostering institutions. New Zealand and Denmark ranked particularly well, although high quality was offset by a relatively low quantity of aid. The US, which gives generously, scores poorly, notably because much remains “tied” or linked to its own interests.

But as the World Bank heads into new leadership by a man highly critical of multilateralism, and with public opinion febrile, constructive criticism should not trump the benefits aid can bring.

February 26, 2019

DFID is not independent, Mordaunt reiterates (Devex)

From the article:

LONDON — Despite raising eyebrows last month for refusing to give a firm answer about the future of the U.K. Department for International Development, secretary of state Penny Mordaunt has again claimed that DFID is not an “independent” department in a letter obtained by Devex on Monday.

In a letter to Preet Gill — the Labour Party’s shadow minister for international development, who was seeking clarification of Mordaunt’s earlier remarks — the U.K. aid chief wrote that her department “could not … be described as ‘independent,’” and that she hoped to “move the debate about DFID on from being one about where our desks are situated to being focused on delivering the global goals.”


Ian Mitchell, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development think tank, told Devex by email that he would “welcome DFID working more closely with other government departments — using all our policy levers ... on investment, environment, health, and migration to accelerate progress towards the global goals ... But ... it’s unusual for a Cabinet Minister to assert their department’s lack of independence — [the] Treasury and Cabinet Office work across Whitehall, and may have loaned staff [to other departments] to assist on Brexit — but you wouldn’t hear their ministers say those departments aren’t independent. That leaves the impression this is about signalling future direction.”


February 5, 2019

New index raises concerns about aid quality outside DFID (Devex)

From the article:

LONDON — Aid money spent outside the U.K. Department for International Development is failing to meet good standards on poverty focus, effectiveness, and transparency, a new report has found, as DFID’s share of the aid budget continues to fall.

Analysis by the ONE Campaign comparing aid spending across Whitehall departments from 2016-2017 found significant discrepancies in how the money is being spent. It also found that although British aid is officially untied, at least £457 million ($595.8 million) was spent through programs that require United Kingdom institutions to be part of any bid. 


The new index is the latest in a string of similar initiatives which indicate that U.K. aid standards may be slipping. A report by the Center for Global Development in December suggested that the quality of U.K. aid fell sharply between 2012-2016, but did not disaggregate the data by government department. Last year’s Aid Transparency index also placed FCO among the least transparent donors globally, while DFID ranked near the top.

January 24, 2019

Could DFID be absorbed by the UK foreign office? (Devex)

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.”

November 29, 2018

Africa: Angela Merkel has Done Much to Help Africa; Her Successor Should Continue the Relationship (All Africa)

By All Africa

From the article:

Last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted the Federal Republic of Germany’s President, his Excellency, Frank-Walter Steinmmeier. This visit is a positive sign that Germany will continue to have a strong relationship with the African continent, even though one of the main champions of the relationship, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, announced in October that she will step down from her role in 2021.

And because it is hard to erase all her legacy as evidenced by the initiatives she has championed and the approach she has used, as well as the quality of aid Germany has extended to African countries, Merkel’s successor has all the reasons to continue building her legacy. In the event, this does not happen, the African Continent should look to further their relationships with other developed countries that by default are still invested in Africa, like. France and Canada, especially, those that were recently ranked high in the recently released Center for Global Development annual index.

Read the full article here


November 21, 2018

How can we rate aid donors? Two very different methods yield interesting (and contrasting) results (From Poverty to Power/Oxfam Blogs)

By Duncan Green 

From the article: 

Two recent assessments of aid donors used radically different approaches – a top down technical assessment of aid quality, and a bottom up survey of aid recipients. The differences between their findings are interesting.

The Center for Global Development has just released a new donor index of Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA), with a nice blog summary by Ian Mitchell and Caitlin McKee.

‘How do we assess entire countries? One way is to look at indicators associated with effective aid. The OECD donor countries agreed on a number of principles and measures in a series of high-level meetings on aid effectiveness that culminated in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005), the Accra Agenda for Action (2008)and the Busan Partnership Agreement (2011). Our CGD and Brookings colleagues—led by Nancy Birdsall and Homi Kharas—developed QuODA by calculating indicators based largely on these principles and grouping them into four themes: maximising efficiency, fostering institutions, reducing burdens, and transparency and learning.’

Read the full article here


October 12, 2018

Where next for UK aid? (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

By Arthur Baker, Sam Crossman, Ian Mitchell, Yani Tyskerud, and Ross Warwick

From the article:

In a speech on Tuesday 9th October, the Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt, touched upon a number of important issues taking centre stage in current debates on UK aid spending, including Brexit and the role of private sector investment. These two substantive issues are interesting within the context of broader developments in UK aid spending in recent years. A new report by researchers from the IFS and the Center for Global Development (CGD) analyses how UK aid is spent and the potential drivers of these changes.

Five years of meeting the aid target

Since 2013, the UK has met its target to spend at least 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA) (see Figure). The target was enshrined into UK law in 2015[1]and there is currently a cross-party political consensus to maintain it.

Meeting this target sets the UK apart in an international context. While all thirty members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), except the US and Switzerland, have endorsed the 0.7% commitment, only five – the UK, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, and Sweden – actually met it in 2017. That the UK is one of the few countries to meet the target is particularly notable in the context of the recent period of austerity. Even so, ODA spending remains a relatively small part of government spending, accounting for 1.7% of the total in 2017, though it has grown quickly and is nearly double the 2008 figure of 0.9%.

Read the full article here.


October 9, 2018

Australian aid in top ten for aid quality (DevPolicy)

By Sachini Muller, Terence Wood

From the article:

The recently-released 2018 Commitment to Development Index ranks some of the world’s richest countries by their dedication to policies that benefit people living in poorer nations. The index ranks countries across a range of areas. One of them is the quality of the aid a country gives. Each country’s aid quality score is based on the quality of a country’s bilateral aid as well as the quality of the multilateral organisations that it gives aid to. These aid quality scores come from the Quality of ODA dataset (QuODA) that the Center for Global Development also maintains.

QuODA ranks Australia at tenth out of 40 donors. This list includes multilateral aid organisations as well as country donors. If we only look at countries, Australia is ranked fourth out of 27 (New Zealand comes first). Australia’s overall score is 0.18, an average of its performance across 24 individual aid quality indicators. In this blog, we look at some of the indicators with a view to what, if anything, these data reveal about how well Australia gives aid. (For those interested in more details on QuODA or New Zealand’s ranking, see Terence Wood’s blog.)

Read the full article here.


October 9, 2018

Beyond Aid Budgets: What Canada can do to promote international development (Open Canada)

By Stephen Brown

From the article:

Of late, many commentators, from humble bloggers to the more august Toronto Star and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), have lamented Canada’s relative lack of generosity in foreign aid and called on the Canadian government to increase the aid budget. 

Canada is indeed a laggard compared to its peers and the Trudeau government is less generous than previous Conservative and Liberal governments. Moreover, more money would provide the resources the current government needs to implement its ambitious Feminist International Assistance Policy and help translate its global leadership rhetoric into reality.

However, more aid is only part of what is required to meet the challenges of global development. Also essential is better aid, as well as a range of non-aid policies in rich countries. So, other than — or rather in addition to — increasing the aid budget, what should Canada do to promote the well-being of billions of people in developing countries? Two recent reports help chart the way.

The second recently published report focuses on such non-aid policies. Also released in September, the Center for Global Development’s 2018 Commitment to Development Index assesses and compares 27 rich countries’ records across seven issue areas that affect developing countries. Canada ranks 17th, down from seventh in 2005.

Read the full article here.


September 27, 2018

Economic diplomacy: Indonesia, climate and Abe (The Interpreter)

By Greg Earl 

From the article: 

Coming to the aid

Australia’s aid and immigration policies have won unaccustomed praise from a global survey of wealthy country development aid practices, in a reversal of the popular view that they damage the national image.

The country has risen four places to 14th in the Global Development Index published by the Washington-based Center for Global Development. Australia’s migration and aid policies were ranked even higher at eight and nine out of 27 with plaudits for the quality of the aid program. Migration integration and student entry policies were rated highly, but the management of refugees was criticised.

Australia’s highest ranking of three was for its trade policies, which made it the index leader in being open to trade with developing countries and having the second-lowest tariffs and agricultural subsidies.

The index reflects the new thinking (embraced under former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop) that the development process is about more than pure aid spending and can often be more effectively achieved by measures such as more open trade and labour mobility practices.

Australia’s ranking was held down largely because of its third-last ranking on environment, where the survey noted Australia had a poor rating on petrol taxation, tropical timber imports and greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

Read the full article here.