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CGD in the News

October 13, 2017

World Bank Withholds Myanmar Funding, But Some Call For Sanctions (Devex)

From the article:

The World Bank announced Wednesday that in response to the “violence, destruction and forced displacement of the Rohingya,” it will delay the release of a $200 million loan planned for Myanmar.

The money was part of a credit deal reached with the fledgling democracy in August and represented the first instance of direct financial support from the World Bank to Myanmar’s government.

The World Bank is still delivering support to Myanmar and has “strengthened” its engagement in “education, health services, electricity, rural roads and inclusion of all ethnic groups and religions, particularly in Rakhine state,” the statement reads. This loan, specifically designed to support the government on issues of financial and public administration, however, will be withheld for an unspecified period of time...

“Given the scale of the humanitarian crisis there, the culpability of the government, it meets the test, in my mind, of a case where the owners of the World Bank ought to be looking at the World Bank as a potential sanctions tool,” Scott Morris, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told Devex prior to the bank’s announcement Thursday...

In Morris’s view, the World Bank’s assurances at that time that it would support humanitarian relief operations for people displaced by the conflict ignored the culpability of the government in committing violence against an ethnic minority, treating the situation, “as if it were a natural disaster.”

Even with its decision to withhold the $200 million loan until conditions improve, the bank’s shareholders are not doing enough to put pressure on Myanmar’s government, Morris said.

Read full article here.

October 12, 2017

On Myanmar, The World Bank Should Follow Its Own Policies On Keeping Hatred Out Of Projects It Funds (Quartz)

From the op-ed:

As the World Bank’s member countries convene in Washington this week, the institution’s stance on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar deserves their attention. In its first public response to the exodus that has unfolded in Myanmar, which the United Nations high commissioner for human rights has labeled ethnic cleansing, the World Bank on Sept. 14 issued a maddeningly bland statement about its work in the country, acknowledging the “deterioration in security,” but pointing fingers at no one. The statement reveals a remarkable lack of direction within the institution coming from its largest country shareholders, and particularly the United States.

The bank is in the business of development lending to country governments, and since Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest in 2010, the World Bank has provided over $2 billion in assistance to the government of Myanmar. Suu Kyi is now state counsellor, after her party won a landslide in elections in 2015, but the military retains power over key areas.

The mix of projects supported by the bank in the country run the gamut from physical infrastructure, to health services access, to a highly popular model of support in development circles called community-driven development. The community development model disburses small amounts of money to many localities, empowering them to decide how to spend it. This model favors the local over the national in a way that has demonstrated success in various settings, but it also makes oversight more difficult.

And here lies just one of the challenges facing the World Bank. How much certainty does the bank have that its projects are safeguarded against abuses in Myanmar today, that no projects are enabling discriminatory treatment toward the Rohingya population?

Read full op-ed here.

October 10, 2017

Here's How the International Community Should Respond to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis (Devex)

From the op-ed:

Half a world away, thousands of people are uprooting their lives from the country they called home, and putting everything at stake to flee. As Myanmar’s regime continues to perpetrate horrific acts of violence against the Rohingya community — acts that a U.N. official called a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” — half a million civilians have already fled. It’s the swiftest outflow of refugees since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. On September 28, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said that the horrific campaign of violence has "spiraled into the world's fastest-developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare."

Bangladesh is now home to over 809,000 Rohingya refugees, creating a situation the country’s government officials describe as “untenable.” This inflow of refugees puts a strain on a country that already ranks among the poorest 50 countries in the world. And many Rohingya are fleeing to one of Bangladesh’s poorest districts.

As world leaders meet in Washington, D.C., this week at the World Bank Annual Meetings and G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors, they must come together to call on Bangladesh to offer a safe haven to Rohingya refugees. But Bangladesh can’t be expected to take on this burden alone.

Here are three ways the international community should support Bangladesh as it grapples with this crisis.

Read full op-ed here.

October 2, 2017

How Can the US and Humanitarian Groups Respond to the Rohingya Crisis? (Devex)

From the article:

Canberra — As the United Nations Security Council ramped up talks on how to respond to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, the Center for Global Development brought the debate directly to Washington on September 29, discussing what the United States and humanitarian groups should do.

In the past month, half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh, joining hundreds of thousands of refugees already there. A brutal Myanmar military campaign against the Rohingya population started on August 25 in response to coordinated attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on army and police bases. “There is an increased level of violence among certain elements of the Rohingya and because of the state led persecution against this population, you might not be surprised to know that,” Sarah Margon, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, explained. “They have nowhere else to turn.”

Read full article here.

August 30, 2017

Odiousness Ratings for Public Debt (Project Syndicate)

From the article:

On Friday August 25, the US government imposed financial sanctions on Venezuela, restricting the ability of President Nicolás Maduro’s government and its oil company, PDVSA, to issue new debt in American capital markets. The sanctions were imposed in response to the regime’s unconstitutional and fraudulent election of a constituent assembly and the de facto closure of the constitutionally elected National Assembly, with its two-thirds opposition majority...

According to this doctrine, debt incurred by “odious” regimes should not be enforceable, because the lender should have known that the debt was incurred without the consent of the people or for their benefit. As Sack put it: “This debt does not bind the nation; it is a debt of the regime, a personal debt contracted by the ruler, and consequently it falls with the demise of the regime.”

The odious debt idea was revived in an influential 2006 article by Seema Jayachandran and Michael Kremer, and in a 2010 report by the Center for Global Development (CGD), which proposed that economic sanctions include a mechanism aimed at preventing the accumulation of odious obligations. The mechanism would take the form of a declaration that debt issued by a particular government would be considered odious. In effect, this is what the Trump administration has just done.

Such a declaration reduces the flow of funds to odious regimes, owing to the risk that successor governments will renounce their predecessor’s debts without incurring legal and reputational costs (because participating countries’ courts will not enforce the debt contracts).

The CGD report proposes that a regime should be considered odious if it abuses the human rights of the population, employs military coercion, perpetrates electoral fraud, and mismanages or misappropriates public funds.

Read full article here.

August 15, 2017

Investing in Education Essential in Developing Countries (Borgen Magazine)

From the article:

Children around the globe do not have access to basic education and the countries with the highest rates of out-of-school children are also among the poorest in the world. Education gives people the necessary skills they need to climb the ladder out of poverty and into prosperity. Investing in education is essential in developing countries, reducing poverty rates and producing significant developmental benefits...

Recent studies suggest that the effect education has on health is as great as the effect income has...According to the Center for Global Development, young people who complete primary school are less likely to contract HIV than those with little or no schooling.

Read full article here.

July 11, 2017

Tough Road Ahead, Even as IS Grip on Mosul and Raqqa Falters (Reuters)

From the article:

Trump's budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1, would allocate $13 billion for the military fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

"Are we going to spend even a fraction of the amount on reconstruction?" asked Jeremy Konyndyk, who oversaw disaster assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development until January.

When the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq in 2011, U.S. aid budgets and personnel were reduced as well, said Konyndyk, now at the Center for Global Development. "We should not make the same mistake this time (of) taking a really military-centric approach to our engagement and once the military job is done, stripping out most of the other tools."

Read full article here.

July 10, 2017

The Mental Health Crisis in Syria: A Major Gap in Humanitarian Medical Response (YPPF Charged Affairs)

From the op-ed:

The civil war in Syria has led to a significant increase in the number of Syrians battling mental disorders. These include anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), and developmental problems. Humanitarian medical providers in Syria have had to scale up mental health care on an ad-hoc basis to cope with the large number of patients; but many Syrians have not and will not receive adequate or timely care. It is clear that Syria is facing a major mental health crisis. This is because mental health and psycho-social support are not fully integrated into the global standard for humanitarian medical response. Humanitarian responders must make the provision of sufficient and immediate mental health care standard protocol in emergency services as with any other medical trauma.

The statistics on mental health outcomes in conflict-affected states are shocking. In Syria, available data showsthat half of all Syrians need mental health and psycho-social support, and one in four Syrian children are at risk of developing a mental health disorder. Data from past conflicts, like in Yugoslavia, Cambodia, Chechnya, and Lebanon, illustrate the negative ramifications of widespread mental health disorders for societies trying to rebuild. Among people who have lived in war zones, 30-70 percent exhibit symptoms of PTSD and depression. 10 percent of those who experience traumatic events during armed conflict will develop serious mental problems, and an additional 10 percent will develop behavior that inhibits daily functioning. As of June 1, there are over 5 million refugees and 6.5 million internally displaced Syrians, populations that have certainly experienced trauma in the war.

Children exposed to conflict experience the worst psychological trauma. A study in Gaza of children aged 10-19 found that 97.5 percent of children sampled exhibited symptoms of PTSD, and 32.7 percent of those exhibited severe symptoms requiring psychological intervention. Experts say the early trauma of Syrian children will be long lasting. Research already predicts a serious risk of a “lost generation of children” in Syria, in which insufficiently treated mental illness plays a major role.

Addressing mental health immediately and adequately in conflict-affected populations can have important economic and social benefits beyond alleviating widespread suffering. Providing treatment for mental disorders leads to significant economic productivity gains. It can also address risks to social cohesion and stability. Studies have linked untreated patients of violent trauma-related mental disorders with explosive anger, reckless or violent actions, and increased drug use.

Given this evidence, mental health care services should be considered a key component for productive assimilation efforts in host countries’ societies and economies. Mental health care should also be acknowledged as an essential tool for post-conflict state building. Integrating mental health and psycho-social support into humanitarian medical services can be a valuable early investment by donors in securing successful reconstruction processes.

Read full op-ed here.


May 30, 2017

The World Bank Has Bigger Problems Than Bad Writing (Bloomberg)

From the article:

From an outside perspective, it certainly looks as if the World Bank is an institution in need of great change. And the problem goes far beyond poor communication.

First of all, the Bank’s original mission -- to lend money to developing countries -- is becoming less and less important. As Center for Global Development researchers Scott Morris and Madeleine Gleave noted in a 2015 report, the rapid growth of the world economy means that most countries just don’t need the bank anymore:

The Bank will continue to play an essential role in a relatively small number of fragile states, but the rest of its core lending model could very quickly become irrelevant to most of its other current borrowers…On its current path, the World Bank will soon enough be viewed as no longer essential.

Morris and Gleave suggest a number of other roles the Bank could step into, including disease response, funding scientific research, making municipal loans or simply acting as a think tank. But this isn’t very encouraging -- it paints the picture of an organization shambling onward out of sheer momentum, an expensive bureaucracy looking for a purpose. In 2014, the Financial Times wondered openly if the Bank was “sliding into irrelevance.”

Read full article here.

January 14, 2016

Sudan Sanctions Deprive 'Whole Nation' of Health Care (Foreign Policy)

From article:

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, banks have increasingly severed ties with customers that could — however remote the risk — land them in the category of organizations that help finance terrorism or launder money, according to a November 2015 report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Global Development. Last year, an example was made of the French bank BNP Paribas, which paid an $8.9 billion penalty for doing business with Sudan, Iran, and Cuba.

BNP’s breach was egregious, but it functions as a stern warning of the type of penalties at stake if banks misjudge a transaction. With about 30 agencies involved in regulation, Vijaya Ramachandran, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and lead author of the report, says, “banks get mixed and sometimes contradictory signals, and they respond by deciding to not do business.” That is especially likely when the risk is high and there is little profit to be gained — exactly the case that ordinary Sudanese citizens present. “The financial exclusion of such clients creates yet another obstacle for poverty alleviation and economic growth, especially in poor countries,” the report concludes.

Read full article here.