Harmful cultural practices and norms—even the seemingly non-violent ones that consign girls to bear the brunt of household labor—have consequences for nutrition, health, educational achievement, sexual abuse, and child marriage. Accordingly, it is critical to develop a research agenda that places girls aged 0 to 10 at the center of policy to address harmful practices. Both as an issue of gender-based violence and as an impediment to girls reaching their potential, we need greater commitments to country-level data, informed and enforced legislative action, and innovative methods to challenging and shifting socially shared definitions of girlhood.
The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.
The current size of the income-secure middle class and its likely future growth, suggest that optimism is indeed warranted for many of today’s middle-income countries. But it is not warranted for all of them, and especially not for most of the low-income countries of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — even if they continue to grow at the relatively healthy rates they have enjoyed in the last decade and more.
If private markets can produce the iPhone, why can’t aid organizations create and implement development initiatives that are equally innovative and sought after by people around the world? The key difference is feedback loops.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who will host President Bush on Thursday in the final stop of his five-country Africa tour, has news that may surprise some people: despite the problems in some African countries, things are clearly improving in much of the continent. In a new CGD essay co-authored with senior fellow Steve Radelet, Sirleaf describes how a growing number of African countries are embracing democracy and good governance, strengthening macroeconomic policies, and benefiting from debt relief. These countries are in the midst of an economic and development rebound, with economic growth averaging 5 percent for a decade, poverty rates beginning to fall, and social indicators beginning to improve. The essay concludes with recommendations on how this progress can be sustained and consolidated.
Sierra Leone, where a brutal decade-long civil war finally ended in 2002, has just held remarkably fair, peaceful and well-organized elections. CGD visiting fellow Carol Lancaster, a former deputy administrator of USAID, was there as an election observer. In a new CGD Essay, she reflects on what democracy means in a country with a mere 35 percent literacy rate, a 70 percent unemployment rate, and life expectancy of only 40 years. She writes that progress will depend upon the new government's ability to tackle corruption, rebuild infrastructure and encourage investment. It will also require the emergence of a domestic constituency with the knowledge, power and commitment to hold new leaders accountable.
The Bush administration has declared that fragile states are a threat to international security and an obstacle to global development. But Washington is struggling with how to respond to this challenge effectively. In this new CGD Essay, research fellow Stewart Patrick suggests ways that the U.S. can improve its performance in conflict prevention, crisis response, and post-conflict state-building. Among the recommendations: establish criteria for determining when and where to engage and improve civil-military planning and coordination.
Billions for War, Pennies for the Poor: Moving the President's FY2008 Budget from Hard Power to Smart Power
President Bush's FY2008 budget request provides a first glimpse into how the administration's new foreign assistance framework and transformational diplomacy agenda translate into who gets how much for what. In this CGD essay, authors Samuel Bazzi, Sheila Herrling and Stewart Patrick, show that the U.S. continues to devote a tiny fraction of national wealth to alleviate poverty and promote growth in the developing world. They recommend reform of U.S. development assistance include: a comprehensive national strategy for global development; a hard look at the top recipients; impact evaluation; a cabinet-level development agency; and rewriting the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. Learn more