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.
In this speech delivered at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Nancy Birdsall shares her observations about the changing development space and offers three proposals to help the development community tap the potential for informed and empowered citizens push for better local and global politics. Her remarks were prepared after delivering a 2012 speech to the 2012 UN General Assembly, "Global Citizens and the Global Economy," and foreshadowed her 2013 working paper , "Global Markets, Global Citizens, and Global Governance in the 21st Century."
Reliance on natural resource revenues, particularly oil, is often associated with bad governance, corruption, and poverty. Worried about the effect of oil on Alaska, Governor Jay Hammond had a simple yet revolutionary idea: let citizens have a direct stake. Thirty years later, Hammond’s vision is still influencing oil policies throughout the world.
In this speech delivered to the UN General Assembly, Nancy Birdsall argues that in the absence of an activist global political entity to address these issues, global citizens should press their own governments to adopt policies that address these problems, domestically and internationally.
This course introduces students to the relations among growth, inequality and globalization of economic markets, with a focus on implications for the developing world.
Staff update of the 2011 report Beyond Bullets and Bombs: Fixing the US Approach to Development in Pakistan, based on the deliberations of the CGD Study Group on a US Development Strategy in Pakistan.
This report presents the results of the second edition of the Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) assessment, with a focus on the changes that have occurred in donor performance since the first edition (2008).
In a new CGD report, U.S. and Pakistani development experts urge a substantial revamp of the U.S. approach to Pakistan, saying that U.S. efforts to build prosperity in the nuclear-armed nation with a fledgling democratic government, burgeoning youth population, and shadowy intelligence services are not yet on course.
This brief describes a new approach, Cash on Delivery Aid, which gives recipients full responsibility and authority over funds paid in proportion to verified measures of progress.
U.S. Development Assistance to Pakistan’s Education Sector (Fifth Open Letter to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke)
The fifth in a series of open letters, CGD president Nancy Birdsall outlines five recommendations on how U.S. development assistance to Pakistan’s education sector can be improved.
In an open letter to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Nancy Birdsall relays four main suggestions from the CGD Study Group on a U.S. Development Strategy in Pakistan about how U.S. assistance should be delivered to maximize development outcomes.
Cash on Delivery (COD) Aid proposes serious reform to make aid work well by forcing accountability, aligning the objectives of funders and recipients, and sharing information about what works.
The Development Agenda as a Global Social Contract; or, We Are All in This Development Boat Together
Nancy Birdsall delivered this speech on December 8, 2008, to the Dutch Scientific Council in The Hague.
The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President shows how modest changes in U.S. policies could greatly improve the lives of poor people in developing countries, thus fostering greater stability, security, and prosperity globally and at home. Center for Global Development experts offer fresh perspectives and practical advice on trade policy, migration, foreign aid, climate change and more. In an introductory essay, CGD President Nancy Birdsall explains why and how the next U.S. president must lead in the creation of a better, safer world.
In an increasingly globalized world, inequality is an issue of rising concern, especially in Latin America, home to many of the world's most unequal societies. This new book, co-published by the Center for Global Development and the Inter-American Dialogue, describes the links between recent growth trends, changing patterns of inequality, and rising cynicism and frustration with the political leadership across the region. The authors, Nancy Birdsall, Augusto de la Torre, and Rachel Menezes, present a dozen economic policy tools to make life fairer for the great majority of people--without sacrificing economic growth.
Does aid to Africa undermine the emergence of a robust African middle class? If so, what can be done about it? In this new working paper, CGD president Nancy Birdsall argues that high and unpredictable aid flows could be making life harder for Africa's small and medium-sized businesses by, for example, inflating wages and making governments less reliant on domestic revenue—and hence less accountable to taxpayers. She urges that donors systematically monitor such impacts in aid-dependent countries and suggests ways that aid could help to bolster Africa's crucial but fragile middle-income groups. Learn more
The aid business has long grappled with the trade-off between showing results and supporting a country's own institution-building. Donors want to be sure that their money makes a difference, and often quickly. But close monitoring raises costs and pushing for quick results leads to projects that bypass or even undermine domestic institutions that are crucial to development. In Payments for Progress: A Hands-Off Approach to Foreign Aid, Owen Barder, now director of Global Development Effectiveness at the United Kingdom Department for International Development, and CGD president Nancy Birdsall propose solving this problem by having donors pay for proven progress towards such agreed goals as additional children completing school and additional kilometers of roads built. How to achieve these goals would be left to the aid recipient government. They suggest this approach may be particularly useful in fragile states. Learn more