Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity




An image of the working paper.
December 1, 2021

Understanding Education Policy Preferences: Survey Experiments with Policymakers in 35 Developing Countries

Foreign aid donors and international organizations supporting education in developing countries have increasingly coalesced around a policy agenda prioritizing foundational learning, measured by test scores in primary school, based on a diagnosis of deficient school quality, and a growing body of empirical evidence about effective interventions to improve quality. We survey over 900 senior government officials working on education in 35 low- and middle-income countries to gauge their alignment with this agenda.

Arrows trending downward overlaid over a map of the world. Adobe Stock
November 30, 2021

MDB COVID-19 Crisis Response: Where Did the Money Go?

The pandemic and its economic impact have been a revealing test of the multilateral development bank (MDB) system and of individual MDBs. Although lending by the MDBs as a group rose significantly in 2020 (39 percent), this is much less than the rise in MDB lending in response to the Global Financial Crisis (77 percent), despite the much greater economic and social costs of the pandemic.

An image of the policy paper.
November 22, 2021

Who’s Responsible for Climate Change? New Evidence Based on Country-Level Estimates of Climate Debt

In this paper, we introduce the concept of climate debt and provide country-level estimates through 2035 under a business-as-usual scenario. These estimates can help inform the debate on climate change by providing a clear view of which countries have (until the present) contributed the most to climate change, as well as the likely path for climate debt by country over the next 15 years. We then discuss the implications for carbon emissions if the G-20 countries and EU were to adopt either of the two policy options proposed in recent months: the first by President Biden for the US and the other by the EU for its member countries.

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November 19, 2021

From Displacement to Development: How Kenya Can Create Shared Growth by Facilitating Economic Inclusion for Refugees

Since the early 1990s, Kenya has hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees from across East Africa. Despite instances of refoulement, restrictions, and repeated threats from the government to shut down camps and deny other rights, large numbers of asylum seekers have found refuge in Kenya; some 490,000 refugees and asylum seekers live there today. But despite Kenya’s relatively generous policy for providing refuge, refugees in Kenya face many barriers to economic inclusion.

November 18, 2021

Mapping China’s Multilateralism: A Data Survey of China’s Participation in Multilateral Development Institutions and Funds

A considerable body of recent research attempts to shed light on China’s bilateral aid and finance flows, but there have been fewer efforts focused on China’s participation in multilateral development channels. As a result, China’s role across the landscape of multilateral institutions and funds is poorly understood, even as China has emerged as a leading donor within many of these entities.

An image of the brief
November 18, 2021

Mapping China’s Participation in Multilateral Development Institutions and Funds

China has emerged as a leading participant in multilateral development organizations. In many ways, this is a welcome development. Today’s global challenges, including COVID-19 and climate change, require an international response and have prompted renewed calls for increased multilateral engagement by the major economy countries. This, combined with the recognition of multilateral institutions’ high standards for transparency and environmental safeguards, have led the United States at times to encourage China to step up its multilateral contributions. At the same time, countervailing voices focused on strategic competition increasingly view China’s multilateral participation with skepticism.

November 18, 2021

The Journey to Universal Health Coverage

Since 2018, the government of Kenya has worked on a series of policies and pilots to support the implementation of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2022. UHC ensures that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.

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November 17, 2021

Meeting the Global Health Challenge to Reduce Death and Disability from Alcohol, Tobacco, and Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption with Corrective Taxes

Behind the daily trauma of COVID-19 lies a larger and longer-lasting global health challenge resulting from the consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Using a sample of 25 large advanced and emerging market economies accounting for three-quarters of global GDP, we show that about 60 million productive life years were lost every year in 2000, 2010, and 2019 from death and disability attributable to alcohol, tobacco, and diets high in sugar-sweetened beverages.

Chris Lane and Vinayak Bhardwaj
An image of the World Bank in Washington DC
November 15, 2021

What Next for IDA?

IDA, the World Bank’s concessional fund, was set up 1960 to provide affordable finance to countries with the smallest economies, lowest per capita incomes and lowest creditworthiness. The goal was to help those countries to grow faster and more equally and thereby sustainably to reduce poverty. IDA can fairly claim to have made a significant contribution to global poverty reduction over recent decades. But it is now underperforming in the countries with the biggest challenges. If it wants to retain its preferred status as a beneficiary of donor resources in the future, it needs a better offer to the neediest countries.

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November 10, 2021

Navigating the Straits: Pull Financing for Climate and Development Outcomes

An increasing share of official development assistance is being used for climate-related activities. This trend is continuing despite the lack of comprehensive cost-effectiveness evidence to guide spending decisions and continuing concerns that few applications are effective or efficient mechanisms for either climate or development outcomes. This paper proposes that a well-designed pull financing mechanism, which identifies specific problems for which it will pay a pre-specified price for solutions that can scale up, has the potential to navigate these problems.

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November 1, 2021

What Do Middle-Income Countries Want from the IMF as They Look to Recover from the Pandemic?

After more than a year of grappling with the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many middle-income countries (MICs) will continue to experience health and economic dislocation for some time to come. While much of the global financial community’s attention has focused on supporting low-income countries (LICs), about 75 percent of the world’s poor are in MICs, and economic recovery in these countries will be critical to an equitable and sustainable global future.

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October 28, 2021

Translating Results-Based Financing from Theory to Operational Reality: Lessons from the Practical Application of RBF at the European Commission

Results-based financing (RBF) is one of several broad approaches to finance official development assistance (ODA) “that attempt[s] to connect at least a portion of payment to the verified achievement of results.” Despite some relatively high-profile programs and pilots—and broad interest and curiosity—RBF approaches have yet to penetrate the routine operations of large institutional grant- and contract-based funders, many of which are governed by complex bureaucracies, restrictive financial regulations, and deeply entrenched, risk-averse corporate cultures.

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October 28, 2021

How Do Humanitarian Donors Make Decisions, and What Is the Scope for Change?

In this policy paper we review donor responses to a survey and interviews to probe the effects of the broader political and economic context in which donors operate, and identify internal constraints on humanitarian funding, planning, and making allocative decisions. We identify and highlight perceived and real constraints with which donors contend when making decisions on how to allocate limited resources.

October 27, 2021

Some Unpleasant ODA Arithmetic

Official development assistance is supposed to be designed to prioritise the economic development and welfare of developing countries. The OECD’s Development Assistance Committee is a club of wealthy donor countries which collaborate to set rules and norms to this effect.

An image of the difference between survey respondents’ answers and actual country allocations
October 27, 2021

Progressive, Optimistic, and Misinformed: What Donor Officials Believe about ODA Allocations

Official development assistance (ODA) can be and often is spent in well-off countries, where a vanishingly small proportion of the population live in poverty (Dissanayake & Tahmasebi, 2021). Such spending is sometimes justified either on the grounds that a large number of the global poor nevertheless live in well-off countries or that spending in these countries supports the delivery of important global public goods (GPGs), such as action against climate change or the hosting of refugees—though the extent to which such spending really has “the welfare and economic development of developing countries” at its heart can and should be disputed (Dissanayake, 2021).