Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity



December 16, 2013

Illicit Financial Flows and the 2013 Commitment to Development Index

In recent years there has been growing recognition of the harm done to development by illicit financial flows, and the role of rich countries in providing an environment which tolerates or discourages them. To investigate whether indicators of illicit finance should be included in the CDI, the Center for Global Development commissioned this background paper from Petr Janský, a Czech academic economist from the Charles University and CERGE-EI in Prague.

Petr Janský
December 16, 2013

Clear Direction for a New Decade: Priorities for PEPFAR and the Next US Global AIDS Coordinator

PEPFAR is at a critical turning point in its decade-long existence. The next US Global AIDS Coordinator is uniquely positioned to set the course for the program’s future. A change in leadership at the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief creates an opportunity to ask questions about the organization and reflect in more general terms on the US response to the global AIDS epidemic.

December 2, 2013

Is Anyone Listening? Does US Foreign Assistance Target People’s Top Priorities? - Working Paper 348

The United States government has made repeated declarations over the last decade to align its assistance programs behind developing countries’ priorities. By utilizing public attitude surveys for 42 African and Latin American countries, this paper examines how well the US has implemented this guiding principle. Building upon the Quality of Official Development Assistance Assessment (QuODA) approach, I identify what people cite most frequently as the ‘most pressing problems’ facing their nations and then measure the percentage of US assistance commitments that are directed towards addressing them. 

October 15, 2013

Here’s the Best Thing the United States Has Done in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s progress against mortality reflects the success of providing health aid that differed radically from the bulk of American aid to Afghanistan during the war. The USAID program that contributed to the decline was a multilateral effort coordinated by Afghanistan’s own Ministry of Public Health. Results were verified by random sampling, and some funding was linked to measures of performance. This internal policy experiment, however, was destined to provoke resistance. More surprising is the source of resistance to an aid program that attempted to stop simply throwing money at a problem and focus on building sustainable systems: auditors.

October 7, 2013

Investing in Social Outcomes: Development Impact Bonds

This report explains how Development Impact Bonds (DIBs) can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of development funding. Based on Social Impact Bonds in industrialized countries, a DIB creates a contract between private investors and donors or governments who have agreed upon a shared development goal. The investors pay in advance for interventions to reach the goals and are remunerated if the interventions succeed. Returns on the investment are linked to verified progress.

October 2, 2013

Can Results-Based Payments Reduce Corruption? - Working Paper 345

A common objection to results-based programs is that they are somehow more vulnerable to corruption. This paper explains why results-based approaches to foreign aid may be less vulnerable to corruption than traditional approaches which track inputs and activities. The paper highlights corruption costs associated with failing to generate benefits and outlines the conditions under which one approach or another might be preferable. It concludes that results-based programs may be less vulnerable to corruption costs associated with failure because they limit the capacity of dishonest agents to divert funds unless those agents first improve efficiency and outputs.

August 19, 2013

Revisiting the Quality of Agricultural Official Development Assistance

The Quality of Agricultural Official Development Assistance (Ag QuODA) measures how well donors giving agricultural aid score on the dimensions of aid quality that evidence and experience suggest lead to effective aid. Improvements in the data quality and availability are making sector-specific assessments like Ag QuODA more feasible, but further improvements are needed to allow a deeper understanding of aid effectiveness.

Edward Collins and Kimberly Ann Elliott
August 14, 2013

OPIC Unleashed: Strengthening US Tools to Promote Private-Sector Development Overseas

A strengthened OPIC—more efficiently deploying existing tools at no additional budget cost—would (1) increase US commercial access in emerging economies, (2) reflect economic, social, and political priorities in developing countries, (3) promote flagship US initiatives during austere budget conditions, and (4) support stability in fragile or frontline states.

August 7, 2013

Context Matters for Size: Why External Validity Claims and Development Practice Don't Mix - Working Paper 336

In this paper we examine how policymakers and practitioners should interpret the impact evaluation literature when presented with conflicting experimental and non-experimental estimates of the same intervention across varying contexts. We show three things. First, as is well known, non-experimental estimates of a treatment effect comprise a causal treatment effect and a bias term due to endogenous selection into treatment. When non-experimental estimates vary across contexts any claim for external validity of an experimental result must make the assumption that (a) treatment effects are constant across contexts, while (b) selection processes vary across contexts. This assumption is rarely stated or defended in systematic reviews of evidence. Second, as an illustration of these issues, we examine two thoroughly researched literatures in the economics of education—class size effects and gains from private schooling—which provide experimental and non-experimental estimates of causal effects from the same context and across multiple contexts.

August 2, 2013

US Development Assistance to Pakistan: 2014 and Beyond

In this note, CGD senior policy analyst Alexis Sowa outlines three recommendations for US development assistance to Pakistan: name the leader of US development efforts, clarify the mission, and finance what is already working.

Alexis Sowa