Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity




July 20, 2015

Restructuring US Global Health Programs to Respond to New Challenges and Missed Opportunities

In the absence of effective international institutions, the United States has become the world’s de facto first responder for global health crises such as HIV/AIDS and new threats like Ebola. The US government has the technical know-how, financial and logistical resources, and unparalleled political support to act quickly and save lives. Initiatives such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative are widely considered among the most effective aid programs in the world.

Yet US global health approaches are based on increasingly outdated engagement models, which fail to reflect emerging challenges, threats, and financial constraints. The next US president, working closely with Congress, should modernize how US global health programs are organized, deployed, and overseen. By taking three specific steps, the United States can reduce the need for costly first responses and generate more health and economic impact for every US taxpayer dollar spent.

July 20, 2015

Shifting the Foreign Aid Paradigm — Paying for Outcomes

While global development is about much more than aid, US foreign assistance is, and will remain, one of the most visible tools for US development policy in many countries. The US government spends less than 1 percent of its annual budget — about $23 billion — on nonmilitary foreign assistance across the globe. These programs have consistently come under fire for failing to achieve measurable and sustainable results, ignoring local priorities and contexts, perpetuating bureaucratic inefficiencies and inflexibility, and repeating mistakes over time. A paradigm shift within US aid agencies is needed. In this brief, we outline concrete proposals that would address many of the traditional shortcomings of US foreign aid approaches.

July 20, 2015

Realizing the Power of Multilateralism in US Development Policy

US leadership in multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and regional development banks is flagging. These institutions, rated as some of the most effective development actors globally, provide clear advantages to the United States in terms of geostrategic interests, cost-effectiveness, and results on the ground. Restoring US leadership in institutions like the World Bank will mean giving a greater priority to MDB funding, which today accounts for less than 10 percent of the total US foreign assistance budget and less than 0.1 percent of the total federal budget. Prioritizing multilateral assistance in an era of flat or declining foreign assistance budgets will necessarily mean some reallocation from other pots of foreign assistance money, as well as an effort to address the structural impediments to considering reallocations.

The Time to Reform US Biofuels Policy Is Now
May 18, 2015

The Time to Reform US Biofuels Policy Is Now

Even as Congress was mandating large increases in the consumption of biofuels a decade ago, the world was changing. In the early 2000s, replacing fossil fuels with biofuels made from corn, sugar, or oilseeds seemed like a good idea. Increased crop demand would prop up prices for farmers, and replacing petroleum with renewable energy would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promote energy independence.

Refocusing Gavi CGD brief
February 9, 2015

Refocusing Gavi for Greater Impact

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, pools donor funds to increase immunization rates in developing countries. Vaccines have saved millions of lives. Results from new research at the Center for Global Development suggest Gavi could save more lives by shifting support away from lower-cost vaccines provided to middle-income countries toward more underused vaccines and support to the poorest countries.

Publishing Government Contracts brief
November 11, 2014

Publishing Government Contracts: Addressing Concerns and Easing Implementation (Brief)

Government procurement worldwide is worth around $9.5 trillion a year. Oil, gas, and mining rents (the gap between the price of the goods produced and the cost of production) amount to around $5 trillion, which is 4.8 percent of global GDP. Governments routinely sign multibillion-dollar contracts regarding the use of public property including those natural resources. The resulting contracts are public documents, for which default practice should be in favor of publication.

Norway-Brazil Performance-based Payment for Forests
August 4, 2014

The Brazil-Norway Agreement with Performance-Based Payments for Forest Conservation: Successes, Challenges, and Lessons

In May 2014, Nancy Birdsall, William Savedoff, and Frances Seymour visited Brazil as part of a three-country study to gain insights into the value of future expansion of performance-based payments in other countries. This brief is based on discussions with government officials, NGO staff, private entrepreneurs, and independent researchers in Brazil about the policies and programs that are associated with reduced deforestation and forest degradation in Brazil, with particular attention to the influence of the Brazil-Norway Agreement and the Amazon Fund.

Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) brief
July 21, 2014

The Quality of Official Development Assistance 2014

The Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) measures donors’ performance on 31 indicators of aid quality to which donors have made commitments. The indicators are grouped into four dimensions associated with effective aid: maximizing efficiency, fostering institutions, reducing the burden on partner countries, and transparency and learning. The 2014 edition finds that donors are overall becoming more transparent and better at fostering partner country institutions but that there has been little progress at maximizing efficiency or reducing the burden on partner countries.

Delivering on a Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa brief
July 7, 2014

Delivering on a Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa

Despite improvements in censuses and household surveys, the building blocks of national statistical systems in sub-Saharan Africa remain weak. Measurement of fundamentals such as births and deaths, growth and poverty, taxes and trade, land and the environment, and sickness, schooling, and safety is shaky at best. The Data for African Development Working Group’s recommendations for reaping the benefits of a data revolution in Africa fall into three categories: (1) fund more and fund differently, (2) build institutions that can produce accurate, unbiased data, and (3) prioritize the core attributes of data building blocks.

Time for FAO to Shift to a Higher Gear
May 13, 2014

Time for FAO to Shift to a Higher Gear

In 2012, the Center for Global Development (CGD) convened the Working Group on Food Security, bringing together 22 experts in food policy, nutrition, agriculture, and economic development from around the world. The group’s task was to review pressing challenges to agricultural development and food security and take stock of the Rome-based United Nations food agencies charged with addressing them. The working group decided to focus on the largest of those agencies—the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)—and has two key recommendations.

October 3, 2013

Making Large-Scale Wind and Solar Power a Reality

South Africa and many other countries hope to aggressively expand wind and solar power (WSP) in the coming decades. This presents significant challenges for power system planning. Success hinges largely on the question of how and where to deploy WSP technologies. Well-designed deployment strategies can take advantage of natural variability in resources across space and time to help minimize costs, maximize benefits, and ensure reliability.