Disagreement over how investments in the private sector are counting to aid is threatening to overwhelm the OECD Development Assistance Committee. There are no perfect solutions here; governments must find the least-bad compromise. We point the way forward.
Front and center in discussions around the reform and redesign of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are the objectives of increased efficiency and effectiveness. The agency’s new administrator, Mark Green, who has highlighted these goals from day one, has an excellent opportunity to improve the agency’s efficiency and effectiveness through better generation and use of evidence to inform policy and programming decisions.
For the world’s middle-income countries, the changes unleashed by automation, digital technologies, and the advent of increasingly more capable AI pose major challenges. They threaten to upend the few tried and tested development strategies.
“The Evidence” About “What Works” in Education: Graphs to Illustrate External Validity and Construct Validity
Currently, the bulk of the new empirical work on estimating the impact on learning of various education projects/ programmes/policies, while based on sound principles of estimating causal impacts, is far too inadequately theorised and specified to be of much immediate and direct use in formulating effective action to accelerate learning. The RISE research agenda is moving forward by: (a) embedding research into a prior diagnostic of the overall system, (b) evaluating on-going attempts at education reform at scale, (c) specifying the details of programme/project/policy design, and (d) acknowledging that policy relevant learning is itself part of the system.
On April 11, the World Bank's International Development Association broke new ground by establishing a private sector window (PSW) with $2.5 billion in resources. For the first time, IDA will use public funds to catalyze private investments in poor countries, in addition to concessional lending to their governments.
This work analyzes fresh data made available by updated, more comprehensive Enterprise Surveys of formal firms of various sizes and, importantly, of informal firms. It concentrates on five countries (the DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, and Rwanda) to provide more fine-grained insights into differences in characteristics and productivity levels between formal and informal firms or different sizes in different developing countries.
Some Answers to the Perpetual Question: Does US Foreign Aid Work—and How Should the US Government Move Forward with What We Know?
Happily, in the last 25 years, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day has dropped by two-thirds. Most of this success is due to major global forces such as trade and cross-border labor mobility. And much of the credit goes to the governments and citizens of developing countries themselves for pursuing the policies that have enabled donor, private sector, and (increasingly) their own resources to translate into development outcomes. But development assistance—including US aid—has made important contributions.
The benefits of global trade are numerous and well-documented, but trade channels can still be made more inclusive for women entrepreneurs and wage workers. Incorporating pre-ratification conditions into the trade agreement negotiation process to remove legal barriers against women’s equal participation in the economy (and therefore equal advantages from trade), as well as instituting follow-up enforcement mechanisms, can help to ensure trade benefits women and men more equally going forward.
Just as the evidence suggests that a more gender-inclusive political system may lead to better policies for women and girls and integrating women into corporate boards may mean reaching new consumers, there is a case to be made for increasing women’s presence in developing technology and innovation. Incorporating more women into technology sectors is likely to 1) increase productivity, 2) offers women a source of high-quality jobs, and 3) may have knock-on benefits for female consumers of technology, whose needs are more likely to be taken into account.
Private sector development has long been viewed as essential for economic growth in developing countries, and the US role in promoting it has focused mostly on how developing country governments could best set a policy environment that made it possible. But let’s consider the risks of concentrating too heavily on the private sector. What could go wrong with an agenda that is centered on “deal making for development”?
Available evidence points to a superior payoff to female migration from gender-unequal countries to more gender-equal countries for the migrant, the sending country, and recipient country alike. This suggests that a policy by relatively gender-equal countries to provide entry preference to female economic migrants from gender-unequal countries would combine development impact and economic self-interest.
What if taxpayers could decide for themselves how some of the UK’s aid budget is spent? Allocating funding would let taxpayers engage meaningfully with development issues, potentially reinforcing support for tackling poverty and deprivation overseas. Competition for funding would give international development organisations an incentive to offer an explicit value proposition. This could catalyse a race to the top in becoming transparent, measuring impact, and delivering value-for-money. AidChoice, as set out below, would be revenue neutral, would not lower the UK’s overall spending on foreign aid (or the amount scored as ODA), and might generate modest but meaningful savings, all while increasing public support for development spending and improving accountability.
At present rates of progress, it will take more than three centuries for the UN to see the same number of women as men in peacekeeping operations, even though evidence suggests that increasing the proportion of women in operations will improve the success rate of peacekeeping missions and reduce levels of sexual misconduct. One method to speed up the march to equality could be financial incentives directed at troop contributing countries. These could significantly increase the proportion of women peacekeepers, potentially for as little as $77 million per year.
The global community is facing extraordinary shifts in forced displacement. Today, more people than ever before—65 million, including 21 million refugees—are displaced by conflict. Host countries are taking on great responsibility for these displaced populations, but with insufficient support. New partners and new models are required to meet the displacement challenge. This brief outlines a compact model with critical components, including shared outcomes for refugees, host country ownership and focus on longer-term transition, best practices for program design and management, and commitment to policy reforms.
Funding the global public good of technology is a useful way for donors to leverage the impact of their aid. Different types of technologies appear to be important to development progress, and to spread, in different ways. ‘Lab coat technologies’ (inventions) spread easily and improve quality of life, ‘process technologies’ (institutions) spread with difficulty and are important to economic growth. For all donor interventions, however, it appears that context matters—the same technology or investment has varied impact in different environments. Donors should take the importance of context on board when designing their technology interventions.
Can Access to Contraception Deliver for Women’s Economic Empowerment? What We Know – and What We Must Learn
Theory and some empirical evidence suggest the two goals – reproductive rights for women and women’s economic empowerment – are connected: reproductive rights should strengthen women’s economic power. But our understanding of the magnitude of the possible connection and the nature of any causal link (vs. coevolution or reverse causation) in different times and places is limited. In this note we summarize what we know up to now and what more we could learn about that connection, and set out the data requirements and methodological challenges that face researchers and policymakers who want to better understand the relationship.
There is growing recognition of the importance of identification for sustainable development. Its role is recognized formally in target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for providing “legal identity for all, including through birth registration” by 2030. Identification is also an enabler of many other development targets, from social protection (delivering support) to financial inclusion (opening bank or mobile accounts and establishing a credit record) to women's empowerment.Having a recognized identity is crucial for achieving several development outcomes.
Doing Business Differently with Subnationals: Recommendations for Global Health Donors in Highly Decentralized Countries
In the big decentralized countries where global disease burden is concentrated, such as India and Indonesia, most public money for health isn’t spent by the national ministry of health, the traditional counterpart for global health funders and technical agencies. Instead, most money is programmed and spent subnationally.
Greater subnational public spending reflects growing democratization, power-sharing, and local self-determination. It also responds to the conviction that local decision-makers understand local realities better than a bureaucrat sitting in the capital city. Yet evidence on the effectiveness of subnational spending on health care and outcomes is mixed at best, and incentives for greater spending and better performance can be weak.