With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
CGD’s work on gender focuses policies in aid, development finance, trade, migration and peacekeeping that will improve women’s economic empowerment worldwide.
Greater equality drives big gains in health, education, employment, and improved livelihoods—for individuals, their families, and their communities. However, in many parts of the world, women and girls, and other marginalized groups including LGBT people, still face legal, economic, and political constraints that prevent them from participating fully and equally in society. CGD uses evidence to show how governments, donor institutions, and the private sector can help create conditions in low- and middle-income countries that allow all people to thrive.
At a CGD event on financial inclusion, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde noted that financial inclusion is a priority for the post-2015 development agenda as a whole. Here we explore both the benefits of financial inclusion and some concrete steps for achieving it, specifically looking at ways to overcome a persistent gender gap that leaves women with less access to financial services than men.
“Women’s economic empowerment” has suddenly become the talk of the town, whether that town is Antalya, Davos, or Washington. But will all of the recent high-level talk be backed up by meaningful action? And how do we ensure that actions taken are grounded in evidence? Here we explore women’s economic empowerment as a trend gaining traction and how to make sure that the trend becomes timeless.
If you thought there was one Sustainable Development Goal about gender, you’d be right, but not entirely. SDG 5 is the “gender goal” (“Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”), but gender equality and women’s empowerment are crucial to development aims throughout the 17 global goals.
We at CGD recently hosted a series of events illuminating the case for smarter gender policy in the private sector, a triple win that would benefit consumers, firms, and emerging economies. Change in private firms is important — but what about the world’s public sector? To create more opportunities for women and create valuable spillover effects, we might start with central banks.
In 1995, India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) organized women waste pickers in Ahmedabad into a cooperative to improve their working conditions and livelihoods. Over time, this informal arrangement evolved into Gitanjali—a women-owned and -run social enterprise. With support from key partners, Gitanjali has generated social value, providing its members with safe and dignified work while increasing their earnings. While Gitanjali faces challenges in becoming a fully self-sufficient social enterprise, its experience offers insights for other initiatives seeking to provide opportunities for women to transition from informal to formal work.
A consistent but perhaps unsurprising theme of CGD’s September 7 panel discussion, "Women Entrepreneurs: What Really Helps Them Start and Grow Businesses?" was that neither the challenges nor the solutions are simple. Access to finance—frequently emphasized—is not the only issue. And even within access to finance, it is important to look at both supply and demand, at both debt and equity, and at the behavior and attitudes of loan officers as well as bank managers.
In its opening days, the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen has bestowed praise and congratulations on the women’s rights advocacy community writ large—and appropriately so. Some of the panelists have risked their lives and livelihoods to create a better world for women and girls; recognition of their accomplishments is truly the least we can do. Many others have dedicated their distinguished careers to this cause, trailblazing the path for later generations. But there’s a lot we still have to accomplish.
Current shortcomings in the system of demand forecasting for essential drugs, vaccines and diagnostics are constraining access to these products in developing countries, resulting in poor health and unnecessary deaths from disease like AIDS, TB and malaria. Ruth Levine, Director of Programs and Senior Fellow at CGD and the chair of a new Global Health Forecasting Working Group, explains how the global community can work together to solve this urgent challenge.
To learn more, read and comment on the Working Group’s consultation report (pdf, 1MB).
Q: What is demand forecasting and why is it so important now?
A: Demand forecasting is a bread-and-butter part of virtually every business that supplies goods. It's the ongoing process of projecting which products will be purchased where, when, and in what quantities. To forecast demand, you combine information about need – like incidence and prevalence of disease – with information about funding, health care coverage, losses in the supply chain, consumption patterns and other factors that affect demand. Getting good forecasts certainly is not a new challenge in the pharmaceutical supply chain in developing countries, but has become much more urgent recently. There is more money for global health products, many of them are quite costly to produce, and they need to be supplied steadily. Without the ability to forecast effective demand with a reasonable degree of certainty, increased funding for drugs will not improve health or get to the people who need it. Without good demand forecasts, manufacturers cannot increase production capacity, make commitments to suppliers of raw materials, or see a business case for investment in costly clinical trials and other activities to develop future products. National governments and international funders also need good demand forecasts for budgeting purposes, while health programs and implementing agencies depend on forecasts to plan their supply chain logistics.
Q: If everyone would benefit from better forecasts, why hasn't the situation already been fixed? What is the underlying problem?
A: I think it's a combination of factors. Clearly, it's partly because forecasting in global health hasn’t quite caught up with what's happening in the market. There has been a relatively recent surge in the amount of health funding and products available for the developing world and a rapid increase in the number of donors, suppliers, buyers and intermediaries. But there has not yet been a corresponding improvement in forecasting methods or institutional roles.
There's really no question that the underlying problem is about risk: within the current market, risks are unequally distributed across key actors whose decisions affect supply of and demand for these products. Those who suffer the direct financial and health consequences of the risks – primarily manufactures and patients - are not in a position to reduce them; conversely, the funders and intermediaries who could take specific action to address the underlying budgetary, policy-related and logistics risks only feel the consequences indirectly.
As a result of this, there are systematic problems. Not all stakeholders have incentives to develop better forecasts and greater access to critical medical technologies. And because of the limited market potential in developing countries, the private sector invests relatively little in market research and other sources of information that are common in developed markets. As we see it, the core challenge is to understand and take steps to correct the misaligned incentives by reducing and sharing risk.
Q: Are there any feasible, near-term solutions?
A: There are definitely things that can be done and would make a big difference. First, I think there should be a very clear recognition by a variety of stakeholders in global health that forecasting deserves attention and that it’s a function that needs to be clearly separated from advocacy and other activities. Second, there’s an opportunity to establish an information intermediary (or "infomediary") that would mobilize and share information and baseline forecasts in a coordinated way. This is a function that is quite common in other types of supply chains. Third, funders need to accept more of the risk; they can use creative contracting mechanisms to share risk more efficiently. These constitute a coherent package; we think that implementing these recommendations would enhance the relationship among funders, suppliers, intermediaries and users of health products, and go a significant distance toward aligning incentives towards increased access to quality health technologies. These are the recommendations that we’re hoping to get feedback on during the consultation process we’re undertaking right now. I am really looking forward to hearing views about these ideas.
Q: Where will this get us, and what's left?
A: Taken together, I think the Working Group’s recommendations have the potential to dramatically improve demand forecasting at the global level, and that would contribute to improved access to health products. At the same time, better forecasting can only get us so far when there are so many sources of underlying uncertainty. Dealing with those problems requires a broader and longer-term agenda that many people are working on, in one way or another -- strengthening health systems and building supply chain capacity in-country; increasing the market-orientation of product development activities; enhancing the regulatory regimes and enforcement; and improving the predictability of donor funding. Those are extremely important to work on, while we also do what we can today to make a real difference.