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As the largest bilateral donor in the world, the US government can play a leadership role in pushing aid effectiveness principles and sustainable development practice. The past two administrations have interwoven, to varying degrees, a number of these principles into the reform agenda of USAID as well as new institutions and initiatives like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, PEPFAR, Feed the Future, and Power Africa.
CGD evaluates US efforts to implement these reforms and principles which include:
The principle of country ownership reflects the idea that local actors including governments, civil society, and the private sector should have a stronger leadership role in the formulation and implementation of development activities in their country. Country ownership is central to the approaches of MCC, Feed the Future, and Power Africa, while USAID and the State Department have increasingly focused attention on shifting a greater share of implementation leadership and responsibility to local actors.
Foreign Aid Transparency & Accountability
In recent years, there has been a major global push to increase the transparency and accountability of foreign assistance. The US government has the potential to be a global leader in aid transparency and accountability, but it has struggled to make progress on its international commitments.
Domestic Resource Mobilization
Domestic resource mobilization (DRM) broadly refers to the process of countries raising their own money to finance their development agenda. US government efforts to support DRM have focused on helping governments expand their tax bases, improve tax compliance, and increase the capacity of tax administrations. In addition to an emphasis on resource collection, current US efforts around DRM also emphasize the importance of the transparent and accountable expenditure of resources by governments.
Results or outcome-based aid has long been a key area of study for CGD. Compared to traditional models of US foreign assistance, these funding models shift attention from inputs to outcomes -- measuring and rewarding real progress, encouraging innovation and adaptation, aligning incentives, limiting corruption, and reducing waste of donor funds. Results-based aid approaches have shown promise in improving service delivery and country ownership.
The four main recommendations of the Redesign Consensus: A Plan for US Assistance are to empower USAID as the lead independent aid agency, to create a full-fledged development finance institution, to establish a global development and humanitarian strategy, and to upgrade systems to better manage personnel, procurement, information, and evidence. This proposal concretely advances the dialogue between Congress, the administration, and civil society on reforming the US development architecture. It captures the main conclusions of a series of robust discussions among a diverse group of leaders, experts, and practitioners—and it represents a bold and comprehensive vision for a more coherent and modern development architecture.
In Congress, support for aid is often bipartisan, and the seriousness and quality of thinking about aid reform is often very high. Case in point on both fronts is new legislation introduced by US Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) that would create the architecture and principles for a policy review and assessment of US contributions to multilateral institutions.
The very same week that USAID and the Department of State submitted a joint redesign plan to the Office of Management and Budget, the coauthors of four recent reform proposals packed the CGD stage for a timely debate. Fragmentation, inclusive economic growth, humanitarian assistance and fragile states, global health, and country graduation were a few of the big questions that panel members grappled with as they authored their reports.
Clear and rigorous evidence on the contributions of US global health programs is more important than ever, as the White House and lawmakers discuss and debate budgets and the future of US support to global health. Such information aids policymakers who must prioritize support to effective public health programs.
Using an experimental design, we assess the feasibility of interactive voice recognition (IVR) surveys for gauging citizens’ development priorities. Our project focuses on four low-income countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe). We find that mobile phone-based approaches may be an effective tool for gathering information about citizen priorities.
It’s quite the buzz phrase: results-based development. But what is actually meant by "results"? Dr. Raj Shah, former Administrator of USAID under President Obama, and Michael Gerson, former presidential speechwriter and Assistant for Policy and Strategic Planning under George W. Bush, have reached across a generational and political divide to share their expertise.
After a splashy launch in April 2014, USAID’s Global Development Lab has been relatively quiet as it seeks to expand the Agency’s capacity in science, technology, and innovation. For the broader development community, however, much remains in question about how the Lab will function, what it will accomplish, and how it will contribute to USAID’s newly stated mission to end extreme poverty.
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”?
Weak institutions are both a cause and a consequence of underdevelopment. Improving governance is widely regarded as critical to accelerating economic opportunities, democracy, and security. This is especially important for fragile states and countries emerging from conflict. Despite this, the United States and other donor governments have few financial tools that are demonstrably effective at stimulating and delivering improved governance.
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.