Author Archives: Owen Barder

My debate with Bill Easterly

This morning I did a fun debate with Bill Easterly about his book, The Tyranny of Experts. You can watch it here (the event starts 12 minutes in).

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The global family of the athletics world?

Here is my self explanatory letter to the producer of a film on behalf of the IAAF (the International Association of Athletics Federations), which will include a voice-over from Usain Bolt. I hope others may join me in complaining about this. Dear Tamsin I wanted you to know that I was upset by your invitation for volunteer athletes to take part in a film which asked for an age range of “16 or over, 20′s, 30′s 40′s.” Though I qualify (just), I would not dream of taking part in something that discriminates against older athletes in this way. If you want, as you say, an image of “the global family of the athletics world coming together”, then you should not exclude older runners, who are as much part of that family as anyone. Running is special because it is a sport open to people of all ages and backgrounds

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“The Idealist” – Nina Munk on Jeff Sachs [podcast]

In the latest episode of Development Drums, I talk to the journalist and author Nina Munk about Jeff Sachs and the Millennium Villages Project, and the lessons for development cooperation more broadly. The Millennium Villages Project is based on the idea that impoverished villages can transform themselves and meet the Millennium Development Goals by investing in health, food production, education, access to clean water, and essential infrastructure.  The project was developed by Jeffrey Sachs, who is (among other things) Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations on the Millennium Development Goals. Nina Munk has tracked the progress of the Millennium Villages Project over the last six year.

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Episode 42: The Idealist (Nina Munk on Jeff Sachs)

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Nina Munk’s latest book, The Idealist, is about Jeffrey Sachs and the Millennium Villages Project. It is also a book about the efforts that people in industrialised countries make to help poor people. It is a book about vision, passion and hubris. In this episode of Development Drums, Nina Munk tells the story of how she came to write the book, and what she learned about Jeff Sachs, and about development aid, as she did so.

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Have hammer, looking for nails

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This post first appeared on Views from the Center. Spare a thought for the British Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening. If any of her Ministerial colleagues had announced a new £1.8 billion (US $3 billion) initiative, they would have been on the news. Heck, they might have been on the front page.

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Ten broad brushstrokes about development cooperation

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I am discussing the the future of development cooperation, and the role of Northern NGOs,, with the policy, advocacy and campaigns team at ActionAid UK this morning.  Powerpoint is forbidden.  I’m going to paint ten broad brushstrokes about the future of development cooperation: 1. Fighting poverty is no longer mainly about helping poor people in poor countries 72% of the world’s poor live in middle income countries, mainly in stable, non-fragile countries. Two thirds of the worlds poor live in just five countries: China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Indonesia.

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Using your UK mobile abroad without roaming charges

Last August I pointed out that O2 has a product which is particularly useful for people who travel a lot, especially in countries with high roaming charges (including many developing countries).  It is an app which enables you to use your UK phone number for texts and calls anywhere you can get onto the internet.  I have not tried it myself (because I have a different mobile operator) so I am pleased to share the following first-hand experience from a friend living overseas: Hi Owen I saw your five tasks post – and wanted to say thanks. I know you have an interest in tech, and have seen a recent post of yours asking about TUGo from O2 in the UK. So I thought I’d say thankyou by reporting on that

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Five simple cybertasks for the holiday

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I received an unwelcome email a few weeks ago from an IT-literate friend. His computer wouldn’t start, he said. He had backups of most of the data on it, but not the family photos stored there, which were irreplaceable. Could I help?

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Episode 41: The Great Escape (Angus Deaton)

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Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University, talks about his book, The Great Escape, which brings together his research into health, well-being, and economic development. In his book, Professor Deaton talks about the great progress that is being made in health and well-being, but also the problem of inequality within and between nations.  The book finishes with a robust critique of the aid business, leading Professor Deaton to recommend that industrialised countries should spend money for, but not in, developing countries.  In the podcast, I discuss with Professor Deaton the difference between happiness and well-being, the drivers of improved health around the world, and the implications of inequality of material well-being

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Is aid a waste of money?

This post first appeared on Views from the Center At a recent book launch, I was on a panel on which we were asked whether we can show that aid is a good use of public money, if the problems it aims to tackle are complex. I replied with a half-remembered statistic, which (now that I have had a chance to look at the numbers) turns out to have been right. It was this: If you add up all the aid that all OECD countries have given since they started counting it in 1960, and then assume that the only thing that this aid has achieved was the eradication of smallpox, then the whole thing would still be a bargain, costing less than half what the UK National Health Service spends on average to save a life. (This comparison was suggested by Toby Ord at the University of Oxford. To find out more about Toby listen to this edition of Development Drums.) Here are the numbers.

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Are rich country policies for development getting better?

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This joint post with Petra Krylová  first appeared on Views from the Center For the last decade, we have talked a lot of talk about new development partnerships; but have we walked the walk? The Center for Global Development’s Commitment to Development Index, now in its eleventh year, gauges whether wealthy countries are pursuing development-friendly policies­–not just on aid but on many other things which matter for development.  We recently announced the 2013 results here.  After 11 years of calculating the index we can ask the question: have the policies of rich countries got better over time? The answer: Yes, but less than you would think.

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Nineteenth time lucky?

This joint post with Alice Lépissier was first published on Views from the Center There was lots of cloud and not much silver lining at the climate change meetings which we attended in Warsaw. It was microcosm of many of the problems with our mechanisms for working together to solve shared problems. First, some background. The Rio Earth Summit in 1992 set up three international treaties, known as the Rio Conventions, one of which is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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Which Country Has the Most Development Friendly Policies? (Hint: Tillykke!)

This joint post with Petra Krylová first appeared on the Center for Global Development blog, Views from the Center. It announces the publication of the 2013 Commitment to Development Index, which is CGD’s annual exercise to score affluent countries according to whether they have development-friendly policies. The calculations for the 2013 CDI were all done by David Roodman, now at the Gates Foundation, and by Julia Clark, now at UC San Diego.   For the second year in row, the winner of the Commitment to Development Index (CDI) is Denmark. (Tillykke!) Denmark does not have the highest score in any individual component, but it has the most consistently development-friendly policies across the board.

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Let’s help the Philippines — but not like we helped Haiti

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There is an article in the Washington Post about humanitarian relief in the Philippines by Vij Ramachandran and me. (For those who quaintly enjoy their news etched on to dead trees, this will appear in the paper on Sunday, apparently.)  We argue that the aid effort could be significantly improved by the use of technology and transparency.  The full text of the article is below. Wally Santana/Associated Press – Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan plead with military for water as they wait for an evacuation flight in the central Philippines on Nov.

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