Author Archives: Owen Barder

Let’s Dump Technology Transfer from the Addis Agenda

This blog post by Charles Kenny and me first appeared on the CGD website. New technologies are central to the kind of global progress outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals, and those technologies need to reach people in the developing world who can benefit from them. But “technology transfer” is a terrible way to think about the issues involved — so let’s dump “transfer” from the Addis accord and think of a more constructive framework for technology in development. In a new policy paper, we outline some ideas to help build that framework. An immense number of technologies useful to development, from mobile phones and the Internet to the pneumococcal vaccine, have been developed in the last few decades

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Effective Altruism

Here is Beth Barnes of Exeter College on the difference that effective altruism could make

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Joined up government

The membership list of Cabinet Committees and Cabinet Task Forces in the new government has been published. It is striking that the Development Secretary, Justine Greening, is not a member of many of the committees which discuss business that impact on, and are affected by, international development. Here is a list of committees that the Secretary of State for International Development is not on, and (off the top of my head) some of the issues that they might discuss from which DFID’s analysis and expertise will be missing: Economic Affairs Committee Trade Intellectual property R&D Financial stability International Taxation Global financial institutions Economic Sanctions Climate Change European Affairs Committee Common Agricultural Policy Trade Policy Fisheries Free movement of people Economic reform Common Security Policy European Investment Bank EBRD Home Affairs Committee Drugs Immigration Counter-terrorism Radicalisation Democracy and human rights National Security Council (Threats, Hazards, Resilience and Contingencies) Climate Change Health Pandemics Economic stability Counter-terrorism & extremism Money laundering Movement of people Immigration task force Migrant labour Students Human trafficking Border security Asylum Health care professionals Tackling extremism in communities task force Global inequality Gender inequality Female Genital Mutilation Democracy and human rights There are several possible explanations for the omission of the international development secretary from these committees. The Institute for Government has pointed out that women Cabinet Ministers are under-represented on the Committees, so this may just be the result of general sexism. It may also be that the Cabinet Office and Number 10 staff who draw up the committee membership still think of development policy as primarily about aid.

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How should donors work with the private sector?

This blog post, jointly written with Theo Talbot, first appeared on the CGD website. Spot the odd one out: Tanzania’s Morogoro Shoe Factory: Underwritten by the World Bank in the 1970s to supply the entire domestic market and produce for export, it never produced more than 4 percent of its capacity before folding, leaving behind a trail of dodgy deals and unpaid debt. In early 2014, USAID announced a $10 million facility to backstop loans by the Kenya Commercial Bank to local firms so that they could buy GE medical equipment, repaying half the face value of loans that default. The Advance Market Commitment for pneumococcal vaccines: Because pharmaceutical firms cannot invest in R&D for vaccines against diseases that primarily affect poor people, donors offered vaccine makers a guaranteed price per dose if they could produce a vaccine that met effectiveness and safety criteria. No prizes for identifying Number 3 as the odd one out.

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Episode 46: Morten Jerven

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Morten Jerven explains why we know less than we should about what is happening in African economies, and why this is leading economists to the wrong recommendations. His first book, Poor Numbers: How We are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do About It explained the problems with Africa’s economic data; an his new book,  Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong sets out how this lack of nuanced understanding of the data has led to flawed analysis and recommendations.  “The bottom line”, he says, “is that there is no bottom billion”. Morten Jerven is an Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University. He is an economic historian with a PhD from the London School of Economics.

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Can aid agencies help systems fix themselves?

This essay first appeared on Duncan Green’s blog, From Poverty to Power. It was a follow up to a lecture on complexity and development which I gave to Duncan’s international development course at the LSE. Duncan wanted me to explore the “so what?” for development agencies in more detail, so here are my thoughts. You can read comments and discussion about this essay on FP2P. If economic development is a property of a complex adaptive system, as I’ve argued elsewhere, then what, if anything, can development agencies and NGOs do to accelerate it

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The CGD Rule

I’m jealous of the brilliant name recognition that the Chatham House Rule gives Chatham House (an international affairs think tank), so I propose “The Center for Global Development Rule”: “On any panel of two people or more there will be at least one woman on the panel, not including the Chair.”

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Behavioural economics meets development economics [podcast]

What is behavioural economics, and what does it have to do with development? In the latest Development Drums podcast, I discuss this with Varun Gauri, who was co-editor of the recent World Development Report, Mind Society and Behaviour, one of the most accessible and widely-read World Development Reports of recent years. According to Dr Gauri, economists recognise that many resources are scarce (labour, capital, land etc) but fail to acknowledge that cognition is also scarce. And because of this, people routinely make decisions which are bad for them. Dr Gauri argues that these problems affect people living in poverty at least as much as everyone else, and probably more

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Episode 45: Mind, Society and Behaviour

Behavioural economics is hot. In this edition of Development Drums, I talk to Varun Gauri, Senior Economist with the Development Research Group of the World Bank and Co-Director of the World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior. Varun explains the principles of behavioural economics, and discusses how they apply to development economics. He also discusses how these biases also affect development agencies and their staff, and the implications of behavioural economics for development agencies themselves. Varun Gauri

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Aid 2030

This essay, first published at The Center for Global Development, is based on remarks Owen Barder delivered at a breakfast discussion on April 10, 2015, hosted by Russell Reynolds Associates. It draws on work submitted as written evidence to the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee inquiry on “Beyond Aid: The Future UK Approach to Development.” This includes analysis of the future of the UK’s Department for International Development as an independent aid agency (joint with Alex Evans, published here), a paper summarising the UK’s performance on CGD’s Commitment to Development Index (joint with Petra Krylová published here), and work summarising the rigorous economic evidence base on the potential development impact of “beyond aid” policies (joint with Theodore Talbot, published here). The views expressed are those of the author alone. I’m going to talk about three big trends in development that are going to make the next 15 years very different from the last 15 years. I’m going to suggest four significant implications for development policy, including for the future role of development agencies like DFID

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Fixing Windows drivers for my iPod

I use both Microsoft and Apple products. My MP3 player of choice is an Apple iPod nano.  Sometimes the Windows drivers seem to get messed up, and iTunes gives me a message that my iPod has not been recognised. I’ve tried Apple’s solution, which includes a fresh installation of iTunes. That doesn’t work for me

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Pull Yourself Together

Walking back from dinner in London’s South Bank on Friday night, we stumbled across this installation by Alex Chinneck in the Hungerford Car Park. It is a Vauxhall Corsa, apparently suspended on a piece of tarmac that has been upended. Pick Yourself Up and Pull Yourself Together by Alex Chinneck. Hungerford Car Park, South Bank, London. Photos by Owen Barder, February 2015 The post Pull Yourself Together appeared first on Owen abroad.

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Blog revamp

Observant readers of this blog will notice that I’ve done a little spring cleaning around here. I tried to make the design feel more contemporary by making it simpler, and more readable, especially on a mobile phone or tablet.  I’ve also tried to make the site load much faster.  I’ve tried to make it easier to leave comments. And I want to do a better job of managing photos: to ensure that pictures have credits and text alternatives for people whose sight is impaired

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Zero inbox – an update

I was told recently by a senior DFID official that my greatest contribution to DFID so far has been my system for managing email overload, which apparently has been widely adopted. (I’d like to think he was joking, but I fear not.) If you missed my 2012 previous post about managing email, here is a summary. Without wanting to sound smug, I normally have zero inbox. I achieve this by triaging my inbox several times a day into three categories: (a) I deal immediately with anything that can be answered in a few minutes; (b) things that will take longer, I defer to the day on which I plan to do it; and (c) I file the things that need no further action.  Then I leave my (empty) inbox and look at my Today folder, which contains the things that I have previously tagged to deal with today

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