Stories written by Owen Barder Owen Barder is a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC, and the Director of aidinfo – a programme of Development Initiatives which aims to make aid more transparent and accountable. He lives and works in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Before moving to Ethiopia, Owen worked at the UK Department for International Development, as Director of International Finance and Development Effectiveness, Director of Communications, and Head of Africa Policy. He previously worked in the Treasury in the UK and in South Africa, and as the Economic Affairs Private Secretary to the British Prime Minister. He has worked at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC, where he helped to develop the idea of Advance Market Commitments, and as a Visiting Scholar in the economics department at Berkeley, California. Since 2009 Owen has been a member of the Board of Twaweza, which promotes opportunities for citizens in East Africa to hold government authorities to account.
Owen blogs about development and presents Development Drums, a podcast on development issues.
Daron Acemoğlu and James Robinson talk about their best-selling book, Why Nations Fail. In Why Nations Fail, Acemoğlu & Robinson argue that institutions matter for development and prosperity. Economic institutions can be broadly inclusive, leading to sustained economic prosperity, or extractive, enriching elites but doing little for the majority of the population. So far, that is not very new or exciting.
This joint post with Alex Cobham was first published on Views from the Center. In January, David Cameron nailed his colours to the mast with a speech in Davos that set out the three Ts agenda for the UK’s chairing of the June G8 meeting: taxes, trade and transparency. Since then, there has been much discussion of how serious the agenda is and what the G8 can actually deliver. Will Cameron persuade the G-8 to take on tax evasion? There have also been some raised eyebrows among the cognoscenti about a fourth T: turf
World Bank President Jim Kim joins the list of leaders who have declared that ours is the generation which can end global poverty: The world is at an auspicious moment. For the first time ever, we have a real opportunity to end extreme poverty within a generation. But achieving this goal won’t be easy. Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, 17 April 2013 Here are some previous such declarations This amazing story of human progress shows what’s possible. We can be the generation that eradicates absolute poverty in our world.
This blog post first appeared on Views from the Center. Richard Manning was a highly respected chair of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – the development committee of the OECD, the rich countries’ think-tank. So we should pay attention when he says in the FT that the OECD is encouraging OECD finance ministries to get away with murder as they seek to massage reported aid upwards at minimum cost. (Here is the letter without the paywall.) The definition of aid requires that loans are ‘concessional in character’ – in other words, that they are not simply commercial loans. There are two problems with this
There is an article by me and Lucas Robinson in the Globe and Mail today: The risk is that development becomes a secondary goal in a department with bigger fish to fry. The opportunity is that by putting development at the heart of a more powerful department with a broader remit for foreign and trade policy, Canada will now be able to promote development-friendly policies across the wide range of issues which most affect poor countries. It is not CIDA but Canada as a nation that needs to do more. And I’m quoted in the Toronto Star: “It makes no sense, giving aid to the same countries you hit with high tariffs,” says Owen Barder, a London-based official with the Centre for Global Development, a think tank that focuses on international aid issues.
Celebrity activists who campaign about development are often sneered at by development economists and by commentators; they are variously accused of ignorance, of exploiting a cause to further their own career, or even of wanting to perpetuate poverty to justify their own public profile. Bob Geldof has given an extended interview on Development Drums about his work over three decades; you can judge for yourself if this criticism of celebrity activists is fair. (But beware: the language is colourfully and characteristically explicit in places.) You can listen to the 35 minute version here, or listen to the entire extended interview. Alternatively you can read the transcript.
This is the unabridged version of an interview with Bob Geldof; the shorter edited version is available separately as Development Drums number 38. Bob Geldof is a singer, songwriter, author, actor and part-time political activist. As lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, Geldof had chart success with Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays. In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure brought together a group of musicians under the name Band Aid to record a single they wrote together, Do They Know Its Christmas?, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time. They went on to organise the Live Aid charity concert in 1985, and the Live 8 concert in 2005.
This podcast presents the edited version (about half an hour) of a longer interview with Bob Geldof; if you prefer you can listen to the full interview (1 hr 15 minutes) in episode 39 of Development Drums instead. Bob Geldof is a singer, songwriter, author, actor and part-time political activist. As lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, Geldof had chart success with Rat Trap and I Don’t Like Mondays. In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure brought together a group of musicians under the name Band Aid to record a single they wrote together, Do They Know Its Christmas?, which became one of the best-selling singles of all time. They went on to organise the Live Aid charity concert in 1985, and the Live 8 concert in 2005.
In the second of a series of three Development Drums podcasts about the relationship between citizens, states and development, Duncan Green talks about effective states and active citizens. Duncan is widely known for his terrific development blog; he is also the author of an ambitious book, From Poverty to Power, which is now out in its second edition. In From Poverty to Power Duncan aims to come up with an NGO narrative on development. His message is that active citizens and effective states are the main drivers of development. Duncan is increasingly focused on how change happens and From Poverty to Power is full of examples of this, from pond rights in India to the international campaign to ban landmines
Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Adviser at Oxfam, talks about his book From Poverty to Power. From Poverty to Power argues that it requires a radical redistribution of power, opportunities, and assets to break the cycle of poverty and inequality and to give poor people power over their own destinies. According to Duncan Green, the forces driving this transformation are active citizens and effective states. Active citizens are important because people living in poverty must have a voice in deciding their own destiny, fighting for rights and justice in their own society, and holding states and the private sector to account. Effective states are important because history shows that no country has prospered without a state structure than can actively manage the development process
This piece of ‘sponsored’ propaganda was served up to me today on Facebook: I am pretty sure that is not true. If Coke thinks about this long and hard, I think they will find that taking concerted effort to tackle climate change is the best way to ensure the continued well-being of polar bears, rather than a bear sponsorship scheme. But perhaps this ‘iconic’ company is not ready to tell people that?
In the latest edition of Development Drums, Rakesh Rajani and Martin Tisné discuss accountability and open government. The episode explores the idea of openness – meaning more than just transparency but also the mechanisms by which citizens can hold their governments to account. Rakesh talks about his own work as the leader of Twaweza, which seeks to promote citizen agency in East Africa, and Martin about his work at the Omidyar Network supporting initiatives to promote accountability and transparency. They also talk about the work and future direction of the Open Government Partnership, which they both helped to establish.