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Choosing what’s ‘most important’ --- to people

Claire Melamed's picture

The story – rightly or wrongly – about the current MDGs is that they were cooked up in a back room somewhere in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in Paris, and finally agreed in another back room in New York. While this may not be quite fair, it’s certainly true that there wasn’t much in the way of consultation or public conversation around the MDGs development or eventual agreement. 

How different this time.  It might just be possible to participate in a different consultation on the post-2015 process every day between now and 2015 (a Google search on ‘post 2015 consultations’ produces 7 million results).  How to make sense of all this? Essentially there are three types of consultations going on, feeding into the political process in different ways. 

Has Africa outgrown Aid?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Africa’s emergence is the new consensus. For the second time in a just few months, a major international journal has run a cover illustrating newfound optimism about the continent. After The  Economist’s mea culpa (correcting its previous assessment of a “hopeless continent”), TIME magazine just re-ran an earlier title: “Africa rising”.

This is no fluke: Africa’s economies are growing and the continent is much wealthier today than it ever was – even though, collectively, it remains the poorest on the planet. Many African nations (22 to be precise) have already reached Middle Income Country (so called “MIC”) status and more will do so by 2025. Today, Africa includes a diverse “mix” of countries, ranging from the poorest in the world to the fastest growing; from war-torn countries to vibrant democracies; from oil-rich economies to ICT champions, and the list goes on.

The Political Implications of Evidence-Based Approaches (aka Start of This Week’s Wonkwar on the Results Agenda)

Duncan Green's picture

The debate on evidence and results continues to rage. Rosalind Eyben (left) and Chris Roche (right, dressed for battle), two of the organisers of April’s Big Push Forward conference on the Politics of  Evidence, kick off a discussion. Tomorrow Chris Whitty, DFID’s Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Adviser, and Stefan Dercon, its Chief Economist, respond.

Distinct from its more general usage of what is observed or experienced, ‘evidence’ has acquired a particular meaning relating to proof about ‘what works’, particularly through robust evidence from rigorous experimental trials. But no-one really believes that it is feasible for external development assistance to consist purely of ‘technical’ interventions. Most development workers do not see themselves as scientists in a laboratory, but more as reflective practitioners seeking to learn how to support locally generated transformative processes for greater equity and social justice. Where have these experimental approaches come from and what is at stake?

Some Types of Foreign Investment Are Better Than Others: A Look at Factors That Help FDI Boost the Local Economy

Thomas Farole's picture

Maseru, Lesotho, by night.Despite being a small, poor, landlocked country, Lesotho leveraged foreign direct investment (FDI) to become Africa’s largest apparel-exporting country, generating upwards of 50,000 jobs for its citizens. Neighboring Swaziland has also relied on foreign investors as the main source of exports, growth, and employment in its economy. Around the world, governments put significant resources into attracting foreign investors –through investment promotion, offering fiscal incentives, and establishing special economic zones, for example – in the hope of catalyzing their economies. And it’s not a bad strategy – FDI can bring significant benefits to developing country economies. It can generate employment, contribute to a country’s infrastructure and potentially bring in additional tax revenues.

Why Don’t People in Power Do the Right Thing - Supply, Demand or Collective Action Problem? And What Do We Do about It?

Duncan Green's picture

My last few days have been dominated by conversations around ‘convening and brokering’, including an exchange between assorted ODI wonks and a bunch of NGOs on the findings of the Africa Power and Politics Programme, and a ‘webinar’ (ugh), with our Latin American staff on the nature of ‘leverage’ (a closely associated development fuzzword). Last week, I set out the best example of this approach that I’ve found to date, the Tajikistan water and sanitation network. Today it’s some overall conclusions from the various discussions.

David Booth from ODI described the question he is trying to answer as ‘why don’t people in power do the right thing?’ He thinks aid agencies (both official and NGOs) have moved from thinking that the answer is building capacity in government (supply side) to strengthening the voice of citizens to demand better services (demand side), but argues that both approaches are wrong.

The mistake, he argues is seeing power as a zero sum game, whereas often the barrier to progress is better seen as a collective action problem: ‘doing the right thing involves cooperating with others and people aren’t prepared to take risks and bear the costs of working with others, unless they believe that everyone else will do so too.’

That requires a different approach, getting everyone into a room to build trust and find joint solutions to a common problem.

Multipliers in Europe and Africa

Shanta Devarajan's picture

IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard created quite a stir at the recent American Economics Association Meetings when he presented his joint paper with Daniel Leigh that showed that, for 26 European countries, the fiscal multipliers—the amount by which output expands with an increase in the fiscal deficit—were considerably higher than previously thought.  Whereas these multipliers were previously thought to be around 0.5, they find them to be above 1.0.  Applying these figures to a reduction in the fiscal deficit (sometimes called “fiscal consolidation”), Olivier and Daniel suggest that people may have underestimated the extent to which European economies would contract in the wake of their fiscal consolidation.


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