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USAID plays an outsize role in advancing global development progress. Working in more than 120 countries, the agency manages the world’s biggest bilateral aid portfolio, totaling around $20 billion a year across a wide range of sectors, including health, education, economic growth, democracy promotion and humanitarian relief. CGD’s rigorous analysis of the agency over the years has made us a go-to source for advice and ideas for how to make US foreign assistance more effective and evidence-based.
Happily, in the last 25 years, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day has dropped by two-thirds. Most of this success is due to major global forces such as trade and cross-border labor mobility. And much of the credit goes to the governments and citizens of developing countries themselves for pursuing the policies that have enabled donor, private sector, and (increasingly) their own resources to translate into development outcomes. But development assistance—including US aid—has made important contributions.
How do you make the case for US foreign aid to an Administration that has proposed slashing it? That was the task for Mark Suzman, Chief Strategy Officer and president of Global Policy and Advocacy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, when he recently accompanied Bill Gates to meetings at the White House. In this week's CGD podcast, Suzman gives us two very different versions of the fight against global poverty and disease—the perception and the reality. At an event called Financing the Future, he joined CGD experts Masood Ahmed, Amanda Glassman, and Antoinette Sayeh to discuss ways the development community can better convey their results.
Put funding for the 150 account in context, and you better understand the broader trend and two crucial points: (1) the 150 Account is a tiny slice of the federal budget, so proposed cuts will contribute little toward shoring up much larger accounts like national defense; and (2) increases in foreign assistance over the past sixteen years have supported US development efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helped deliver on a historic US commitment to fight global HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa.
In recent months, USAID has been working diligently to craft its approach to “strategic transitions,” framing the principles it will follow, the benchmarks that will help inform transition decisions, and the programs and tools it can bring to bear. This Thursday, in a public discussion with the agency’s Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA), USAID will outline its initial thinking about strategic transitions. Our recent paper, Working Itself Out of a Job: USAID and Smart Strategic Transitions, offers some advice to the agency as it charts the course ahead. Here are the main takeaways.
The new US administration may put US funding for family planning—comprising nearly half of all bilateral contributions—at risk. The family planning community still has time to make the case for sustained US funding, protecting the gains that it has already achieved. But smart advocacy should also be accompanied by contingency planning—what would it mean for the United States (US) to substantially cut its support?
White House summits, which in recent years have addressed everything from African American LGBTQ Youth to Working Families, serve two main purposes: to make progress on a set of policy issues and to signal that the issues are a priority for the president. In this way, it’s encouraging to see the newly announced White House Summit on Global Development. More than a late term victory lap for President Obama’s global development policies and programs, I’m hopeful that this summit promotes approaches to development that will carry over into the next administration.
Big cuts are likely coming to the State Department and USAID. So how can the US make the best use of fewer foreign assistance dollars in future? That was the subject of a heated debate at CGD earlier this week. CGD’s Scott Morris, the director of our US Development Policy Initiative, joined leading thinkers from across the political spectrum—Danielle Pletka from the American Enterprise Institute, Jim Roberts from the Heritage Foundation, and John Norris from the Center for American Progress—to discuss the best way to move forward with limited resources.
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.