What's Wrong With the Commitment to Development Award List?

April 19, 2006
A quick scan of the "People's Choice" nominees for the Commitment to Development Award gives the impression that the individuals from developed countries who have done the most to make rich-world policies more "development-friendly" are from a pretty narrow slice of the population. Mostly U.S., all male, many "inside-the-beltway" -- an environment not known for its friendliness to anything, much less poor people in poor countries. So what's going on? Since this field of candidates was generated by soliciting names through the CGD e-mail newsletter and website, the main explanation is probably that those who are regular users of CGD's materials are themselves from a narrow slice which strongly resembles the list of candidates. If that's the case, I hope we can make a big push over the next year to reach a wider and more diverse audience. The other explanation is that the media devote relatively little space or airtime to development policy issues, and they fill that up with the easy-to-get news of Gordon, Jeff, Bono, Bill & Melinda and the other household names of development. So when people think about development topics, the work of these folks comes to mind. The increasing celebrity-oriented content of development news -- "did you hear that Angelina's going to deliver the baby in Namibia?" -- surely doesn't help on this front.


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