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Owen Barder was a Vice President at the Center for Global Development, Director for Europe and a senior fellow. He is a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics and a Specialist Adviser to the UK House of Commons International Development Committee. Barder was a British civil servant from 1988 to 2010, during which time he worked in No.10 Downing Street, as Private Secretary (Economic Affairs) to the Prime Minister; in the UK Treasury, including as Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and in the Department for International Development, where he was variously Director of International Finance and Global Development Effectiveness, Director of Communications and Information, and head of Africa Policy & Economics Department. As a young Treasury economist, Barder set up the first UK government website, to put details of the 1994 budget online.
“For too long there has been a taboo about tackling [corruption] head on. The summit will change that.” That, at least, is the optimistic pronouncement from the leader of Her Majesty’s Government ahead of the UK anti-corruption summit in London this week.
There was a little-noticed gem among the announcements from the London conference on Syria. The headlines focused on the $10 billion of aid that has been pledged. But donors would be deluded if they thought that this additional aid, even it arrives and is properly used, would be enough to stop large numbers of refugees from trying to migrate.
Which country’s aid is the best? And who is giving what to whom? Recent statistics from the OECD tell us that the amount of aid given to poor countries was at an all-time high of $137.2bn in 2014 – the latest year for which figures are available. That’s up by just over 1% on the previous year, but the proportion of aid going to the poorest countries has fallen.
It’s been three weeks since the UK voted to leave the European Union in the move popularly known as Brexit, and the consequences are still becoming apparent. Senior fellow and director of CGD Europe Owen Barder joins the podcast from London this week to take a balanced look at possibilities for the UK’s future, and consider implications for the country and the developing world.
The main body of this short essay comprises written testimony that Owen Barder submitted to Britain’s House of Lords in response to a question about the effectiveness of foreign aid. In a brief introduction Barder draws upon his recent experience living in Ethiopia for three years to shed light on how he thinks about the question of aid effectiveness.
Last week, CGD and Social Finance launched a new high-level Working Group to consider Development Impact Bonds, a new mechanism to enable private investment in development outcomes. Owen Barder and Rita Perakis explain.
There is nothing new about the idea that development assistance is an investment: spending money today in the hope of future benefits. Putting money into immunizing kids or giving them an education is an excellent investment in the future well-being of those people. But if there are financial returns they are often far in the future and cannot be directly linked back to the investment. For many development investments the returns are mainly social, not financial. And the absence of financial returns on a reasonable timescale could be why there is no market for investing in development. There is a small pool of investors who are willing to be paid in good karma; but most would rather be paid in dollars, sterling or euros.