With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
The political economy of development policies and aid, innovative finance, transparency and accountability, complexity, technology, public financial management, information, knowledge, new media, Africa, health economics.
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.
Attention UK political parties: we know you are pretty busy right now, what with Prime Minister Theresa May calling a snap general election in a few weeks. So, we wrote an election manifesto on development for you. Feel free to plagiarize it; in fact, we’ve written it so you can just copy/paste parts of it if you want. To M Macron and Mme Le Pen, your manifestos are written, but you will find some good ideas here too. Needless to say, not all our CGD colleagues will agree with all our ideas, nor will many readers. So please let us know what we have missed or got wrong, in the comments below.
Aid is amazingly good value for money. For the same money the government willingly spends to save a life in a developed country such as the UK, we save around 100 or even 1,000 lives in the developing world.
Unpredictable funding undermines effective response to natural disasters. Two key innovations pre-agree funding for future disaster risks to save lives, money, and time: pivot existing funding to enable goverments and agencies to pre-enroll for quick-fire sup[port aganist predicatable future costs
In the last of a series of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development, Owen Barder and Ben Ramalingam look at the implications of complexity for the trend towards results-based management in development cooperation. They argue that is a common mistake to see a contradiction between recognising complexity and focusing on results: on the contrary, complexity provides a powerful reason for pursuing the results agenda, but it has to be done in ways which reflect the context. In the 2012 Kapuscinski lecture Owen argued that economic and political systems can best be thought of as complex adaptive systems, and that development should be understood as an emergent property of those systems. As explained in detail in Ben’s forthcoming book, these interactive systems are made up of adaptive actors, whose actions are a self-organised search for fitness on a shifting landscape. Systems like this undergo change in dynamic, non-linear ways; characterised by explosive surprises and tipping points as well as periods of relative stability. If development arises from the interactions of a dynamic and unpredictable system, you might draw the conclusion that it makes no sense to try to assess or measure the results of particular development interventions. That would be the wrong conclusion to reach. While the complexity of development implies a different way of thinking about evaluation, accountability and results, it also means that the ‘results agenda’ is more important than ever.
In this working paper, Owen Barder raises fundamental questions about the purpose of aid transfers. For many donors the purpose is "poverty reduction" in the narrow sense of growth that reduces poverty. Barder argues that such a focus ignores key trade-offs, such as between reducing current and future poverty and between addressing the causes and symptoms of poverty, and results in less effective aid. This is an important paper for practitioners as well as students of how the aid system works.
The World Bank President Jim Kim has said that the next frontier for the World Bank is to 'help to advance a science of delivery'. But the problem is not that we are ignoring politics, as Kevin Watkins suggests: the problem is that we are ignoring complexity.