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Economic development, institutional analysis, health systems, corruption, evaluation
Bill Savedoff was a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development where he works on issues of aid effectiveness and health policy. His current research focuses on the use of performance payments in aid programs and problems posed by corruption. At the Center, Savedoff played a leading role in the Evaluation Gap Initiative and co-authored Cash on Delivery Aid with Nancy Birdsall. Before joining the Center, Savedoff prepared, coordinated, and advised development projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia for the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Health Organization. As a Senior Partner at Social Insight, Savedoff worked for clients including the National Institutes of Health, Transparency International, and the World Bank. He has published books and articles on labor markets, health, education, water, and housing including “What Should a Country Spend on Health?,” Governing Mandatory Health Insurance, and Diagnosis Corruption.
In the world of international aid, performance payments are a hot topic. But when it comes to signing performance payment agreements, most funders have been reticent. One of the reasons is a fear of “Double Counting” – paying once for investments to achieve outcomes and a second time when the outcomes are delivered. This concern ignores the complexity of achieving development goals and the intangible assets invested by recipient countries. When funders do agree to performance agreements, they end up ignoring the burden on recipients of “Double Demanding” – disbursing when outcomes are achieved and then setting restrictions on the use of those funds. All this confusion gets in the way of designing effective aid programs.
Creating an evidence base requires good research, but how can we know if evidence is strong or weak … or even misleading? The process by which researchers conduct, document, and share their work is essential to winnowing out weak studies and to improving, honing and disseminating strong ones. At the risk of taking the metaphor too far – can we make research so transparent that anyone can see right through it?
In 2010, Norway and Indonesia signed a US$1 billion performance agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emission from deforestation. The experience holds lessons for international cooperation in addressing climate change and other global challenges.
Results-based aid (RBA) is a form of foreign assistance in which one government disburses funds to another for achieving an outcome. This paper distinguishes four different theories used to justify RBA programs and analyzes four case studies – from GAVI, the Amazon Fund, Ethiopian Secondary Education and Salud Mesoamérica.
For this edition of the CGD Podcast I’m joined by Savedoff and Sandefur (who also leads our education research through the RISE project); they give a sneak peak of their contributions to, and offer an assessment of, the Learning Generation report.
Politicians and agency officials are always morally indignant when it comes to corruption in foreign aid, pointing to elaborate procedures and investigative offices to prove that they are “tough” and calling for zero tolerance (most recently here and here). However, for most governments and agencies, corruption is only a problem when it is discovered. That is when it becomes an obstacle to disbursing funds and keeping business moving.
In April, I attended a very hopeful event sponsored by the World Bank entitled, “Tobacco Taxation Win-Win for Public Health and Domestic Resources Mobilization.” My optimism was buoyed by seeing people from different ministries, disciplines, and perspectives all recognizing the need to raise tobacco taxes and sharing ideas on how to reduce the death toll from smoking. Then the bubble burst. I got home and saw a Wall Street Journal article about the increasing profitability of cigarette corporations in the US domestic market—a reminder that, unbelievably, we are still on the defensive against this large, growing, and completely avoidable disaster.
When the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, they were met with a mix of hope, dismay, and derision. Until we see how people respond to these goals, judgments about their specificity, complexity, and usefulness are educated guesses. At a workshop last month, I got a glimpse of two ways the SDGs may be making a difference—focusing political attention and reorganizing aid relationships.